Spyin' Kop: Newcastle United (Away), Sunday 19th March

Posted by hooded claw on March 16, 2006, 04:32:53 PM

So, who says we can’t score and our strikers are shooting blanks? (No offence, Mrs Cisse).

Fresh from our mauling of a spirited Fulham, our next appointment is at St James’ Park. Another bizarre KO time in a season which has already seemed to go on for ever, and which has borne many hallmarks of PIFF (Post-Istanbul Fan Fatigue).

This, our 4,397th game of the season, comes in an up-and-down run of results for the Reds. The home tie on Boxing Day was a surprisingly easy affair, but this one promises to be far more testing.

Newcastle's last time out saw a dispiriting capitulation to a rampant Manchester United, and they weill be eager to make amends at the first opportunity.

Thanks go to Mark Tansey and Jonny Hall of Newcastle Online (http://www.newcastle-online.com/) for their help in answering Spyin’ Kop’s questions. A very decent pair of gents.

Spyin' Kop: How has the season been shaping up for you? You must be a lot happier these last few weeks, surely?

Jonny: The season as a whole has been a complete failure. Graeme Souness should have left ages ago and maybe Glen Roeder and Alan Shearer could have made it a success. The past few weeks have been great with Roeder having us play great attacking football and everyone is happy again. He has installed passion into the side and the determination and the defence is 200% better. He is also bringing out the best in Jean Alain Boumsong, Nolberto Solano and Shola Ameobi.

Mark: The feel good factor is definitely back, you can see it in the fans arriving at the games, that they’re enjoying going again. There were times under Souness when it seemed people were turning up more out of duty than to enjoy themselves.

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

Jonny: It may be a high expectation but the way we have been playing football recently and the results we have been getting and the fixtures to come, I think Europe is an option. Top 6 is realistic but Top 4 is possible if we can get good results against yourselves and Manchester United.

Mark: We’re not too far off, the top 6 now. I was surprised how tight the league was, some were even talking about relegation survival not too long ago. I think if we get into the top 6 and qualify for Europe we’d have done very well to salvage something from the wreckage.

A word on the next manager? Who's the popular choice, and how realistic are the chances

Jonny: My ideal candidate would be Ottmar Hitzfeld. He has won the Champions League twice and was also voted World Manager of the Year on two occaisions. He is proven successful and is ready to manage in England. In my opinion he would be an instant success. In fact Newcastle fans started a campaign www.hitzfeldforthetoon.com to get him put in charge and I am currently working on a 'Why Newcastle?' dossier with some other people to attract Ottmar to apply for the job. It is likely however that Freddy Shepherd would not approach this sort of man since he is not 'British' so I reckon it will be given to Martin O'Neill. If not him then Allardyce, Ranieri, Paul Jewell or Glenn Roeder.

Mark: I'd love to see us go for Ottmar Hitzfeld. You just need to take a look at his CV to be impressed. He's won the Champions League with Dortmund and Bayern Munich, as well as domestic honours with them. However, quotes attributed to Shepherd suggested he wasn't keen, though he did deny saying them. I still find him an unlikely appointment. Failing that, I'd like to see us go for Martin O'Neil. He has a lot of passion for his teams, and has done a good job improving every team he's been with.

Who do you think are your most important players?

Jonny: Alan Shearer has been a great player this season. He may be getting on in his years but the attacking line is just not the same without him. Emre and Parker have made our central midfield unstoppable and Shay Given has also performed to a top standard. Charles N'Zogbia is also fast becoming a star.

Mark: Given, Taylor, Parker, Emre, Owen, and Shearer.

Go on- name and shame. Your worst player(s)?

Jonny: I wouldn't like to say that we had any bad players really. Shola Ameobi is too inconsistent and can have a period of good games and score a few goals then have a period of bad games and look terrible. Albert Luque has also shown nothing on the pitch. He is yet to adapt but does not look the best player at the moment.

Mark: Bramble and Boumsong still have huge question marks over them, as does Luque who has failed to impress since moving in the summer.

Do you have a particular memory of any previous meeting between our clubs?  Say something that happened to you that day or a decision you disagreed with?

Jonny: Not really although there has been some great games in the past. I am a referee and I have disagreed with Crouch's goal at Anfield since the day it was on. To others it looks over the line but I am sure that it is still just shadowing over the line which means it is not a goal. That is just nit picking though.

Mark: I always remember the 4-3 games, mainly because of Sky banging on about them all the time. Everyone seemed to enjoy them except the Newcastle faithful!
I also remember a 2-0 victory for Newcastle at Anfield, although I didn’t attend, which fell on the anniversary of Hillsborough. The relationship between the two fans was excellent, and the Newcastle fans sang along with ‘You’ll never walk alone’ and laid wreaths.

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

Jonny: Well Charles N'Zogbia and Peter Ramage are two good players but they are fast developing themselves a reputation so they are pretty well known as threats to any team. James Milner is a good young star but he is unavailable due to his loan to Aston Villa and I also like the look of Alan O'Brien but the chances are that he will not be involved at all.

Mark: We have Steven Taylor, though I’m not too sure how well known he is outside of Newcastle. He’s been the one to watch for many years as he progressed through the youth ranks. He’s made the transition to first team football brilliantly; it was a major disappointment when he picked up his nasty shoulder injury. Hopefully, he’ll come back stronger and better. Charles N’Zogbia is another one, who I have high hopes for. He’s added many assists to his name this season, and is really making the left-wing his own.

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

Jonny: It pretty much picks itself with Owen, Taylor, Carr, Dyer and Bramble out. All are recovering but the Liverpool game will come just to early for them. It will be something along the lines of Given, Ramage, Boumsong, Elliott, Babayaro, Solano, Parker, Emre, N'Zogbia, Ameobi, Shearer with a 4-4-2 formation.

