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ASH WEDNESDAY: Lack of local heroes has Wor Al's Newcastle drifting away

06 May 2009 02:09:18

ASH WEDNESDAY: Lack of local heroes has Wor Al's Newcastle drifting away

In a documentary filmed in the stunning grounds of Wynyard Hall towards the end of 1996, Newcastle United's majority shareholder Sir John Hall first revealed his ambition to field a team full of Geordies. To be fair to Hall, who was born 16 miles down the road from Tyneside in Ashington, Northumberland, they were already halfway there under the management of Kevin Keegan. Of the side that finished second to Manchester United, six of the regulars in that exciting team were born, with a little bit of geographical licence, in the shadows of the steep, new cantilevered stands springing up St James' Park. He had a dream: Sir John Hall at the old St James' Park In Hall's Utopian world all of them would have graduated from thelegendary Wallsend Boys Club, the talent school that spotted AlanShearer, Michael Carrick and Peter Beardsley during its illustrioushistory. Hall, who had wrestled control of the club from Gordon McKeag in 1990, was not far off it. Beardsley(b. Newcastle), Lee Clark (Wallsend), Robbie Elliott (Gosforth), PaulKitson (County Durham), Steve Howey (Sunderland) and Steve Watson(North Shields) gave it their all that season, sweating blood and tearsas they bought into black and white culture.   More from Ash Wednesday... ASH WEDNESDAY: Wenger's bargains will find it hard to slay big spenders28/04/09 ASH WEDNESDAY: Smart Alex leads way as bosses tie themselves in knots 21/04/09 ASH WEDNESDAY: It's decision time for Foster - walk out of Old Trafford and into the England No 1 shirt, or risk another season as first reserve14/04/09 ASH WEDNESDAY: Aston Villa are not good enough to finish fourth07/04/09 ASH WEDNESDAY: How much has Sir Trevor developed English football31/03/09 ASH WEDNESDAY: Magnificent Michael will retire as Ordinary Owen24/03/09 Ash Wednesday: Rotating Rafa will pay for not running Liverpool like Paisley17/03/09 ASH WEDNESDAY: Mourinho for Man U? Jose would rip United apart 10/03/09 VIEW FULL ARCHIVE The followingyear they added Shearer (b. Newcastle) at a cost of £15m as they chaseddown Manchester United, setting his sights on Newcastle's first leaguetitle since 1927. Shearer scored 25 goals in his first season in front of the Gallowgate. Theyvery nearly did it, beating United 5-0 in October, recovering fromKeegan's dramatic resignation in January before finally giving up hopein the penultimate Premier League game of the season when they drew 0-0at Old Trafford. This week, after their latest humiliationat Liverpool, the coaching staff wonder why they cannot get theirmessage across, why none of the players are responding to the fourthmanagerial appointment of this troubled season. They havetried almost everything, checking their fitness, their dietary habits,changing the system system several times or playing Damien Duffleft-back at Anfield (ludicrous). Shearer has been nothingif not thorough, but perhaps he would have been better off checking thebirthplaces of a team that is not putting up much of a fight as theyhurtle towards the Coca-Cola Championship. Of the side thatfaced Liverpool for the 3-0 defeat at Anfield last Sunday, only keeperSteve Harper, born in Easington, near County Durham, would haveprevented Hall (and his dream of a team of Geordies) from havingpalpitations. Young Andy Carroll, who scored theirequaliser at Stoke on April 11, is from Gateshead and only just makesthe cut because he was named as a substitute. As for therest of them, two of the team fly in for matches by helicopter (MichaelOwen and Nicky Butt), Mark Viduka plays for whichever team will pay himnorth of £70,000 a week, regardless of whether or not he is fit, andJoey Barton is just plain nuts. Up against it: Shearer has found it hard to hide his frustration on the touchline Of the other outfield players, only Alan Smith, injured or average throughout his career, will bust a gut for the team, even if his workrate is rarely backed up by results (40 games for Newcastle, 0 goals). So what difference does it make bringing in a Geordie to lead them? A man the supporters associate with, but very few (if any) of the players will give a monkey's about Alan Shearer's history at Newcastle United. They owe him nothing. Why play for him any more than they did under Smokin' Joe Kinnear or the Chris Hughton/Calderwood axis? They don't care for his name. Most of them only know him as the bloke from the Match of the Day sofa who suddenly swapped it for eight games and promised to return at the end of it, come what may.         HAVE YOUR SAY...     Should Newcastle United sack Joey Barton? Was Joey Barton's Anfield aggression the final straw? Do you think Newcastle should get rid of bad boy Barton for good? Or is the midfielder worth persisting with - the Magpies will need battlers in the Championship next season? TELL US WHAT YOU THINK Habib Beye, Fabricio Coloccini (laughably billed as the club's most consistent player this year), Sebastien Bassong (so good that Newcastle's defence has leaked 56 goals, the second worst in the Premier League behind bottom club West Bromwich) and Jonas Gutierrez (so highly-rated he was substitute at Anfield) are simply passing through. They are not responding to Shearer, but no-one should be surprised by that. All successful teams have a group of players who dominate the dressing room, characters who call the shots in the absence of a strong leader. Newcastle have a shortage of them. When Avram Grant was appointed Chelsea manager last season, the team ran on autopilot, with captain John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba taking their team-mates by the scruff of the neck to finish second in the Barclays Premier League and reaching the Champions League final. It is the same at every successful side, where the local born players (such as Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher) at Liverpool or the assimilated players (Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes at Manchester United) take charge of the dressing room through leadership or by example. Homegrown: Newcastle would love a player like Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard Even Harper barking instructions in his Geordie lilt is having very little effect, partly because until January he was the club's long-standing second-choice keeper behind Shay Given. Shearer believed their home games would save them, yet they will be playing under almost intolerable pressure by the time they play 'local rivals' Middlesbrough on Monday. If they lose, they could almost be down and then they could be borrowing a phrase from a player who really did give a monkey's when his team were relegated. Back in 2003, Rufus Brevett was in the West Ham dressing room when they went down on the final day of the season and some of the players getting changed claimed they were not bothered if they dropped down a division. 'You fucking will when you see next season's fixture list,' piped up the West Ham defender before their 2-2 draw with Birmingham sent them down. He was right, but try telling that to Newcastle's players.   Lout Barton must leave Newcastle, says apoplectic AlanNorthern Exposure: Newcastle and Middlebrough face a date with destiny in Monday's Tyne-Tees derbyNewcastle bad boy Barton suspended after dressing-room row with ShearerThe Best Bosmans: Sportsmail's guide to the top out-of-contract players Liverpool 3 Newcastle 0: Magpies in deeper trouble as Reds run riotNewcastle face uphill struggle to beat Premier League drop - but email pranksters continue to see funny sideAfter Barton blows it again, Newcastle must beat Boro or it's bust for Shearer So, who in their right mind would take Barton off Newcastle's hands now?NEWCASTLE UNITED FC


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