Spyin' Kop: Newcastle at home

Posted by Hinesy on December 22, 2005, 04:24:19 PM

After our long trip to Japan and frustration of totally dominating Sao Paulo yet failing to score, it's a return to the bread and butter of the Premiership for the Reds. Next up is a visit from Newcastle and a game which normally guarantees entertaining football. There's also the return of Red legend Graeme Souness as the Geordies manager and an in-form Michael Owen for the first time to Anfield since he left in the summer of 2004.

LIVERPOOL F.C. v NEWCASTLE UTD F.C.
Anfield, Boxing Day
3pm kick off


Newcastle Strip:


Many thanks to Tony for putting us in contact with his Geordie mates Tim Burnett and Jim Montague. Also to Chris (Howaythetoon) from the Newcastle Online website for his answers:

How has the season been shaping up for you ?

TB: Finally kind of getting underway after a few wins, still don't look convincing mind and there are still some painfully weak areas in the squad. All it will take is a sound beating from anyone and our fragile confidence will shatter once more.

JB: So far, I’d say it’s been a pretty miserable start. Souness has spent £50m and, to his credit, brought some quality players in. The recruitment of Owen, Parker, Emre, Luque and the return of the much favored Nobby Solano provided us with plenty of optimism at the beginning of the campaign. Unfortunately, they’ve barely played together and all (with the exception of Parker) have been out for spells with injuries. The 3-0 away wins at Blackburn and West Brom have been the highlights, along with the 3-2 derby slaying of the Mackems. In general though, our performances have been pretty abysmal; Everton, Wigan and Wigan Reserves away being the particular ones that spring to mind. There’s plenty of unrest with the management and Fat Freddie, all in all, not happy times on Tyneside at the moment.

HWTT: It has been a stop-start kind of season for Newcastle to date. Just when we look to be turning that proverbial corner, we head the other way. We are also guilty of shooting ourselves in the foot once or twice as well. All in all it's been a hugely disappointing and frustrating season on Tyneside. Hopefully 2006 will promise better...

What are your expectations for this season? Have they changed from day one?

TB: To be honest, Anfield great he might be, but with Souness in charge I don't think that anyone expected anything, except maybe for him to go after about 5 games. So have they changed? Yes, obviously, he's still in charge. Maybe after 25 ... Position wise, I didn't expect much (I had us as an outside bet for relegation till Mikie Owen signed) and to be honest I don't think we'll get much. We should finish higher than 14th but that should be expected with a summer outlay in the region of 40mil.

JB: A top six finish was the aim at the start of the season and, with the league being so tight this season, I believe that it can still be achieved. £50m has been spent and we’ve got to look at getting back into Europe. Sir Bobby Robson was sacked for finishing 5th in the league and guiding us to a UEFA Cup Semi Final. There can be no more excuses for Souness, either he takes us back into Europe or loses his job. I admit that the top six finish will be a struggle as we just haven’t got the squad for it. If three of our first team are injured, we look severely weakened. It’s time for Souness to stop blaming injuries on our poor form, it’s his job to build a squad capable of coping with the inevitable injuries that will occur throughout the course of a season. I still can’t understand why the likes of Ambrose and Hughes were sold for barely £2m combined. Granted, they weren’t the best players, but were capable of playing in a variety of positions and could always be relied upon to do a decent job.

HWTT: My expectations haven't changed from day one; European qualification. It is a must having spent 50 million plus in the past 12 months and really, we should be aiming for a Champions League spot. But as ever, things don't quite work out like that at Newcastle. What I expect or demand is very different from what I believe we will or will not achieve. I'd snap hands off to finish 6th as of writing to be honest with you. I doubt we'll finish that high under Souness however.

Who do you think is your most important player(s)?

TB: I'm tempted to say Owen, even if only to rub it in to Liverpool fans what they missed out on ... he is a special player but I think that's what you get with Owen. He may have cost £16mil but at the end of the day you are paying for guaranteed goals, better than say ... um ... Cisse? In honesty though, I think our best player this season will be Solano just for the fact he's a local hero and we really look better with him in the side or the turkish dynamo Emre - he looks pretty smart.

