In anticipation of the June 11th release of The Longsands’ debut album Meet Me in Spanish City, not to mention the increasingly likely scenario of Newcastle United sealing an entirely unexpected Champions League spot, Football Burp enjoyed a hearty natter with the band’s songwriter and guitarist Ian Barnes on the subject of his beloved Toon Army. First though, watch him taking on former Magpies goalkeeper Shay Given at paper-scissors-stone…
Congratulations on pulling three points clear in 4th! You must be pretty excited at the moment.
Yeah, I am! But, having supported Newcastle all my life, let’s wait and see. We’re pretty much guaranteed a Europa League spot, and I would definitely have taken that at the beginning of the season.
Do you think the squad is ready for a European campaign? Which areas would you like to see strengthened in the summer?
To be honest, as much as I’d love to talk about strengthening, I just hope we don’t sell loads of players. Keeping the lads together will be half the battle. Some of them are on long contracts – Tiote, Ba, possibly Coloccini – and if we’re offered big money for them then Mike Ashley will sell. He did last season, so there’s no reason why he won’t do it again.
I think we need to strengthen the defence a little bit – we’ve had James Perch playing a few different positions, and although he’s doing a canny good job I think we could improve. Our defence was one of the best in the league in the first half of the season, then Steven Taylor got injured and since then it’s not been too great. Taylor and Coloccini were playing really well together, and although Mike Williamson does a job he’s not the greatest. At the beginning of the season I was wondering where the goals were going to come from but that’s not really a worry any more.
Fabricio Coloccini has just been named in the Premier League team of the season. Do you think more Newcastle players should have been in there?
Tim Krul’s had a great season, to be honest. In fact he’s had two great seasons. I feel a bit sorry for Steve Harper – he sat on the bench for fifteen years, got his chance when Shay Given left, got injured soon afterwards and then Krul’s come in and had a blinding two seasons. I think Tiote and Cabaye have been excellent – a lot of teams get broken down by Tiote and Cabaye can open teams up with a good pass. I suppose you can’t really put Papiss Cisse in because he’s only been here half a season, but his goal record is phenomenal, like Andy Cole’s when we first came up to the Premier League!
In the past maybe the fans have been a bit overambitious in terms of what we can achieve, but the last few seasons had been such a shambles that I think everyone’s a bit gobsmacked by how well we’ve done this season. It’ll be hard to do it again though, especially if we do get into the Champions League and have all those extra games. We’re there on merit – we’ve been in the top six all season so I guess nobody could say it’s a fluke – but if we sell players then I’ll be a bit worried about next season. We’ll see what Mike Ashley does.
Has Ashley won you over?
Not really. I live in Manchester now so I argue with City and United fans about this – there was that article about our finances, how we’re finally breaking even now and that we’re one of the only clubs that does, so I can see how anyone from the outside looking in would think, “You can eat your words now” – but to be fair those finances relied on us getting promoted, and he oversaw us getting relegated in the first place. And of course there was the Andy Carroll sale which was a one in a million piece of business. If Fernando Torres hadn’t gone for £50m then Carroll wouldn’t have gone for £35m, know what I mean?
I’m not really massively upset about the naming rights of the stadium or anything like that – I understand why people are, but the point is that if you have a sponsor like Adidas or Nike or something bringing in an extra £10-20m to spend on players, that’s fair enough, but what he’s done is whack his own business up there so it’s not bringing any more money in.
If I worked in PR for a potential customer, I’d look at the reaction of the fans and say, “I don’t want our name up there – no-one would buy Adidas in Newcastle!” (Laughs) I think the way that he and Derek Llambias communicate to the fans is terrible – he just seems to wait for international breaks and does random things after everyone’s just started to get back on his side again.
What were your thoughts when Chris Hughton was sacked and Alan Pardew appointed? And what do you think of Pardew now?
