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The Special – Everton (h)

Welcome to the Boxing Day issue of The Special as we face what I regard as a formidable Everton at St James’ Park. I do like the cut of their jib. Whether Everton will allow McClaren to deploy his best tactic – playing without the ball in some kind of counter-attacking style (though with not a great deal of pace if De Jong and Mitrovic are in the same side) remains to be seen but if we are to repeat last season’s victory over the blues I can only imagine we are going to need a fair bit of good fortune against Martinez who is a lot more convincing as a Premier League manager than McClaren in my opinion.

Nevertheless from everyone at true faith we hope you had a great Christmas Day yesterday and the mob we have in our colours today give us some cause for celebration.
Keep On, Keepin' On...

Wor Czech mate

It must be a distressing time for the friends and family of our former net minder Pavel Srnicek following his shock heart attack. As we've said before everyone hopes Pav makes a full recovery. Song for SJP today... well,  there can only be one: 

PAVEL  IS A  GEORDIE 

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Everton (h)

SWOT analysis - Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

Everton haven’t won in the league since 21 November when they trounced Vila 4-0 at Goodison. As a result they have dropped down to 10th in the table with 23 points from 17 games. That’s only 6 points more than us so from that perspective you might say that they are underachieving. You would normally look for them to be in the top 8 and they have aspirations for the top 6 and Europe. They actually try to build a team and win as many as they can. They have a fan in the Boardroom who refused to sell Baines and Stones despite having big money offers from ManU and Chelsea. They show ambition while recognising their limits, spending £27m on Lukaku - that’s £12m more than our record signing. They also have an academy which occasionally turns out a star and recruit astutely from the lower divisions. They are a template for how we should be run. 

Lukaku is on a great run, having scored in each of his last 7 games. The last time we played someone on a similar run, Jamie Vardy gave us more problems than we could handle. I expect Lukaku to do the same as our central defenders have struggled against his pace and power since he was on loan at West Brom. He has 16 goals already this season, 13 of which have come in the League. Barkley is a bit hit and miss this season but has 7 goals to his credit. However, the player that worries me is the lad they signed from Barca, Deulofeu. One pass he played in the first half was sublime, taking out three Leicester defenders and led to Lukaku’s goal. If our concentration drops they have players who can hurt us.

Martinez fielded the following team last week:

Their defence is starting to come back together with the return of Coleman and Baines, both of whom have had lengthy absences. They should provide more penetration down the flanks and Baines, in particular, is a danger from set pieces whether directly or hitting a cross into the box. They are still missing Jagielka at the back, because of a cruciate ligament injury and it’s likely that this game will be too soon for him. Stones doesn’t seem the same player without him. Neither Barry nor Cleverly convince in their defensive midfield roles so the likes of Wjinaldum might get some joy there. 

Lennon came on for Deulofeu and Mirallas for Kone in the 74th minute as they chased the game, so they do have options from the bench. Mirallas actually scored a late goal for the Toffees and would be in our first team ( Lennon probably would be as well for that matter).

Kone is another who is hit and miss and it remains to be seen whether Steven Naismith returns. He wasn’t on the bench last week because of a foot injury but may be available this afternoon.

Everton are a Martinez team, which means that they are happy to keep possession. This might help us to play our counterattacking game at home. Pardew did the same last season when we beat them 3-2 in his last game. 

Prediction: We beat them last season and they are currently struggling to find a win. However, that Leicester defeat was also their first since they lost away to Arsenal on 24 October. They have won 2 and drawn 4 of their 7 games since then. I think Lukaku will continue his scoring run and they’ll dominate the game but we’ll sneak a 1-1 draw

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Ground Zero 

If ever there was a good day to bury news it was Christmas Eve and it almost slipped unnoticed but here is a version of the news regarding the development at Strawberry Place. Whether this is shoddy journalism on The Chronicle's part or as a result of the media partnership between Newcastle United and the Thomson House titles' parent company Trinity Mirror, I'll leave you to decide but here are three things missing from The Chronicle's coverage:

  1. The development will rule out any possible development of the Gallowgate End which is the only part of St James' Park that could be available for expansion. We might not need it now but there is a possibility at some time in the future when Ashley has gone that someone might want to develop Newcastle United to its full potential. This development led by Ashley will stop that. If we want a bigger stadium capacity, we'll have to move to a new build elsewhere in the city.
  2. The lease on the land previously belonged to a company Ashley bought when he took control of Newcastle United. The development of the land will not earn Newcastle United a single penny. All of the profit from the development will go to Mike Ashley.
  3. This development could have been built anywhere in the city centre. It didn't need to be built in Gallowgate.