JB: Michael Owen, as you well know, is a key player, we look toothless and devoid of any imagination or forward movement without him in the team. Shola Ameobi (bless him) is just not an adequate replacement, especially with Super Al coming towards the end of his career. Scott Parker’s another cracking player, neat and tidy in possession and gets stuck in, just what we like to see. Last but not least, Shay Given, the best goalkeeper in the Premiership.

HWTT: The spine of our side in Shay Given, Steven Taylor, Scott Parker and that man Michael Owen. They are our most important players. If I had to choose one however, I'd say Shay, who along with Parker has been absolute sensational this term, as ever really. We'd be scrapping it out at the bottom if it weren't for the Ireland man's saves. I'm biased, but for me, he's the best in the League. He's certainly performing better than anyone else between the sticks. With our defence, he has to!

Do you really think michael owen wants to play for you ? After all the rumours, how would you feel if michael owen turned out to be the most expensive loan signing of all time? Do you believe there is a get out clause ?

TB: Does Owen want to play for us? Well he came out and said he did, he's playing with a real smile on his face, the team love him, the fans love him and we're (slowly) climbing the table. Whether or not he wanted to go back to Liverpool is another issue but if Scousers will pay £7mil for a beanpole striker who even the opposition want to score out of pity then they wont be able to afford top class players. Is there a get-out clause..? Probably. Knowing the fat controller, he allows himself to be sodomised by every major signing.

JB: There’s absolutely no doubt that Michael Owen would have preferred a move back to Liverpool, we all know that. He was immensely successful there, had made plenty of friends, his family was settled in the area and had held the club dear to his heart since joining as a young lad. I just think that you couldn’t justify spending £17m on a player that you had let go for £8m the previous season, which is fair enough. Michael Owen saw that we were 100% serious about bringing him to Newcastle, lodging a club record bid, and rolling out the red carpet with Shepherd, Souness and his good mate Alan Shearer convincing him that Newcastle was the best move. As for the reported clause, I don’t think that anyone, unless they’ve seen Owen’s contract, can be totally sure about its existence. Anyway, clauses are fairly redundant in the modern game, if a big name player desires a move elsewhere then he’ll, more often than not, have his wish granted. Players have a phenomenal amount of power nowadays. I fully believe that, no matter what happens this season, Owen will start next season as a Newcastle player, and if we don’t achieve Champions League football next season then he’ll be off. He’s a quality player and will understandably want to play in the best club competition; hopefully he’ll be able to fulfill his ambitions with us.

HWTT: He certainly wants to play for us, he works his socks off during the 90 minutes. A side of his game I wasn't that aware of before he arrived. But to the proper question: Of course, we all know his ideal option would have been to return back to Anfield, but that didn't happen and he signed for Newcastle on a 4-year deal. Clauses or no clauses, I can't see him leaving after 6 months, nor after a year. He's very happy at Newcastle, and has only this week rubbished the clause rumours. I think it's wishful thinking on a lot of Reds' behalf all this talk of Owen returning to Liverpool in January. I think that bridge has been drawn for him now. Freddy Shepherd may be many things, but would he pay all that money and basque in the pomp and fair that was his official unveiling, for a loan signing? I don't think so.

And if any club does want him, they'd have to give us our money back. Can Liverpool afford 16 million? Can Man United or Arsenal? Would Chelsea want him? Maybe a move abroad? Something I doubt he'll ever make again, for what it's worth. Newcastle is his best option for now, it's a marriage of convenience, we needed goals, he needed games. In Alan Shearer he has a genuine friend, a confidante, someone he respects, trusts and wants to work with. Owen will be around as long as Shearer is I feel. He'll be retiring after this season and will concentrate on coaching with the possibility of becoming manager some day, something I'm sure Owen was made aware of when he signed and a possible caveat for the England man? And if he goes, we get our money back. He's a great player, a valued one, but he is no legend up in Newcastle and I personally am like every other fan, players are dispensable so long as the replacement is better. I'd be more concerned if we were to lose Given, Parker or Taylor.

Do you have chants for us about him?

TB: Not really... I'm in a hurry, if you really want one let me know and I'll recall/think of one by tomorrow

JB:Work in progress, I’m sure come Boxing Day there’ll be a musical masterpiece all ready to be unleashed.

