Derby Day Between Newcastle United And Sunderland (Video)

English short film that portrays the atmosphere on derby day between Newcastle United and Sunderland.

It is hard to take such volatility and turn it into at but this filmmaker accomplishes just that. Derby days around the world are always very tense affairs and Sunderland/Newcastle United is no exception. For fans around the world it is hard to get a good sense of the atmosphere on these days. However, this video comes as close as I think a short film can.

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Papiss Cisse Gives Back To Newcastle Fans

“Since joining the club in January of last year, Newcastle striker Papiss Cisse has set about ingratiating himself with the locals: going for a 6-pound haircut at his local barberwhile accompanied by hundreds of Toon fans, turning up unannounced at the home of a 4-year-old fan to thank the youngster for his “Welcome to Newcastle” card, and even professing his love for the club’s in-house cook Liz after she put his favourite curried goat dish on the canteen menu.

This ESPN FC article is a breath of fresh air. It describes how Papiss Cisse has made a real effort to ingratiate himself within the town and it’s fans. As you may remember Cisse got in a little trouble for refusing to wear Newcastle’s jersey sponsor “Wonga” on his jersey because he did not like what the company represented. At first it seemed naive but after all his work to make his mark on the community, it is obvious that Cisse is one-of-a-kind. We see so many footballers who are such mercenaries that they treat the town and the team’s fans as just another vessel in which they can exploit in order to get more money and fame. However, Papiss Cisse seems to genuinely want the adoration of the town and its fans not just for his football exploits but also because they feel like he is one of them. We should all support players like Papiss Cisse in the hope that more footballers follow his example. Read the article below to hear about the BBQ that Cisse recently threw for Newcastle fans.

http://espnfc.com/blog/_/name/thetoepoke/id/4432?cc=5901

English Premier League Predictions for 2013/2014 – Part 1

All of the top European leagues are now completed for the 2012/2013 seasons and the transfer season is now upon us.  What better way to close out a season than to look toward the next season?  There has been a noticeable increase in searches for Premier League predictions for the upcoming season so I will offer my personal predictions before, during, and after the transfer window in three separate parts.  The first part is now, mainly based on transfer rumors and the squads from last season.  Around the end July/beginning of August, part two will be available as an update to how the transfer window is shaking out.  Part three will commence on September 1st following transfer deadline day as all squads will be final for the most part.

Check out my first ever prediction post from last season as a part of my prediction history and also if you need to refer to last season’s final table.

Here is how I see the top 10 stacking up for the 2013/2014 season as of today:

Tier 1

1) Manchester United РI think they are strong enough to repeat as Champions, especially if they can keep Rooney and Chicharito.  If Rooney leaves, it all depends who they bring in to replace him.  But as of today, they are still the favorites in my book to win the title once again.

2) Chelsea РWith the recent addition of Andre Schurrle, Chelsea have added a quality young (22 years old) forward who will only get even better with time.  Schurrle, Hazard, Mata, and Oscar are a great young nucleus to build a squad around.  With the impending departure of Terry, I could see Chelsea bolstering the back four with a transfer or two and if they do, they could contend for the title.  I think Chelsea adds at least 2-3 more high profile transfers.  Possible additions being Cavani, Hulk and a top defender or two.

3) Manchester City – They are definitely spending cash early on in the transfer window by adding Jesus Navas and Fernandinho for a combined¬†¬£50 million. ¬†Are they good players? ¬†Absolutely. ¬†Are they top class players that will propel Manchester City to a title? ¬†Probably not. ¬†I think there are better ways to spend¬†¬£50 million than on two “good” midfielders in their late 20’s. ¬†When you already have Yaya Toure, David Silva, Nasri, Javi Martinez, and even James Milner, it’s already a bit crowded in the midfield. ¬†Also throw in the possible departure of Dzeko and Tevez and you have a squad that has not improved from last season. ¬†They will have to spend wisely the rest of the summer if they wish to contend for the title. ¬†However, if you throw Cavani and/or Hulk into the mix, that would instantly make them a much better squad so I don’t think they are too far away.

