Sunday, 6 January 2008

A bit of a reality check

As I write this, I'm watching Newcastle on the ropes against lower division Stoke City in the second half of what is turning out to be an energetic FA Cup tie in poor conditions. I'm no huge fan of the Toon (whose whingeing, "we should be bigger than thou" stalwarts can grate on the nerves), and I have less time than I used to for manager Sam Allardyce - not a terribly appealing character, though you have to admire his grit. A few years ago at Bolton he entertainingly observed that "I might be taken a bit more seriously if I started pronouncing my name Allar-dichy". Well, yes. But the FA were still not wrong to conclude that he's certainly no Fabio Capello, who in turn, having now witnessed two error-strewn and often scrappy Cup matches, including a poor Aston Villa - v - Man United encounter, must have some clues about the poor environmental influences on his putative England stars. Talking of reality checks, if Newcastle fans think swapping Allardyce for the managerially untried and constitutionally unimaginative Alan Shearer will solve their problems, they need their heads examining, as Richard Williams astutely observes. Meanwhile, Stoke have left the Toon Army beleaguered again. Newcastle never looked like winning. Big Sam will have to hope that the board read The Guardian.

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