Mark: Most likely: Given, Babayaro, Ramage, Boumsong, Elliott or Bramble (if fit), N’Zogbia, Solano, Emre, Parker, Shearer, Ameobi. Dyer might be back and could feature.
Do you have a favourite/best chant(s) and perhaps any that require an explanation?

Jonny: Myself? I personally enjoy the Shearer chants when he scores. The good old fashioned 'SSHHHEEEAAARRRREEERRR SSHHHEEEAAARRRREEERRR' and 'Hey, Hey Shearer'.
The regulars include the likes of 'Geordie Boot Boy', 'Toon Toon Black and White Army' and 'United! United!'

Mark: The ‘Blaydon Races’ I love it. All about Geordie culture and history, and very unique to our region. When it gets belted out by the Toon faithful it sends shivers down my back!

Where do you expect Newcastle and Liverpool to finish in the Premier League?

Jonny: I expect Liverpool to finish second. They are looking very good this season and Manchester United and Arsenal are falling behind. They have what it takes to beat Man U to the runnners up spot.

Mark: I think you have a great chance of coming second. It’s between yourselves and Man Utd. I’ll stick my neck out and back Liverpool.

Which Liverpool player will you fear the most?

Jonny: The only one you can fear at Liverpool; Steven Gerrard. Whenever he gets the ball against Newcastle and is close to goal, I fear for us because he can score from anywhere on the pitch practically. Amazing player and great passer as well.

Mark: Steven Gerrard, no doubt. One of the best midfielders in the world in my opinion, when he’s off form, Liverpool don’t seem themselves. Xabi Alonso also looks a neat and tidy player.

And your feelings on the new 'Spanish flavour' Liverpool- Senor 'Rafa' Benitez and our new latin recruits?

Jonny: It is not great for the Premiership I think. It is a good team with some great players but this is not Spain, it is England and there are too many foreigners in the side. Liverpool are fast becoming the next Arsenal and Benitez is doing with Spanish recruits what Wenger did with French and I thought it's terrible the times that Arsenal put out full teams with no English players in. I really hope that does not happen with Liverpool.

Mark: When we won 1-0 at St. James’ last season, a lot of the foreign players just seemed to let their heads drop, and had no passion. That seems to have been corrected now, and the wasters shipped out. I think Benitez has done a great job, the Champions League final was the stuff of fairytales.

Care to predict the score?  Go on, you know you want to.

Jonny: I am going to say 2-1 to Newcastle with Shearer and Solano getting the goals for us and Gerrard with the consolation.

I’d be happy with a draw, so I’ll go for 1-1.

 How do you rate the atmosphere at your ground? What will our travelling support add, do you think?

Jonny: The atmosphere at St James Park is the best in the Premiership. No side would get the numbers that we get week in week out if they had played the Newcastle have in previous seasons but we do and we, the fans, keep coming back and singing match after match. Since Souness has left, we have been even better and the fans have really got behind the team. Liverpool fans are going to need to match that if they are going to be heard but I have no doubt that they will help to make it a great match for everyone.

I have never been to Anfield but it is a great ground like St James Park. The fans that go there and to SJP really care about their sides and are not glory seekers like the fans who visit Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge. I love YNWA, it is a great song and I wish Newcastle had a song like that to sing every home game. The fans in the Kop can always lift the team when they are down.

Liverpool always sell out, and tend to be more vocal than a lot of other teams who come here. Occasional witty songs too, which are always good for a laugh. The atmosphere isn’t what it once was at St. James’ with friends separated under the constraints of season tickets and strict stewarding. A section of supporters up the top to the left of the away fans, where I sit, try to get some atmosphere going, and stand up, but often come into conflict with stewards, and some fans have been ejected for it, which has soured the mood amongst fans.

As a regular attender of NUFC away games, I’ve attended Anfield on a number of occasions, and I think it’s fair to say it’s one of the best trips of the season. Especially compared to Everton. The blue half are an odd bunch, and often hostile and aggressive. Never had any problems at all mixing with Liverpool fans, and have often had great conversation with Liverpool fans. The scarfs and banners in the Kop are top notch, something which the English game is severely lacking now. The Cup game a couple of years ago was noisy, but during the League games the Liverpool faithful were quieter than I expected. Boxing Day was noisier.

 Are there any travel hostpots/advice on car parking etc you can help us out with?

Jonny: Don't take a car. Newcastle may be a big city but all of the car parks are always full up on matchday. Half of the people are going to the match and half are just shopping in the town. Next to impossible to get a spot unless you come 5-6 hours earlier. Stick to coach.

Mark: With the ground being right in the City Centre, and shoppers out and about etc. it can get very congested car wise.

Oh, and some of our readers will never forgive me if I don't trot out The Big Question (yawn)- 'So...Michael Owen...’(raised eyebrow, wry smile) ‘... expecting him to stay for long?'

Jonny: Yes. He said he signed a four-year deal and that he would stay for four years and I believe he will. Why else would he sign a four-year deal? Why not just sign a two-year deal. As far as I am concerned, he is a Newcastle player and a Newcastle player he shall remain.

Mark: Really not sure. He talks a good game in the press saying how settled he was in Northumberland, and how the family were enjoying living in the North-East and getting his daughter into a school etc. but I understand he said the same sort of things regards signing a new contract at Liverpool before running it down, and leaving at a knockdown price. If the team continue to under-achieve too, he might be away, possibly next summer as opposed to this one. I have no doubt big wages, and an easy path into the first team for World Cup year, were the big factors in him joining us.

Oh, last but not least, and just because I can... "Barnes, Rush, Barnes. Still John Barnes...COLLYMORE CLOSING IN! Liverpool lead in stoppage time!"     

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