The no.10 role – Three ways Benitez could look to solve the problem position in this NUFC team

Many fans will admit it, our biggest problem position last season was the number 10 role. Neither Perez or Diame have made the position their own and we fully expected a much-needed new ‘no.10’ to be brought in this summer.

That, somehow, has not happened. With Siem De Jong returning to Ajax and the lack of natural playmakers at our disposal, we look woefully short in such a key position that links midfield to attack.

Here’s three ideas that could be worth a try by Benitez to solve what is an evident problem in this NUFC team:

Matt Ritchie?

Ritchie has been an inspired signing and whilst he does a sterling job down the right hand side, his awareness, quality on the ball and business off the ball give him some traits that could make him a very useful number 10. Perez – who has been deployed in the 10 role in each of our first 3 league games – has his moments, but has a tendency to go missing, be a soft touch or fail to make that key final pass or correct decision on the ball – I don’t think Ritchie would do any of the above nearly as much as Perez? With £12m signing Jacob Murphy eager for action and Rolando Aarons looking in great shape, either are contenders to fill the void he’d leave out wide.

Release Jonjo Shelvey

Benitez seems to like to see his ‘number 10’ play just off of the striker. At times last season, Mo Diame almost looked as if he was partnering Dwight Gayle up-front, which partly explains why he struggled in that role given he is a box-to-box central midfielder by trade. With this in mind, Shelvey wouldn’t suit Benitez’s typical role for his number 10, but if he was to use Shelvey in a slightly more advanced role ahead of Merino and Hayden, he could do some damage.



He is one of few players in our team who has genuine quality on the ball. He sees things others don’t and has the ability to execute and hurt teams – does playing him in a deep role deny him of some of his attacking threat? It could also be argued that playing him in a more attacking role could also help keep him out of trouble, with him having a tendency to do something stupid or be a little over zealous in a midfield battle.

Formation change?

Benitez toyed with the 3-5-2 formation over pre-season, and given the players at his disposal, it could be a wise move and one he may consider in time.

Perez and Diame have so often struggled to get into the game over the past 12 months. Losing a number 10 and reverting to a new system could pay dividends. It’s a long shot, but the 3-5-2 system could allow either of our target men, Mitrovic or Joselu, to potentially pair up with Gayle or Perez in a big man, little man combination. Out wide we have several hard working wingers and attacking full-backs who would be well suited to a wing/wing-back role, whilst Merino, Shelvey and Hayden could provide a well balanced midfield trio. In defence, we have the ability to play three centre-backs, with Benitez having Clark, Lejeune, Mbemba, Lascelles and Dummett to pick from.

Let us know your thoughts. Do you agree with any of the above suggestions? Do you have any other thoughts on how Benitez could go about tackling this issue? Or would you persevere with Perez and Diame?

(Fancy writing for us? Send any articles/ideas over to us at [email protected] & we’ll get back to you!)

About Olly Hawkins

Born in Gateshead, Olly was a Junior Magpie from birth. As a season ticket holder and avid Newcastle United fan – he eats, sleeps and breathes all things NUFC.

61 thoughts on “The no.10 role – Three ways Benitez could look to solve the problem position in this NUFC team

  1. Before I read this article and because it is still the International Break I have to get this off my chest. I have bitched about qualifying rules for the WC and that shitty little European countries clog up the groups, but there is something even worse. The USA’s group consists of 6 teams and the top 3 go through. Not only that, but the 4th team goes into a 2-legged playoff with an Asian non-qualifier. So, potentially 4 of 6 very average teams go through. I would be furious if I was a Wales or Ireland supporter. Or Italy for that matter who will be in a playoff because they ran into Spain in their group. It is a joke.

    Here are the teams in CONCACAF, the USA’s group and how they stand.

    Mexico
    Costa Rica
    USA
    Honduras
    Panama
    Trinidad and Tobago

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  2. I think we go with the same team as West Ham to start if everyone is fit. Maybe swap Lejeune for Lascelles. It was probably Perez’s best game for a long time so stick with him and send Gayle on at 60 minutes if it is not working.

