Tag Archives: geordie

How Nolberto Solano convinced Harrogate Town goalkeeper Mark Cook to move to Peru

From Harrogate to Peru… How Nobby Solano lured Mark Cook to a land of beaches, jungles and needles in unspeakable places!



22:00 GMT, 25 December 2012

Think of the more peculiar transfers in British football over the past 12 months, and Barnet signing Edgar Davids or Robert Earnshaw going on loan from Cardiff to Maccabi Tel Aviv might spring to mind.

But it’s fair to say the deal that saw Mark Cook, a goalkeeper with non-league Harrogate Town, join the biggest club in Peru takes some beating.

The link in this rather unlikely scenario is Nolberto Solano, the former Newcastle United midfielder, who until recently was manager of Club Universitario de Deportes, Peru’s most successful team and one that fills its 80,000-capacity Estadio Monumental for local derbies in Lima.

Tall order: Mark Cook is not certain he will stay in Peru

Tall order: Mark Cook is not certain he will stay in Peru

Solano knew Cook from his time as reserve-team keeper at Newcastle and a brief spell together at Hartlepool. Still, moving to South America was the last thing on Cook’s mind when he received a call while training at a gym in Newcastle in July.

'Nobby was in Peru,’ he recalls. ‘He was looking for a goalkeeper and wanted to know my situation. He said it was a hot country with nice beaches, nice weather and nice food. I thought, “that’ll do me!” ‘Obviously I was bit anxious about what Peru was going to be like — I knew absolutely nothing about Peruvian football — but I said yes straightaway even before I’d asked my girlfriend.

'Harrogate are a brilliant club but I wanted to be playing full-time football again.’ Within a month the 24-year-old Geordie had swapped the Blue Square Bet North for Peru’s Primera Division. However, even though Solano and his friends had taken care of the paperwork, they forgot to warn Cook about what to expect at the airport.

A far away land: Cook training with Nobby Solano in Peru

A far away land: Cook training with Nobby Solano in Peru

'Nobby’s very famous in Peru and knows everyone in Lima,’ says Cook, who played under Shay Given and Steve Harper at Newcastle. ‘So some guy tapped me on the shoulder and took me through passport control and customs. Visa stamped, straight through.

'But when I came out of the doors I was surrounded by about 40 reporters. I couldn’t see a thing because there were that many flashes.

'At Harrogate the most media attention I got was from the club’s website guy and one or two local papers.’

It was a similar story when Cook accompanied two of his new teammates to a signing session at a supermarket in Lima.

‘It was crazy. There were thousands of fans surrounding me and the other lads. I had to escorted back to the car by eight security guards which I found weird.’ North Shields-born Cook made his debut in front of 35,000 in a 1-0 defeat to Sport Huancayo at the beginning of September, the first of two Primera Division appearances for Universitario. The second, away to Cobresol, taught him what it was like to play at altitude.

A new start: Cook shows off his Universitario shirt

A new start: Cook shows off his Universitario shirt

‘It’s hard to breathe and the ball moves around really quickly because the air’s thinner,’ says Cook. ‘If you play outside Lima it’s like going to a different country. One time we landed and had to drive three hours through desert, another it was through a jungle.



After spells at Arsenal, Tottenham and Wolves, Ricketts embarked on a world tour in 2009, taking in clubs in Canada, Hungary, Moldova, Germany and Ireland before moving to Dempo SC in the Indian I-League in August.


The Norwich frontman has spent most of his career at various English clubs, but in 2001 he made a brief trip to the far east. Holt signed for Singapore side Sengkang Marine before returning to play for Barrow.


Hendrie made his name playing in midfield for Aston Villa. But after a series of short spells at clubs in the midlands, he moved to Bandung in the Liga Primer Indonesia.


After playing for Aston Villa, Bolton and Cardiff, the 31-year-old signed for Esteghlal in the Iranian Pro League.


After struggling to break through at Man Utd, Cooke moved to Manchester City before finding success in the MLS playing for Colorado Rapids. In 2010, he teamed up with manager Tony Adams at Azerbaijan club Gabala.


The former Man Utd and Newcastle midfielder headed to Hong Kong in 2010, signing for South China FC.


After falling out of favour at Cardiff, the Wales striker joined Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv on loan in September 2012.


The former Millwall man plays his football in New Zealand. The 33-year-old left Crystal Palace and signed for Wellington Phoenix in July 2009.

The fans are the best I’ve seen and that’s saying something coming from Newcastle.
'Every game they sing for 90 minutes non-stop, jumping up and down behind the goal, setting off flares and banging their drums.

'Until then, the biggest crowd I’d played in front of was 4,000 for Newcastle reserves.’ Universitario finished the regular season in mid-table but faded after the Primera Division split into two separate leagues for the last 14 games.

'They make the rules up as they go along, to be honest with you,’ says Cook.

'I played about six or seven games altogether including friendlies but I only played twice for the first-team before injuring my finger which meant I couldn’t train for two or three weeks.

