Short Stories: Newcastle United – Part 6

But you said…

In my defence, the vote was pretty close and I really wanted to carry on the NUFC save too. So you’re getting two stories a week from me until there’s an uprising against the quality of the content.

To recap, I started a game as Newcastle and decided not to buy anybody at all, even though Alan Shearer was injured for 7 months. As luck would have it, we did ok then Shearer returned and we did brilliantly. We won the FA Cup, came 4th and lost in the semis of the Champions League and the League Cup. Quit whilst you’re ahead?

Well, maybe. Instead I’ve decided to carry on. I’m not going to buy anybody still, unless anybody in my squad retires, in which case they will be replaced by their own re-gen. I’m looking at you, Rushy.

We re-join the game in August 1998. England finished 3rd in the World Cup, beating Scotland in the 3rd/4th place playoff. Incidentally the World Cup final was almost identical to 1994

98 WC final

Magic. Some good news for me is that by not spending any transfer money, they’ve expanded St James’ Park.

new stadium

Getting closer to than 52k. In the meantime though, it’s Wembley for the Charity Shield. It’s an opportunity to see how a couple of the youngsters get on, namely Chris Woodcock and two stars of last season, Bjarni Gudjonsson and Brian Pinas.

CS lineup

Probably should have taken this more seriously.

CS 5-2

Get used to Scholes scoring past you lads, you’ve got another 10 years of it yet.

What worries me is that most of the goals weren’t even rebounds – this game loves a rebound, but these shots were flying in. Southampton at home is a kind way to start a season, or at least it should be.

5-3 soton

What is going on here? Has Shay Given got no hands? He was injured towards the end of last season but this is getting serious now. Off we go to Upton Park for more “ffs”

1-1 west ham

I enjoyed that 3 minute lead. Man Utd keep bidding £6m for David Batty but that’s not really part of my game plan here. Now he’s injured for two weeks.

Tyne-Wear derby day is bound to be a charged affair, especially after a year without one. The newly promoted mackems keep us out thanks to Lionel Perez until the final minute where Gillespie eventually beats the bedraggled Frenchman and the Geordie public go home happy.

1-0 gillespie

This is a strange season but we’re off to Leeds unbeaten in the league and taking one game at a time.

At least that was the plan…

6-5 leeds

I don’t know where to start. Is it Shay? Do I need to send for Shaka?

The Cup Winners Cup will be a chance to continue to blood the youngsters. Jimmy Crawford is already 25. Paul Brayson however is not. We’ll have a great time in Northern Ireland.

CWC draw

Shaka is in for the visit of Leicester. We lost this fixture last season and we’re off to a rough start with Fenton scoring after just 2 minutes. I hate Graham Fenton. We equalise but never look likely to win it. Weird stuff going on here, I guess we are in unchartered territory here as I’d normally just spend the pain away.

1-1 leicester

It’s a month out for Peacock and I’ve also decided to loan out Brayson. He’ll have a great time at Altrincham.

A midweek trip to Everton has disaster written all over it, but I’ve recalled Given hoping that last game will give him a kick up the arse. He’s barely utilised through the whole evening as we go 3-0 ahead before the half hour. Chris Woodcock appears from the bench to get his first goal for the club. I think Woodcock and Pinas make us a very potent force.

everton 1 - 4

Cock Piss Tomasson.

International break now and Andy Griffin damages his spine playing for England Under 21s. That’s a shame, as he would have played the CWC games. This is rough too:

shearer 2 weeks

He’s got 7 in 7 this season so will be missed for the next few, especially as it’s Arsenal at home next. Gillespie has been nursing sore ribs for a long time and is still not back, so it’s Des Hamilton in the AMRC role with Bjarni the Gud partnering Andersson. Aaron Hughes is wanted by Arsenal so he’s starting. That backfires as he is sent off shortly after half time but we hang tough and Bjarni heads a last gasp winner. What is life?