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  3. I’d go for Ritchie, He’s a very industrious player and often drifts in-field anyway.

    And I’d give Yedlin a run further up the field. He has the pace, gets in good positions and he gives added defence down the right. I’d also have Aarons on the left for similar reasons.

    Maybe also sneak Shelvey onto the field in the middle of the park. And Gayle partnering Joselu. Having 12 outfield players may help the cause.

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  4. Thanks Olly, I’m not sure moving Shelvey to no.10 is a viable option mate, his strength is playing those lovely inch perfect passes and moving him could effect his range of passing plus he’s not the quickest, though I do agree he could be less petulant in that role.
    I agree with Eric, try same team that beat west ham for a while at least. Also Jonjo has to realise he can’t just walk back in after letting down the team.

    Sharpy, from last thread, thanks for kind thoughts on lewis. And you’re not a dingbat, I enjoy your post and our debates.

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  5. Australia might be playing the USA for a world Cup spot.

    Last night the Socceroos needed to beat Thailand convincingly. The won 2-1. Mind you, it should have been 7. They had 75% possession and had no fewer than 45 shots! Forty-freakin-five! Two goals. Unbelievable. Hit the post 3 times, had another 3 blocked on the line by limbs that just happened to be in exactly the right place, goalkeeper made fingertip saves. And there was some some bad finishing as well.

    Aye. Football, eh? It’s not an easy game to win if the luck is against you. Frustrating as hell, but highly entertaining.

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  6. I’d consider Ritchie as a No10. There again that was a very good performance against WHam so maybe unchanged.
    The injury to Mbemba might change that but Rafa might have anyway by moving Manquillo to LB and bringing Yedlin in at RB. I suppose he will bring Lejeune in probably for Lascelles.
    Confusing options but we will see on Sunday.

    Proofreading required still Olly! You did ‘an fan’ recently in a headline and today your second sentence really shouldn’t start with Nor.

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  7. I think it’s clear I’m no fan of the 4-2-3-1 formation personally, so I would defo go with option 3 and change the formation. Yes Perez played well last time out, but that probably now means that he’ll be bang average for the next 10 games. Of the players Rafa has available to him for Swansea, i would line up –

    —————– Elliott —————–
    De Yed – Lejuene – Clarke – Manq
    —————- Hayden —————-
    ——– Shelvey —– Merino ——–
    Ritchie ————————- Gayle
    —————– Joselu —————-

    I know that looks like Gayle is on the left wing, but he and Ritchie would be closer to Joselu. Both ready to run on to any flick on heads that Joselu provides. Shelvey & Merino have the passing ability to provide balls through or over the top. The wingbacks are able to provide that width and put balls into the box as well.

    That’s what I’d do anyway.

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  8. Interesting Sharpy. This is how I’d go

    —————– Darlow —————–
    Yedlin – Lejeune – Clarke – Manq
    ————- Hayden —Merino———-
    —————– Shelvey —–
    Ritchie ————————- —-Atsu
    —————– Joselu —————-

    but if Mbemba’s fit I’d leave him at LB and ManQ at RB. If Shelvey’s lost in space I’d sub on Perez

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  9. georgio:
    Interesting Sharpy. This is how I’d go

    —————– Darlow —————–
    Yedlin – Lejeune – Clarke – Manq
    ————- Hayden —Merino———-
    —————– Shelvey —–
    Ritchie ————————- —-Atsu
    —————– Joselu —————-

    but if Mbemba’s fit I’d leave him at LB and ManQ at RB. If Shelvey’s lost in space I’d sub on Perez

    Georgio – leaving Atsu out was harder for me than leaving Perez out to be honest. But I just think we need to get Gayle back in the game, and scoring goals.
    He’s not suited to the loan striker role at all, and it must be frustrating feeding off scraps & having little support up there. I think he could be well suited to that left flank of a 3 man attack.
    I think you could have Aarons on that left flank, you could have Mitrovic in place of Joselu, and you could have Murphy in place of Ritchie if we had injuries or suspensions.