'As soon as you get any kind of injury they stick an injection in your bum to make you better. Every time. I don’t know what it was. If you were tired, they stuck a needle in your bum. To be fair, the next day you felt brilliant.’

It was after an exhibition game against fierce rivals Alianza Lima in Miami earlier this month that Solano told his players he might be leaving the club. Shortly after returning to Peru, he was gone.

Solano’s departure has cast doubt over Cook’s future at Universitario. He has flown home to the north-east for Christmas unsure whether he will go back for the new season which starts in February.

'I was massively shocked when Nobby went,’ says Cook. ‘He pulled them out of trouble because they were second bottom and struggling, and then all of a sudden it came out that he wasn’t going to be there any more. I’m not sure if he got sacked or he walked away.

'I still have year left on my contract but they’ve got a new manager in now so I need to speak with him and find out what their plans are for me.

'I’m just enjoying Christmas with my family and then we’ll see what happens.’ Cook and his girlfriend Sarah are already missing their 14th floor apartment in the upmarket area of Miraflores, just two minutes’ walk from the beach.

'I always wanted to be a footballer and I thought I would play in the Football League but nothing massive. It never crossed my mind I’d end up in a place like that in Peru.’

Derby 1 Hull 2: Abdoulaye Faye scores winner

Derby 1 Hull 2: Bruce is back on top as Faye winner fires up Tigers



23:27 GMT, 21 December 2012

Steve Bruce brushed aside any thoughts of personal vindication as his Hull side jumped into the Championship’s promotion places.

The genial Geordie was facing life on the managerial scrapheap 12 months ago after being dumped by Sunderland.

But Bruce is not a man to sit licking his wounds for long. After four away victories on the trot only Cardiff are looking down on his team – and that by virtue of a superior goal difference.

Winner: Faye (second right) wheels away after scoring

Winner: Faye (second right) wheels away after scoring


Derby: Legzdins, Brayford, Keogh, O'Connor, Roberts (Davies 87), Coutts, Bryson, Hughes, Hendrick, Jacobs (Robinson 78), Sammon.

Subs Not Used: Fielding, Tyson, O'Brien, Gjokaj, Freeman.

Goals: Jacobs 45.

Hull: Jakupovic, Chester, Hobbs, Faye, Elmohamady, Quinn, Evans, Brady, Meyler, Koren (Cairney 89), Simpson (Proschwitz 76).

Subs Not Used: Amos, Rosenior, Mclean, McShane, Olofinjana.

Booked: Chester, Meyler, Evans.

Goals: Koren 25, Faye 50.

Attendance: 25,442

Referee: Darren Sheldrake (Surrey).

Latest Championship table, fixtures and results

This was, in many ways, a classic away
victory at a ground where Nigel Clough has made his energetic and
youthful Derby side a tough nut to crack.

Indeed, this game was wide open at the interval. Robert Koren marked his
100th appearance for Hull with a 25th-minute goal following a
well-worked move.

On the stroke of half time Derby midfielder Michael Jacobs scored his
first goal for the club after controlling neatly and thumping home a
25-yard volley.

But Abdoulaye Faye’s 50th-minute header from the outstanding Robbie
Brady’s corner earned the division’s best travellers their seventh away

‘It’s been some year,’ said Bruce. ‘For me, it was just a case of
whether I had the appetite for it but you know me. I want to work and
obviously I’m pleased.

‘But I’m more pleased for my owners Assem and Ehab Allam. I think they
have pumped something like 60million into Hull City. The club would
already be in oblivion without them.

‘Outside of Hull, nobody seems to give a damn about us. We were 33-1
shots for promotion at the start of the season and we have not been on
the radar but in our “principality of Hull” we are doing OK.’

Opener: Robert Koren gave Hull a first-half lead

Opener: Robert Koren gave Hull a first-half lead

The charge has been levelled at Bruce that he was too stuck in the past
to embrace new methods. But clarity of thought has seen him deploy three
centre halves.

Derby, reborn themselves under Clough, had lost only once in their last
11 home games prior to this. Clough’s side, who look vastly times
improved from the indisciplined, injury-ravaged crew he inherited four
years ago, had already allowed their concentration to lapse and fallen
behind after 25 minutes with what was, effectively, Hull’s first effort
on target.

Jacobs’ cracker levelled on the stroke of half time but once Faye converted there was no way back for the hosts.

Bruce was magnanimous at the final whistle, conceding that Derby had made life difficult for his team in the first half.

Clough was encouraged, too. The Derby manager said: ‘We have now lost
only two games at Pride Park this season. We must be doing something

Judging by the Championship table, so must Bruce.

Chelsea Mark Clattenburg fiasco: Ron Gourlay should resign – Jonathan McEvoy

The enemies of football are now pariahs of the Premier League… Gourlay should pay with his job for this



23:45 GMT, 22 November 2012

For a cabal that has found it easy to spread so much insinuation and so many insults about so many innocent parties, Chelsea cannot bring themselves to utter the one appropriate word.