2-1 arsenal

That puts us third and sends us to Northern Ireland in good spirits. It’s a very experimental side but it’s what we’ve committed to here and Idiot Enterprises and it’s over 2 legs afterall. Shearer will be back for the return leg so he can run wild if needs be. Also, and I don’t know why I feel the need to justify this so much, we play Thursday-Saturday and it’s a big ask.

Portadown team

26 shots later…

4-1 port

Poor Shay. Just can’t catch a break. The young lads did well though, and the potent duo got on the scoresheet again. I’ll look forward to the return leg.

Just two days later then and it’s Villa away. Shearer announces he is fit to the surprise of everybody, and with Gillespie back there’s only Peacock missing. I’ll stick with Aaron Hughes, his Arsenal red card dismissed as an unlucky blemish.

3-2 villa

Maybe he’s just a clumsy oaf? Barnesy bends in a free kick which helps establish a 3-0 lead but it’s a nervy last 35 minutes and an even nervier last 10. Aaron Hughes making Darren Peacock seem competent is a new low.

A midweek Tyne-Tees derby will please both fans and police alike but it’s 2nd vs 4th so a bigger game than usual.

1-1 boro

Rubbish. Incidentally it’s Tottenham who top the pile.

Another newly promoted side next as we make the trip to Nottingham. The Aaron Hughes experiment is over for now, with Peacock back in the mix.

2-2 forest

Bring back Aaron Hughes. We’re 2-0 down and a mess but Shearer gets us back into it and then covnerts a pen after a deliberate handball sees Centurioni sent off. We push for a winner but sub Woodcock elbows Scot Gemmill in the face in injury time. I must stop feeding these youths raw meat.

Portadown arrive at St James’ Park and looking them in the eyes, they don’t believe they can overturn a 4-1 deficit here. Even Shay fancies a clean sheet here.

porta 6-0

Hurrah. I put Shearer on at half time just to be a tosser. Woodcock’s 3rd goal is ruled out for offside but he’s making good progress. It’s Dinamo Moscow in round 2 which will be a lot tougher.

Final game of this update and we’re off to Bolton. Let me tell you about Bolton. They are bottom of the table and have lost 10 out of 10. They regard Paul Telfer as a star player.

bolton 0-3

Make that 11 out of 11. I’m quite happy with third but our goals against column is disgusting.

prem top october 98

Man Utd are struggling for goals but opted to sign Scott Booth for £3.7m. That will not help but it’s not Shearer so I’m fine with it.

That’s about all I’ve got for you in this update but I’ll be back same time next Wednesday with more from NE1. Toodles!

 

 

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Short Stories: Newcastle United – Part 5

Missed any of the previous updates? We’ve got you covered:

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

We arrive at the final part of our journey. A short story has a quick ending, but will it be a good one? With two semi finals to look forward to against Liverpool and Monaco respectively and a top 6 place to secure, Newcastle have a surprising amount of things to play for at the business end of the season. Big Al is back and in the goals and the injury crisis is easing, so the days of fielding Brian Pinas are mostly behind us. With that, let’s get back to it.

Monaco will be a tough opponent but first we’ve got to play the Monaco of the midlands, as everybody calls them. After the indignity of conceding to Gary Breen we briefly level things up…but former Mag Darren Huckerby scores twice and that’s the ideal preparation.

3-1 cov

Off to the rather more glamorous surrounds of Monaco then as we go looking for revenge for our UEFA Cup exit last season. Monaco are really quite good. Ludovic Giuly gives them an early lead before he and Shearer swap goals. If it finishes 2-1 I’ll be happy, but Giuly completes his hat-trick 17 minutes from time and I’m not sure we’ll come back from that.

monaco 3-1

Pick yourselves up lads, we’re off to Old Trafford. Not to face Man Utd, for once, but instead it’s the neutral venue for Liverpool in the FA Cup semi final. I can’t imagine Old Trafford ever being a neutral venue for Liverpool but whatever. Robbie Fowler breaks Shay Given’s jaw in the first 5 minutes but Shaka comes on and is surprisingly competent, whilst Shearer is unplayable. A hat-trick later and a Keith Gillespie goal means we run out 4-0 winners. We’re going to Wembley!

