A typically tumultuous week on Tyneside yet, ironically, both the promotion-clinching and controversial events at St. James’ Park this week – already the football world and authorities are running scared of The Mighty Magpies – have doubly strengthened the hand of Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez in terms of club power.
Just 72 hours in the life of Newcastle saw the Geordie club promoted back to The Premier League with a robust 4-1 win over Preston North End on Monday night before celebrations were cut short with HMRC raids at the famous stadium yesterday morning.
It quickly emerged that the matter would not affect Newcastle’s promotion and football affairs next season so there was instant relief among the 50,000 who pack St. James’ Park every week and hundreds of thousands of United supporters around the world.
Moreover, while an official Newcastle United club statement said,
‘a member of staff (Managing Director Lee Charnley) has this morning been assisting HMRC with their inquiries’
and while the law of the land is innocent before being proven guilty and no charges were brought by Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, it is yet another St. James’ Park scandal.
Football Focus – Newcastle’s Real Statement Will Be In The Premier League
Rafa Benitez made it clear he wouldn’t speak about ‘something that happened four or five years ago,” before he was at the club & fielded questions in his press conference today on the possibilty of Newcastle still winning The Championship with wins against Cardiff and Barnsley should Brighton fail to muster enough points against Bristol & Aston Villa.
Heavily-backed in the transfer market last summer – £10M for Dwight Gayle – currently on 22 goals – Matt Ritchie for £12M – 16 goals – £5M on Ciaran Clark, a steadying revelation at the back, and the less successful purchases of Grant Hanley, Mo Diame, Matt Selz and Jesus Gamez, Rafa Benitez was blocked from signing players in January.
Whether this was because Newcastle were top of The Championship sitting on a comfortable cushion of promotion points to make expenditure a luxury or the machinations of Mike Ashley, who was spotted at the Brentford and Birmingham away matches alongside traditional transfer team Graham Carr and Lee Charnley, is unknown.
Yet in Benitez’s first press conference post-HMRCharnleyGate, he revealed he has spoken to Ashley and the noises are of positive nature regarding next season:
“I was talking with Mike Ashley (today). We have had this conversation about what is going on, what we will do next and how we will prepare for next season and everything.
“At the moment if you are asking if he has congratulated me, yes and we will discuss the future of the club, the future of myself, the and everything. We will do it in the professional way that I like to do things…
“We have been fighting hard to go back to the Premier League and we will do our best to be sure we have a competitive team and that we can challenge for whatever.”
Armed with a war chest of between the £70M Spanish publication AS Sports quoted Rafa as telling them he had at his disposal at St. James’ on Monday,
to £150M in order to truly ready the squad for a Premier League assault on the top half depending on how angry Mike Ashley is with recent goings on at the club and anti-NUFC referees, Benitez will have his sights on some very top players.
Back in the top flight with bumper Premier League TV and prize money at the club’s disposal and a renewed determination to hold onto it, Ashley may well be preparing to not just match the £100M he gave Steve McClaren over two transfer windows in the ill-fated 2015-6 campaign but entrust Rafa with a lot more in an inflated market.
Newcastle are being linked with players in all different positions that need strengthening for The Premier League from long-term Newcastle target Bas Dost, defenders Carl Jenkinson and John Terry, Rafa’s Captain when Chelsea won The Europa League in 2013 as well as wildcard Ricardo Quaresma, who so impressed at The Euros to rival Ronaldo for Player of the Tournament and is an entertainer whom Geordies would love.
Other players linked are Arsenal pair Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott, Stoke City Captain Ryan Shawcross, Tom Cairney the scorer of the Fulham wonder goal at St. James’ Park in their impressive win last month & Burnley hit-man Andre Gray.
As important as arrivals will be the men Benitez chooses to retain for the top flight and those players he thanks for their contribution and moves on.
Safe as houses for being part of the club back in the big time are the afore-mentioned Benitez signings Gayle, Ritchie and Clark plus fellow outstanding performers over the season JonJo Shelvey, Jamaal Lascelles, Karl Darlow, Jack Colback and Paul Dummett.
Monday night’s two-goal hero Ayoze Perez has ended the season especially well and Isaac Hayden will be certain of staying while Hanley and Diame have impressed enough when in the side while returning Dutchmen Tim Krul and Siem De Jong could feature in the 2017/8 campaign, the 125th season of Newcastle United.
Its so important the club keep Geordies in the dressing room and around the club in this historic year so keeping Dummett and Colback plus the physically superior Sammy Ameobi – a player who has held his own and scored goals in The Premier League – rather than forking out for the diminutive Cristian Atsu for £7M would achieve that.
With Matt Ritchie suspended for the remaining two games of the season and fined £5000 for dissent towards the 4th official after Newcastle’s let slip an equalizer to Leeds deep into injury time on Good Friday, it opens up an opportunity for a winger like Ameobi to show what he can do and stake a claim for a Newcastle future.
With goals away to Spurs and Hull in The Premier League under his belt, facing the club he was on loan to last season, Cardiff, then Barnsley at home would give him a proper chance & the minutes and confidence to find his feet in a black and white shirt again.
Similarly, newly fit Rolando Aarons will be looking for some end of season gametime after another frustrating season of injury while the omission through injury or the need to rest of Captain Lascelles, Grant Hanley and Vurnon Anita for the trip to Cardiff means the return of DeAndre Yedlin and Chancel Mbemba.
Aleksandr Mitrovic is still playing for his future at Newcastle though the 22 year-old fans’ favourite has stressed he wants to stay at the ‘special’ club and with goals against big Premier League teams plus Champions League strikes for Anderlecht and a great international record may be given the chance to develop while the time of Mbemba, Gouffran, Anita, Jesus Gamez and Daryl Murphy at Newcastle could be up.
The return of Premier League football is whetting the appetite of every Newcastle fan and the mind boggles what will happen in the coming months and exactly who Rafa Benitez will bring in to wear the black and white shirt on The Magpies return to the big time.
One thing is for sure its Newcastle against the world and after being handed the hardest ever Premier League start last time around facing 6 of the previous season’s Top 8 sides in the first 8 games, getting signings in early and being primed for August 12th is crucial.
Expect the unexpected with Newcastle United side Going Up…Howay the Lads. Don’t Stop Believin’…
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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