Sorry was not to be heard in the wind howling down Fulham Road last night. It was as predictable an omission as it was sad.

The FA had found the club’s accusation that referee Mark Clattenburg called John Mikel Obi a ‘monkey’ did not stand up to scrutiny. All logic and instinct had told us that the minute the claim was made on October 28 following Chelsea’s acrimonious defeat by Manchester United.

No evidence: Chelsea's claims about Mark Clattenburg have proved to be unfounded - but they won't say sorry

No evidence: Chelsea's claims about Mark Clattenburg have proved to be unfounded – but they won't say sorry

Sky TV had failed with all 20 of their cameras to pick up the racial slur. The other officials cleared Clattenburg of wrongdoing. Chelsea had a record of intimidation and arrogance.

What is more, Clattenburg speaks with a Geordie accent. Anyone who has spent time in a Newcastle pub will tell you how those tones can be faintly indecipherable to English ears let alone to a Brazilian, namely Ramires, who thought he heard the insult despite the backdrop of a noisy stadium. Ramires’ recollections were translated for the rest of the team by David Luiz, another Brazilian. Mikel, the supposed victim who has good English, did not hear the word monkey spoken.

Despite all this — and after the shameful saga of John Terry, Chelsea’s totem, calling Anton Ferdinand a black **** — the club were going public within hours about Clattenburg’s supposed crime. They also claimed Juan Mata was called a ‘Spanish t***’, an accusation later withdrawn.

Nasty episode: The John Terry race row with Anton Ferdinand brought shame onto the club

Nasty episode: The John Terry race row with Anton Ferdinand brought shame onto the club

Why did they not keep quiet while they considered if a complaint was worthwhile That is a question for Ron Gourlay, the chief executive. A second question for him is: will you resign after this fiasco
Harsh Hardly. This is a club drunk on its own oxygen and wealth.

Take Rafa Benitez’s unveiling as the ninth manager of Roman Abramovich’s nine-year reign. He is the latest pawn in a billionaire’s game where normal employment rights — like reward for success — do not count because he can afford to override them.

No wonder the men on the pitch and in the boardroom adopt such high-handedness when the boss sets such a rebarbative example.

The litany of modern Chelsea’s bullying of referees is without parallel in British football.

Remember him Referee Anders Frisk (second left) was forced into retirement by death threats

Remember him Referee Anders Frisk (second left) was forced into retirement by death threats

The crime sheet goes back as far as February 2005, when the then manager Jose Mourinho accused Anders Frisk of collusion with Barcelona boss Frank Rijkaard during Chelsea’s defeat at the Nou Camp that saw Didier Drogba sent off. Chelsea were charged with inappropriate conduct and Mourinho was banned from the touchline. Frisk retired after receiving death threats.

Mourinho was cast as an ‘enemy of football’ by UEFA referees’ committee chairman Volker Roth.
Since then the wrath has been incited not just on the continent but also closer to home. Chelsea have gone from the enemies of European football to the pariahs of the Premier League.

In November 2006, Graham Poll sent off Terry as Chelsea lost to Tottenham for the first time in 16 years. Terry accused the referee of changing his explanation over why he had shown the red card.
The delightful Ashley Cole chimed in, saying Poll had warned Chelsea players he wanted to ‘teach us a lesson’. A fortnight later, Chelsea withdrew the accusation and Terry was fined 10,000.

Who could forget this Ref Tom Henning Ovrebo was subjected to vile treatment from Chelsea fans

Who could forget this Ref Tom Henning Ovrebo was subjected to vile treatment from Chelsea fans

Who could forget this Ref Tom Henning Ovrebo was subjected to vile treatment from Chelsea fans

Fast forward to May 2009, when Norwegian Tom Henning Ovrebo turned down four Chelsea penalty appeals. Admittedly, it was a shocking refereeing performance but not as wayward as the reaction of Drogba and Jose Bosingwa, who both turned on Ovrebo at the final whistle. Drogba screamed ‘It’s a f***ing disgrace’ into a television camera. Ovrebo was still being subjected to vile emails from Chelsea fans as late as this spring.

Last October after that infamous game against QPR, Chelsea were fined 20,000 for failing to control their players. Drogba and Bosingwa were dismissed in the first half. Manager Andre Villas-Boas called it a ‘very poor display’ — by the referee, that is, not his players.

The unfortunate referee then was Chris Foy. /11/22/article-2237127-0608100D0000044D-767_634x456.jpg” width=”634″ height=”456″ alt=”Sound familiar Chelsea retracted claims about comments by Graham Poll back in 2006″ class=”blkBorder” />

Sound familiar Chelsea retracted claims about comments by Graham Poll back in 2006

So back to Chelsea’s weasel words in response to the FA findings. They said: ‘Chelsea FC has a duty of care, as do all employers, to act responsibly when such allegations are reported by employees.’