4-0 liverpool

The fixture list is taking the mick a bit. Easter weekend sees us travel to Highbury for our annual thrashing.

arsenal 3-0

Shay’s out for the season, and I fear we will miss him. Here’s that fixture pile up I mentioned. Our league position is going to be 4th, 5th or 6th, none of which I care about, so I’ve made the decision to sack off the Liverpool home game. We need to be rested for Monaco.

3 fixs

With that in mind, this is the team I’ve selected. To be fair, they’ve all played at International level with the exception of Pinas, Hamilton and Hislop, who all have Under 21 caps at this stage.

team vs liverpool

Bjarni Gudjonsson will probably win the Ballon D’Or. This result should not happen.

3-0 liverpool

It means the first team have had extra rest ahead of the visit of Monaco. A 2-0 win will see us advance, but if Monaco score twice we need 5. Tomasson gives us the lead and everything is good but Ikpeba equalises on the stroke of half time. With no margin for error, Japhet N’Doram eliminates us on 56 minutes. We show some late fight, with Pinas getting his first professional goal before Shearer puts us ahead on the night. It’s not enough, but what a run we’ve had.

monaco 3-2

It’s Juventus in the final, which we probably wouldn’t have won – though I do have Andy Griffin…

SF results

Off to Leicester then and another chance for Shearer to kick Neil Lennon in the head  make friends with Neil Lennon. A ding dong battle ends in a draw when Rush climbs off the bench to equalise. He’s been more useful than I could have imagined.

2-2 leicester

Another pointless International break allows teams to prepare for World Cup 98, but the return to club action sees us put Wimbledon to the sword. We’re a fun side.

wimbledon 4-1

There’s still time for yet another game with Man Utd, our 5th meeting of the season, and that pesky Paul Scholes means it’s a poor day for us. We should probably get used to that.

2-1 man utd home

The league season is coming to a close with that FA Cup final date with Blackburn now creeping into focus. Southampton are despatched, which is a bigger result than you realise. We used to struggle at The Dell.

soton 3-0

Relegation threatened Barnsley take the lead against us but Shearer scores twice to give us another away win and seals us 4th spot. It gets us nothing extra but it’s nice to be able to say.

barnsley 1-2

Goals 29 and 30 follow for Shearer in the final game. He’s some boy.

3-1 sheff wed

The main thing I can take from this season is that we are the top scorers in the league, doing Kevin proud and banishing the turgidness that would eventually cost Kenny Dalglish his job.

prem top final

To lead the team out in front of the pretend famous arch is obviously a great honour. We’ve had a tremendous season but to end the trophy drought of 29 years (add on another 20 now ffs) would be a fitting way to end this save. Colin Hendry gets sent off after just 4 minutes and Andreas Andersson scores the winner. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

1-0 FA Cup final

Woo and yay though. Nobody can say we didn’t deserve it having knocked out Chelsea, Man Utd and Liverpool in consecutive rounds.

The players have had a decent time. Shearer is wanted by Man Utd, as is Gillespie, but tough. They’ve both been great.

values

An array of  statistics for those of you that are interested

nufc average ratingsgoalsassists

Andreas Andersson was involved in 48 goals. Good grief. Shearer returned on December 6th and netted 30 times in 36 games. He’s quite good.

shearer stats

Only 3 man of the matches seems quite stupid. He finished top scorer for the whole of England.

top scorers

This was good fun, your interaction on Twitter has been phenomenal and warms my bitter old heart. Hopefully it has helped fill the close season gap. My next short story will be along soon before we head back to Belgium for the Waregem save. See you again soon!

