Archive for Newcastle United

R. I. P. Jack Charlton (1935-2020)

Posted in Football with tags , , , , on July 11, 2020 by telescoper

Sad news today of the death at the age of 85 of legendary footballer and manager Jack Charlton.

The tributes to Jack Charlton here in Ireland focus on his time as manager of the Republic of Ireland national team, during which he produced many great results, including qualifying for two World Cups (in 1990 and 1994). Ireland got to the quarter-finals in 1990, which was an amazing achievement. Jack Charlton created some marvellous memories and became like an adopted son in the hearts of Irish folk, spending a lot of his time here in his retirement. He had a house in Ballina (County Mayo) and enjoyed going fishing. I suspect he rarely had to buy a drink in the local pubs! As a fellow Geordie living in Ireland I can understand very well why he loved it here.

He gave up the house in Ireland a few years ago when his health started to fail and moved to Stamfordham in Northumberland, the County of his birth. Jack was actually born in Ashington and was the nephew of legendary Newcastle United centre-forward Jackie Milburn.

As a player he was an old-school centre half: tall and tough and not prone to try anything fancy. He knew his limitations as a footballer and concentrated on what he could do well. He spent his entire professional playing career of 21 years at Leeds United. He wasn’t capped for England until he was 29 and a year later he was a member of the team that won the 1966 World Cup, as was his brother Bobby.

I remember an interview with Jack Charlton during which he recalled asking manager Sir Alf Ramsay why he had been picked for the England team when there were many better players than him around. Ramsay’s reply was that he didn’t always pick the best players, he picked the best team. What I think he meant by that is that he saw Jack’s steadiness as a providing an ideal blend in the centre of the defence balance to the less conventional Bobby Moore.

My own memories of Jack Charlton are dominated by his time as manager of Newcastle United between 1984 and 1985; see the picture, which is from this time, including Peter Beardsley (left) and Chris Waddle (right). I was a student at Cambridge at this time and there was quite a large Newcastle United Supporters’ Club of which I was a member. We travelled to quite a few games in the 84/85 season. The Club Secretary wrote a letter to Jack Charlton inviting him to visit us for a dinner and speech. We couldn’t even offer him travel expenses so I assumed he would just ignore the request, but he didn’t. He actually wrote a very nice letter politely declining the invitation but thanking us for our support and good wishes. He also reminded us not to neglect our studies because of football as he regretted not having had “much of an education”.

It’s worth mentioning that 1984/5 was the time of the Miners’ Strike during which Jack Charlton was a staunch supporter of the Miners. He even lent his car to help miners on flying pickets. He was rather left-wing generally, actually.

Jack Charlton brought to football management the same approach he had brought to his own playing. It was by focusing on doing the basics well that he was able to get outstanding results using limited resources. He wouldn’t have been a good manager of a huge club full of luxury players, but in his niche he was superb.

As a person Jack Charlton was as strong-minded and uncompromising as he was as a player and a manager, but he was also down to earth, completely unpretentious, funny and self-deprecating, and as honest as the day is long.

Rest in peace, Jack Charlton (1935-2020)

Football Roundup

Posted in Football with tags , , on July 2, 2020 by telescoper

By way of a diversion this lunchtime after a morning of Microsoft Teams, I thought I’d comment briefly on another kind of team, by looking at the state of play in the Premier League.

Liverpool of course deservedly won the title last weekend when Manchester city lost to Chelsea. To have won the Premiership with seven games left to play is a remarkable achievement. All credit to their excellent manager Jürgen Klopp, who actually seems a thoroughly decent fellow as well. Although based in the English Midlands, Liverpool have a strong following here in Ireland so there were many celebrations here when the Premiership race was sealed.

The absence of any football for many weeks at least removed one usual cause of springtime stress, namely Newcastle United’s struggle to avoid relegation. Since the return, however, Steve Bruce’s team have done pretty well, with seven points out of a possible nine, though they did get knocked out of the FA Cup. Last night they beat struggling Bournemouth 4-1 away from home which leaves them on 42 points with six games left to play. They’re not mathematically safe from relegation but it’s very difficult to see any of the bottom three teams getting more than 15 points from their remaining games so I think relegation is extremely improbable. Norwich look relegation certainties, but who will go down with them? Based on last night’s poor performance at home, I’d say probably Bournemouth and one other.

