Recently by Mark Douglas
SO the week when Newcastle United's Premier League survival prospects moved from comfortable to critical ends with us talking about Hatem Ben Arfa's gym habits, whether a lack of fight is deeply ingrained in Gallic DNA and a banned reporter.
SO here is one of the problems with covering Premier League football.
AN old friend from the Midlands told me about the day Martin O'Neill invited all of the Second City press pack to an end of season dinner.
IT goes without saying that Sunday's game is of huge significance to a Sunderland side in danger of being sucked into a bitter relegation fight.
EVERY week, football is full of catastrophe, disaster and tragedy.
THERE were 10,276 people at Fratton Park on Tuesday to see the latest act in the tragic comedy unfolding on the South Coast.
YOU have to admire Joey Barton's brass neck.
As his private jet touched down on sizzling tarmac in the South of France, an earnest Barton was delivering one of the all-time great footballer quotes to the Sky Sports News reporting team that had accompanied him to Marseille.
WHEN Mike Ashley renamed St James' Park after the sportswear company that had turned him into one of Britain's richest men, the menacing warnings that emanated from a wounded Tyneside were stark.
WHISPERED conversations between players, agents stirring the pot and clubs trying to maintain a poker face for a month as they balance the wishes of egomaniac managers with chairman tightening their belts.
Welcome to the world of the modern transfer deal - a far cry from the sanitised version portrayed on Sky Sports News and best-selling computer game Football Manager.
The Sunday Sun today attempts to shed some light on why January is such a tortuous month for football clubs - and why the transfers that might come to pass in the last seconds of the window have probably been six months in the making.
Most of the deals that Newcastle are lining up have been worked on since September 1, the day the window snapped shut.
GRAEME Souness is making rather a better fist of being a perceptive pundit than he ever did as a manager, but his column this week made for difficult reading.
It opened up with the following sentiment: "Steve Bruce paid the price of the high expectations in the North East."