Newcastle drop Michael Owen, as Lennon & Bentley are offered escape routes out of Tottenham

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “It just seems that if he wants a bit of publicity, he says something. Why doesn’t he talk about Ipswich? Why is he always talking about Sunderland? I don’t go and talk about any other clubs and say that Man United are going through a really bad season or stuff like that. I don’t think you should say stuff about other clubs. He should just really concentrate on Ipswich. He’s back in football. He should enjoy it. Roy left this club. He’s not here, we don’t talk about him. But for some reason he keeps coming back. I don’t know why. Maybe he still thinks he’s the manager. I wouldn’t go and criticise Ipswich. I don’t think that’s right. Maybe he’s just bored and has nothing to do, so he thinks, ‘I’ll have a go at Sunderland.'”- Ricky Sbragia.

Runner-up: “You have to be a benevolent dictator. You have to differentiate between areas of minor importance, such as when we travel and eat, and those of major importance such as: how we are going to play and practise? Who is taking the free-kicks? If you have democracy you get nowhere.” – Roy Hogdson, from an interview with Glenn Moore in The Independent.

Today’s overview: Is Michael Owen about to become the scapegoat for Newcastle’s horribly bad season?

With Newcastle found teetering on the edge, Louise Taylor announces how “Alan Shearer is refusing to rule out the possibility that Michael Owen could be dropped for Newcastle United’s trip to Liverpool on Sunday.” George While Owen’s form has been questionable, his omission still ranks as a surprise; the two have not only played together for club and country, they also share an agent.” Michael Walker also focuses on the downfall of Owen wondering, at 29, with Owen out of form and soon be out of contract, can the fallen idol find a way back?

In a secondary article, George Caulkin sums up the mood of a region writing on behalf of the North-East’s Premier League sides. “Welcome to Whineside, to Woeside and to Tearside, where football bubbles through the veins of a region and where, this season at least, it threatens to corrode the soul.” Sachin Nakrani follows close behind with an article titled “20 years, 11 managers, no success and time running out for Newcastle.”

Ahead of Manchester United’s trip to Boro, Daniel Taylor reveals how “Ferguson is considering giving Federico Macheda his first league start, as well as resting Wayne Rooney or Cristiano Ronaldo, a decision he knows will go down badly among Middlesbrough’s rivals in the contest for survival.”

Moving over to North London, Ian King looks at how Stan Kroenke raised his stake in Arsenal “from 20.5 per cent to 28.3 per cent… The move is likely to be interpreted as the Arsenal board shoring up its defences against a possible takeover by Usmanov. A 30 per cent stake is needed to trigger a mandatory offer for the remaining shares.”

Patrick Barclay, without ruling out the possibility, discusses the impact of Hiddink walking out on Russia for the Chelsea full-time job. “Hiddink has given the Russians his solemn word and to break it would be something else; imagine Fabio Capello deserting England for Chelsea and you have an idea of it.”

Dropping into the Championship, Stuart James wonders which of Birmingham, Sheffield United or Reading deserve to claim the second automatic promotion place to the Premier League. At the other of the Championship, Mikey Stafford eulogises over the predicted fall of Norwich. “There have been highs since that wonderful passing team featuring the likes of Chris Sutton, Ruel Fox, Jeremy Goss and Mark Robins ran Manchester United and Aston Villa so close in 1992-93 – the Uefa Cup defeat of Bayern Munich in the Olympic Stadium the next season being the pinnacle, the only time an English team ever won there.”

Des Kelly looks back at the Champions League match at the Nou Camp and hands out a tongue-lashing against Barcelona. “The annoying, peevish gaggle of drama queens I saw rolling around in the Nou Camp last Tuesday looked a considerable distance away from the all-conquering heroes we had been led to expect.” On the other semi final, Terry Venables decides to talk up the deployment of Wayne Rooney on the United left. “Playing on the left gives Rooney a licence to roam into dangerous areas. A licence to thrill and cause damage where it will hurt the opposition most.”

With his tongue pressed against his cheek, David Lacey introduces the idea of an annual Referee of the Year award. “Voting would involve players, managers, the media and any fan who could swear on his mother’s life that he had never queried, in unison with his fellows, the parentage or personal habits of any official.”

In the Saturday interviews, both Steven Gerrard to Alan Smith and Pepe Reina to Andy Hunter spout the Liverpool never-say-die attitude as the league title slips from their grasp, while Oliver Kay meets up with Phil Brown for The Times. Elsewhere, Jo speaks to Neil Ashton on why he’s happy to feel wanted at Everton.

We close out with today’s transfer nonsense as peddled by the make-believe tabloids.

Are Spurs about to lose both their right-wingers? In a sentence that makes very little sense, the Daily Mail fart “Aaron Lennon has emerged as a summer target for both Manchester United and Tottenham.” The same story is picked up by the Daily Express, Niall Hackman reporting that “Manchester United and Liverpool are set for a summer tug of war over £20million-rated Spurs star Aaron Lennon.” While John Cross publishes in the Mirror that “David Bentley is a target for Atletico Madrid, who are ready to rescue him from his Tottenham nightmare.”

While in other gossip, the Mirror print “Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill is chasing Valencia defender Raul Albiol as a shock replacement for injury-hit Martin Laursen,” and the Daily Mail announce that “Alan Pardew is in contention for the manager’s job at QPR, who are preparing to snap up Bristol City striker Dele Adebola on a free transfer.”