Spyin' Kop: Newcastle United at home, Premiership, 20/09/2006

Posted by hooded claw on September 18, 2006, 02:26:14 PM

So, here we go again.

Woe is us, the end is nigh, the Four Horsemen are cantering toward Anfield as we speak… either that, or  we have started a difficult patch of games slowly, but are improving. You pays your money, yadda yadda yadda.
The loss on Sunday against the successively crowned Champions was a disappointment, but pales against the hurt of last weekend. There were more positives to cling to, though; Daniel Agger looks a tremendous find, and if there's a harder-working striker around than Mr Kuyt, his name escapes me right now. There’s a growing feeling that ‘it’ will soon click into place, and when it does, someone is going to get a hammering.

Which brings us to this Wednesday’s game against Newcastle. Rarely a dull 90 minutes this one, and we meet a team which has also stuttered this season. Fresh from their convincing win away at West Ham, the Barcodes have perhaps begun to find some form as they travel to Anfield.

For this edition of SK, we are again indebted to Jonny Hall, Mark Tansey and ‘Freddie’, of Newcastle Online. Their answers predate Shay Given’s injury on Sunday; we wish him all the best as he recovers from surgery.

Thanks for your help gents.

Liverpool v Newcastle
Wednesday 20th September 2006
KO: 8.00pm
Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancashire)

Although it's early on, how do you feel about the way your season has started?

Mark: We had a nice run in pre-season after an initial disappointing result at home to Lillestrom. We picked up, and as our match-fitness improved we started to play some decent football. However, our last two league games have been very disappointing. Against Villa and Fulham when our defence came under any form of pressure we simply buckled and shipped in goals that were down to individual errors and a lack of concentration. We’ve had our fair share of possession as well in these games without creating clear-cut chances at the other end; we need to be more ruthless when we have a spell of pressure.

Jonny: I'm very dissapointed. Looking at Roeder's mini-run last season, I think we were on a 10 League Games unbeaten run until the Villa game.
In all of the games (Intertoto, Friendlies etc.) Newcastle have looked very very poor. Although we have picked up victories, we have rode a luck alot of the time and our recent our luck has ran out. Our transfer window deals were poor and I just don't think Roeder is up to the job of managing a club where expectation levels are so high.

Freddie: Very worried, though not suicidal like some fans. We scraped a relatively decent victory against Wigan, got ourselves through into the UEFA Cup, but have been atrocious in our last two games. We need to improve, and quickly, but it ain't gonna happen in our coming games (West Ham away, Pool away, Everton home and Man Utd away). New signing(s) need to improve massively, Martins has hardly had a kick in his first two games and Duff has been ineffectual, but I think we will improve eventually. Souness left a huge mess, Roeder is doing all he can to sort it out.

What are your expectations for this season? Have they changed from day one? Where do you see yourselves in the grand scheme of things- about to break into the 'Big 4 or 5'?

Mark: I think we have a pretty decent first 11 on paper, but then looking past that when injuries and suspensions built up the squad begins to look pretty desperate again and I don’t think we have enough in it to trouble the top 4. Depending on our luck with injuries etc. I’d like to see us put some pressure on Spurs for 5th place. At the bare minimum I don’t see why Roeder cant lead us to 6th or even emulate last seasons 7th place finish considering we’ve gotten rid of some of the deadwood and are basically using the same players who got us there last season with the addition of Duff and Martins who are improvements.

Jonny:  Well if you had asked me this on the first day of the Premiership season I would have said my expectations were high and that I fully expected us to break into the Top 5 at least. We were being linked with the likes of Klose, Wayne Bridge and Thomas Gravesen and the feeling I got was that we were going to spend big and I thought on the back of signings like them, we would recapture our Sir Bobby Robson form.
However instead of Klose we got Rossi, instead of Gravesen we got Sibierksi and instead of Bridge, we got Bernard so as you can guess my expectation levels have dropped. Unless we go on a spending spree in January, we'll be lucky to hit the Top 10.
Freddie: No way. 7th again would be an achievement. Avoiding relegation is a priority to be honest, but I don't think it has really dropped that far yet, we're just panicking.
Are you happy with your summer buys? Duff looks like a fantastic signing, and one many of us coveted for years. Are you pleased to have got shot of those who have been shipped out too?

