“If Sammy scores, we’re on the pitch…There’s only two Ameobis, two Ameobis..”!
The welcome return of winger-cum-striker Sammy Ameobi back from his loan spell at Bolton Wanderers injected hope into Newcastle after the club picked up just 3 points from 9 available over the festive period. Rafa Benitez has watched the red-hot form of the younger brother of Geordie legend Shola – 4 goals in 16 games this season already – with great interest & with on-loan Chelsea winger Christian Atsu away for the African Nations Cup, Ameobi the younger could be prove a real asset as the Rafalution gathers pace. Sammy scored more away goals in the 2014/5 season helping keep Newcastle stay in the top flight than Moussa Sissoko and Gini Wijnaldum managed in the 2015/6 season of relegation and will flourish if given a chance on Tyneside.
After a 1-0 reverse at Blackburn away, Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle United stand 2nd in The EFL Championship table one game into 2017 with 52 points and with 21 games left to play, two points behind leaders Brighton who have a game in hand, yet have scored the most goals and won the most games in England.
If not for some very dubious games referee-wise – the Nottingham Forest double-sending off, the 2 or 3 penalties denied The Magpies at Fulham on the opening day & the recent Sheffield Wednesday hacking farce, Newcastle would be streets ahead of the rest in pole position.
The opening day farce broadcast live on SKY was especially interesting as it meant all bets on overwhelming favourites for the title Newcastle – even for the club to go the whole season unbeaten at a liability to SKY Bet and others larger than Leicester’s title ‘win’ in 2015/6 – were lost overnight.
Its a pattern of anti-Newcastle bias among the refereeing officials of England that pushed The Magpies – as the club with the most game-changing bad decisions against them in The Premier League – to relegation (see table below & related Sun article) – that unchecked could cost the club a deserved EFL Championship.
Despite being cheated out of the points in at least three games – a nine-point swing – arguably more, the Magpies are still on track for automatic promotion despite the extremely late banning of influential midfielder JonJo Shelvey fully 6 weeks after an alleged incident of racial abuse and just after Ian Holloway had declared him “The Championship’s greatest ever player.”
With Shelvey nearing the end of his ban and January transfer recruits in the shape of a midfield alternative to him from loan deals for Tom Cleverly from Everton, or Chelsea’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek to the purchase of Montepellier’s Ryan Bodebouz and another striker, Newcastle will end the transfer window in the strongest position yet in 2016/7.
Newcastle head to Birmingham City’s St Andrew’s stadium in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup with Rafa Benitez seeking to add to his 2006 FA Cup success with Liverpool, having beaten the Blues, now managed by Gianfranco Zola rather than Gary Rowett, whose side The Magpies thrashed 4-0 a month ago.
As ever, Newcastle must not rely on the match officials providing a level playing field as two year ago, the following excellent goal was wrongly chalked off after some great football played by the black in whites in John Carver’s very first game in charge following Alan Pardew’s departure to Crystal Palace.
Rafa Benitez has urged positivity ahead of the tie against Birmingham as Newcastle seek to put their festive blip behind them and march on to the next round of The Cup and beyond as they did in The EFL Cup reaching the Quarter-Final stage before bowing out to Hull. Only a fool would bet against the Rafalution rolling on…
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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