The Bookies odds at the moment are:

  • Norwich: 1/100.
  • Bournemouth: 1/6.
  • Aston Villa: 1/4.
  • Watford: 2/1.
  • West Ham: 6/1.
  • Brighton: 28/1.

Watford or West Ham might be worth a bet. There are still six games to be played, after all.

I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the games since the season restarted. Playing in an empty stadium makes football very strange to watch, and the artificial crowd noises make it even stranger. It problem reduces home advantage not having supporters in the ground, but I haven’t looked at the statistical evidence whether or not this is the case..

It’s worth mentioning the situation in League 1:

Here the season has been declared closed. Wycombe Wanderers finish in third on the basis of points per game despite having fewer points than the team in fourth. Wycombe’s 35th game would have been against Coventry…

I’ll just mention in passing that Sunderland will not be promoted. Tragic.

The Book of Relegations

Posted in Football with tags , , , , , , , on April 21, 2019 by telescoper

At this time of year it seems appropriate to do a post, as the thoughts of good folk around the world turn to the important issue of the season … ie who will get relegated from the Premiership.

Yesterday evening’s win by Newcastle United over Southampton left the lower reaches of the table looking like this:

Huddersfield and Fulham having already been doomed, the only question is who will join them.

The bookies clearly think Cardiff City are odds-on to take the third relegation spot: the best odds I could get are 1/6 on them going down, implying only a probability of 14% or so survival. Brighton and Hove Albion are 9/2. Southampton are 150/1, Burnley 250/1 and Newcastle 750/1.

I’m not so sure the odds on Cardiff City are fair: they do play Liverpool later today but after that seem to have two winnable games (against Fulham and Crystal Palace). Brighton are three points ahead of Cardiff, but that’s away against Spurs and they’ll do well to get anything out of that fixture, and after that they have games against Newcastle United, Arsenal and Manchester City. Despite yesterday’s 0-0 draw against Wolves they don’t look like a team strong on form and confidence.In short I think that 9/2 is worth a bet.

Let me say that I don’t want to see either Brighton or Cardiff go down. I’ve got ties to both places. I’m just talking about what seems probable not what I think is desirable.

Southampton seem to have extremely long odds too, but they do seem to have a much easier run in than Brighton.

We’ll see. I’d expect these odds to change quite a bit if Cardiff beat Liverpool this afternoon. If they lose, however, then Newcastle are mathematically safe from relegation…

UPDATE: Cardiff City lost 2-0 at home to Liverpool this afternoon. The odds on them get relegated have shortened a bit (around 1/8 is as good as you can get) but there’s no great change in the odds, presumably because bookies did not really expect Cardiff to get any points from that game. Brighton have now moved to 13/2 against.

Cardiff City are now on 31 points with three games left. That means the maximum total they can reach is 40, so Newcastle United are safe from relegation.

The Arithmetic of Relegation

Posted in Biographical, Sport with tags , , , on April 30, 2018 by telescoper

When I got back home after yesterday’s concert, I ate some dinner and settled down to have a look through the Sunday papers. Most of the news was as grim as expected, especially the ongoing fiasco of Brexit, and the scandal engulfing Home Secretary former Home Secretary Amber Rudd who obviously lied to Parliament on at least one occasion. Anyway, turning my attention to the Sports pages there was a write-up of Saturday’s disappointing home defeat for Newcastle United against bottom club West Bromwich Albion. I was gloomy enough to wonder whether Newcastle might actually still get relegated, so looked at the Premiership Table:

Neither West Brom (28 points) nor Stoke (30) can catch Newcastle with only two games to play, but Southampton can in principle get 41 points from here if they win all three games. It’s true that they have a worse goal difference but if Newcastle lost all their three remaining games, and Southampton won all theirs that would change. It therefore looks mathematically possible for Newcastle to be relegated.

