Monday, 25 May 2009

The Dreaded Drop

So it finally happened. After all the years of mismanagement both at boardroom level and in the dressing room Newcastle United finally succumbed to the dreaded relegation.

When I decided to buy my ticket for the Villa away game I did so in the hope that it would all be done and dusted by the last game of the season anyway and that we could just enjoy the game rather than have to worry about the ramifications of staying up or going down.

However, when it became clear that it was going to go down to the last game of the season things became more and more nerve-wracking. I had spent the days leading up to the game in a state of resignation giving us little chance of staying up.

When I woke up at 6am yesterday morning, though, I did so with a renewed sense of optimism. Anything can happen in football and with Hull, Middlesbrough and Sunderland all facing tough fixtures I was confident that a point would be enough to keep us at the top level of English football for another season at least.

And I was right. A point would have been enough. However, the first fifteen minutes aside, we managed to produce one of our worst performances all season with Brad Friedel reduced to the role of a mere spectator for the second half of the game.

However, I left the stadium a proud man. The support from Newcastle United fans was truly unbelievable and will live with me till the day I die. We sang from the beginning till the end. Had the players on the pitch showed as much commitment as the fans did off it we would never have found ourselves in the position that we did.

So, now the rebuilding job begins. It is essential that we give Shearer the job. While at times he has looked like the managerial rookie that he is, there have been signs over the last few games that he is learning quickly. His decision to put Ameobi on yesterday will still be one that forever baffles me but he is not the first manager to make the mistake in thinking that Shola has something to offer.

The one thing that sets Shearer out from the rest is his character. He is not afraid to make big decisions as evidenced with his treatment of friend Michael Owen who has found himself on the periphery since Shearer returned to the club. The most important thing is that Shearer truly cares about the club, and in a season where Newcastle United has become a laughing stock, the full time appointment of the club’s greatest ever player will go some way to restoring the dignity to a team that so desperately needs it.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Time to walk away...

The events of early Sunday morning were extremely sad for Ricky Hatton and his millions of fans across Britain and the sporting world. Not only was he out of his depth, but found himself completely destroyed by the best pound for pound fighter in the world, Manny Pacquiao.

Of course there is no shame in losing to such a great fighter. Pacquiao is the man after all who destroyed one of the greatest boxers of all time when he demolished Oscar De La Hoya.

However it was the manner of his defeat that will have been most worrying for the Mancunian and his legion of loyal followers. He looked a shadow of his former self. A fighter who has seen his best days. Despite all the world titles and great performances (his victory over Kostya Tszyu will live long in the memory) when Hatton has come up against truly world class opponents he has fallen short.

There is no shame in this. He will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the legends of British boxing. Hatton was a brawler of the highest quality. Unfortunately against Mayweather and Pacquiao brawling wasn’t enough.

So what of Mayweather and Pacquiao. Well it appears that Pacquiao’s anointing as the new pound for pound king has stirred something in Mayweather who has announced that he will be coming out of retirement and will face Juan Manuel Marquez in July.

If Mayweather beats him, which he should it would set up a clash between perhaps the two most talented boxers of their generation, if Pacquiao were to accept the challenge which he surely would.

Hatton shared the ring with the very best that boxing had to offer, and gave it everything he had. There is no shame in being a gallant loser. Hatton still has his dignity intact. He should walk away from the sport while it remains that way.