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THERE was something fitting about Obafemi Martins presence last night as Newcastle United effectively clinched Premier League safety with an accomplished win in Birmingham.

The mercurial Martins, of course, was part of the team that took United down in the Second City two years ago and he proved to be something of a divisive figure among the Toon Army during the fag end of that infamous 2008/09 campaign.

SCRATCHING around for a North East performance of the weekend in the wake of the multiple footballing failures delivered by our frontline clubs?

Well look no further than the Kelvin Hall international sports arena in Glasgow - the modest but intimidating venue that played host to one of the most impressive displays of this or any other year by the Newcastle Eagles.

IN this week of telephone number transfer fees and tales of treachery, perhaps Newcastle United fans should pop outside the goldfish bowl and spare a thought for a few new friends in the south.

Yes, the wounds inflicted by Andy Carroll's departure for Liverpool are still raw - and seeing him unveiled as the Reds new number nine yesterday will hardly have salved them.

AND so to that familiar feeling. You know the one: the raw, numb feeling of hurt and helplessness at yet another indignation heaped on Newcastle United football club.

Perhaps the Toon Army should be immune to all now, given the frequency with which Mike Ashley seems to visit these mini-crises on St James' Park but yesterday felt different. More profound somehow, as if a line had been crossed and there is no going back from here.

WELL Richard Keys got one thing right. The game - nay, the world - has gone mad.

For the second successive day the BBC was leading their topical news phone-in on 'Linogate' as politicians, social commentators and pundits scramble to hop on this latest bandwagon.

Austere broadsheets and red tops alike have felled forests to cover the number of pages devoted to Keys and Andy Gray and their frankly ridiculous views on the merits of the fairer sex in football.

CAN you have a point but still be in the wrong?

I ask because thats how I read the sad saga of Darren Bent's move to Aston Villa, which leaves me feeling thoroughly conflicted.

Over the past 24 hours Bent has been pilloried by supporters and - privately at least - by his club. They have a point - and a right - to feel deeply wounded by a development that caught them completely unawares.

OF all the people I spoke to in the run up to Sunday's derby, it is Steve Howey's words that stick in the mind this morning.

Not his verdict on the game or the key on-the-field battles, more his reflections on playing in the soulless 1996/7 Roker Park derby. In case you'd forgotten, that contest was put on with no Newcastle fans because of safety concerns from Northumbria Police.

OF all the crazy theories that have gathered momentum since Newcastle's fortunate 2-2 draw with Wigan, it is the return of Joe Kinnear that is the most eye-catching.

Or worrying, if we're going to completely honest about it. Because the thought of applying JFK's 'clunking fist' to a delicate developing situation at St James' Park just doesn't bear thinking about.

THE Nigel De Jong tackle that left Hatem Ben Arfa hooked to a morphine drip in a Manchester hospital for five days must prompt a sea change in the English game.

First things first, United's French magician was the victim of a dangerous and reckless two-footed challenge. That Martin Atkinson decided it wasn't a foul, never mind a straight red card, is frankly jaw-dropping.

But it is not as easy as demanding a kangaroo court and chucking the book at De Jong, however tempting it might be to demand it.

A few weeks ago, to mark the second anniversary of him taking the reins at St James' Park, I asked Chris Hughton whether he had enjoyed his time managing Newcastle.

He paused for what seemed like an eternity before finally replying that enjoyment was probably the wrong word. He enjoyed the challenge - but conceded that the cut and thrust nature of management meant that you never got long enough to enjoy a good result before a fresh set of problems come rushing over the horizon.

And so, just eight days after his managerial masterplan was being lauded following defeat of Everton, Hughton finds a new set of questions surrounding his approach after a dispiriting loss to long ball Stoke.

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