The Thursday Preview: Stevenage Vs Newcastle United
Romantics will tell you that footballers are hewn out of Newcastle dockyards and Merseyside terraces but it’s just as likely that they’ll come from the more voluminous quarters of post war Britain: the boroughs of suburbia and identikit terraces of cities’ outer rings.
Stevenage, immortalized in the underrated 1990s Brit flick, Boston Kickout starring John Simm and Andrew Lincoln, could rival Dagenham in being the epitome of this trend. Two players likely to be a significant part of the national team’s future, Ashley Young and Jack Wilshere, hail from the town, following on from Kevin Phillips a generation before and the non-footballing likes of Ian Poulter and Lewis Hamilton.
The excellent Stevenage blog, FC Boro mused on the local club’s failure to hoover up these gems, but while bemoaning a short sighted youth policy that has to date concentrated on catching falling stars, drew confidence from new found football league status and its potential to kickstart the homegrown. Indeed, last Summer, a Centre of Excellence issued forth its first octet of new scholars.
That hard fought promotion has looked precarious so far in 2010-11. Barnet are the only team Boro have beaten since October 16, albeit twice; and if the club newly shorn of its ‘Borough’ prefix have done admirably against the sides they should beat – Hereford were also dispatched at a canter – the wins have been too rare for comfort throughout this first sortie in League Two. Nor will the premature departure of top scorer Chris Holroyd have helped – thanks to the cold snap, the Hertfordshire club failed to get their full money’s worth out of the Brighton loanee.
In 1998, a rococo Newcastle United including Alan Shearer, John Barnes, Philippe Albert, Stuart Pearce, David Batty, Ian Rush and Jon Dahl Tomasson came to Broadhall Way; Giuliano Grazioli unforgettably levelling the future MOTD pundit’s opener. Today, the Toon are an assemblage of more modest talents, a squad that showed a capacity to roll up sleeves while spending a year in the Championship until May.
Away from the Tyne, the country is united in disbelief at the ousting of Chris Hughton; and Alan Pardew, in declaring that he was once the Owen Coyle of the Premier League, at least shows enough modesty to not compare himself to the Messiah himself. But performance on the pitch continues to be good. Defeat to moneybags Man City and Spurs can be excused and Cheik Tiote and Joey Barton patrolled matters at the DW Stadium on Saturday; the win over Wigan all the more admirable for being achieved minus the player of the season so far, the headline grabbing Andy Carroll. Then, last night, Leon Best, a Hughton recruit who had been written off by fans without being afforded a proper chance, pounced thrice to flay West Ham.
With links to Robbie Keane, Max Gradel and a certain man from Leytonstone, it wouldn’t be Newcastle United without January transfer windows headlines. But, despite the organization’s continued maniacal ownership, the Magpies are actually in an immensely satisfying position. As the Blaydon Races rings out at the Lamex Stadium on Saturday, you can expect Newcastle to book a fourth round place with ease.