HWTT: We put wur millions in
And got wor Michael Out
In Out In Out
We blew the scousers out

Now we’ve got Michael Owen
And they’ve got Peter Crouch
That’s why the Geordies Shout

Ohhhhhh – we’ve got Michael Owen
Ohhhhhh – they’ve got Peter Crouch
Ohhhhhh – we’ve got Michael Owen

Why the Blaydon Races and what are the actual words ?

JB: Quick history lesson here. As far as I know, the Blaydon Races was a song written by George Ridley describing the horse race that took place (in Blaydon) every year, until they eventually stopped in September 1916. The song was made popular by a Geordie comedian known as “Scatter” and the chant has been sung ever since. There are plenty of verses but what you’ll hear from the away end will just be the chorus, which goes;

Oh me lads ye should a' seen us gannin',
Passin' the folks upon the road,
Just as they were stannin'
Thor wes lots o' lads and lasses there,
All wi' smilin' faces,
Gannin' alang the Scotswood Road
Te' see the Blaydon Races

TB: "o lads, ye should only seen us gannin,
we passed the foakes upon the road
just as they wor stannin;
thor wes lots o'  lads an lasses there,
all wi smilin' faces
gannin' alang the scotswood road,
to see the blaydon races"

or...

Howay the lads, the Mackems got a hiding,

Down to Division Two is where the twats are slidin,

It'll be good to see the Geordie lads all with smiling faces,

Gannin along the Scotswood Road, to see the Blaydon Races.

HWTT: The song was penned by George Ridley (or Geordie Ridley as he is better known as) back in 1862, just one of many songs he wrote celebrating Geordie life, culture and events. The Blaydon Races is a famous local race and people still run in it today. Over the generations the song has become a Geordie anthem. It's a brilliant anthem and we are very proud of it, it's very uplifting, witty and it is world famous having been sung in every corner of the globe since, well since the 1800s. It's our 'God Save the Queen' if you like. If you get a chance to listen to the song, do so, it'll put a smile on your face. The actual lyrics can be found here: http://www.newcastle-online.com/geordiemusic_nufcsongs/blaydonraces.shtml

Your worst player(s)?

TB: Hmm, tricky one. Amdy Faye (technically, according to opta index, half the player he was at Portsmouth - he's shit), Kieron Dyer just for being an annoying, perpetually injured, over-rated waste of space. With an attitude problem (liver problem not related to 'lifestyle'? Fuck off).

JB: Jean-Alain Boumsong has proved to be a monumental waste of money at £8m, prone to lapses in concentration, being out of position and generally not doing the job he’s paid very handsomely to do. One good thing about him is that he’s got pace, which was useful in keeping Henry fairly quiet in the first game of the season at Highbury. Amdy Faye, in the words of Graeme Souness, was bought to “readdress a serious imbalance in midfield”. If anything, he creates a “serious imbalance” when he plays. Utter shite.

HWTT: I won't single out any names, as that would be unfair. Lets just say we have a few under performing players, a few players who aren't nor ever will be good enough and a few who need to start justifying their price tags and weekly wage on a more regular basis. But we are no different to any other club with our quota of 'bad' players.

Do you have a particular memory of any previous meeting between our clubs?  Our matches have a history of high scoring - do you think that'll continue ?

JB: Who could forget the two 4-3 thrillers? The first one, in particular, was an absolutely cracking match. End to end stuff, high drama, passion, emotion, the game had it all. Well, all apart from a Newcastle win. Despite the defeat, I still feel proud that we played our part in “the game of the decade”.  I hope that the upcoming game can provide a decent level of entertainment and that there are plenty of goals involved.

HWTT: How can anyone forget those two 4-3 defeats, I certainly never will. The 3-0 win at St. James' Park in '93 sticks out as does the return match that same season at Anfield, a 2-0 win for the Toon. A particularly poignant day being the 5th anniversary of Hillsborough and an end of an era with the Kop end. The hairs stand up on my neck just thinking about the atmosphere and that bairn wearing his Black & White shirt placing a wreath on the centre-circle. The whole stadium was singing 'Walk On' at one point if I remember correctly. Happy days for Newcastle. Going to Anfield and winning, you can't beat that. And I don't think we have won since in the League. Hopefully that barren run will come to an end on Boxing Day...

TB: Any of the 4-3's, though the second was a fairly poor match (didn't Warren Barton even get a goal for us?). I'm just pleased Owen is on our side now, he used to rip us to shreds.