It smacked of the usual one-eyed, self-serving nonsense that fails to acknowledge a wider obligation to football itself or the lightly trampled reputation of a blameless referee.

We are Chelsea. We snarl and we smear. Who says we should say sorry

Mario Balotelli less dramatic than Inspector Montalbano – Edge of the Box

Think Balotelli's a drama queen Try Montalbano

Mark Webster


00:01 GMT, 5 November 2012



00:01 GMT, 5 November 2012

I for one could not be more grateful that BBC 4 are running the Sicilian detective series Inspector Montalbano.

I am learning so much. First of all, I now know that every building on the island seems to be made from the same cream coloured rock.

That, or some rather over-zealous local council official went a bit crazy with the magnolia paint they clearly got a great deal on.

Nothing to write home about: Mario Balotelli was relatively restrained

Nothing to write home about: Mario Balotelli was relatively restrained

Second, I have learned that only about eight people live there.

On the beach, in the town, at the police station, on the roads – not a soul, save for the Inspector, his sidekicks, the odd suspect or witness, and the fragrant young woman he’ll take for a giant plate of so-fresh-it's-still-squirming seafood that he’ll eat with her on the terrace of his favourite restaurant. Which is empty.

Thirdly, I have been getting a weekly crash course in the Italian language, as spoken by Italians. Close study has revealed you say ‘pronto’ when you answer the phone and that aside from a mouth to form words, you also need rolling eyes, fully shruggable shoulders and very wavey arms to be able to express yourself eloquently.

It is, all in all, great late night telly. It is not, however, the great Mario Balotelli.

Not my word, you understand. Nor, indeed, Alan Shearer’s if Saturday’s exchange on Match Of The Day was anything to go by.

The inscrutable Geordie was all fixed grin and no eye contact as his opposite Alan – Hansen – informed the Shearer right ear that ‘you called him great twice’ as once again Manchester City’s enfant terrible striker was put under the microscope.

A shining wall of gritted teeth, through which the former centre forward growled ‘I said good’, said happy. While the eyes said ‘as soon as the red light goes off on that camera..’.

In spite all of this, I really couldn’t fathom from what I’d seen of their highlights, just why it was all about Mario again Even Gary Lineker sounded a little surprised as he made the very same point, and I must say it did feel like they were hammering an editorial square peg into a round hole.

Smooth: Inspector Montalbano (right) with one of his 'fragrant' beauties

Smooth: Inspector Montalbano (right) with one of his 'fragrant' beauties

Sure, we saw images of a manager barking instructions at a player, and the same player looking disgruntled at coming off and sitting solemnly on the bench as he zipped up his coat. Yet no water bottles appeared to go flying. Nor did he make straight for the tunnel. All in all, by Sicilian TV body language standards, the pair might have barely exchanged brief ‘how do you dos’.

Which probably explains why Mancini looked as baffled as Lineker had done, when asked twice in the post match interview if it got on his nerves answering questions about Mario Balotelli. Think I might have spotted the eyes on a bit of a roll then!

Of course the young Italian will make headlines again. However, on November 3rd, he seemed to do nothing to warrant it. Lest we forget, though, you’re likely reading this on 5th of November. So if you ARE looking for some Super Mario gunpowder, treason and plot…

Come the following morning on Sky Sports, and there wasn’t even really a mention of him on Goals On Sunday in their coverage of Man City’s trip to West Ham. As the theme song says, Sunday mornings are decidedly ‘easy’ in the exceptionally capable hands of Ben Shephard and Chris Kamara, and they were clearly much more laid back about what they’d seen at Upton Park.

Personable: Chris Kamara is normally relaxed

Personable: Chris Kamara is normally relaxed

Which is – unless Kammy is on a mission with the officials – the way of a pair who are one of the best teams in televised sport. Their rapport puts them right up there with the BBC’s F1 boys and Jeff Stelling and the team on a Saturday.

What’s more, it helps make their weekly guests feel really relaxed, so that you get so much more from the players and managers who arrive on their settee than you’ll see pretty much anywhere else on the box.

It’s a long show, happy to take it’s time in allowing everyone to have their say about all the action and incidents, as well as discuss their own careers and lives. This week was no exception, with two excellent guests in former Bolton colleagues Stuart Holden and Patrice Muamba.

By Kammy’s standard in particular, this was a rather sombre day on the shirt front, but young American Holden certainly helped brighten the place up with a pair of truly appalling union flag socks. He was also very engaging, funny and pretty ‘northern’ nowadays in the accent department, which certainly helped with the dead pan delivery when he enquired at the end of the show as to where he could make a donation to Kammy’s Movember ‘tache

However, it was the presence of Muamba that really made the morning. The fact that he was there and well would have been good enough. But it was also a pleasure to listen to a man whose quietly spoken, thoughtful words couldn’t have been further away from where Mario’s do their business.

Ben pointed out that they had been inundated with well wishers on email enquiring about his future. Patrice replied that he would ‘take his time… then see where I fit in, in the football world’.