Short Stories: Newcastle United – Part 4

Welcome back! This 5 part series has reached the penultimate episode as I set out to prove if it was possible for Newcastle to succeed despite Alan Shearer’s lengthy injury at the start of the 97/98 season. So far it has gone quite well. We made it out of the Champions League group and we’re in the top 6. We’re also still in both cups. That’s a good effort.

Here’s a reminder of the table before we move on

table 22 games

Struggling Crystal Palace are our first opponents of the update and Andreas Andersson is like a man possessed. Maybe it’s because his hair is modelled on Steve Parish but either way, we’re 3-0 up after 25 minutes. It’s actually 4-2 at half time in a crazy game but it’s a win and our good times roll on.

Palace 4-2

I mentioned in the intro we are still in both cups so our 4th round FA Cup tie with Barnsley is overshadowed by a 2 legged semi-final with Leeds in the League Cup. Regardless, Shearer sees off Barnsley and we’ll face Chelsea in round 5.

4th round Barnsley

White Hart Lane means we will renew acquaintances with Sir Lesley Ferdinand, but Darren Peacock ensures he leaves on a stretcher. Klinsmann scores and Shearer equalises. It’s a good result with the semi final looming.

1-1 spurs away

Leeds have a very strong defence as you may have noticed in the earlier league table. Shearer gives us the lead and all is going well until Peacock gets injured, possibly a result of karma for seeing off Big Les. Anyway, I’ve used both outfield subs so Shaka Hislop sidles on and Warren Barton goes to centre back – Shaka slots in up front sfter a re-shuffle. It’s probably unrelated but Hartson goes on to equalise. Boo.

Leeds LC L1

Still, a 2nd leg at home should see us through. But Nigel Martyn is a nuisance. He saves everything we throw at him whilst Leeds score from a set piece thanks for David Lee, just signed from Chelsea. For goodness sake. Semi-final heartbreak.

0-1 leeds

On the plus side, we smashed Chelsea 4-0 in the FA Cup to make the quarters. Shearer’s really quite good you know.

4-0 chelsea FA cup

We become rather adept at scoring 4, as Everton are put to the sword. Even one might have done against Leeds but we’ll look forwards rather than backwards.

4-0 everton

Four again! The only surprise is that Shearer doesn’t get any of them. We survive a bit of a fightback but Staunton’s red card makes it an easier finish than we might expect.

4-2 villa

As the calendar turns to March that means the Champions League is back. It is still remarkable that we are in it and I have to say Porto is probably the best draw we could get. A 2-0 lead is comfortable but 2-1 is less easy and leaves us vulnerable in Portugal.

2-1 porto

The big games are coming thick and fast. Man Utd away in the FA Cup quarters is as tough as it gets, the champions elect will be heavy favourites. But they don’t have Bjarni Gudjonsson. The young Icelandic forward has had to take a backseat recently but he’s thrust in here for the banned Andersson and he gets the decisive goal. Wow. Semi finals again!

man utd 1-0 fa cup

Of all the teams to get, Liverpool were the ones to avoid. That’ll be tough.

FA SF draw

Our league form has been good but I think it’s a game of one too many as Chelsea come to town. Zola gives them an early lead and although Andersson does equalise, it’s backs to the wall for the remainder and I’m happy to escape with a point.

1-1 chelsea

Three days later it’s Bolton. I have one eye on the 2nd leg of the Porto game but we just about get the job done. A wins a win.

2-0 bolton

With 9 games to go we’re in 4th, still, but a mile from 3rd and in a bit of danger from the chasing pack.

prem top March

It’s a good season though, with an FA Cup semi final to come and hopefully a Champions League semi too. We have that slender 2-1 advantage but that means a 1-0 loss would send us out. We need to score. Luckily, we lead 1-0 early on and we relax, but Porto keep us honest with an equaliser on the night before half time. Shearer gets our 2nd away goal only for it to be cancelled out a minute later. Porto need 2 to qualify and thankfulyl can only manage 1. We’re through!