Any young up and coming players in the squad that we might not know about?

TB: Peter Ramage is not a bad player and looks promising, and if we hang onto carr till he retires/dies/gets a dyer-esque perpetual injury, it's likely Ramage will be his successor at right-back. N'zogbia looks pretty smart too and is (amazingly) French but without an attitude!

JB: Steven Taylor’s the obvious one to talk about, a decent centre half with a serious future in the acting business, as anyone would have noticed following last season’s goal-line handball against Aston Villa. Charlie “Zoggy” N’Zogbia is a little gem, a wonderful leaving present from Sir Bobby. Peter Ramage is another one to watch out for, not the most technically gifted player in the world but a local lad who always gives 100%.

HWTT: We have a few. Taylor you will probably be aware of. He has the lot as a centre-back and Gerrard Houllier tried to tap him up a few seasons back, taking in numerous reserve team games. He has been out with a shoulder injury but is back in the squad for this match. Whether he plays any part, remains to be seen but he is a special talent. Peter Ramage is another one, while he lacks the all-round technical ability of Taylor, but he hasn't put a foot wrong since breaking into the first-team and has covered every position at the back. He reminds me of Jamie Carragher, not especially gifted but he's committed, strong and defensively switched on. His position is at centre-half but Stephen Carr has a job on at right-back to get into the team now, such has been his performances. In midfield Charles N'Zogbia, the 19 year-old Frenchman, has performed really well and looks a special talent. With 3 goals and 6 assists this season he was proving to be a key player before his injury. Tim Krul our 17 year-old Dutch 'keeper looks a prospect and is winning rave reviews for the reserves and Academy sides. He looks imposing and could go all the way.

What sort of line-up will Souness put out against us?

JB: It all depends on the “injuries” that he’ll no doubt mention at least 400 times in the build up to the fixture. Given that Kieron Dyer’s broken down in training today (again), and being hopelessly optimistic that everyone else will be fit, this will be Souness’ first choice line-up. In a 4-4-2 formation – Given; Carr, Boumsong, Taylor, Babayaro; Solano, Parker, Emre, Luque; Shearer, Owen.

TB: Hopefully the strongest he can, though that counts for nothing if you have no tactics (which so far this season we haven't). Probably:

Given, Carr, Taylor, Boumsong, Babayaro, Solano, Emre, Parker, Luque, Owen, Shearer.

HWTT: With Carr, Taylor, Celestine Babayaro, Albert Luque and Emre all back in the squad for this match, who knows. We'll line up 4-4-2 and I expect Babayaro, Luque and Emre to replace Robbie Elliott at left-back, Shola Ameobi on the left flank and Scott Parker in the centre respectively. Otherwise it will be an unchanged side from the one that beat West Ham 4-2 at Upton Park.

Where do you expect yourselves and Liverpool to finish in the premier league?

TB: Both upper mid-table, possibly pushing for 4th.

JB: Despite the slight blip in October, you seem to be having a decent season, solid defensively and decent going forward. Now that Crouch is off the mark I expect more to follow and with a right-winger and centre back to arrive in January you’ll go from strength to strength. Second place isn’t an unrealistic aim. As far as we’re concerned, sixth is what we should be aiming for, but in my heart of hearts I’m preparing myself for another season of mid-table mediocrity, given how thin our squad is.

HWTT: I expect Liverpool to finish 2nd and if Chelsea drop points or hit a bad run of form, it would be interesting to see how Liverpool would react. As for Newcastle, anywhere between 15th and 6th so I'll go with 10th place, sadly.

Which Liverpool player will you fear the most?

TB: On the grounds that we have severe problems with set peices anyway, I reckon it could be time for crouch to get his first hattrick in red. Assuming you can find a winger or a tactic that can actually get crosses to him.

JB: It has to be Steven Gerrard. He’s got so much energy and stamps his authority from the middle of the park. I’m sure that Scotty Parker will be given instructions to keep a close eye on him.

HWTT: Xabi Alonso for me is your key player, he dictates the game and acts as the playmaker, he can also sit and protect the back-four. If he is on his game, he can dominate the centre, the most important area of the park.

How long will you keep Souness for?