However, I then glanced at the fixture list and found that Southampton have to play Swansea in one of their remaining matches. If Southampton win that fixture then the maximum number of points Swansea can get by the end of the competition is 39, so Newcastle can’t be relegated. If Southampton lose or it’s a draw then they can’t catch Newcastle.

I conclude, therefore, that Newcastle United are mathematically safe from relegation. Hooray!

But who will go down? I think West Brom and Stoke will probably get relegated, but I’m not sure about the third team. Huddersfield must be very nervous because their recent form has been poor and they have a very bad goal difference. The betting odds are interesting: BetFred are offering 200/1 on West Brom not being relegated and most bookies are about 8/1 on Stoke to stay up. PaddyPower are quoting 4/9 on Huddersfield and even money on Southampton to go down. If you want to bet on Brighton to get relegated your best odds are with BetVictor who are offering 50-1. Few bookies are quoting odds on West Brom to get relegated, so they obviously think that’s the likely outcome.

I expect these odds to change a lot after the next round of matches.

Sports Round-up

Posted in Cricket, Football with tags , , , , on April 15, 2018 by telescoper

Feeling a bit under the weather – and mindful that I have to get the early flight back to Cardiff tomorrow morning – I’ve been taking it easy today. I did, however, venture forth to the local pub in Maynooth (which is approximately fifty yards from my flat) after lunch to have a pint and watch the second half of Newcastle Utd against Arsenal in the Premiership League. I’m glad I did, as Newcastle won 2-1, which cheered me up considerably.

After four consecutive wins Newcastle have now got 41 points from 33 games and are in tenth place. Though relegation is still mathematically possible, that would require a very improbable sequence of results.

Even the bottom club, West Bromwich Albion, still have a chance of avoiding relegation. They even managed to beat Manchester Utd today, but it still looks most probable that they, Stoke City and Southampton will be in the Championship next year.

Manchester United’s defeat later this afternoon hands the Premiership title to their Midlands rivals Manchester City. Congratulations to City. They’ve clearly been the best team all season, a little end-of-term wobble notwithstanding.

Wolverhampton Wanderers gained promotion yesterday, but the second automatic spot is yet to be decided. Cardiff City looked to have blown it in recent matches, but had a good win yesterday against Midlands side Norwich City while a last-gasp goal from Brentford meant Fulham only drew. With a game in hand, the Bluebirds are in a strong position but you never know.

At the other end of the Championship lies Sunderland, but even they have a (remote) chance of avoiding relegation.

Anyway, as always, the last handful of matches of the football season coincides with the start of the cricket season. The County Championship started on Friday but many games were badly affected by the weather. Where play was possible, conditions favoured bowling rather than batting: Kent, for example, were bowled out for 64 in their first innings against Gloucestershire..

Glamorgan have been playing a three-day match against a Cardiff MCCU team. The students had Glamorgan in trouble at 28-3 chasing their first innings 249 but the professionals recovered to reach 217-5 at yesterday’s close. No play was possible today because of rain so the match ended in a draw.

Hopefully, when teaching and exam marking are finished in both Maynooth and Cardiff, I’ll be able to make use of my season ticket for some of Glamorgan’s matches at the SSE SWALEC Stadium in Sophia Gardens. The Welsh weather may, of course, have something to say about that!

Football Round Up

Posted in Football with tags , , , on September 17, 2017 by telescoper

Since autumn is coming, and the football season is well under way,  bringing with it that terrifying existential void that opens up on Saturdays between the end of Final Score and the start of Match Of The Day,  I thought I would just mention that, after a good win on Saturday against Stoke City,  Newcastle United are now in  4th place in the Premiership:

I’ve posted that simply to enjoy it while it lasts. I don’t think they’ll be so high at the end of the season, but they’ve recovered well, winning three consecutive games after losing their first two.

In a strange quirk of something or other, Newcastle United now find themselves immediately above the two teams to which they have lost.

