John Carver looks little in real life. Talks a massive game, though.
Fabricio Coloccini has to be one of the best players to ever grace these shores and Alan Pardew seemed exceedingly nice. Particularly given he's in that elite club of Premier League managers to headbutt an opposition player.
Dull doesn't doesn't do justice to the tedium of most training sessions. But, without wanting to wave the pom poms too hard, it was a privilege to watch Newcastle United knock it about at Newtown Park yesterday.
The sheer pace and quality of proceedings would have been the main things the appreciative crowd of about 200 took away. As one journalist remarked, following the first of many cracking goals, he'd seen more skill in that display of one-touch passing and finishing than in three years watching the Wellington Phoenix train.
It wasn't a slight on our local lads. Just an honest observation about the gulf in ability that exists between our players and the best the British pound can buy.
It was Carver who kept yesterday's standards up. Geordie born-and-bred, he first became assistant manager under Bobby Robson in 1999.
Carver's in that bracket of "you'd know him if you saw him" types. If he had a pound for all the times he's been captured wandering out to the technical area to whisper in the "gaffer's" ear, he'd be the richest man in the Magpies' touring party.
"The pitch is lively, you can see that. Take some care," Carver bellowed at his boys.
It actually looked a picture but, by the standards these blokes are used to, the surface was apparently bumpy.
"You can see it's quite lively, so you've really got to take care. Good players can play on anything," he said again, when someone's touch deserted them for once.
It definitely wasn't Coloccini. The Newcastle captain, capped 34 times by Argentina and an old boy of such clubs as AC Milan and Atletico Madrid, did genuinely dazzling things at times. It's the attacking players that are meant to be good on, and with, the ball, but the ringlet-haired defender had it on a string.
And then there was Pardew. Before a ball had been kicked, he was over introducing himself to the fans and offering one-liners to the media.
He soon copped something similar from Coloccini. Having attempted to curl one into the top corner of an open goal, Pardew's shot hit the crossbar. The laughing skipper told all and sundry that meant a £10 fine for the manager.
"Yeah, 10 New Zealand pounds," Pardew fired back.
For a man among the favourites to be the first manager sacked in the coming season, Pardew seemed remarkably relaxed.
You could've happily watched the Magpies train for hours. Sadly 90 minutes was all you got, which meant one last thing.
"Once you've done your stretches you're going across to the far side for autographs. Even if you don't want to," said Carver.
If any of the squad did it under sufferance, it didn't show. Pardew even staged a race between some South Wellington Intermediate School pupils, after telling them the first one to retrieve a ball he'd gently kicked could keep it.
Let's hope it's not another 19 years till Newcastle are back in Wellington.
- The Dominion Post
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