Date: 21st April 2009 at 6:48am
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Newcastle United manager Alan Shearer has to be wondering where he went wrong over the weekend when his side were tamed by a 1-0 loss at White Hart Lane by Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham Hotspurs.

In this intriguing series, we shall highlight where Big Al needs to work on, and outline the basic strategy which may bring back the good old days at Newcastle United.

The first agenda for the day is, as the title prompts – Nicky Butt. Alan Shearer has stuck with the former Manchester United player despite lacklustre displays through out the season – which Al must have witnessed from the BBC studio.


A lot of people ask why this is the case, and here is the answer:

Nicky Butt is a terrific character to have in the dressing room, and he is a good leader, and a fighting spirit. He will give it his all for the club, and no one can be said to put in more effort than the veteran. Experience counts, in the footballing world, and in a relegation run-in, experience is key.


On the other hand the management often wonder why fans are always calling for Butt’s head. Here is the answer to that question:

Nicky Butt is well passed his prime. No one argues with that anymore. However, the argument is regarding his passing, movement, and directional sense on the field, as well as his intelligence, vision, and creativity. Of the six skills mentioned above, Butt exercises a few every now and then, and more often than not, they go in the opposition’s favour.

Nicky B is infamous for wrong passes, misdirected long-balls, and catastrophic back-passes, and misjudged tackles which have lost the Toon more matches more than the odd occasion.

Holding-up play, and making the odd pass or two, switching play between the flanks, and just sitting back in front of the defenders – that is what every manager instructs Butt to do, but what he does is try to exercise his own discretion. And that is where Newcastle United lose out.

Giving away possession, misdirected shots, and not to mention a lack of communication with his teammates makes Nicky Butt a liability.


Former Manchester United player Alan Smith has looked lively since coming back from injury. He avoided each of Butt’s failings and looked twice the player against Spurs.

If Big Al wants a tough-tackling midfielder who can break-up play, track-back, and defend when needed, win headers, and attack on the break, Alan Smith is the player for him.

Kevin Nolan is another alternative to the catastrophe that is Nicky Butt – although for some odd reason, Nolan is yet to understand or adapt to the system at the Toon, while the United management seem to consider him an attacking midfielder.

One may not classify Danny Guthrie as being a player in the defensive midfielder category, but he is supposedly learning from Butt about the intricacies of tackling, and tracking-back. Fans will hope Guthrie learns his passing from someone else.

And finally, Joey Barton the former Manchester City badboy who is coming back from injury, and may figure against Portsmouth, or more realistically, against Liverpool. Barton has attacking flair, good passing range, vision, and he can defend when needed as well. He is arguably the most complete midfield player at the club right now, and when he comes in, fans will hope and pray, it spells the end of Nicky Butt’s season.


Any combination of the four players mentioned above would be a welcome change, and Big Al should consider making these switches soon, as time is running out for the Toon to survive.

It is a bleak moment in Newcastle United history, and one can only sit-back and watch what Shearer does. The ball is in his court now — let us hope he makes the right decision.