    I think the 3 in midfield would probably suit Diame, Colback and Saivet as well to be honest. None are great and Colback and Saivet get found lacking in a 2 man midfield.

    I just think that formation suits the players we currently have personally.

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  10. Sharpy – that was my team for Sunday not the whole season. And I hope to never see Diame, Colback and Saivet in the team again.

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  11. I’d go 442.

    ……………..Big Dave………………
    KimToon.. IceDog..Sharpy..Stuart
    BrisVegas.DubaiToon.Georgio.Aussie
    ………TroyStavers….EricSykes…..

    The back line is solid and reliable due to long term partnership.
    The midfield has a bit of foreign flair and up front is the lads with sharp tongues. That killer instinct required to finish a move off!

    Anybody left out is a squad player that will be relied upon through the season to give us something different and keep the regulars on their toes!

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  12. georgio:
    Sharpy – that was my team for Sunday not the whole season. And I hope to never see Diame, Colback and Saivet in the team again.

    Georgio – oh likewise mate!!. But they are in the squad and getting paid handsomely. They would only get near if we had injuries or suspensions. I think Diame is better suited further back to be honest. He’s still shit, just a little less shit further back.

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  13. shamrock:
    I’d go 442.

    ……………..Big Dave………………
    KimToon.. IceDog..Sharpy..Stuart
    BrisVegas.DubaiToon.Georgio.Aussie
    ………TroyStavers….EricSykes…..

    The back line is solid and reliable due to long term partnership.
    The midfield has a bit of foreign flair and up front is the lads with sharp tongues. That killer instinct required to finish a move off!

    Anybody left out is a squad player that will be relied upon through the season to give us something different and keep the regulars on their toes!

    Sham – 😂 Spot on buddy.

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  14. shamrock:
    I’d go 442.

    Shamrock is manager then. 😉

    ……………..Big Dave………………
    KimToon.. IceDog..Sharpy..Stuart
    BrisVegas.DubaiToon.Georgio.Aussie
    ………TroyStavers….EricSykes…..

    The back line is solid and reliable due to long term partnership.
    The midfield has a bit of foreign flair and up front is the lads with sharp tongues. That killer instinct required to finish a move off!

    Anybody left out is a squad player that will be relied upon through the season to give us something different and keep the regulars on their toes!

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  15. Sham, the problem with the back line is that most of them would refuse to play because they don’t like the owner. The left back wouldn’t even care enough to turn up.

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  16. shamrock:
    I’d go 442.

    ……………..Big Dave………………
    KimToon.. IceDog..Sharpy..Stuart
    BrisVegas.DubaiToon.Georgio.Aussie
    ………TroyStavers….EricSykes…..

    The back line is solid and reliable due to long term partnership.
    The midfield has a bit of foreign flair and up front is the lads with sharp tongues. That killer instinct required to finish a move off!

    Anybody left out is a squad player that will be relied upon through the season to give us something different and keep the regulars on their toes!

    love it lol,as long as i play on right wing

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  17. KIMTOON:
    Thanks Olly, I’m not sure moving Shelvey to no.10 is a viable option mate, his strength is playing those lovely inch perfect passes and moving him could effect his range of passing plus he’s not the quickest, though I do agree he could be less petulant in that role.
    I agree with Eric, try same team that beat west ham for a while at least. Also Jonjo has to realise he can’t just walk back in after letting down the team.

    Sharpy, from last thread, thanks for kind thoughts on lewis. And you’re not a dingbat, I enjoy your post and our debates.

    I agree, he’s arguably not mobile enough and his range of passing could be wasted if he was TOO advanced, but notice I suggested Shelvey should be played just ahead of the midfield two opposed to just behind the striker. I think that could work.

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  18. Brisvegas:
    Sham, the problem with the back line is that most of them would refuse to play because they don’t like the owner. The left back wouldn’t even care enough to turn up.