TB: Dunno, the fat controller would be admitting defeat after backing him to the hilt. We'll probably still have him in the conference with shepherd still insisting that he made the right choice.

JB: After the abysmal defeats at Everton and Wigan Reserves, many believed that if we were to lose the Aston Villa game he’d be relieved of his duties. He seems to be clinging onto his job for now, probably not because Shepherd believes in him, but because of the lack of decent managers that would be avaliable to step into the hotseat. He’ll definitely be off at the end of the season, I don’t think we’ll be able to stand any more of his negative tactics and excuses.

HWTT: He will forever be one or two defeats away from the chop. Newcastle have already been sounding out possible replacements and he is basically clinging on to his job by the skin of his teeth. As fans we win either way. If we win games, we pick up points, if we lose games, Souness gets the chop.

Care to predict the score? Go on!

TB: I'll go for a diplomatic 2-2

JB: Well I’ve got to be optimistic haven’t I? 2-1 the Toon, Shearer and Owen on the scoresheet.

HWTT: Liverpool have not lost a game in which they have taken the lead in so if you score first, you will win. On the road Newcastle have not lost a game we have taken the lead in so if we score first, given your lack of goals (although you do have a better record than us, 20 to 17 in your favour), it could get interesting. I'll go with a 1-1 draw with that little Michael fella grabbing our goal.

Have you been to Anfield before? What are your impressions and/or expectations.  How do you find atmosphere, things like ynwa etc. What one thing would you change in terms of how away fans are treated here?

HWTT: I have, aye. Anfield is a traditional stadium and while it's showing its age, it has lots of character and the trip is always a special one regardless. The atmosphere, like all grounds, our own even, is disappointing to say the least. Although when we play each other it always seems canny enough. The YNWA chant, well it's a classic, along with our own Blaydon Races. It's an anthem and being part of a crowd singing that, raises those hairs on your neck. In general I think away fans are treated OK at Anfield - the home fans are canny enough, never no trouble and it's always a good trip. The stewards requesting fans to sit is a big gripe of mine, but they are only doing their job I suppose and it's not like it only happens at Anfield because it doesn't.

TB: Don't really remember too much, think it was coca-cola cup in about 1996 (steve watson chipped david james).

JB: I have been to Anfield before and was most impressed. It’s a lovely stadium, full of history and tradition. Hearing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” whilst looking at the Kop was a pretty incredible sight. I know that standing isn’t permitted in away grounds due to the obvious safety reasons, but I thought that the stewards were slightly on the heavy handed side in trying to get people to sit down. Other than that, it was a good day out, some decent banter afterwards with your lot in the Arkles.     

What's the deal with the bellies out? Is there a minimum temperature you have before they have to stay in?

JB: I’ve never exposed myself at a game before so can’t really comment. I have immense respect and admiration for those brave enough to remove their shirts on a damp, freezing cold night in Grimsby! “Pogo if you love the Toon” is one custom that I do join in with, though.

TB: no comment.

HWTT: Because we're are 'ard bastards... Nah, we just like getting our man boobs out. We have no inhibitions and we don't feel the cold like others do (cough... Southerners). I know it's not to everyone's taste, but football is tribal and we're just going back to our roots, before donning our suits, overalls or whatever on Monday week.

Why should you be considered a 'big' club?

TB: We have a bigger stadium than you and were still in the top 10 most valuable football clubs ... and all our fans spend stupid amounts on shirts.

HWTT: That's for others to pontificate. For me, it's not even a question. The big club debate is boring and at the end of the day, means naff all if you're aren't bagging trophies. Luckily we seem to win a lot of them so.…

JB: I’ve never really understood what criteria have to be fulfilled in order for a club to be regarded as ‘big’. Is it fan base, stadium size, current division, size of town/city, trophies won or funds available? It’s probably a combination of all of the above. I believe that we are a big club. St. James’ is packed with 52,000 every week, we have a passionate fan base, we’ve competed in the Champions League and the UEFA Cup recently and are fairly sound financially. Admittedly, the Fairs Cup in 1969 is the last trophy in the cabinet (sadly we failed to win the prestigious “Newcastle Gateshead Cup” in 2004 !) but I’m sure that success is just around the corner - we’re due a trophy sooner or later!

Thanks to all concerned for their help.

© hinesy 2005


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