The Soccer Desk

Summer Sounds of Silence for Newcastle United

(courtesy footballmatchpreviews.com)

The more things change in the Premier League, the more things stay the same in Newcastle. While this summer has already seen many big Premier League signings, none have made the way to the North East of England.  If anything, Newcastle has made headlines for not signing anyone.  While Alan Pardew and company are trying to sign Darren Bent from Aston Villa, he is hardly the replacement for the loss of Demba Ba whose thirteen goals with the Magpies was a team best despite his leaving for Chelsea in January.  Bent managed three Premier League goals last year for Villa.

As for the starting XI, without signing a marquee player the key to the 2013/2014 campaign will be who Newcastle keeps.  Paris Saint-Germain have their hungry, wealthy eyes on Yohan Cabaye.  Cabaye has formed a relationship playing under PSG manager Laurent Blanc on the French national team.  While new Newcastle director of football Joe Kinnear claims to be certain that Cabaye is staying, he was clearly uncertain of pronouncing his player’s name, unless, of course, there is a certain Yohan Kebab ready to take the midfielder’s place should he sign with PSG.

When United’s starting XI take to the pitch to Mark Knopfler’s “Local Hero” this campaign, they will be as familiar to the Toon faithful as the song itself:  Tim Krul in goal; team captain Fabricio Coloccini, Steven Taylor, Mapou Yang-Mbiwa and Mike Williamson at the back; Pappis Cisse at the top; Cabaye, Jonas Guiterrez and Hatem Ben Arfa at midfield and Cheick Tiote at defensive midfield along with Gael Gigirimana who made eleven starts last season and will likely take over for James Perch who signed with Wigan.

Off the bench, the Magpies have Shola Ameobi and Yoan Gouffran who can help send the ball into the back of the net.  Expect the Frenchmen Mathieu Debuchy, Sylvain Marveaux, Moussa Sissoko and Gabriel Obertan to not only come off the bench but to shuffle up the starting lineup throughout the campaign.

The question for the 2013/2014 campaign is:  Will the post-Demba Ba Newcastle United team be good enough?  Last year’s squad finished five points out of the top ten.  Not bad if that’s the kind of goal you like to have.  At the same time, they also finished five points out of relegation.  We all look forward to our teams having an exciting, heart-pounding May—but not to avoid the chopping block.

One reward Newcastle will savor this season is that their sixteenth place finish has kept them out of European competition.   While it should be a goal to play across the continent, the schedule wore away the lads last season.

Oddly enough, hope for Newcastle just may well lie in what has been frustrating the Toon faithful this summer—silence.  The lack of a major move leaves the squad in tact.  If consistency is a good thing, the Magpies bring a good thing to the pitch.

Newcastle finished December 2012 fifteenth on the table, eight points out of the top ten and merely three out of the relegation zone.  Despite losing their top scorer in Demba Ba, Pardew and company brought in the French contingency of Sissoko, Gouffran, Debuchy, Yanga-Mbiwa and Massadio Haidara that resulted in Newcastle remaining basically in the same spot on the table as well as placing more than a few berets on the heads of the Toon faithful.  This is a group that has been together, in tact, since January.  Perhaps this campaign will see them not only starting up where they left off, but snagging more points then they had when they last took the pitch together.

Again, if consistency holds any meaning, Alan Pardew enters the season as the second longest serving manager in the Premier League, second only to Arsene Wegner.  However, with Kinnear holding the reigns over Newcastle’s roster, Pardew may be among the Magpies who wish to take flight this campaign.

Sadly, the biggest news this summer has been whether or not Pappa Cisse will wear a jersey with sponsorship on it.  The English money lending company Wonga will have its logo adorn the Newcastle uniform this campaign.  Many around the league and in Newcastle are disappointed by the selection.  Newcastle United Supporters’ Trust board member Michael Thewlis told the Daily Mail that fans are “exacerbated as the club has chosen to associate itself with a company that charges very high rates of interest for loans targeted at some of the least well-off members of society.”

Cisse claims that his Muslim faith prohibits him from wearing a logo adorned kit because of Wonga’s money lending practices and has offered to wear a jersey with a logo for a charity instead.  However Cisse and Newcastle resolve this issue, Cisse’s salary will be paid for, at least in part, by the six million quid a year that Wonga reportedly paid for their sponsorship rights.

Whatever happens this campaign, it will be more of the same with the hopes that the starting XI stay healthy, stay fresh with a schedule without the travails of a European campaign, and grow to play better as a unit.  Will this be enough for the over fifty thousand faithful that pour through Saint James Park on match day?  Hardly.  Let’s just hope Mark Knopfler’s “Local Hero” isn’t replaced by Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence.”

(Photo Courtesy of footballmatchpreviews.com)