Mark: I was very pleased with the signing of Duff; though have to confess I knew little about Obafemi Martins. Duff’s been all over for us, starting out at left-wing, then he supported Ameobi centrally, and recently has been playing on the right-wing. He’s still settling in at the moment but he’s looked lively and will hopefully begin to stamp his class on games. Martins has only played in 2 brief appearances for us and to be honest, it’s been hard to judge him. He’s not really been involved much in those games, but showed brief glimpses that he may just have something about him. Olivier Bernard we knew all about, and I’m pleased he came back to the club as Babayaro has been off-form in recent weeks and needs a bit of competition. As for those who’ve been shown the door, I can’t have any complaints. We’ve done well getting around £3m for Boumsong and £2m for Amady Faye.

Jonny:   There is no doubting the quality of our first couple of signings. I have no problem with them at all. Duff is an absolute steal and I still can't believe Chelsea let go at £5m. With decent target men upfront in the future, he will be an asset and will eventually help us back into the Top 4.
Martins I admire as a forward but not so much as a goalscorer. He lacks height and it will take him some time to get used to the strength of this league, if he can adapt though, he can be our Bellamy replacement; someone we've lacked over the past two years.
Rossi is a young prospect but he is not fully developed at this level. He'd be good if he'd signed on a five-year deal but a 4 month loan suggests we need a quick fire fix and that is someone that he is not yet.
Sibierski is the funniest transfer that I've heard of in my time supporting Newcastle. When others were nearly in tears when we announced his capture on deadline day, I just couldn't stop laughing.
I'm happy to see Bernard back for sentimental reasons. I would rather have Bridge in terms of attributes but to me Bernard is seen by me like Shay Given and Gary Speed are seen by others. He just wants to play for this club and it puts a smile on my face when he puts the Black and White shirt on.

Freddie: Not particularly, Duff we know is a good player, Martins could be. The problem with us is that we spend £10m and hope our signing is good. Everyone else spends £10m and knows they have signed quality. It's strange for us - for that money we should have guaranteed quality. Glad we got money back on Bungsong and Faye, shame little Rocky Chopra left but he wanted to go, and Bowyer never really did it for us.
Last time we spoke (http://www.redandwhitekop.com/forum/index.php?topic=113633.0) the fans were very much up for getting Hitzfeld installed as manager. How do you feel about Mr Roeder?
Mark: I was quite pleased for him when he got the job. He’d earned it in all honesty too. My only concern with regards to him is how well known he is, and his ability to attract top class players. However, he always says the right things in his interviews and demonstrates an excellent level of knowledge about the game. He’s also a great coach and many players have come out in praise for him in the way he’s worked with them on their game to improve themselves. I think he’s still trying to clear up the mess Souness left at the moment.

Jonny: At the end of last season I thought why not? I mean he took us to 7th and had the team playing together again. However now it appears the "honeymoon" period has worn off and we are seeing the real Glenn Roeder and I don't like it. He doesn't respond well to pressure and is just a puppet to Freddy Shepherd. Shepherd knows that now he can bring back Shearer to the fold without being opposed by Roeder.
If he had O'Neill or Hitzfeld in place then they would refuse to have Shearer back and Freddy's little plan would be in tatters.

Freddie: Worried. I think he has the best interests of the club at heart but he's not good enough, essentially. I trust him to do his all for us though, more than Sourmess.
Now the totemic Shearer’s finally gone and Owen has injured himself so badly, is this going to be a (you must be sick of the phrase) season of transition for you?

Mark: I think in all honesty it was probably going to be one anyway regardless of whether Owen was fit or not. Roeder probably didn’t get the signings in he may have liked too. I think the majority of Newcastle fans would be reasonably happy with a good run in the cups maybe sneaking the UEFA or League Cup and a premiership finish offering an automatic place in Europe.

Jonny: Yes, we're going to get worse. We have nobody like Shearer or Owen who can stick the ball into the net every week. When you don't score goals, you don't win games and I'm already considering writing this season off a failure and we're still in September.

Freddie: Another! Every season is a transitional season for us unfortunately. The Owen injuries have knocked us for six...twice. It's a crying shame because we were excellent when he played last season.