    Bris – I can’t keep up – I was accused of being an Ashley fan last week 😂🤷🏼‍♂️

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  19. Olly Hawkins: I agree, he’s arguably not mobile enough and his range of passing could be wasted if he was TOO advanced, but notice I suggested Shelvey should be played just ahead of the midfield two opposed to just behind the striker. I think that could work.

    Olly – good to see you on sharing your thoughts as well as writing the articles mate. I know your a busy lad, but us pests that keep wanting articles value you writers opinion too mate 😉

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  20. BrisV: probably about 50/50 you will face the Yanks. They have an easy last 2 games but have managed to f a few up as well. I understand that FIFA want representation at the WC from all parts of the world but a possible 4 qualifiers from a group of 6 is unfair. I know the deck is also stacked for Europe but that is where most of the teams are under the present system.

    Would be a pity if the USA doesn’t qualify as the game is starting to take off.

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  21. I see MBemba is captain of Congo so the claims he is painfully shy are probably wide of the mark. His English must be improving by now so he will be able to better understand Rafa’s tactics and hopefully will play a bigger part this season.

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  22. Eric Sykes:
    BrisV: probably about 50/50 you will face the Yanks. They have an easy last 2 games but have managed to f a few up as well. I understand that FIFA want representation at the WC from all parts of the world but a possible 4 qualifiers from a group of 6 is unfair. I know the deck is also stacked for Europe but that is where most of the teams are under the present system.

    Would be a pity if the USA doesn’t qualify as the game is starting to take off.

    Eric, that’s all down to how CONCACAF runs their qualifying vs. how UEFA runs theirs, though, isn’t it? It’s not like there are a total of 6 countries in CONCACAF. If they wanted to, they could divide every team in the region into four groups and allow the four group winners to qualify.

    I’m not going to argue the quality of CONCACAF, though. Teams like Ireland or Wales would be near-automatic qualifiers each cycle, no doubt.

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  23. Also, I see that The Mirror are quoting NUFC’s wage bill as 97 million. I think this might be their new maths and probably included the new players brought in but not the one’s sold/loaned in the last 2 weeks.

    Our revenue/turnover will be about 150 million this year so even a 100 million wage bill is only 66% of that. That is on the high end for the PL but not unsustainable. If the wage figure is closer to the 75 million that it was last time in the PL that would be 50% which is on the very low end for a PL club.

    Methinks Mr. Keith Bishop has been earning his corn and slipping our preferred media partner figures that were true for a couple of weeks but are no longer true.

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  24. Charlie Prince: Eric, that’s all down to how CONCACAF runs their qualifying vs. how UEFA runs theirs, though, isn’t it? It’s not like there are a total of 6 countries in CONCACAF. If they wanted to, they could divide every team in the region into four groups and allow the four group winners to qualify.

    I’m not going to argue the quality of CONCACAF, though. Teams like Ireland or Wales would be near-automatic qualifiers each cycle, no doubt.

    You are right of course, that the structure of the CONCACAF preliminary stages dictates that most of the final 6 will qualify. When you look at some of the absolute dross in this conference it actually makes sense and I wish Europe would do something similar. I had got myself a bit obsessed with the 4 from 6 qualifying because I saw there was a possibility that Chile or Argentina may not and thought it absurd.

    I still question that CONCACAF should get 3.5 places because most of the teams in it are islands with no real football leagues. Still, thems the rules and there was no way that FIFA took any backhanders to make it like that.

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  25. Eric Sykes: You are right of course, that the structure of the CONCACAF preliminary stages dictates that most of the final 6 will qualify. When you look at some of the absolute dross in this conference it actually makes sense and I wish Europe would do something similar. I had got myself abit obsessed with the 4 from 6 qualifying because I saw there was a possibility that Chile or Argentina may not and thought it absurd.

    I still question that CONCACAF should get 3.5 places because most of the teams in it are islands with no real football leagues. Still, thems the rules and there was no way that FIFA took any backhanders to make it like that.