Tier 2

4) Arsenal – Finally a transfer window where they aren’t selling their top players. ¬†The opposite is occurring as they are dumping the dead weight that has handcuffed them for the past few seasons. ¬†With all the rumored purchases (some highlighted here), you would think they would get at least a couple of them. ¬†However, Arsene Wenger has disappointed before so this is a ‘wait and see’ situation before anyone can tell if Arsenal will be contenders this season. ¬†As of now, they are behind the top 3, but ahead of the next tier of squads. ¬†They are in their own tier at the moment and it all depends if Wenger can bring in top quality this summer. ¬†If they add a Higuain, David Villa, and/or Jovetic, then they could get a bump up into the top tier. ¬†However, if they sit back and buy mediocre talent and don’t bring any top quality in, they will be forced to fight it out with Spurs/Liverpool/Everton for a 4th place “trophy” once again.

Tier 3

5) Tottenham РA 5th place finish here is solely dependent on retaining Bale.  They were a top 5 squad last season because Bale carried them and earned the squad countless points throughout the season.  If he leaves, so does their hope of finishing in the top 4.  However, if they can somehow retain Bale and add one or two quality starters, they can absolutely push Arsenal for a 4th place finish next season.

6) Liverpool – Similar to Tottenham, Liverpool’s spot here is dependent upon retaining Suarez. ¬†He is their scoring machine who can single-handedly win matches, much like Bale for Tottenham. ¬†They have added a couple decent transfers thus far in Kolo Toure and Iago Aspas, but nothing that will make them significantly better than last season.

7) Everton РThe departure of manager David Moyes to Manchester United has been the biggest blow so far this offseason.  I would imagine Moyes would be looking to bring with him some of his top players he brought into Everton.  Rumors of Leighton Baines and Fellaini being linked to a move to United comes as no surprise.  Should they lose even one of those players, they are in trouble with regards to challenging for a Champions League birth.  On top of that, they are in desperate need of a quality striker.  They have some work to do this transfer window.

Tier 4

This tier is very difficult to predict considering just 8 points separated 9 clubs from 8th all the way down to 16th. ¬†With that in mind, here’s the squads in the next tier that I see finishing in the top half of the table:

8) Swansea РA fairly young club with one of the best Premier League scorers from last season, they should improve upon a relatively successful season.  Michu is obviously the man that makes them tick.  As he scores, the club earns points.  Unfortunately, there is not much help from the rest of the squad in the scoring department.  Their defense should be better with 20 year old Ben Davies getting a full season under his belt.  I look for them to add a couple mid-level talent transfers to provide depth up front, which could go along way to taking some of the goal scoring pressure off of Michu.

9)¬†Newcastle United – One of the more disappointing squads last season (aside from QPR), Newcastle looks to regain its 2011/2012 form that saw them push for a top 4 finish. ¬†The loss of Demba Ba to Chelsea obviously hurt their goal scoring chances. ¬†However, they are a relatively young squad and with players like Cisse, Cabaye, Tiote, and Ben Arfa, they have the quality to make a run at the Tier 3 clubs. ¬†Let’s see if they can add a forward to replace Ba this transfer window. ¬†If they do, I could bump them up to as high as 5th depending on the player(s) brought in. ¬†

10)¬†Fulham – Fulham had a horrible last two months of the season, only earning 4 points out of a possible 24. ¬†This bad run of form entrenched them at the middle of the table after beginning the season with a promising run of form. ¬†Fulham is an aging squad that will need to be replaced with some youth in the upcoming seasons. ¬†Berbatov will be another year older, but he is still a clinical finisher. ¬†The ageless Mark Schwarzer will also be 41 next season so his days are numbered, however, he is still one of the better Premier League keepers despite his age. ¬†This doesn’t mean they can’t finish in the top half of the table next season, it just means they are a club on decline and need to infuse some youth if they would like to improve.

Keep in mind these predictions are mostly based on last years squads so obviously there’s not much movement from last season’s final table. ¬†With that said, there should be some more shuffling in the ¬†predictions as the transfer market takes shape so these are far from my final predictions for the upcoming season.

UPDATE: Make sure you read my updated predictions here.

Have your own predictions? ¬†Want to win a free jersey? ¬†Check out the details on our¬†Premier League Prediction contest¬†and submit an entry before it’s too late!