Here’s hoping it somewhere nice and snug. The game could do with his company.

Newcastle United superhero Whey Aye Man

Unmasked! New Geordie superhero 'Whey Aye Man' set to take the Toon by storm



10:49 GMT, 4 October 2012

Batman has been spotted speeding away to the hills in the Batmobile, and nobody's seen Spiderman swinging around the Toon for weeks.

Why There's a new caped crusader in town and with the speed of Hatem Ben Arfa, the strength of Shola Ameobi and the reflexes of Tim Krul, he's better than both combined.

Meet Whey Aye Man – the new Geordie superhero unveiled by Newcastle United this week.

Local Hero: Newcastle have released a Whey Aye Man costume as part of their fancy dress range

Local Hero: Newcastle have released a Whey Aye Man costume as part of their fancy dress range

With his black and white wig and mask, ripped physique and club y-fronts, Whey Aye Man is your favourite now.

Newcastle has released the outfit, priced at 49.99, as an alternative to the traditional matchday attire, or as a unique stag weekend costume.

The Whey Aye Man outfit is available to buy in Newcastle club stores and Shearer's Bar.

Whey Aye Man boasts the speed of Hatem Ben Arfa

Whey Aye Man boasts the speed of Hatem Ben Arfa…

...the strength of striker Shola Ameobi...

…the strength of striker Shola Ameobi…

...and the reflexes of goalkeeper Tim Krul

…and the reflexes of goalkeeper Tim Krul

Liverpool want 17m for Andy Carroll

17m and he's yours! Liverpool willing to let Carroll return to Newcastle… but not on loan



10:31 GMT, 16 August 2012

On his way Carroll has fallen down the pecking order at Anfield

On his way Carroll has fallen down the pecking order at Anfield

Liverpool have told Newcastle that they will have to stump up 17million in cash if they want to bring Andy Carroll back to Tyneside this summer.

New Reds boss Brendan Rodgers is prepared to offload the England striker, but only club can recuperate a sizeable chunk of the 35m they paid for him in January 2011.

Newcastle Chronicle sources are told that Liverpool are not prepared to let Carroll leave on loan, but they are prepared to take a loss on the 23-year-old to offload him.

Rodgers has brought in Fabio Borini from Roma to compete with Luis Suarez for a starting place, and with the Northern Irishman likely to play with just one up front, Carroll's first-team opportunities will be limited.

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew is keen to bolster his squad as the Magpies prepare to compete in the Europa League, but it is unknown whether the club would be willing to pay the 17m for Carroll when they already have Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba on their books.

West Ham were prepared to break the bank to bring Carroll to Upton Park, but the Geordie turned down a move to London.

In limbo: Carroll does not know where he will be playing his football this season

In limbo: Carroll does not know where he will be playing his football this season

Middlesbrough must win promotion – Colin Young Northern Exposure

Promotion is a must this season for Boro



16:03 GMT, 14 August 2012

Middlesbrough returned from Bury unscathed at the weekend.

Still in the Capital One League Cup hat, incidentally, hoping to bring back the only piece of silverware won by a North East team for more than 40 years.

And no I’m not a Smoggie. Or a Geordie. Or a Mackem. For the record. And the last time.

Now football is back, and the Olympics still fresh in the mind, it will be fascinating to see how quickly Boro come out of the blocks this season!

And to quote the other major summer event, the return of The Stones Roses, 'This Is The One' for Middlesbrough.

Close call: Boro were in the top six for much of last season

Close call: Boro were in the top six for much of last season

They have to get back in the Premier League now.

So I’m looking forward to seeing how Tony Mowbray’s new signings perform, what system the Boro boss will adopt, where his players fit in, who grasps his passing philosophy, and, as I’ve mentioned previously, if the Teesside 'faithful' have it in their hearts and their wallets to back the efforts of one of their own.

Astute signings are Mowbray’s forte, and he appears to have cherry-picked from the market this summer, so we wait and see how his team selection develops. He will feel he is close to a fully equipped squad now.

Mowbray has also patiently chiselled away at the mess left by Gordon Strachan to mould a squad looking to build on the surprise flirtation with the play-offs last season.

In doing so he has identified the talent which was staring the Scot in the face before he blundered into the clubs in Scotland who, in serious hindsight, must have been delighted with Steve Gibson’s faith in Strachan’s eye for a player.

In fairness, Strachan could see Rhys Williams is a Premier League player but even I could. That was obvious from his debut four years ago in the 5-1 win over Yeovil in the Carling Cup and he always seems to put in effortless, mature performances in central defence or midfield.

Local lad: Tony Mowbray had made some astute signings

Local lad: Tony Mowbray had made some astute signings

Football League blog

He’s only 24, on the verge of becoming a regular Australia international and a player who has attracted scouts to the Riverside in their droves. Name a club and he’s on the list. He could be that good.