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

Mark: Scott Parker has taken over the captaincy, and he’s grabbed it with both hands leading by example. He’s been fantastic for us, and he’s even popped up with a couple of goals already, which we badly need from midfield. Added to this Duff’s creativity in midfield will also be vital and he’ll be a big player for us. Shay Given is another huge player for us too, and he’s one of the best goalkeepers in the premiership for me. Shola Ameobi has always had his fair share of critics from Newcastle fans in his career but since Shearer’s retirement he seemed to relish in the added responsibility and he was starting to score on a regular basis for us. He still has his niggling hip injury though and didn’t do himself justice against Fulham in our last game.

Jonny: Scott Parker is the most important player for us. He appears to be the only one scoring goals at one end and trying to keep them out at the other. There are very few players giving their all this season but he is definately not one of them. His importance showed against Fulham when he went off and then we conceded twice and lost. He's the rock that sometimes holds this team together.

Freddie: Scott Parker by a country mile, he was phenomenal against Fulham and has been all season. How he isn't playing for England is anyones guess.

Your worst player(s)? (no prizes for guessing…)

Mark: Babayaro and Bramble have been making mistakes all pre-season and into the season and have been pretty dreadful in my opinion. Albert Luque has also played with little desire and just doesn’t seem interested. I feel he’s playing to be away. 

Jonny: Titus Bramble, Celestine Babayaro, Albert Luque, Antonie Sibierski.... I could go on. There are alot of players at this club that shouldn't be here but we are stuck with them because we have a rubbish board, a rubbish chairman and a rubbish manager.

Freddie: Take your pick from Titanic Shambles, Steve Lard, Celestine "slight tweak" Babayaro, Peter "slips at the vital moment" Ramage...

Do you have a particular memory of any previous meeting between our clubs?  Say something that happened to you that day or a decision that still rankles?
Mark: Nothing else that I didn’t say the last time really. I really enjoy the trips to Liverpool, and I expect this one will be a great laugh too. Hopefully, as it’s a Wednesday night the more hardcore travelling fans will be in attendance back the team a little more than in recent visits to Anfield. I get fed up with all the anti-Liverpool songs too from the zany teenage lot!

Jonny: Well I'm a referee and I also refuse to admit that a team is beating Newcastle lawfully. I remember being sat in my house on Boxing Day of last year with my family watching Liverpool vs Newcastle when Peter Crouch headered the ball onto the post and it rolled across the line and went in before Given parried it away.
I watched the replays a million times and I was adament that the whole of the ball wasn't over all of the line even though there was about a cm in it. I was the only one who was complaining though, I later gave in.

Freddie: The night in 1996 when Collymore smashed our hearts into a million peices. That night will never ever leave me. An absolutely devastating loss in an incredible game that set us well on the way to blowing the title.

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

Mark: Charles N’Zogbia has been immense for us. When Duff was bought, I felt for him, as he hadn’t put a foot wrong for us last season. However, he’s clung on to his place and Duff has been operating on the right hand side, often drifting inside looking for space and openings.

Jonny: Matty Pattison and Alan O'Brien are two bright, young midfielders with alot of pace but I don't think that they will play in any way at Anfield. At this point I would have mentioned James Milner as an up and coming star but after the deadline day disaster his confidence has been badly knocked and I don't think he wants to play for us anymore.

Freddie: Not really, only Charlie Zog, though Matty Pattison has a bright future, he's very highly rated up here and broke into the first team for a spell last season. He's comfortable on the ball, cultured and can push the team forward.

He’s always looked promising to me too, and that final-day farrago looked bizarre, to say the least. OK, on to this Wednesday ... what sort of line-up will be put out against us?  

Mark: Given, Carr, Bramble, Moore, Babayaro or Bernard, Duff, Emre, Parker, N’Zogbia, Ameobi (if fit) or Rossi, Martins.

Jonny: I expect Bernard to be getting fitter by this game and I could see him grabbing a start. The lineup will probably be:
Shay Given, Stephen Carr, Steven Taylor/Titus Bramble, Craig Moore,Olivier Bernard/Celestine Babayaro. Damien Duff, Scott Parker,Emre,Charles N'Zogbia. Shola Ameobi, Obafemi Martins.

Freddie: Barring any more crazy injuries, I'd plump for: Given; Babayaro, Bramble, Moore, Carr; Duff, Parker, Emre, Solano; Ameobi, Martins. N'Zogbia should really play, the back four should all be shot, but that's not going to happen I'd expect.

Do you have any favourite/best chant(s) and perhaps any that require an explanation?

