Its early days yet could 6ft 7 in Stoke City striker Peter Crouch be the missing piece in The Magpies promotion jigsaw?
Newcastle United lost their first game back in The Championship against Fulham on Friday night as referee Simon Hooper denied Newcastle three stonewall penalties for handball. A “Wake Up Call” is how Magpies manager Rafa Benitez dubbed the game, as the realities of life in the second tier of English football were hammered – and headed – home – by Matt Smith and Slavisa Jokanovic’s Cottagers.
More strength, fight and height are needed, missing from the side Benitez, a Championship debutant himself, picked and he’d have learned a lot about what is required to get out of the division.
The fact that the only goal of the game was scored by 6ft 6in Smith, a striker who shot to national prominence with memorable FA Cup goals against Liverpool & Everton in 2013, served to underline the different skillset needed to get out of The Championship and back to The Premier League.
A glut of headed goals from the likes of Shola Ameobi, Andy Carroll, Kevin Nolan and Marlon Harewood in the 2009/10 promotion season meant an instant return as Chris Hughton ensured The Magpies always had a big striker or two in their ranks to do damage where it mattered in front of goal.
Aleksandar Mitrovic is a powerful, bustling striker who like Carroll did will thrive in The Championship where the game is more rough and tumble yet a 4-match ban means Newcastle are light up front.
Dwight Gayle arrived to much fanfare and was given the no. 9 shirt yet he is a pacy, goalscoring finisher who needs a big partner. In tandem with Perez, they are a lightweight strike-force especially away from home where aerial power and chances converted from set-pieces could prove crucial.
As Zlatan Ibrahimovich – all 6ft 5in of him – proved at Wembley, height can be crucial in football and the importance of a big striker is not lost on the world’s greatest manager Jose Mourinho.
Indeed, The Special One subbed substitute Juan Mata off at the death of that showpiece game as he expected an avalanche of long balls from Leicester City as they tried to force the game into extra time even throwing keeper Kaspar Schmeichel up for late corners, saying simply:
“I needed to take off the smallest player because we were expecting a lot of long balls,”
5ft 10in new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan came on for Mata and helped defend the set-piece onslaught, something Newcastle markedly failed to do at The Cottage on Friday night with Jamaal Lascelles being outjumped by the taller Smith and no men were on the goal-line or posts as essential cover.
Newcastle missed Mitrovic’s aerial presence at both ends yet the Serbian is banned for another three games and what is Newcastle’s Plan B if he was to get sent off or heaven forbid injured down the line?
Enter the C-man, Peter Crouch, at 6ft 7in still one of the tallest strikers in the modern game.
The 35 year-old former England striker is well-known to Newcastle fans having scored the above equaliser after coming on as a late sub at St James’ Park in 2015 and also a winner at The Brittania Stadium 6 months earlier, when he celebrated with a unique celebration dedicated to a Geordie mate.
Crouch, who has 32 Championship goals to his name among his 132 career goals in 512 games is also known to Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez, who signed him when Liverpool boss and the player is keen to move to ensure more first-team football than he got at Stoke last year:
“If I can’t play then maybe I do have to move on,” Crouch said. All I can do is try to take opportunities when I’m given them and try to force my way back in. There have been times when it’s been hard. When you’re running on the pitch after games, you’ve been watching but haven’t been part of it. You say that you’re part of it, of course, but it doesn’t feel like it at times.”
As well as his obvious heading ability due to his gargantuan height, Crouch is useful on the ground and his experience would greatly improve the “game management” Benitez said Newcastle lacked at Fulham.
A wise older head like Crouch leading the line would give Newcastle greater presence and make them less naive and pose opponents an entirely different threat from The Magpies.
Crouch has always been a popular footballer, no more so than when he did his Robot dance for England, for whom he scored an exceptionally impressive 22 goals in 42 games.
Rafa Benitez wants a further front man to boost his striking ranks (after defender Brendan Galloway joins) and with Crouch looking for first team football it could be a matchmade in football heaven as he would prove a cult figure on Tyneside if he guided the black and whites to The Championship title.
Juventus Fans Arrested After Clash with Police
Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final clash between Juventus and Ajax has already been marred by violence and controversy, before the teams even took to the pitch.
According to Ansa, citing a report from De Telegraaf, dozens of fans were reportedly arrested in Amsterdam in the hours leading up to the game.
Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini (h/t Football Italia) took to Facebook live video to state that “around 120” fans had been arrested.
Per the report from De Telegraaf, fans near the Johan Cruyff Arena were “in possession of knives, clubs, pepper spray and flares.” Also, dozens of Ajax supporters were reported to have clashed with riot police in separate incidents outside the stadium and were eventually dispersed with the use of tear gas and water cannons.
The Mirror posted the following images on their Twitter page:
Man City forward Raheem Sterling Looking to Combat Racism on the Pitch
Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, who spoke out last month after being subjected to taunts during England’s game in Montenegro, is looking to take his fight against racism to the pitch, saying he would rather stay on the field than let racism force him to walk off of the pitch during a match.
Sterling’s manager Pep Guardiola, stated that he would support players walking off in protest if it happened again, in a strong statement that racism is simply not acceptable.
“I think everyone are entitled to their own opinions. My mum has taught me to be comfortable in my own skin and I am,” Sterling said, according to the Manchester Evening News.
“I wouldn’t personally agree with [walking off], to win the game would hurt them even more they’re only trying to get you down. If you walk off they win, to score or win would be better.
“Everyone’s different. Everyone has their own opinion, how they deal with things emotionally and you have to support everyone.”
Sterling opened up about the racism he has faced in his life, discussing when he first expereinced racism when he moved from North London up to the north-west back in 2010.
“I don’t think trying to make a difference or making a difference, it’s about speaking what you experience. Some people might shy away from it, if more players speak up that might be better.
“It’s offensive but growing up my mum always told me I’m a wonderful black child and I know this. When I hear it, it’s nothing new. I’m happy with it. I’m confident, I’m black and I’m proud. Some people can’t take it but my mum has always told me to love who I am.
“The first time I experienced racism is when I went up north to Liverpool – in London in schools and on a day-to-day basis you’re surrounded by a diverse community. Only a few occasions growing up in the academy in Liverpool, and then mainly in the last couple of years of being a professional.”
Birmingham City Fan Jailed for 14 Days for Punching Aston Villa Player
27-year old Paul Mitchel, a Birmingham City fan has been jailed for 14 days after he plead guilt to assaulting Aston Villa midfielder Jack Graelish during the derby on Sunday.
Mitchell rushed the pitch and took a swing at Graelish when the player’s back was turned at Birmingham City’s St. Andrew’s stadium during the Championship match on Sunday.
Mitchell admitted to invading the pitch and has been officially banned from attending any football match in the U.K. for up to 10 years, and was also ordered to pay £350 in total fines.
Graelish made a statement in which he described how he was “shocked and scared” by the attack.
“I cannot help but feel how lucky I was in this incident,” he said (h/t ESPN). “It could have been so much worse had the supporter had some sort of weapon.”
“He cannot explain what came over himself yesterday morning,” Mitchell’s lawyer, Vaughn Whistance, said on Monday.
“His initial foolish intention was to go onto the pitch to whip up the crowd. He is certainly remorseful today. He is a man with a partner, they have a 2-year-old together and they’re expecting their second child.”
“This weekend a line has been crossed in terms of fan behaviour,” said a spokesperson for the FA.
“On Sunday we saw two separate incidents, at Birmingham City and Arsenal, of individuals entering the field of play and assaulting players.
“Not only is it an offence to enter the pitch, which could result in a club ban and criminal charges for the individual, but it also puts the safety of the players at risk.
“This is entirely unacceptable and we strongly condemn both incidents.
“We will be working with the clubs, the leagues and the police to discuss what collectively needs to be done to protect players and officials on the pitch.
“In addition, we have written to both Birmingham City and Arsenal to seek their observations to examine the security measures they had in place.”
Birmingham City apologized to Grealish and Aston Villa and banned Mitchell for life.
“Birmingham City Football Club would like to apologise to Jack Grealish and Aston Villa Football Club for an incident in Sunday afternoon’s derby match,” a club statement said.
“We deplore the behaviour of the individual who committed this act and rest assured he will be banned from St. Andrew’s for life. The club will also support any further punishment this individual may face in the eyes of the law.
“The club will be working with the relevant authorities to investigate all the circumstances and we will be reviewing our stadium safety procedures.
“What happened has no place in football or society. Jack is a Birmingham lad and regardless of club allegiance should not have been subjected to this — there are no excuses.
“Again, we apologise to Jack and all at Aston Villa Football Club.”
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