Everyone at Middlesbrough has known it for a while, and Mowbray has not only insisted he is not for sale, but given him the captain’s armband.

As I say, Mowbray has proved he is astute in the transfer market, so…

Magpies' Greek odyssey

They haven’t even kicked a ball in Europe yet but already Newcastle United have discovered the harsh realities of the Europa Cup.

It is the competition all Premier League clubs outside the top four or five want to be in. It was Newcastle’s reward for their surprising and deserved fifth place, cementing their long-awaited and hard-earned return to European competition after a five year absence.

Yet once it comes around do they really want to be in it that much

Euro stars: Newcastle will compete on the continent this season

Euro stars: Newcastle will compete on the continent this season

Newcastle’s play-off draw may have been reasonably favourable, and could have been considerably worse. They must play Atromitos, one of Athens’ lesser known teams, whose European experience stretches to a shortlived UEFA Cup run more than 10 years ago. But they were praying for a home draw.

Good old Atromitos have their own reasons for refusing to move next week’s tie to Newcastle. A home game for the second leg would be in their favour, so it is a strange decision, and clearly shifting it to a more convenient Tuesday or Wednesday to assist Newcastle was not an option either.

So next week Alan Pardew and his full squad must make a four-hour journey to Athens, play on Thursday night, get out of Greece as quickly as possible, and then prepare to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge with little more than 24 hours to spare.

Last season’s visit to the current European champions was one of the most memorable in a memorable season. There was more to it than Papiss Cisse’s breathtaking goal. But what a goal.

Next Saturday, for the police and TV have decided it must be Saturday, and thanks to their success last season, it already promises to be one of the toughest tests of the season, and the Premier League will be just one game old.

In the first week of pre-season, Pardew said that his young fringe players will have their chance to shine in Europe. So presumably we can expect to see Haris Vuckic, Mehdi Abeid, Dan Gosling, Sammy Ameobi and Shane Ferguson in action.

Tough test: Pardew will have to try and replicate last season's success

Tough test: Pardew will have to try and replicate last season's success

All will have a point to prove, all desperate to achieve the result which will put Newcastle in the league phase of the Europa Cup. And then really put the whole squad to the test.

And for all the inconvenience in the months to come, Pardew will welcome that challenge, just as the supporters will relish the prospect of putting the black and white flag back on the European map.

Atromitos are ideal fodder for Newcastle under normal circumstances, but experience of other Premier League clubs at this phase of the competition proves nothing can be taken for granted.

Newcastle and their manager want to be in the Europa League. And they will travel to Greece somewhat riled by events since the draw, which makes them very dangerous opponents for Atromitos.

Westwood gets his chance

When Keiren Westwood joined up with the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2012 squad, he didn’t go as Shay Given’s understudy. He wanted to be Ireland’s No 1.

The Sunderland keeper was unhappy with his first season in the Barclays Premier League. He played nine games and hated every minute of his isolation from first team action since a bug had ruled him out of the dramatic New Year win over his first club Manchester City.

The efficient and reliable Simon Mignolet kept him out of the team, and between them they have seen off Craig Gordon. The competition is one of the more pleasing aspect Martin O’Neill has to contend with in his fragile squad.

No 1: Westwood will get his chance for Ireland following Given's retirement

No 1: Westwood will get his chance for Ireland following Given's retirement

Poland offered the opportunity for Westwood to make a point to O’Neill, and prove he could play on the highest stage. He wanted to put Given under pressure to start in the opening game against Croatia, and trained accordingly in the heat of Italy and Poland, often with Given unable to go through the same rigorous sessions with coach Alan Kelly.

And here came the drawback of Westwood’s curtailed Premier League season, which started as Mignolet’s understudy because the Belgian had been Steve Bruce’s choice after pre-season.

He played nine games. He may have set the standard with a superb performance at Old Trafford, and he is a keeper who brims with confidence when he is playing well. Player of the season awards at Carlisle and Coventry are testament to his popularity, as well as the match-saving contributions. But he played nine Premier League games. Given has played for more than nine seasons.

Trapattoni’s loyalty, which is questionable on so many other levels, deemed that Given played, despite his own self-doubts about his full fitness. After a 10-year wait for a finals stage, he had also earned the right to represent his country.

I consider myself privileged to have seen Shay Given prove the undoubted potential he showed at such a young age over a decade with Newcastle and Ireland. He is the sort of keeper team-mates, and journalists, dream about.

He lived his boyhood dream and set high standards for Ireland for 16 years. Sadly, Euro 2012 were not at those standards. Given knew it, we all did, and he is still feeling it. At 36, when those aches and strains start to kick in, he has decided something has to give to continue meeting his standards, injury-free, for Aston Villa.

