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.
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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