    So your first comment got me interested in the qualifying numbers and I did some research (on Wikipedia, so it could be a bit off). I was surprised to find out that South America only has 10 total teams – with 4.5 qualifying spots, they get an even 45% of their nations into the World Cup (usually 50%, since their fifth-place team will beat anyone from Asia, Oceania or North America).

    The other regions are: Europe – 24% (13/55), Asia – 10% (4.5/47), Africa – 9% (5/56), North America – 8% (3.5/41), and Oceania – 5% (.5/11).

    The caveat, as you mention, is that a big chunk of the CONCACAF teams are tiny islands, whereas every single South American team could win a game or two in the World Cup. I do think it makes sense for every region (except Oceania) to have at least three spots, though – otherwise, what’s the point of a World Cup? We’ve already got the Euros and the Gold Cup.

    What I’m really dreading is the 48-team setup for 2026. Having 8 groups of 4 is so perfect for a group+knockout tournament, it kills me that they’re going to f*ck it up.

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  26. georgio:
    Ice – he’s got you at CB mate. Wonder how much Shamrock’s on wages wise?

    I would be sent off in the first five minutes,whatever Sham get isn’t enough dealing with that lot lol

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  27. Icedog: I would be sent off in the first five minutes,whatever Sham get isn’t enough dealing with that lot lol

    like herding kittens mate 😆

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  28. Charlie Prince: So your first comment got me interested in the qualifying numbers and I did some research (on Wikipedia, so it could be a bit off). I was surprised to find out that South America only has 10 total teams – with 4.5 qualifying spots, they get an even 45% of their nations into the World Cup (usually 50%, since their fifth-place team will beat anyone from Asia, Oceania or North America).

    The other regions are: Europe – 24% (13/55), Asia – 10% (4.5/47), Africa – 9% (5/56), North America – 8% (3.5/41), and Oceania – 5% (.5/11).

    The caveat, as you mention, is that a big chunk of the CONCACAF teams are tiny islands, whereas every single South American team could win a game or two in the World Cup. I do think it makes sense for every region (except Oceania) to have at least three spots, though – otherwise, what’s the point of a World Cup? We’ve already got the Euros and the Gold Cup.

    What I’m really dreading is the 48-team setup for 2026. Having 8 groups of 4 is so perfect for a group+knockout tournament, it kills me that they’re going to f*ck it up.

    Charlie: some of the bigger teams get byes though in the early stages so their chances of going through are much greater. I watched the USA against Trinidad and Tobago game and it looked like they were literally playing on flat sand dunes – there were clumps of grass not mowed, sandy patches etc. The stadium looked like an English non-league ground. That figure of 8% chance of going through is pretty meaningless if that lot can get to the last 6. Glad you did the research though and I do agree that every part of the world should be represented.

    Still think there was a bit of funny business at FIFA. Jamaica is in CONCACAF and one of the main guys bribed for the Russia and Qatar WCs is from there. Under FBI investigation and may go to jail.

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  29. On the other hand, I watched Mexico and Costa Rica and either would give England a good game and would be 50/50 to win so the conference is not totally crap, although the USA have an aging squad. I have very little interest in the US National Team or MLS, I just want them to make it to raise the optics of “soccer” as most people will not watch the WC unless the US are there.

    OK, that’s me officially signed out on the International Break 🙂 It took my mind off bitching about the transfer window.

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  30. Screw it, one more point. If they could somehow cut back on the qualifiers that would free up some time in the season by cutting out 1 international break. And don’t have friendlies during an international break, have them mid-week like it used to be.

    It would be so easy, and then there could be a 2 week winter PL break in the first weeks of January. You could even coordinate it with ACON so you didn’t lose the African players for a whole month every 2 years.

    That would be too sensible though, or more to the point, they would lose out on TV money from the qualifiers.

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  31. Icedog: I would be sent off in the first five minutes,whatever Sham get isn’t enough dealing with that lot lol

    Ice – I’d keep you right mate 😉

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  32. And do you know that FIFA have like literally 1 billion Euros in the Bank? They talk about helping develop football and the grass roots at poorer nations when, in fact, it all goes to corrupt fat cats in Switzerland and Jamaica. Each FIFA Rep got an engraved gold Rolex at the Brazil World cup worth $17,000.