Porto 3-2

They broke John Barnes’ nose. Who would you want out of this lot?

CL QF results

No easy draw there. Monaco will be very tough indeed.

SF draw

Monaco of course knocked Newcastle out of the UEFA Cup quarter finals the previous season. Revenge?

monaco squad

That seems unlikely. But we’ve surprised a few this season so let’s just see how it goes. See you for the finale!

Short Stories: Newcastle United – Part 3

Not sure what’s going on here? Catch up with parts 1 and 2 first!

Welcome back. It’s November and trying to better Kenny Dalglish’s attempts to cope without the injured Alan Shearer is going better than expected. We’re in the top 6, Bjarni Gudjonsson is emerging as a hero and big Al himself is only a few weeks away from a return. Everything is reasonable.

After the International break to allow England to beat Portugal to qualify for the 1998 World Cup, it’s off to bottom of the table West Ham. The usual problems arise – we have a lot of chances but old man Rush and curtains man Andersson keep missing. Then on comes lovely Bjarni and he scores before setting up Andersson to seal the win.

west ham 0 - 2 nufc

Unfortunately we have a trip to Man Utd to contend with. They’re runaway leaders, for a change, but I’m sick of the sight of them after the Champions League meeting. Shay Given is banned too so Shaka is in goal. We manage to take the lead and look very good in doing so, only for Paul Scholes to equalise ten minutes from time. Then an own goal seals our fate. Write your own headlines.

man utd 2-1

Our Champions League campaign is basically over so a 2-2 draw at home to Skonto Riga is a poor result but not one that will make things any different. Gudjonsson gets both of our goals to continue his ascent to greatness.

The last game of November sees the visit of Southampton. Shearer is a week away from a return and this game typifies our need for him. Paul Jones gets man of the match and not even Bjarni can sort this one out.

0-0 soton

The board are less than satisfied, which seems harsh. A 4th round League Cup tie with First Division Luton is a golden opportunity to reach the last 8 but a loss would be catastrophic. Thankfully we go bananas.

Luton

Take that, Phil Gray. Liverpool in the quarters.

Away to Sheffield Wednesday and we’re handed a great boost on the morning of the game

shearer returns

He’s not ready to start but he’ll make his presence felt later in the game. Sheff Wed are above us in the table so this looks a tough game, but Shearer’s appearance on the bench terrifies Scott Oakes into scoring an own goal and the rest is history. Shearer gets 20 minutes where two further goals are added. Welcome back!

sheff wed 1-4

That’s the half way stage for most teams, though we have two games in hand thanks to our Champions League qualifiers.

table half way

The final Champions League group game is a chance for Shearer to start and he doesn’t disappoint, grabbing the winner to leave us on 10 points. Probably shouldn’t have drawn with Skonto Riga.

2-1 man utd CL

Say what?

qualify

Well that is a bonus. That’s the best possible draw too. Result!

CL QF draw

On the negative side, Jon Dahl Tomasson is out for 6 weeks. Even worse news is that our game in hand is away to Liverpool, the scene of two 4-3s in previous seasons. Liverpool still get 4…we don’t.

liverpool 4-1

Similar. Then we have the old problems at Pride Park, only I can’t blame the lack of Shearer this time. Happy Christmas.

0-0 derby

Boxing day then and St James’ is awash with Christmas cheer. Bottom of the table West Ham provide the opposition and Alan Shearer provides the presents. That’s more like it.

4-1 west ham

Our other game in hand falls on New Year’s Eve…away in Palace. Thanks FA. We go behind early on but Shearer is in fine form. A great way to end the year.