Top performer: Given has had an outstanding career

Top performer: Given has had an outstanding career

More from Colin Young…

Northern Exposure: European adventure always welcome at St James' Park… and it is still St James' Park

Northern Exposure: O'Neill delves into his Clough memories in bid to lift Sunderland

Northern Exposure: All quiet in the north east… but things are about to get busy

Northern Exposure: The north east team of the 2011-12 season

Northern Exposure: Trapattoni can help Sunderland winger McClean be a Euro star

Northern Exposure: North East duo hold key to Manchester's title race

Northern Exposure: Middlesbrough have 90 minutes to keep Premier League dream alive… or face the consequences

Northern Exposure: Newcastle and Sunderland face battle to keep hold of their best players


It must have been such a heart-wrenching decision for a proud Irishman who simply loves playing for his country and has always embraced every single moment of it. Poland was a painful experience, not pleasurable, and like many of his age and experience, he feels it is time to let the next generation try to get Ireland in Brazil.

But he will be sorely missed. And I’m so glad he left the door open to return for emergencies.

His decision to step down after three bad games in 125 leaves Westwood as Ireland’s obvious No 1, with untried competition coming from Millwall’s David Forde and Motherwell’s Darron Randolph.

He will play his 11th game for his country in Serbia on Wednesday, and unless Richard Dunne and Robbie Keane return, the squad will be the 23-and-a-bit, who will start the World Cup 2014 campaign in Kazakhstan next month.

With Germany, Sweden, Austria and the Faroe Islands also in their group, Giovanni Trapattoni will have his work cut out justifying his 2million-a-year salary as the coach of a cash-strapped FA and his stubborn decision to stay on after the Euros debacle.

Any campaign without Shay Given would be difficult for Ireland, such is his presence from the moment the squad descends on Dublin and Trapattoni needs a goalkeeper who is performing regularly at the top level to be ready for the road to Rio.

Which brings us back to Keiren Westwood and Sunderland, Martin O’Neill, Simon Mignolet and the team sheet which Lee Cattermole hands over in the referee’s room at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Like Westwood, Mignolet, who returns from international duty with Belgium, will be expecting the nod.

Which is a fascinating one for O’Neill to handle, with so many other issues to ponder after a lousy summer.

Who does he choose How does he announce it And when

Lee Clark wants Steve Watson at Birmingham

Birmingham boss Clark eyes reunion with former Newcastle pal Watson



20:25 GMT, 31 July 2012

Lee Clark has lined up Steve Watson for a place on Birmingham City's coaching staff.

The new boss of the St Andrew's club will link up once more with his fellow Geordie after the two first joined forces at Huddersfield Town.

Since retiring from the game, Watson has been undertaking his coaching badges and although Derek Fazackerley and Terry McDermott are already in situ, Watson will be brought in to assist on the training ground.

Geordie boy: Steve Watson (left) during his Newcastle heyday

Geordie boy: Steve Watson (left) during his Newcastle heyday

Euro 2012: Paul Gascoigne backs Andy Carroll to shine

Gazza: Start Carroll at Euros so he can shine like I did



17:04 GMT, 7 June 2012

Paul Gascoigne is backing fellow former Newcastle favourite Andy Carroll to hit form for England at Euro 2012.

With Wayne Rooney suspended, Liverpool's 35million man is in contention to lead England's attack against France in Donetsk when England begin their campaign on Monday.

Do as I did: Paul Gascoigne has backed Andy Carroll to shine

Do as I did: Paul Gascoigne has backed Andy Carroll to shine

Euro 2012

Former England playmaker Gascoigne has watched Carroll struggle to show the goal threat he demonstrated on Tyneside since he moved to Liverpool almost 18 months ago.

But he claims the 23-year-old – Gascoigne was also 23 when he shone in England's run to the 1990 World Cup semi-finals – is beginning to show the full extent of his ability.

And he joked that Carroll must have German links, given he is finding his best form when it matters most.

Gascoigne said: 'The guy needs a boost and you never know what comes out of these tournaments.

'I came back from the 1990 World Cup as a hero and I'd like to think it wasn't just about the tears, but because of the passion I had for my country.

Ready: Carroll is in contention to start up front in England's opener against France on Monday

Ready: Carroll is in contention to start up front in England's opener against France on Monday

'I wish everybody well. But because Andy's a Geordie it'd be good for him – it would boost his morale because he's not had the best of seasons.

'But he's coming good. He must be a German – he's coming good towards the end.'

Gascoigne also questioned the passion of the England players.

'Anyone could manage England. You've just got to pick the right players,' Gascoigne said. 'If the players aren't performing we've got no chance.

'I try not to watch as many (England games) because I didn't feel the players play for the fans who travel around world to watch them in the rain and the snow, costing them a fortune.

Memories: Gascoigne shone for England in Euro 1996

Memories: Gascoigne shone for England in Euro 1996

'Some of them just score and walk away – it means nothing. It meant a lot when I used to play. I did it because of the passion.'

Identifying what he believes are the failings of the modern international player, Gascoigne said: 'A lot of it's got to do with the wages they're on.

'When I played for Tottenham, every time I played for England I got a bonus which was four times my wages. I turned that contract down. I played for England for nowt.