I thought it was disgraceful at the time, and I still kind of do to be honest because he did nothing wrong. I didn’t have a problem with Pardew though – it wasn’t his fault that Hughton was sacked, and he was being offered one of the biggest jobs in the country after being out of the game for a little while so he’d have been an idiot not to take it. The only way a manager can answer to the fans is with results and that’s what he’s done.
He’s done a fantastic job, and Graham Carr’s brought in some right belters for good money, young players on long contracts so other clubs would have to buy them out of them. So I think the strategy’s right, but…(sigh)…it wouldn’t surprise me if Pardew got the sack at the end of the season. He probably won’t, but I wouldn’t say it’s impossible that something ridiculous like that could happen. You just don’t know.
Like I said though, I just hope we can hold onto players. Obviously if Chelsea bid £25m for Tiote or something like that then you have to let him go – Arsenal have been doing that for years, buying players you’ve never heard of then selling them on for huge profits, and they’re still up there.
How regularly have you managed to get to St James’s Park over the years?
I was a season ticket holder for years until I moved to Manchester. Also being in a band for the last five years has made it difficult because we’re often either away or rehearsing on the weekend. You get to catch a lot of it on telly now, but we get to the odd game and sometimes even get complimentary tickets because we’ve worked with the club quite a bit in the past.
In what capacity?
A few years ago we were doing a small single release and they were playing it over the tannoy – that was before Ashley even came, when we were first starting out – and we got involved with the club to do a charity single for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation about a year and a half ago, a version of “Blaydon Races”, and we played it on the pitch before we beat Sunderland 5-1. That was a nice day to remember! It was like a boyhood dream getting to walk down the tunnel and go on the pitch, especially as I’m not very good at football! The club has always been really good with us, to be fair, and we raised a lot of money for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, which is a very good cause.
Would you be able to name the first, best and worst games you ever went to?
The first game I think was when Kevin Keegan came as manager the first time, when we were bottom of the old First Division. Or was it maybe even still called the Second Division then? We won 3-0 away against someone on his first game back, and then we played a home game against Millwall, I think, and my dad took me. I can’t remember what the score was but I seem to remember that Kevin Sheedy scored.
As the best game, I’d probably go for the 3-2 win over Barcelona when Tino [Faustino Asprilla] scored a hat-trick – he was phenomenal, my favourite player at the time. Many blame him for us not winning the league the season before that, but I don’t think it was really his fault.
The worst…there’s been a few! (Laughs) I think the worst would be the night we lost 2-1 at home to Sunderland when it was pissing down with rain and Ruud Gullit put Alan Shearer and Duncan Ferguson on the bench. I’d tried to blank that one out!
Are you going to the evening with Asprilla and David Ginola at The Lancastrian Suite in Dunston on Friday night?
Our manager’s involved in that. I think the lads will be doing an acoustic set at it but for some reason I’m not going to be there. My wife’s due to have a baby so it’s probably something to do with that. (Football Burp says: at least we think that’s what Ian said – hearty congratulations if so!) We’ve met Tino and Ginola a few times – our manager is a sporting events manager as well, and he did a charity event at Kingston Park where we reformed the Newcastle and Liverpool teams of the 4-3 games. It was great, even though we got beat again! We performed at that as well.
Finally, if you had to select a five-a-side team out of all the Newcastle players you’ve seen in your time as a fan, who would you pick?
Shay Given, Paul Gascoigne, Peter Beardsley and Alan Shearer. As for a defender…when he was fit, Jonathan Woodgate was one of the best defenders we’ve ever had, while Philippe Albert and Coloccini would be worth a place, but I’m going to go attacking and pick John Beresford.
Ian Barnes, thank you.
The Longsands are set to release their new single “Shut Your Mouth” on June 4th, to be followed by their debut album Meet Me in Spanish City on June 11th, both through Unknown Soldier Records. The band will play the following live dates in May and June…
10th May – O2 Academy, Newcastle (w/ The Farm)
25th May – Club Academy, Manchester (w/ The Farm)
8th June – Longsands Album Launch Party, Newcastle University SU