Palace 1 - 4 nufc

That leaves us comfortably 4th at the turn of year.

top half 97 NYE

Attention turns to the FA Cup and with Gillespie the latest to be ruled out for a month, I’m dangerously close to having to play Des Hamilton. We lack creativity and a poor 1-1 draw means we’ll replay at Sheff Utd in 10 days. Not good.

sheff utd 1-1

It’ll be Barnsley if we can win, which again is quite winnable.

So soon after being mauled by them at Anfield, it’s Liverpool again but this time at our place in the League Cup quarters. Andreas Andersson steps up to send us into the last 4!

Liverpool LC

You have to say it’s a great chance for a Wembley appearance but Leeds is the toughest draw on offer. At least it’s over 2 legs.

LC semis

Our penultimate game of this update sees us off to Ewood Park. I’m not sure I’ve ever won a game there and Tim Flowers usually gets man of the match.

We lose 1-0 and Tim Flowers gets man of the match. I wish you could bet on these things.

blackburn 1-0

To round us off then it’s off to Sheffield for this pesky replay. We’ve really struggled with Tomasson and Gillespie out at the same time but both are nearing a return, though not for this match. Form man Andersson is banned so Rushy is back. We give the type of performance that makes you wonder why we didn’t just do this 10 days ago.

1-3 sheff utd

Happy days. Barnsley, we’re coming for you. Or rather you’re coming to us. Whatever. We’ll see you on 4th round day.

Here’s the table after 22 games

table 22 games

The board are pleased, their change of opinion largely down to that unlikely Champions League escape. I’d like to finish top 6 and win one of the cups, that would be nice.

Obviously this challenge started out as the “Coping without Shearer” job but we’ll see it through to the end of the season. If you don’t mind. Bye for now.

 

 

 

 

 

Short Stories: Newcastle United – Part 2

Welcome back to the 2nd part of this new, short term series where I’m trying to make a success of Newcastle whilst captain and talisman Alan Shearer is injured. Things got off to a decent start in part 1, maybe not in the league but we knocked Barcelona out of the Champions League and isn’t that enough?

It’s certainly given us some confidence as things continue to improve with a mighty 3-0 win at Goodison Park. No doubt Ian Rush scoring will have pleased the Everton faithful…

0-3 everton win

That’s followed up (after an International break) with a 3-0 win at Stamford Bridge. The Ian Rush statue will look great outside the Gallowgate

3-0 chelsea

It’s deemed worthy of the “shock defeat” graphic which I think is a little harsh. We’re a Champions League side. Granted we’re a side that contains Ian Rush and Brian Pinas, but that’s not the point.

That brings us to the start of the Champions League Group Stages and a home clash with IFK Gothenburg looks like a rough beginning when we go 1-0 down inside a minute. Shay Given gets man of the match which says it all but eventually our own Swede brings us level, Tomasson puts us ahead and Rush gets his now customary goal.

3-1 IFK

The games against Man Utd will no doubt be pivotal. Back to league action though and a 2-0 lead at home to Leeds is blown and it finishes 2-2. We’re a weird team, a fact underlined by our performance at Villa Park. We have a goal disallowed, miss a penalty (Andersson) and then have Darren Peacock sent off as we lose 2-0. That leaves us 10th, with 2 games in hand and still 4 months until Shearer time. Dion Dublin signs for Athletic Bilbao and on the same day, Gareth Southgate moves to Real Betis. That, in the words of Martin Tyler, sums it all up.

Barnsley’s visit is a return of the good times though. The dynamic duo get a brace each.

4-0 barnsley

That gets Rushy a recall to the Wales squad, a fact he celebrates with a goal in Latvia as Skonto Riga are brushed aside 2-0. We had 23 shots but very few successes. The celebration continues in the less fanciful surrounds of Bolton’s Reebok Stadium, where our old Welshman scores the only goal of the game to see us past the 4th placed Trotters. The most remarkable thing about the match though is that we picked up three injuries in 4 minutes before half time, including Andreas Andersson, who like John Barnes will be sidelined for a month. The International break is very welcome.

table october

Not bad…so far

Rush doesn’t get his dream Wales appearance, a dislocated shoulder rules him out though oddly only for one week. I’m relieved as he is my only striker for a few games, including Man Utd in the Champions League.