Predicting the Top of the Premier League Table

25 matches down, 13 to go.  It seems hard to believe that there are only 13 Premier League matches remaining, but such is the world of football with the F.A. Cup, Carling Cup, and Champions League populating a good portion of the remaining English Football schedules (for those worthy/lucky enough to still be a part of them anyway).  

There are a number of questions that can be asked regarding the last few months.¬† Can Everton play the role of spoiler and keep a Champion’s League regular from the promised land of the top 4?¬† Can Liverpool make a late season push with its new acquisitions¬†and sneak into the top 4?¬† Can Tottenham avoid the late season collapse of a year ago?¬† Can United hang on to ‚Äúeasily‚ÄĚ win the title?

Position-wise, there has been a lot of shuffling from last season to this season among the usual top teams:

2011/2012 Table after 25 Matches
2011/2012 Table after 25 Matches
2012/2013 Table aftert 25 Matches
2012/2013 Table after 25 Matches

25 matches into last season, the top third of the table looks fairly similar team-wise to this season.¬† The usual names: Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, and the two Manchester clubs.¬† There is one ‚Äúnewcomer‚ÄĚ in the bunch and that is Everton.¬† Playing the role of Newcastle of a year ago, both squads ironically had 42 points with 13 matches remaining. ¬†This season,¬†United has a much better pole position than Man City did last season, 9 points clear versus only 2. ¬†Arsenal is only 2 points worse off than last season, but sits in 6th rather than 4th. ¬†Tottenham was sitting comfortably in 3rd, 10 points clear of Arsenal in 4th and only 5 back from 2nd place United. ¬†This season is a difference story. ¬†Tottenham are 8 points worse off and are hanging on to 4th place by only 3 points to Everton and 4 points to Arsenal. ¬†Liverpool is still sitting in 7th and is further behind in points than at the same time last season despite their recent improvements.

Now let’s take a look at how the 2011/2012 table finished and then peer into my crystal ball to see how the table may look at the end of this season.

Final 2011/2012 Table
Final 2011/2012 Table

In one of the most exciting Premier League finishes in recent memory, City hung on to claim the title spot that they held over United at the 25 match mark a year ago. ¬†Against the odds, Arsenal overcame a 10 point hole to Tottenham to finish 3rd while the Spurs finished 4th (but still out of the Champions League due to Chelsea’s improbable Champions League victory). ¬†Newcastle hung on to finish a respectable 5th, while Chelsea had a bad run of Premier League form to finish 6th. ¬†To round out the top 7, Everton actually creeps into the picture to steal a spot away from Liverpool.

With Newcastle out of the picture this season, it looks like a 6 team race for the top 4 spots, which leaves 2 clubs missing out on Champions League action in 2013/2014.  Here is how I see the final table looking at seasons end:

  1. Manchester United – I don’t see a collapse here, they are way too strong of a squad and look to finish out the Premier League season rather comfortably to win the title yet again.
  2. Manchester City – They do not have the firepower and consistency this season to catch United, but I do not see them slipping below 2nd ¬†and I don’t envision another club going on an epic run to catch them.
  3. Chelsea РThey had a great start to the season then faded the last couple of months.  They should regain form and I believe they retain the 3rd spot.
  4. Arsenal – Arsenal’s summer signings (Giroud and Podolski) are now clicking on all cylinders. ¬†Injuries have plagued them in the past and they do not have a deep bench so if they can stay healthy, I think they squeak into the last Champion’s League spot.
  5. Tottenham – With shades of 2011/2012, the Spurs miss out on the Champion’s League to their North London rival. ¬†I think the 4th/5th spots will come down to Arsenal or Tottenham and based on how Tottenham finished last season, I don’t have much confidence in their ability to finish strong.
  6. Liverpool РRecent draws against Arsenal and Manchester City should be seen as positives even though they had a 2-0 lead in the 2nd half against the Gunners.  They are starting to score goals with the help of a new signing in Daniel Sturridge.  Coutinho also provides a burst of midfield youth so I see them improving on last season and taking the 6th spot.
  7. Everton – I think they finish at the same spot they finished last season. ¬†They had a good run of form but have to start turning those draws into 3 points if they want to contend for a Champion’s League spot. ¬†I think they pull a Tottenham and fade down the stretch.