Mark: Blaydon Races is my favourite NUFC song, real hairs on the back of the neck stuff when sang loud and proud.

Freddie: We were singing one for Oba Martins at Villa which went "21 or 28, 21 or 28, 21 or 28, Obafemi Martins" - a dig at those who still refuse to believe he's 21 and not 28 years old. Our chants aren't what they used to be...

Where do you expect Newcastle and Liverpool to finish in the Premier League?
Mark: Newcastle could finish anywhere between 6th and 10th I feel. I think Liverpool will finish 3rd again.

Jonny: Liverpool - Top 2 Newcastle - 10th. I think that either Liverpool or Man U will win the title and the other will finish 2nd with Chelsea 3rd. It's too early to predict though and it could go either way.

Freddie: Toon - at best 7th, though probably around 10th. Liverpool will push for the title I think, but anywhere from 3rd upwards would be a fantastic achievement.

Which Liverpool player will you fear the most?

Mark: Gerrard as ever is dangerous, but Craig Bellamy was one of my favourite players when he was at Newcastle and he’ll be revved up for the game if he starts. His pace could trouble Moore who’s not the fastest but compensates with his good football brain. If Bramble were to drop his now customary clanger I think in Bellamy and Gerrard there’s two players capable of punishing it.

Johnny: It's an easy answer really - Steven Gerrard. Anyone who can score a goal on the volley from 30 yards out is a threat. I admire him greatly as a player and he is one of the main reasons for Liverpool's evergrowing success.

Freddie: Bellamy, of course, due to his past, and his pace which will inevitably murder our pathetic back four. And Kuyt, as we were linked with him.

Care to predict the score?

Mark: Optimistically, a draw would be a good result for us I think, but I can see Liverpool just shading it. 2-1 to Liverpool.

Jonny: 2-0 Liverpool with Gerrard and Bellamy scorers.

Freddie: 3-0 to you lot, scorers will inevitably be Kuyt, Bellamy and perennial goalscorer against us Stevie Gerrard, who will smash one in from at least 25 yards.

Craig Bellamy. A controversial signing among many Reds, not least for his track record with your lot and his 'professional irritant' reputation, deserved or not. Presumably you rate him; how do we get the best out of him?

Mark: I know it's a huge cliché but the truth is, he has a fiery temperament and if you try and remove that part of his game, you lose out on many of his plus points too. He's fiercely committed to all the teams he plays for and he was loved up here, wearing his heart on his sleeve. I feel there was very much a sense of he may be a little shit but he was our little shit. There were a few incidents during his time at Newcastle most notably getting banned twice during our Champions League campaign. The first time after he headbutted one of the Dinamo Kiev defenders! However, he came back in style scoring the winner against Feyenoord which got us through to the 2nd phase group stage. The second one where he allowed himself to be wound up by the Italian defenders against Inter Milan. I also understand there was an incident before one of our UEFA Cup games at the airport where had a disagreement with our assistant manager of the time John Carver and a few chairs got thrown around! However, out on the pitch no-one could say he gave less than 100 per cent.

Jonny: Despite his firey attitude, I would welcome Bellamy back to Newcastle with open arms. I really admire him as a player; his pace, his skill, his all round play is great. Despite saying that though I was suprised Liverpool bought him. I don't see him as a player who can help to win a league for a team. He is perfect for a team like Spurs who are trying to break into the Top 4 but for Liverpool, I don't see him of great use to you.
How can Liverpool get the best out of him? By playing him. I was amazed to see him out of the 16 all together last week; it's very strange for a team to do that with a new signing. I know for sure that he won’t be happy about it. Bellamy throws his toys out of the pram when he is caught offside.
Lastly, were you seriously in for Kuyt? Or was it media bollocks again?
Mark: We had him watched during the World Cup and then Roeder went to Holland personally to watch him during a pre-season tournament and decided against making a move for him. I have to say he did nothing to make me feel he was worth more than £5m either, though not for the first time that may come back to haunt me.

Jonny: Well I don't know. We made no secret of the fact that we were watching him but when we signed Martins, Roeder said that Martins was his first choice all along and that we didn't want another striker.
My understanding of the situation is that Liverpool agreed a fee to sign him just after the World Cup and that all of Newcastle's scouting missions were just a waste of time.

Freddie: If we weren't, then why the hell weren't we...simple as that.
© hooded claw 2006

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