See The Chronicle's report here.

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French Leave 

If ever there was one game that sealed the fate of a player it was surely at Goodison a few years ago when French central defender Mbwia came up against Everton's striker Lukaku. To suggest the Toffees' No.9 gave our French stopper a hard time is something of an understatement and if I recall correctly (always a bit of a question about that given my memory), Mbwia was subbed at HT and although we rallied somewhat in the second-half his fate was sealed. Mbwia's aerial presence was abysmal and Lukaku must have given him nightmares for months. Colo isn't the greatest in those aerial battles and although Mbemba is better and stronger than Mbwia,  I fear our backline is in for something of a battering this evening. 

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Tax Man Cometh 

I'm sure you have all seen the stories in the news about Ashley's piss-poor treatment of his people at the Shirebrook distribution centre. Campaign group 38 Degrees is calling for an HMRC investigation into the payment of workers at Sports Direct's modern workhorse. You can sign the campaign to demand HMRC begin investigating payment of the National Minimum Wage to Sports Direct employees by HMRC. It will take you a few seconds to sign. See here.

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New Money 

So, there are US investors looking to wither buy into Crystal Palace or in Everton's case potentially take the club over lock stock and barrel. Those who have scorned efforts to put pressure on Ashley to sell up would be well advised to take note. There is money out there. Interestingly Everton appears to be on the market for around £200m, though there value maybe reduced because of their inability to sort out a move to a new stadium. 

This tells us one thing - there is money out there wanting to get into the Premier League, the only question is it the right kind? Who wants their club owned by someone or something who knows nothing about football, our city, our club and the people who love it and cares even less? 

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Slo-Mo

If we at any point during today's game have Mitrovich and De Jong in our attack will they be the two slowest players we've ever had in our forward line? 

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NORTHERN THREADS - WINTER SALE

The Special quiz - Everton

Another true faith quiz to exercise your grey matter. There are no prizes, its just for fun. Answers at the bottom of the page. 

  1. What was the name Everton formerly played under?
  2. In which small Tyneside town was former Everton midfielder and manager Howard Kendall born?
  3. Which player did Newcastle United sign from Everton for £1m in 1993?
  4. In which year did Everton win the European Cup Winners Cup?
  5. And in which city was the final played? 
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Newcastle 2 Everton 3 - 15 September 1984

As It Was When It Was

Everton, Home, 15th September 1984

Following promotion back to the top flight, Newcastle United appeared in turmoil going into the 1984-85 season.

Losing the retired Kevin Keegan and then Terry McDermott due to a contract dispute, The Mags would also lose manager Arthur Cox over “a matter or principal” when he quit over a “derisory” 3 year contract renewal offer.

However, despite no summer additions, new manager Jack Charlton won his first 3 games as United sat top of the League for the first time since September 1950.  Sadly, supporters were soon back down to earth as 2 defeats in a week quickly followed but United were still 5th before the home game with FA Cup Holders Everton.

The Mag’s starting XI had remained the same all season whilst the visitors had recovered from a slow start to trail the hosts by 2 points.

For The Record:

After that tremendous 3 game winning start to life with the elite, Newcastle would win only 4 of the following 24 games and would be dragged into a relegation battle come February.

Although starting in 2 League Cup ties in place of the cup tied Pat Heard, this would be Steve Carney’s last league game for Newcastle.  

Left back John Ryan wouldn’t be seen in a Black and White shirt again after this match. The full back would soon be off to Sheffield Wednesday.

Everton had future Magpies John Bailey, Kevin Sheedy and Paul Bracewell in the starting XI and would go on to win the League as well as the European Cup Winners Cup.

This result was the start of a poor return of point’s v The Toffee’s during the 80’s.  With only 1 win and 2 draws in 10 attempts, The Mag’s were also on the wrong end of 3 x 0-4 hammering's.

‘I Just Called To Say I love You’ was Top of the Pops for Stevie Wonder, his only solo Number 1.

