Geordie Wonderland: Spurs
Tottenham come to St. James’.
It’s safe to say that Emmanuel Adebayor isn’t a well-liked man, between the mercenary attitude and the propensity to throw a wobbler when put on the bench. But even the least endearing players get their moment in the sun, and there was admittedly something undeniably hilarious about that moment last year when he celebrated in front of the Arsenal fans after taking an awful amount of abuse, his rebuttal to persistent inquiries over whether his father washes elephants consisting of a goal celebration that involved him sliding crotch-first in celebration toward a crowd of incensed black-cab drivers in the away end of the Etihad.
Yet since reaching his uproarious zenith, he’s gone back to being a bit of a villain, the kind of player you beg doesn’t play a part against your club so you don’t have to see that smug, toothy grin of his. However, this being Newcastle, he lived up to his reputation this weekend in suitably irritating fashion, being upended in the box by the faintest of touches. The culprit, Steven Taylor (seen recently rocking catwalks in the North East for charity) seemed bemused by the whole affair, by this theatrical sack-of-spuds lying at his feet. But the ref didn’t buy his protests of innocence, and up stepped Van der Vaart to slot in the penalty, before celebrating with our villain, now sporting a grin the size of a Cheshire cat. Git.
Despite my pessimism, it was actually quite a decent day; they lowered the price of Brown Ale at the bars (which in itself would be an excuse for delirium), and topped this off with a good game in which that un-Newcastle of feats was managed; we snatched a point at the death. I’ll put that into perspective; Newcastle very, very, very, very rarely improve as the game goes on, but not these days, oh no. We’re apparently experiencing a bright, new, Alan Pardew-led dawn, in which we shall be brought into the promised land of mid-table anonymity. A land where we defend competently, and finish well. Who knew? Perhaps there is hope for the coming season.
Yes, it hasn’t escaped many ironic observers that in order to achieve a modicum of success, Newcastle flogged most of their English players for very little and replaced them with a whole host of French-speakers. Instead of Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton, Wayne ‘who he?’ Routledge and Andy ’how much!?’ Carroll we now have Yohan Cabaye, Cheick Tiote, Gabriel Obertan and Demba Ba. Of all these Francophones, I would say that Ba is my favourite, mainly because he looks positively absurd; sporting such gangly limbs that it’s a miracle he can get out of bed in the morning, never mind kick a ball. He’s acknowledged as somewhat of a ‘lethal donkey’ by the fans, insofar as nobody quite expects him to do well, yet he always pulls it out of the bag, this time by putting his face (yes, his face) on a Jonas Gutierrez cross and into the open goal to equalise, before sprinting away to celebrate, his ostrich-like extremities awkwardly flapping in the wind as he went.
Special mention must also go to Cheick Tiote, a tailor-made replacement for Barton bought last year, who is approximately twice as dirty a player as Barton (he picked up the most bookings in the league last year), but also twice as skilful at hiding it, choosing to keep quiet rather than interspersing twitter musings on Orwell and Nietzsche with such pithy idioms as ‘U r a nugget’. He was, as usual, quietly filthy, knee-capping one-time Newcastle target Luka Modric with unerring skill, as well as providing a competent foil to the (what else?) Frenchman Yohan Cabaye, who set up what can only be described as a moment of magic, in which striker Shola Ameobi, the resident whipping boy, rifled an awesome shot into the opposite corner from an awkward angle.
It was a joyous moment; the fans all went quiet for a moment, refusing to believe that Shola was capable of feats of such competence. Even Paul Gascoigne, up in the VIP box and looking suitably dishevelled, couldn’t believe it. Mind you, I don’t think he knew where he was; he could’ve been fishing again for all he knew. But no, Ameobi had scored, and it had been a belter, equalising in the 86th minute after a screamer from Tottenham’s Defoe in the 68th. I’m going to be bold now, and say that we’ll have a good season, based on what I’m going to coin as the ‘Ameobi Principle’; if even he can achieve such levels of unheard-of aptitude, then surely the rest of the squad will have a good season? You heard it here first.