Cod Almighty | Article
by Simon Wilson
6 August 2007
Last summer, eyeing up Tom Newey's contribution to the upcoming campaign, Pat Bell pondered: "perhaps we'll be in a better position to judge his all-round ability [if Town used the flanks more]". Ah, the optimism of a post-Slade era. How wrong we were to be. While we're not here to analyse Grez Rodger's whirligig managerial stint, Newey wasn't alone in looking all over the place, schizophrenically veering from a ditherer to a dallyer during the opening stages of last season. Not that Newey playing like that was unexpected to me.
I have a confession to make: I've never been a big fan of Newey's. Yeah, so he could put a decent dead ball in now and again, and how Lumpy loves to noggin those in. He could break forward on the inside, whether it was the appropriate time or not (pining for the fjords of the flank under Slade's narrow-facing system). He just seemed to be a left winger dumped into the left-back slot. Which he was. His time at his previous club, Cambridge, was spent in the number 11 shirt. The decision by Rodger to give him a three-year contract last summer seemed as rash as... well, signing crack Blackburn Rovers reserve Gary Harkins.
All that changed with the return of Buckley. Early on in Lord Buck's return the signs were there. Away at Wycombe Newey showing a touch of measure to his game, marauding with intent, keeping the lively Kevin Betsy in his pocketless shorts most of the afternoon. Sure he picked up a daft red card, but hey, that's karma, Earl.
Skip forward a month and in front of Mighty Mariner's grotto shed Newey slotted in at centre-back against Torquay. We waited nervously when the teams were announced, but we were oh-so-wrong: he was imperious alongside Nick Fenton. I couldn't believe it. Take out the losing run that followed (like a recurrence of herpes, a throwback to those diseased Rodger days), and there were more Newey highlights before the season climaxed with Fenton's equaliser at Shrewsbury.
Shimmying down the line. Last-ditch tackles. Shepherding and holding advancing wingers, wingers who would have previously skipped past Newey and caused havoc. The darting moves infield were still there (never more evident than in his wheat-among-the-chaff display at Accrington), but they came with added overlaps! And crosses! Shots from the edge of the box! Even the odd little stepover! Yeah, so he was and is still occasionally erratic and dithery. But there's less of it. He's a better defender, a solid member of the back four. And he's good fun to watch. When he's on song he can make a fan purr. He plays like a left-footed Macca. He looks like enjoying himself. And you know what? So am I watching him.
When are we going to sort out the I [heart] Newey T-shirt?