'There was a time when I got offered 10,000 to play for England, every time I played.

'I said, 'No, I don't want it'. I'd rather play for my country because it was an honour. Hopefully I'm proven wrong this summer.'

Papiss Cisse the new Newcastle hero

Goat, goals and a new Toon hero: Cisse is settling in at Newcastle



22:43 GMT, 1 April 2012

Feed him goat and he will score. But
it is not food that wins a Geordie's heart. As their new No 9 Papiss
Cisse will testify, it is goals.

Seven in seven to be precise.

While one former Newcastle idol
struggled in his first appearance in a red shirt at his former home,
Cisse's dream start to life in Newcastle continues.

He may not speak a word of the
Queen's English. He may have to rely on team-mate Demba Ba to translate
the wise words of his manager.

He's got punch: Papiss Cisse celebrates his first goal in the 2-0 win against Liverpool

He's got punch: Papiss Cisse celebrates his first goal in the 2-0 win against Liverpool

But Cisse is converting the chances that the No 19 and his pal from Senegal was taking earlier in the season.

He is relishing Newcastle and Newcastle is relishing him.

As one of the few January signings to pay off (Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres come to mind), he is pushing Newcastle to their long-awaited and unexpected return to European competition.

Newcastle held an 'African Day' at their training ground on Friday in a bid to continue Cisse's slow integration into other aspects of life at the club.

Red peril: Cisse fires home the second to kill off Liverpool

Red peril: Cisse fires home the second to kill off Liverpool

'We had curried goat and perhaps it fuelled him up,' said Newcastle boss Alan Pardew. 'It was lovely and it probably helped him a little bit.

'His English is not great and he has had only one English lesson since he came, I think, but his overall performance was probably his best for us yet and he gave Jamie Carragher problems all day.'

Cisse's two goals may have been created by the brilliance of Hatem Ben Arfa but still required his clinical expertise in front of goal.

It must have delighted Pardew, who paid Wolfsburg 9million 12 months after reluctantly selling Carroll.

Toon terror: Cisse (center) celebrates his brace as Newcastle push for Europe

Toon terror: Cisse (center) celebrates his brace as Newcastle push for Europe

Money had not been invested as quickly as supporters wanted, but scout Graham Carr has identified players like Cisse, Ba, Yohan Cabaye and Davide Santon for a combined 26m (about 100m less than Liverpool have spent).

The Geordie wearing Liverpool's No 9 shirt actually had a blinding opening nine.

But after he had tumbled, for whatever reason, as he circled Tim Krul, Carroll's head, mouth and impact went.

He had a rant at his former manager, long before he did the same with his current boss.

'I felt for Andy,' said Pardew, who had shook his head sadly at him after the striker had hurled several unpleasant profanities towards the Newcastle dug-out.

Sad end: Carroll trudges off and Pardew (right) said he 'felt sorry' for him

Sad end: Carroll trudges off and Pardew (right) said he 'felt sorry' for him

'Andy needs a game plan that is going to work for him and Liverpool struggle with the players they have.

'When we had him here we were probably more direct than we are now. He was magnificent and he will be again. It is just a question of getting that right.'

Few players influence and guide a team as much as Newcastle's captain Fabricio Coloccini, who could be out for a month.

And after they surrendered at Norwich without him, Pardew must have been worried about Carroll's long-awaited return, particularly when he saw another former Toon favourite, Craig Bellamy, line up against unlikely left back Jonas Gutierrez.

But after a lively opening, both disappeared. And that had as much to do with Newcastle's efficiency as Liverpool's incompetence.

James Perch and Mike Williamson understand the work ethic.

'It is not a surprise with James,' said Pardew. 'He has that professionalism to do the best he can do.'

Work ethic: James Perch (left) caused Liverpool plenty of problems

Work ethic: James Perch (left) caused Liverpool plenty of problems

He could have meant any Newcastle player.

Cheick Tiote put in another 'exactly what it says on the tin' performance and with former Liverpool trainee Danny Guthrie, destroyed the few scraps Steven Gerrard, Jay Spearing and Jonjo Shelvey created.

Cabaye has found his passing range again and Cisse and Ba are relishing the freedom they have to terrorise Premier League defences.

But of all the star performers, Ben Arfa stood out.

Fleet of foot, with an array of passing and tricks that can win matches l ike this, Chris Hughton's 5m signing is another maverick Frenchman who, like David Ginola and Laurent Robert, is adored by Newcastle fans.

Stood out: Ben Arfa (left) produced a solid display

Stood out: Ben Arfa (left) produced a solid display

And he can make his manager despair and delighted in the same game.

Pardew added: 'I am very pleased with him. Players with a special talent sometimes look at you because they want to play, but he wasn't match fit.

'He was not really sure of how we played, where he should and shouldn't be. But he has listened to me and my staff, taken it all on board, and he has been very diligent.

'Nothing would give me more pleasure than to see him make the French squad for the Euros.'