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  33. KIMTOON: like herding kittens mate

    I was a good lad,I stopped them playing 😆 I was only sent off five times in ten yr,pretty good I reckon for a winger,bloody soft shites imo

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  34. Icedog:
    Mbemba out until Dec then,more bad luck for Rafa,bad hamstring

    At least we have a bit of cover now Ice. As much as I slated Ugly John he was dealt a really bad hand in terms of squad size and quality and injuries. Even with Dummett and MBemba out we have:

    Manqillo
    Yedlin
    Sterry
    Gamez
    Clark
    Lascelles
    Lejuene

    And, of course Colback played LB for the Mackems. I think I saw him play there once for us and he stank the place out.

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  35. Sharpy17: Ice – bloody hell, did you headbutt the ref or something?

    Ime not that bad mate I might have marked mesel,sort of fouled their left back during a corner,the ref came over to send me off,I kinda stamped hard on his foot by accident (not) a broke four of his toes,soft shite he limped fine imo

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  36. Eric Sykes: At least we have a bit of cover now Ice. As much as I slated Ugly John he was dealt a really bad hand in terms of squad size and quality and injuries. Even with Dummett and MBemba out we have:

    Manqillo
    Yedlin
    Sterry
    Gamez
    Clark
    Lascelles
    Lejuene

    And, of course Colback played LB for the Mackems. I think I saw him play there once for us and he stank the place out.

    Bloody Colback spoiled my season before it started,that time he filled in at l/b I thought well he cannot be as bad as in midfield he was “worse”he’s unreal

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  37. The Labour leader has had a right go at Jabba over him just giving zero hour contracts to employees after he said he would stop them,surely he knew he was a bloody lying scum bag,he has now asked the PM to take action

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  38. shamrock:
    I’d go 442.

    ……………..Big Dave………………
    KimToon.. IceDog..Sharpy..Stuart
    BrisVegas.DubaiToon.Georgio.Aussie
    ………TroyStavers….EricSykes…..

    The back line is solid and reliable due to long term partnership.
    The midfield has a bit of foreign flair and up front is the lads with sharp tongues. That killer instinct required to finish a move off!

    Anybody left out is a squad player that will be relied upon through the season to give us something different and keep the regulars on their toes!

    Lol Sham, I think that is the only time ever that I’ve been chosen to be a football team… I have 2 left feet when it comes to sports, but at least I would count as a home grown player… 😂😂😂

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  39. Dubai Toon: Lol Sham, I think that is the only time ever that I’ve been chosen to be a football team… I have 2 left feet when it comes to sports, but at least I would count as a home grown player…

    Dubai – I expect you and Georgio to put a shift in in front of me and Ice there mind mate!!.

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  40. Icedog: Tut tut mate I was a good lad ( sometimes) mind I could shift 11.09 over 100yds in footy boots

    impressive mate, in them old style boots . 🙂

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  41. Icedog:
    The Labour leader has had a right go at Jabba over him just giving zero hour contracts to employees after he said he would stop them,surely he knew he was a bloody lying scum bag,he has now asked the PM to take action

    Ice, yesterday he was saying he wants SD to be the Selfridges of sports ! I very much doubt Selfridges pay their staff zero hours, would be amazed if they did.

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  42. KIMTOON: Ice, yesterday he was saying he wants SD to be the Selfridges of sports ! I very much doubt Selfridges pay their staff zero hours, would be amazed if they did.

    i think these zero hour contracts should be banned,treating people like garbage throwing them away when they wish,how can you have a family life like that can never buy a house ect

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  43. KIMTOON: impressive mate, in them old style boots .

    aye they soft shites wear sandshoes now to play with their penny floater ball,wouldnt last five min in my day,doubt they could kick a real football two yds (caseball)

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  44. Ice, that’s why there are so many foot injuries imo, todays boots just too light weight I reckon.

    On Mbemba, that’s typical luck isn’t it, feel for the lad.

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