First though it’s Coventry at home and without Andersson it’s time for…Ketsbaia. Barnes and Barton are still out injured, Peacock is banned but Shearer is down to “a couple of months.” Naturally we throw away a lead and draw 2-2, but then we win at Wimbledon and everything is fine.

wimbledon 1 - 3 toon

Gary Speed’s injury rules him out of the Man Utd Champions League clash, which is going to hurt. With Rush and Bjarni Gudjonsson up front, how can we lose?

2-1 man utd

So close. First NUFC goal for Bjarni Gudjonsson, so that’s a plus. It doesn’t get any easier though – Arsenal at home is up next.

3-1 arsenal

BJARNI! Seeing as he’s my new hero, who is he?

I can’t even find a picture of him in a Newcastle shirt, but this is another Dalglish signing bought for the future. That date of birth is wrong by the way, not that it matters.

Bjarni

He went on to play 132 times for Stoke, so there is that. He nets again in a 5-1 demlotion of Carlisle in the League Cup and with Andreas Andersson returning to fitness, things look a bit rosier. Luton Town in round 4 could be a lot worse too!

Back to the Champions League and a trip to Sweden. It’s a horror night. 2-0 down and on the way out, Bjarnicakes scores twice and life is good again. Then we concede a late winner and that basically ends our involvement.

IFK loss

David Batty was meant to be my warrior but he’s just constantly injured. Anyway, we finish this update with Leicester at home. Andersson is recalled in place of the jaded Rush and it’s a bad end to a miserable week.

newcastle 0 - 1 leicester

We’re still 5th as we take a rest for the International break. It’s not that bad really.

table november

Look who’s nearly back…

pistone

Sorry, wrong screenshot.

Shearer

Just one month to go…11 days to the next game too. I’m sure he’ll be back in part 3. See you then!

 

 

 

Short Stories: Newcastle United – Part 1

Hello to you. As is often the case when I have “time off” from writing and I just want to write everything. I suppose it’s good I have ideas. Anyway, I will be running a series of short stories, managing a club for a small period of time probably with some sort of caveat. Obviously this is CM9798, a game we all know inside out by now, so I need to keep things interesting.

As many of you will know, I’m a Newcastle fan. I haven’t done a blog save as Newcastle, though I did take on the job in the original save (take 2) to drag them up from Division 2. Some things just need fixing. Anyway, we join the story in July 1997. Kenny Dalglish has guided Newcastle to 2nd place after replacing Kevin Keegan and SIR Kenny has celebrated by selling David Ginola and Les Ferdinand. That’s not to mention Peter Beardsley. But fear not, he’s brought in John Barnes, Ian Rush and Stuart Pearce. To top it all off, Alan Shearer has picked up a long term injury and will miss several months. In best case scenarios, I’ve had him back by November. In other games he’s been gone until March. It’s a pickle.

shearer injury

2nd place in 96/97 earned Newcastle a crack at the Champions League. This is good. Normally, I’d just spend the money on Bakayoko and be done with it. Sit back and watch the good times roll. But this is where the challenge comes in. I’m not going to make any signings in the first season. Basically, I have to make the most of the Dad’s Army Kenny has left me. Oh and Andreas Andersson. Thank goodness.

Andersson

This is the squad I’ve “inherited.” The problem is, finishing 2nd means expectations are quite high. There’s not an awful lot of pace in the forward positions, so my favourite formation might not work. Still, at least we have John Barnes.

NUFC starting squad

Shearer’s injury stands at 7 months. To make matters even more fun, Pistone has been bestowed a 6 month injury. Oh random chance, how you spoil me.

