Recovering from the rigours of marching for public sector pension rights, Pete Sixsmith allows himself an “I told you so” moment on Craig Gardner, which just about makes up for the appalling headline pun he requested …
Another day, another new player, as the arrival of Connor Wickham was followed by Craig Gardner signing on the dotted line in a £4.5m deal from relegated and financially troubled Birmingham City. He’s 24, a former England U21 player (not that that means a great deal – most English-born players are nowadays) and he scored 10 goals for the Blues last season. It looks like a good signing.
He came on for Birmingham at half time in the opening game of last season and changed things very much for the better for them. I wrote at the time; “Gardner carried the ball effectively and allowed Larsson to push forward. He is an underrated player and looks a better bet than either Bowyer or Ferguson.”
He clearly took heed of my kind words and went on to have a very good year for City. He won a Carling Cup winners’ medal and proved a real thorn in our side when he belted in an excellent second goal at St Andrew’s, just as we were threatening to claw our way back into the game.
We haven’t had a goal scoring midfielder since Alex Rae weighed in with a few. Gavin McCann, Lee Cattermole and Jeff Whitley (remember his solitary goal: hit his shin and went in) were all as well acquainted with the scoresheet as Heston Blumenthal is with pie, beans and chips. We had hoped Riveros would fill that gap but he appears to be off to Turkey on a season-long loan.
We have also brought in another young striker in Ji Dong-Won. His stats look decent; he’s tall, scores on a fairly regular basis and could turn out to be our version of Ji Sung-Park. Hopefully, he won’t be like Lee Dong-Gook who was a bit of a disaster at the Boro. He’s a gamble and I hope some of our less patient supporters will give him time to settle in what for him will be a very strange environment.
We have been splashing the cash recently and it look as if we are still spending. John O’Shea is likely to be the next one in, although Brown and Gibson look less so. And one rumour said that we had tried to sign John Mensah permanently but Lyon wanted too much. We shall see.
M Salut alluded to my taking industrial action yesterday in protest against the savage alteration to Public Service workers’ pensions. I took off to Newcastle for the day and joined a 6,000-strong march from the Centre For Life (the old Marlbrough Crescent bus station for those exiles who are old enough to remember it) along to Grey’s Monument, via Grainger Street.
The last time I was part of a “march” through Newcastle, was after the play off game in 1990 – you know, the Gates and Gabbiadini one, where Marco rolled the ball past Fat Burridge and the Mags invaded the pitch at the end.
This one was much more orderly and disciplined and we didn’t have to dodge hatred and anger from the inhabitants. But give me the choice of a peaceful demonstration and a police-run march back to the station after an epoch defining victory over the Mags and I know which one I would take ..