Wednesday, July 04, 2012

A Month Of Saturdays: June 2012

(Image courtesy of Monica Arellano-Ongpin)

Is it just me, or did everything club-related seem to go on hold for the duration of Euro 2012? OK, so I was on holiday for the first half of the month, but Paul was holding the fort and there was precious little to report on.

One splendid bit of news that did break last month was that we announced we'd secured Graham Carr's services for a further eight years. It could well be our best - or at least most important - signing of the next few summers. As our head scout, he's has been integral to our recent success, deserving every plaudit for his role in recruiting the likes of Mr T and Papiss Cisse to play for the club closest to his heart - and indeed Chris Hughton deserves much credit for having the foresight to bring Carr to Tyneside back in February 2010.

Carr, like the rest of us, was no doubt glued to the Euro 2012 action throughout June. It remains to be seen whether anyone in particular caught his eye, but what can be said with some certainty is that one of his previous finds, Dreamboat, emerged as France's star performer. He came close to scoring against England in the opener, and then bagged one and struck the post against hosts Ukraine. After sitting out the defeat to Sweden, he was back to face Spain in the quarter-finals but couldn't help prevent the eventual winners from progressing. Nevertheless, that £4.5m looks increasingly like money well spent.

The only other individual to really impress in what was ultimately a disappointing tournament for the French was Dreamboat's former teammate at Lille, Mathieu Debuchy, who spent the group stage underlining his qualities for the benefit of Carr and other interested onlookers. Certainly, HBA made little impact, afforded one start (against Sweden) and rowing with his coach Laurent Blanc in the dressing room. But at least he got to dirty his boots - the same couldn't be said of Tim Krul or striking target Luuk de Jong, both of whom looked on from the bench as the Dutch crashed out of the tournament with three successive defeats.

De Jong has proven himself to be a fine young prospect in the Eredivisie, but closer to home Carr is rumoured to have had his eye on both out-of-contract Man Utd defender Zeki Fryers and Coventry midfielder Gael Bigirimana. Reinforcements are certainly needed, not least because June saw another departure. Danny Guthrie left in the hope of finding regular Premier League football elsewhere and wasn't kept waiting long, signing for Reading before the month was up. All told, it was an eventful month for the former Liverpool and Bolton midfielder, given the lurid tales of his less-than-fairytale wedding that were splayed all over the tabloids much as guests at the bash were on tables... (Still, when it comes to bad behaviour, that paled in comparison to what led QPR to fine ASBO six weeks' wages and strip him of the captaincy, or what led to ASBO being arrested outside a Liverpool nightspot (not for the first time).)

Guthrie's arrival at the Madejski was celebrated by Royals fan Lanterne Rouge, who took the trouble of profiling the three Premier League new boys for us - and pointed out that, strangely enough, the Silver Fox has managed them all. The publication of the fixture list revealed when he would be facing them, as well as handing us stern tests from the start (Spurs at home and Chelsea away) and over the festive period (Man Utd and Arsenal both away).

A couple of familiar faces we'll be seeing in opposition dugouts this coming campaign include Chris Hughton, newly installed at Norwich, and Steve Clarke at West Brom. And if all goes to plan, then this time next year we could be gearing up to welcome Lee Clark, Hughton's replacement at Birmingham, back to St James'.

The month ended on a sad note with the death of official Black & White & Read All Over mascot Alan the chicken, who finally succumbed to a nasty infection that destroyed her appetite and gave her a horribly high temperature. But, much like the team whose colours she sported, she was spirited to the end and certainly didn't go down without the proverbial fight. Here's hoping we approach the forthcoming season with the same mentality.




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