Incidentally, when I was a student at Cambridge, in 1984, Chelsea finished in first place in the old Second Division, securing promotion to the First Division. Newcastle finished third that season and also got promoted. Manchester City finished fourth. How times change.

It’s a funny old game.

Newcastle Up!

Posted in Football, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 25, 2017 by telescoper

I had a very full first day back at work after my holiday yesterday, which carried on after I had my dinner. So engrossed was in a research problem that I completely forgot that there was an important football match in the Championship last night. It was only when I finally downed tools – ‘tools’ in this case being pencil and paper – at about 11.30pm that I remembered that I should check the football results.

Last night’s game between Newcastle United and Preston North End (of the Midlands) finished 4-1 in favour of the home side (the one from the North). That result, combined with defeats on Saturday for Huddersfield and Reading in other games of the antepenultimate round of Championship matches, means that Newcastle have now secured promotion to the Premiership next season.

After last night’s match the top of the Championship table looks like this:

Championship

You will see that the maximum points total Reading can now  reach  is 85, Sheffield Wednesday 84, and Huddersfield Town (who have a game in hand) can only get 87, so Newcastle are guaranteed to be no longer than 2nd place.

At one point it looked like Newcastle United were going to take the Championship title by some margin, but they faltered in the last games while Brighton & Hove Albion kept up the pressure. It even looked at one point that Newcastle might fall into the playoff pack, but fortunately none of the chasing teams put together a strong enough run of games to catch them.

It’s anyone’s guess who will get the third promotion spot through the playoffs. Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday are both on good runs, but picking a winner out of those two, Huddersfield, Reading (and possibly Leeds) is very difficult.

Brighton look like being Champions now. They lost 2-0 on Friday away at Norwich City, when a win would have secured top spot, but they still only need 3 points to finish Champions. Mathematically, Newcastle could catch them but I’d say it is rather unlikely.

I do have worries about how well Newcastle might fare in the Premiership next season. Their home form has not been as good as one would have hoped this season, despite the fact that they regularly attract crowds in excess of 50,000 to St James’s Park.  Sometimes it seems that this increases the level of anxiety rather than spurring the team on. Moreover, I don’t think the squad has the quality needed to prosper in the top flight. The demands of the Championship are quite different from those of the Premier League. Manager Rafael Benitez knows this very well,  so I hope he is given the resources he needs to meet the new challenge. We’ll see.

Coincidentally, Newcastle United are on their travels on Friday for a match against Cardiff City…..

 

League Table Positions

Posted in Education, Football with tags , , , , , , , on May 26, 2015 by telescoper

Among the things I didn’t have time to blog about over a very busy Bank Holiday Weekend was the finish of the English Premiership season. I haven’t posted much about my own team, Newcastle United, this season because I haven’t been able to think of anything particularly positive to say. Since Alan Pardew quit in January to join Crystal Palace, Newcastle slumped to such an alarming extent that they went into their last game of the season (against West Ham) just two points above the drop zone. Had they lost their game, which did not seem unlikely on the basis of their recent form, and had Hull won against Manchester United, which did not seem unlikely on the grounds that Man Utd wwould finish in 4th place whatever happened in that game, then Newcastle would be relegated to the Championship. In the event, however, Newcastle won 2-0 which made them safe while Hull could only draw 0-0 which meant that Newcastle would have survived even if they had lost against West Ham. Moreover, Sunderland also lost their last game, which meant that the final Premier League Table looked like this:

Premiership_League

(courtesy of the BBC Website). The important places are 15 and 16, obviously. The natural order of things has been restored….

Another League Table came out over the Bank Holiday. This was the annual Guardian University Guide. I’m deeply sceptical of the value of these league tables, but there’s no question that they’re very important to potential students so we have to take them seriously. This year was pretty good for Sussex as far as the Guardian Table is concerned: the University of Sussex rose to 19th place overall and the two departments of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences both improved: Physics & Astronomy is back in the top 10 (at number 9, up from 11th place last year) and Mathematics rose 22 places to take 21st place. Gratifyingly, both finished well above Sunderland.

