Newcastle United are so close to returning to The Premier League again at the first time of asking following relegation last season you can almost see the iconic PL sleeve badges on next year’s brand new black and white kit.
Not to mention hear the £100M rightful share of TV and prize money flowing back into the St. James’ Park coffers as the glittering Category A ties against the big boys from Manchester, Liverpool and London are arranged on the eagerly-awaited new season fixture list.
As one of English football’s biggest clubs, Newcastle belong in The Premier League but 20 years ago so were Leeds, Sheff Wed & Sheff United as Gary Neville lamented in his ‘The north is being cut adrift in English football’ article:
“We’ve seen the demise of Premier League clubs in Yorkshire..Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday becoming marginalised. When I was growing up, trips to Elland Road and Hillsborough were among the biggest. They were FA Cup semi-final venues. They had a big club feel, as did Middlesbrough, Newcastle and Sunderland.
Newcastle are synonymous with passionate fans and small boys in No 9 shirts. I can remember our 5-0 defeat in an age when Newcastle could call on the likes of Shearer, David Ginola and Philippe Albert. It was a team of wonder goals and top foreign players.”
By appointing Rafa Benitez last March, Newcastle made a statement to recover their true stature.
It wasn’t that long ago when Newcastle – whose Entertainers side under Kevin Keegan was responsible for boosting SKY-high TV ratings into a different stratosphere – against Leeds, reigning Champions when the Premiership began, was one of the glamour ties of English football at the business end of English football’s top flight.
From Sir Bobby Robson’s men staying top of the Premier League in 2001 at the top of this article after a mesmerizing 4-3 comeback from 3-1 at Elland Road to Leeds’ part in the 1995-6 title race involving Kevin Keegan’s ‘Love It’ rant, the Yorkshire giants were once one of the true movers and shakers of English football.
Leeds, of course, won the last ever First Division title in 1991-2 before the English top flight was transmogrified into its modern guise as The Premier League and even reached The Champions League Semi-Final as late as 2001.
Yet since that heady high, its been a story of financial and football implosion resulting in the club being relegated from The Premier League to The Championship in 2003-04 and then down into League One in 2007.
More financial instability led to chaos on the pitch and the eventual controversial takeover by Massimo Cellino in 2014 as Leeds capping a journey from the sublime to the ridiculous in 13 unlucky years.
New manager Garry Monk has provided fresh hope of recovering former glories under the ownership of Italian Adrian Radrizzani guiding Leeds into the play-off spots
“We have a great game at Newcastle coming up now,” Monk explained. ““They are two huge clubs with a lot of fans and it is our determination to show we can be as good away from home as we are at home.”
Yet the game at Elland Road was also hyped up back in November as a Clash of the Titans yet Newcastle made a mockery of the hosts and dominated the encounter easily winning 2-0 thanks to Dwight Gayle’s brace.
Rafa Benitez is likely to be without his favourite striker Gayle, who was taken off at Hillsborough against Sheffield Wednesday inside the first half with a hamstring injury on which he has had tests this week.
Yet this could be a blessing in disguise for The Magpies who have struggled at home recently and might benefit from a more gung-ho attacking approach involving Aleksandar Mitrovic perhaps fed crosses by Sammy Ameobi.
Both players would add a heightened degree of physicality which Newcastle can occasionally be accused of lacking – it was certainly the case in central defence when the more diminutive Chancel Mbemba was chosen ahead of Grant Hanley & Sheff Wed enjoyed aerial advantage and won the game with two headers from set pieces.
And Sammy’s ability to carve out chances as he demonstrated against Jose Mourinho’s hitherto unbeaten Chelsea in 2014/5 as well as score wonderful solo goals from range could be the difference between victory and defeat.
At 6ft 4in, the young Ameobi is a giant and if Newcastle boast a tall, strong, physical forward line of Mitrovic and/or Darly Murphy then its imperative Newcastle feed both great headers of the ball with dangerous crosses.
Newcastle thrived & won against Derby in a physical encounter with a Hanley-Diame-Mitrovic spine & beefing up the team could be crucial in continuing the Championship escape velocity Rafa’s Magpies have shown all season.
Leeds have been out of the top flight for 13 years and it took local rivals Middlesbrough seven long years to get back for what looks like a short stay in The Premier League, a Fate that will surely be Sunderland’s and ‘Boro’s next year and possibly even Hull City down with them in what would be a real collective blow to Northern football.
Yet The Magpies are reaching for the top again after what will surely be just a one-year hiatus in The Championship wilderness before setting sights for The Champions League once more. Football comes in cycles and the great Geordie football club is long overdue a period of real success which Rafa Benitez, backed by the near future introduction of Video-Assisted Refereeing is more than capable of delivering.
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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