Newcastle United face a Birmingham City side they thrashed 4-0 in The EFL Championship at St. James’ Park in The FA Cup 3rd Round replay tomorrow night depleted of injured players including star strikers Dwight Gayle and Aleksandar Mitrovic and three more away on African Nations Cup duty.
To make matters worse, referee for the game, FIFA-experienced Select Group official Lee Probert, has serious previous when officiating The Magpies in the Cup competition having screwed over the club already twice in 3rd Round FA Cup ties vs Brighton – both away fixtures – in successive seasons in January 2012 and January 2013.
What are the chances of successive draws away to the same club in the same competition refereed by the same man? With the FBI closely monitoring the beautiful game, its a red flag that Probert has this one.
Both games were rife with dodgy decisions against The Magpies including the ridiculous sending off of Shola Ameobi and the fact Probert is once again in charge of an FA Cup game involving The Magpies is indicative of the relationship Newcastle have had with The FA Cup and FA generally since Mike Ashley took over the club in the North following whistle-blowing on Dave Whelan & the price-fixing of Man United and England (FA) replica shirts.
Furthermore, Alan Pardew cited Probert’s decision to wrongly award Sunderland a free-kick in the October 2013 Tyne-Tees derby which was subsequently quickly taken & eventually converted by the Black Cats to win it as crucial. The manager of the opposition of both Brighton games and Sunderland was one Gus Poyet. Coincidence?
Referee Probert missed the 2015/6 season in mysterious circumstances yet made a circumspect return to officiating this campaign and officiated Newcastle’s 2-1 win at Burton Albion without incident so like many top referees may be realising the importance of not rubbing the globally-influential Benitez up the wrong way.
Murphy’s law – “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” (Or Not)
Rafa Benitez’s Magpies went back to the top of The EFL Championship on Saturday night after an impressive 2-1 win away at Brentford with Daryl Murphy scoring the winner after Vibe cancelled out Dwight Gayle’s minute opener and fellow front-runners Brighton succumbed 2-1 at Preston North End.
Yet an injury to top goalscorer Gayle, forcing the first Magpie since Alan Shearer to notch 20 goals in a season for the black and whites off in the 28th minute with a pulled hamstring, meant Newcastle’s fit strikers list was further diminished after Alexander Mitrovic was stretchered off at Birmingham last week.
Gayle and Mitrovic will miss games and with Isaac Hayden and Vurnon Anita also stretchered off on Saturday plus a trio of United stars on African Nations Cup duty for the foreseeable future – Mo Diame, Christian Atsu and Chancel Mbemba – Newcastle’s squad depth will be tested in the coming weeks.
Mike Ashley’s Return and Transfer Policy Sea-Change? Tom Ince Would Fit The Bill Either Way
When Rafa Benitez swapped the chance of managing established Champions League clubs and giants of the English and European game to stay on at Newcastle, a club he’d narrowly failed to keep in the top flight last summer, it was understood that he’d done so only with complete control of the club’s transfer policy promised.
However, reports over the weekend in The Daily Mirror suggested that billionaire owner Mike Ashley, who has been spotted at Newcastle’s last two games, is seeking a return to the club’s controversial Moneyball policy of yesteryear – buying young promising talent to develop then sell-on at a high price.
Whether reports are true or more likely false, 24 year-old Tom Ince from Derby County is a player that would tick all the boxes for Newcastle and playing up front could replace Gayle, could step back to replace the creativity of JonJo Shelvey or operate on either wing in the manner of versatile ex-United forward Kieron Dyer.
As a policy which certainly reaped financial dividends on players like spectacular example Moussa Sissoko – bought for £2M and sold for £30M last summer – yet was blamed for the club’s ultimate downfall and relegation to The Championship last summer, its a step that if true is viewed as a backward one on Tyneside.
Newcastle’s purchase of established stars for good money like Dwight Gayle – £10M from Crystal Palace – and Matt Ritchie – £12M from Bournemouth – have been instrumental and a similar fee of around £7-10M for Premier League-bound Ince could prove instrumental in the promotion push and Benitez had defended his position on coaching players of all ages:
“People think I like to sign old players but its not the case. I want to develop youngsters but also sign players like Murphy.”
For the good of Newcastle, its imperative Benitez has command of all transfers as he sees fit…
Speculate to Accumulate Like Keegan in ’93
As Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle bore down on the Division One title at the tail end of the 1992/3 season, the man known as The Messiah to Geordie fans didn’t rest on his laurels or the squad he had, he went out and spent a then club-record £1.75M in February 1992 on Andy Cole to secure the title and the striker would establish himself in The Premier League as The Magpies hit the ground running in the top flight finishing 3rd.