Stevie Wonder - I Just Called To Say I Love You
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Club and county - We are the Mags. 

Get into these absolutely top notch true faith t-shirts which celebrate the identity of Mags from England's two finest counties, Northumberland and Durham. 

Only £17 plus P+P - get a move on to get them before Christmas. 

Durham Mags t-shirt - get them here
Northumberland Mags t-shirt - get them here

The Buck Stops There

Sepp Blatter has been barred from all football activity for 8 years this week following FIFA's investigation into irregular payments to Michel Platini approved by Blatter. Blatter will be appealing ( I've phrased that badly - he'll never be appealing but he will be challenging the verdict) so we've not heard the last of this but few will be surprised. More of a story is that Platini was also suspended, who would otherwise have been favourite to supplant the long-tarnished Blatter. However the pair have taken each other down in a mutually vindictive death-grip. The week's top car-crash TV was Blatter's press conference immediately following the verdict when he appeared to be puzzled and hurt to be treated so badly. Lovers of Shakespeare will be reminded of Hamlet and think Blatter "doth protest too much". "8 years suspended... for what?" was the stand out quote. The simple answer to that of course being that it was for misuse of funds. In a broader sense though, he has been head of an organisation for 17 years and during that time not only has that organisation been riddled with corruption, but he also spent much of the time refusing to address that corruption. Perhaps if he pondered that a bit more and considered the concept of executive accountability he'd have a bit more of an idea why all this was happening.

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Slow Week

Front-page news in the Daily Mirror earlier this week was the manager of Bolton Wanderers threatening to knife his mistress if she told his wife what was going on. It's interesting to note that while sordid and reprehensible, the sole reason the story gained such prominence was its connection to football, and that this connection was to someone involved with a club which are currently bottom of the Championship. It's not Arsene Wenger or Jurgen Klopp, it's Neil Lennon. This is by no means high society misdeeds, just footballers behaving badly and it seems any old footballer will do. You can't even say it was because of a slow news week, the nation currently being involved in a war and all. It says a lot I suppose about the all-pervading nature of football stories these days, and the appetite of the general public to read them.

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PERFECT CHRISTMAS PRESSIE - GET YOUR FAVE MATCH HERE

Doorjambs for goalposts

While scouring my 7-year-old's xmas list I noticed something called a Hoverball in pride of place. This thing is basically half a football which hovers over the ground on a cushion of air so you can play football in the house without smashing stuff. Whatever happened to the good old days of breaking your Mam's ornaments with a pair of high-velocity rolled-up socks? The skill as I remember from my distant childhood was in the method of rolling the socks to create the tightest-packed, most solid object to maximise the power with which it could be volleyed into the most fragile vase in the house. Where's the fun in this sanitised modern experience? It's like playing darts without the risk of hitting a wire and getting speared in the foot or worse. 

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Back to Reality?

The disappointing performance last week and failing to beat bottom club Villa at home seemed a classic example of Newcastle building up their fans only to let them down. It's probably closer to reality than the previous two victories against Liverpool and Spurs. What it definitely told us was that our inability to break teams down when we can't hit them on the break remains unchanged. 7 points from 9 can't be sniffed at of course but the problem with that is we'll play more teams like Villa this season than we will teams like Liverpool or Spurs. There was a story in the press this week that we'd been coaching our team to take "at least six passes before initiating a full-on attack". I have no coaching badges so could be misguided but this seems to be a perfect example of doing something which is almost totally counterproductive. It sounds like passing and possession for the sake of it, allowing the opposition time to regroup and set themselves up defensively. I think to become a good team you need to be able to keep the ball and dominate possession but the idea surely is to have constructive possession, not just waste time passing along the back line until an arbitrary number of completions is achieved. The story in the link mentions that this policy has now been ditched and McClaren is trying to achieve a balance between getting the ball forward early and keeping possession which sounds like a good idea but also something which won't happen overnight.

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What the papers say

As predicted Newcastle didn't manage to add more misery to a poor Aston Villa side last week but seven points from a possible nine is a big positive and hopefully can be the catalyst for a charge up the table. Next on the list, a tricky tie with Everton. Here is what the papers have been saying in the last seven days. 