It’s not a bad squad, really. If you ignore some of the ages. I’m thinking Rush and Andersson as the front two we were so cruelly denied, Tomasson and Gillespie in behind, happy days. Don’t really fancy Stuart Pearce as a wing back but I’m actively considering playing Barnesy there. Or Brian Pinas.

Rush

We’re a bit light up front, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Maybe it’s stupid to play two strikers when I have so many decent midfielders. Perhaps I could borrow Adam Turner’s Belgium tactics.

Belgium team vs Chile

That could work.

It’ll fucking have to.

CL draw

That’s a nightmare draw, obviously. Can’t wait to see Ian Rush lead the line on his own in the Nou Camp.

AA injury

The deck is stacked. But before we head to Barcelona, it’s Derby at home. In Adam we trust.

tactics first game

If this is a sign of things to come, we’re ruined. We fortunately go ahead when Russell Houly chucks one in but Gary Rowett equalises. Tomasson and Gillespie put us 3-1 up and everybody relaxes. Obviously, Derby get two goals and it finishes 3-3. I didn’t expect defending to be our achilles heel but really, why did I expect anything else?

3-3 derby

Perfect warm up for the trip to Barcelona.

We haven’t exactly got loads of room for rotation but I’m going for experience in the Nou Camp. Warren Barton is in at right back and Barnesy starts after making a decent impression against Derby.

Just don’t embarass me, alright?

barca away

Louis Van Gaal and Barca are typically reserved.

barca tactics

We lasted 23 minutes before Luis Enrique got on the end of a free kick. That was bad, but Stuart Pearce being sent off for deliberate handball just before half time was a disaster. Obviously Anderson scored the pen. I decided to put Watson on as a left back for Rush and played without a striker. Modern football. Anderson scored for 3-0 and I started to wonder why I even bothered trying this. But one man had other ideas. Gary Speed kept plugging away throughout and he latched on to a through ball, knocked it past Vitor Baia and it’s game on. Sort of. We’ll have to overturn a two goal deficit in two weeks.

3-1 barca

David Batty has broken a toe, too. Anything else? It’s bad enough that I’m going to have to play Andy Griffin against Barcelona, but now Jimmy Crawford is first reserve in midfield.

Blackburn at home is up next after a needless International break. Andersson has recovered, he’s in for Rush. It’s Rob Lee for Batty and we could do with a win. We lose 2-0. It’s rancid. We’re rancid. Barcelona must be terrified.

Now what? We’ve shipped 8 goals in 3 games so I’m not sure it’s really working. I’m going back to the old faithful formation. I’m going to play young Brian Pinas a left wing back because I really hope to write the headline Pinas sticks it up Barca but that’s just the immaturity in me. Primarily I want to make the group stages.

barca home

We need to win 2-0 or by three clear goals. We can do it but we’ll need a miracle. Van Gaal has parked a big talented bus in front of Vitor Baia and we need to break it down. Twice.

barca tactics home

We are able to do a lot of the pressing because of how Barcelona have set up. Gillespie is put through by Tomasson and my word, he scores. That’s 1-0 and we survive a few scares at our end but offer a small threat at the other. Time is running out but then it happens. Andreas Andersson heads past Baia and the joy of 36,000 is felt. Maybe they should extend the stadium. Either way, WE’RE IN THE GROUPS

2-0 home

Despite all of those heroics, Fernando Couto gets man of the match. For keeping Ian Rush quiet? Stupid.

ratings barca

Our reward is a stupid group. English teams shouldn’t be able to be grouped together but here we are. Playing for second I fear.

CL group draw

I’ll round off part 1 with the last game in August. It’s yet another home game, this time against Tottenham. Ian Rush scores and Darren Peacock gets a 10. I’m not sure which is less likely.

1-0 spurs

That’s it for part one, we’re actually 17th in the table but we’ve only played three times and every one else has played five. So don’t worry about it. Yet. See you soon.