Agree or disagree, I’d like to hear how you think the Premier League will stack up come season’s end. ¬†Leave a comment below to voice your opinion.

For further reading on this topic, take a look at what Forbes predicted back in August.

January Transfers Already Paying Dividends

Rosters are officially locked in for the final 4 months of the football season. ¬†The recent closing of the January transfer window provided the last opportunity for clubs to add quality to their rosters. ¬†There wasn’t what some would consider a “blockbuster deal”. ¬†There wasn’t a transfer fee over¬†¬£20m and in today’s world of football economics, that is fairly tame to say the least. ¬†However, that is not to say teams did not significantly improve their squads. ¬†Here are a few of the most recent transfers that already could be considered successes.

Nacho Monreal РMalaga to Arsenal (£10m)

Some will say this was a reaction to the expected month without Kieran Gibbs due to a leg injury and that may be true, however Arsenal were in need of a much needed upgrade at the left back position. ¬†Gibbs is a great young player, don’t get me wrong – he simply can’t stay healthy. ¬†It just shows you how much of a need Monreal was to Arsene Wenger when he immediately thrust him into first team duty a day after signing to the club. ¬†He answered the calling as he helped an inconsistent back 4 come away with a clean sheet against Stoke City on Saturday. ¬†Granted, Stoke didn’t exactly provide the attacking prowess of a Manchester club, but that also hasn’t stopped Arsenal from giving up goals to lesser opponents either (see Swansea, Fulham, and the ¬†Liverpool matches). ¬†God only knows how many goals would have been conceded if Santos played an entire 90 minutes at left back. ¬†Not only did Nacho provide some stability to the defense, he showed some skill on the ball going forward. ¬†Many Arsenal supporters will argue Arsenal could have used another attacking signing or two, but it seems Arsene has once again found value in a quality player on deadline day. ¬†(For a more in depth look at Arsenal, check out another recent blog post¬†from kvenezia.)

Daniel Sturridge РChelsea to Liverpool (£12m)

With the impending arrival of Demba Ba from Newcastle at the beginning of the transfer window, Chelsea suddenly had a surplus of attackers and Daniel Sturridge was the odd man out. ¬†So he was abruptly shipped to Liverpool who were in dire need of an offensive spark. ¬†Liverpool immediately saw glimpses of Sturridge’s potential as he scored a goal in each of his first 3 appearances for his new club. ¬†His fourth and most recent goal tied up the match against Manchester City at 1-1 where the teams saw out a 2-2 draw. ¬†They still haven’t beaten a team ahead of them in the standings; however, the last¬†two matches could be considered statement matches for Liverpool. ¬†A 2-2 draw against Arsenal and Manchester City may provide the confidence they need to finally push for a top 4 finish and Sturridge may very well be the attacker they were looking for to compliment Luis Suarez going forward. ¬†You can’t ask for much more from a newly acquired player than to score 4 goals (2 Premier League/2 FA Cup) in his first 6 matches for his new club. ¬†Daniel has already played more minutes for Liverpool in the last 6 matches than he did for Chelsea during the first half of the season. ¬†It seems like this transfer was a win-win for both teams involved and it’s not very often that can be said.

Moussa Sissoko – Toulouse to Newcastle United (Undisclosed Fee)

With Demba Ba off to Chelsea, Newcastle had some cash to spend. ¬†It took them a couple of weeks but they landed Moussa Sissoko a week before the window closed. ¬†The 23 year old midfielder had been at French side Toulouse since he was a youth at just 13 years old. ¬†So his switch to the Premier League should have required a bit of an adjustment period for Moussa considering the higher level of play in the Premier League. ¬†He was also thrown into the starting lineup right away. ¬†In his first Premier League match against Aston Villa, Moussa provided the assist to Papiss Cisse to open the scoring. ¬†Newcastle ended up seeing out a 2-1 victory. ¬†He followed up his good debut with an even better showing against Chelsea this past Saturday by scoring a brace in a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Blues. ¬†Down 1-2, Moussa put in a rebound past Petr Cech to level up the score. ¬† As extra time ticked on, Moussa took a pass at the top of the 18 yard box and fired a low line shot through the Chelsea defenders and past Cech again to win the match 3-2. ¬†Moussa has shown that a Premier League “rookie” can step right in and provide a spark to a new club. ¬†Newcastle can only hope he keeps up his form since joining the club. ¬†(For more on Newcastle, check out another recent blog post¬†from leftymagic.)