While these results are good news in themselves, at least around my neck of the woods, as they will probably lead to increased applications to Sussex from students next year, it is important to look behind the simplistic narrative of “improvements”. Since last year there have been several substantial changes to the Guardian’s methodology. The weighting given to “spend-per-student” has been reduced from 15% to 10% of the overall score and the method of calculating “value added” has excluded specific predictions based on “non-tariff” students (i.e. those without UK entry qualifications, especially A-levels). What the Guardian consistently fails to do is explain the relative size of the effect of arbitrary methodological changes on its tables compared to actual changes in, e.g., cash spent per student.

Imagine the outrage there would be if football teams were not told until the end of a Premier League season how many points would be awarded for a win….

Switching Allegiances

Posted in Biographical, Education, Football, Rugby with tags , , , , , on February 3, 2013 by telescoper

So here I am, then, in the office on a Sunday afternoon,which I suspect is going to be a pretty regular occurrence for the foreseeable future. I mainly came in to sort out papers for tomorrow’s Senior Management Group meeting, which will be the first such meeting I’ll be attending in my new capacity. I have managed to prepare for it in fine style by losing my diary, which isn’t a very good start to my career as any kind of manager.

Yesterday was taken up with flat-hunting which, if all turns out well this time, was successful. I also had time to watch a bit of the opening match of the Six Nations Rugby between Wales and Ireland. For the last five years or so I’ve always been in Cardiff for Wales’ first home game of the competition, although I’ve never actually managed to get a ticket for the match. It felt a bit strange not being there anyway. It has to be said that Wales were pretty chronic in the first half, going into the break at 30-3 down, but they recovered in the second half and it was quite an absorbing match all considered. Ireland’s excellent defence held off a spirited Welsh comeback and Ireland won 30-22.

Although I’ve lived in Wales for a while, and have enjoyed the match-day atmosphere in Cardiff, I’ve never switched allegiance from England as far as rugby is concerned. Later on yesterday England beat Scotland in their opening match of the Six Nations, showing quite a bit of flair in doing so but also making quite a lot of mistakes. The 38-18 scoreline flattered England, I felt, and they’ll have to up their game a lot if they’re going to match Wales’ Grand Slam last season.

Football is another matter in which allegiances are difficult to change. Many’s the time I’ve thought of giving up being a Newcastle United supporter but I’ve never managed it. I disapprove of people who think they have an option concerning which team to support, actually. I was born in Newcastle therefore I support Newcastle United. That’s the end of it. We all have our cross to bear. Anyway, yesterday brought an unexpected ray of sunshine into a gloomy season for the Toon with a 3-2 victory over Chelsea. Following a first away win of the season against Aston Villa last week it may even be possible that they’ll avoid relegation. Perhaps.

Switching allegiances between universities is almost as difficult. In today’s academic world we’re supposed to think of higher education as a marketplace in which different institutions compete for funding for both teaching and research. I’ve never felt comfortable with the idea that opening up higher education to “market forces” is in anyone’s interests. Certainly on the research side, there are so many collaborations between groups in different universities that cooperation is more the rule than competition although, as with any rule, there are exceptions. Friendly rivalry is as good a thing in higher education as it is in football, but anything more serious than that can only be justified in the case of Sunderland.

They don’t make FA Cup finals like these any more..

Posted in Football with tags , , , on May 5, 2012 by telescoper

You have to go back to the 1950s – before even I was born – for the last time my own team won the FA Cup, but they did win it three times in that decade, including in 1952 when they were watched at Wembley by the new Queen Elizabeth II. Sixty years on we’re approaching the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, but I don’t think Her Majesty is watching. Neither am I, in fact, because the FA moved back the kick-off to 5.15 from the traditional 3pm. Sacrilege.

P.S. The score in the 1955 FA Cup Final was Newcastle United 3 Manchester City 1. Fans of Manchester United will be hoping that there’s a similar result in tomorrow’s Premiership match between the same two clubs!