Many fans were hoping after beating Liverpool and Spurs that gaining a win against Villa would be a piece of cake. A stunner from Jordan Ayew rescued a point for the visitors and left NUFC fans frustrated. The mood after the match was one of disappointment and fans voiced their concerns by booing the players at full time, something which Steve McClaren says he was very surprised about due to Newcastle showing commitment and trying to get a winner late in the game.

After the last three games, it's clear that McClaren's job is now safe for the next three years or so, so  we can all stop waiting for him to be sacked and replaced with Jose Mourinho. But a former manager of Newcastle has had his say this week about who he feels would make a fantastic gaffer in the future. Alan Pardew spoke on Graham Hunter's podcast this week and claimed ex-Magpie Shola Ameobi had "all the tools" to be a successful coach. Pards went on to talk about what Shola was like to coach as a player.

Now on to a man who has received a bit of flack since arriving in the summer. Florian Thauvin hasn't made a huge impact since joining from France a few months back. However, McClaren is this week saying Thuavin is "stronger" and potentially may be on his way back to the starting line-up for the first time since mid-September. With Rolando Aarons still sidelined and Siem De Jong in the doghouse after that six yard headed miss that my nana could have finished, Thauvin may be the answer to fill in. But if anyone deserves a recall from the bench, it is Ayoze. 

Finally, as most of you may have heard, ex-Newcastle goalkeeper Pavel Srnicek is in critical condition in hospital after suffering a cardiac arrest while out jogging in the Czech Republic earlier this week. As I write this he is still in a coma but is said to be making progress. The shot-stopper made 152 appearances for the club during two separate spells. I'm sure I speak on behalf of all Toon fans who wish Pav a speedy recovery.

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tf weekly podcast - A soggy draw

Alex, Micky, Si & Mike discuss United's thoroughly depressing draw against the worst side in the league.

Steve McClaren's increasingly pathetic patter is discussed and the lads discuss what could possibly go wrong against a rampant Roamlu Lukaku on Boxing Day.

There's also some discussion on whether it's better to have a more competitive Premier League and sacrifice some quality compared to the usual closed club at the top but there being a better standard of football throughout the league.

Listen to podcast here

listen LIVE 7:00pm Friday nights on Radio NorthumberlandFollow us on twitter @TFweeklypod

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The Foxes lick their lips

Liverpool host league leaders, Leicester, on Boxing Day and what will have been marked down as a home win in August, is now a devilishly difficult proposition for Jurgen Klopp's men.  

Leicester have established themselves as the masters of exploiting the weaknesses of an opposition and Liverpool's struggles at home won’t take too much analysis to pinpoint. It has come to the point now where a Leicester win would certainly not be a shock and the home team will have to go some to topple the league leaders.

Jurgen Klopp has cut an increasingly frustrated character over the last few weeks and the arrival of Ranieri's boys is hardly likely to help, no matter how affable the Italian may be. Expect another tetchy post-match press conference. 

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Twist the knife

Steve McClaren doesn’t understand why there was a small ‘smattering’ (one of those words that is only used in this context) of boos after the draw with the worst team in the league. At home. I don’t care about stats, or the chances. I cared about moving 13 points ahead of Vile, two points ahead of Norwich and one behind West Brom, who we play on Monday.

Yet again we’re presented with a winnable game and our relegation rivals all facing tricky fixtures. Twist the knife Steve. I want fans of Vile, SAFC, Swansea, West Brom, Bournemouth and Norwich to be groaning when we leap ahead of them in the league once more. I want Sam Allardyce to have an 8 point gap to have to try and overcome.

The manager and the players need to be brutal. Kick the opponents when they’re down. Or we’ll be relegated.

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The bleak midwinter

As you make your way out of the house for the Boxing Day fixture this year, spare a thought for those less fortunate. 

Our fellow fans in the likes of Spain, Germany, Italy and France will be spending another day twiddling their thumbs, trying to find some way to fill the vacuum left by a mid-season break from football. Sure, they'll probably give us a good hiding at the Euros but will they get football every other day for two weeks? No. We will. Tuck in and enjoy it, before we have to think about another summer of England at a major tournament.

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Everton quiz answers: 1. St Domingo's 2. Ryton. 3. Peter Beardsley. 4. 1985. 5. Rotterdam. 

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