Mario Balotelli РManchester City to AC Milan (£19m)

The highest profile and most expensive transfer of the January window was of course the Italian International and former Manchester City player Mario Balotelli to AC Milan. ¬†Another deadline day deal that was thrown into the starting lineup following day, Balotelli had a marvelous debut for the club he supported as a youngster. ¬†Milan knew they were getting a player with massive potential, but could he put his focus on the pitch to be the player everyone thinks he can be? ¬†If his first match was any indication, it’ll be a fun ride for Milan and its supporters. ¬†Against Udinese on Saturday, he volleyed home a beautiful side-footed goal from close range. ¬†He followed that up with the match-clinching penalty kick in the93rdminute (see what I did there?).

For additional transfer saga reading, you’ll want to check out mcmigs’s take on the Wilfred Zaha transfer.

Picture Sources:

http://i1.mirror.co.uk/incoming/article1514808.ece/ALTERNATES/s615/%C2%A3%C2%A3%C2%A3+Daniel+Sturridge

Cabaye Has Saved Newcastle’s Dreadful Season… At Least for Now

It is incredible where a calendar year can take you. Amazing how in a year’s time a team can go from competing for a Champion’s League spot to battling for the right to stay up! Newcastle, a dark horse of last year, showed promise and potential for a relapse to the team of old with the legendary shadow of Alan Shearer guiding a beleaguered team to a valiant 5th place finish.  After a less than promising 2010, Newcastle turned it around in the 2011-2012 season. The team found ways to win games and ended the year with 65 points, in fifth place, with a spot waiting for them in the Europa league. This was thought to be the turnaround; a chance for Newcastle to take back the Barclay’s Premier League.

But it was not to be. Prior to yesterday’s 2-1 win over a dreadful Aston Villa side, Newcastle was a point out of the relegation zone.  The Toon had lost five of its last six games and eight of its last ten. Its lone win was against bottom dwellers QPR. But, all is not lost. The first away win of the season is a season changer for United. Not only does it put them in 15th place in the premiership but it can be a catapult of sorts to keep them in the league for the coming season.  This combined with the incredible influx of French players into the team during the transfer window will be a major determinant in Newcastle’s success in the second half of the season. The Toon Army is appreciative of the signings and when you are fighting a relegation battle you need the fans on your side. Newcastle has that as you can see below.

French Love

Newcastle also has a midfield capable of silky attacking movement, clever passes and clinical finishing. This was apparent in yesterday’s game when Newcastle’s savior, Yohan Cabaye stunned the Villa crowd with a ludicrous, side-swerving volley that froze Brad Guzan and left Villa scrambling to pick their jaws off the floor. His return from injury has already proven dramatic and incredibly influential in Newcastle’s play. With the departure of goal machine Demba Ba, the midfield and defense will need to sure up the back and find other ways to get goals! Pappa Sisse is a good player but he is not the answer. The likes of Ben Arfa, Anita and Cabaye will need to be the breadwinners if Newcastle wants to survive to see another premier league campaign.

Tell me that face doesn't breathe confidence into your lungs.
Tell me that face doesn’t breathe confidence into your lungs.

Lastly, Fabricio Coloccini came out and said how sad he is about his transfer back home falling through. This could be the best thing for Newcastle. He is an excellent defender for them and sures up a shaky back four that have is leaking goals like stupid faucet you can never fix. The 31 year old insists that he will give 100% and a statement like that coming from a veteran like him makes smile with joy.

Organized, composed and ready to shutout everyone.
Organized, composed and ready to shutout everyone.

24 hours ago, Newcastle was a lost cause. Not anymore, not anymore. Newcastle will stay up this season. Newcastle will finish in the top ten. Alan Pardew knows what he is doing. Krul is one of the best young goalies in the world. The combination of players are ready to make a run. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. I won’t be surprised when Newcastle shakes things up.