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Premiership Preview–12. Newcastle

Newcastle United FC Premiership Preview  12. Newcastle When Sam Allardyce left by “mutual consent” in early January, Newcastle turned to a familiar figure to turn the club’s fortunes around. I said it then and I’ll say it now: Kevin Keegan, who spent over a decade away from St. James Park before returning to take the reins, is a blast from the past and isn’t the answer going forward. When the “Geordie Messiah” took over, the club was in 11th place. They finished 12th, just a point ahead of arch-rival Middlesbrough.

Newcastle fans will continue to tell you that because they sell their stadium out for every game and their stadium is one of the largest in the Premiership, they support a “big club”. They conveniently fail to tell you, however, that the last time their club won a major trophy of any kind — and let me make this clear — was 1955, when they won the FA Cup.

Sorry, but the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup doesn’t count, at least not to me. The Intertoto Cup certainly doesn’t count because it’s not a lone-standing tournament, it leads into something else. The Anglo-Italian Cup doesn’t count either, nor do the Kirin or Texaco Cups. To be considered a “big club”, you have to win things! It’s that simple; you have to win silverware! If you can’t win a trophy, at least consistently challenge for one, either in the league or in domestic or continental cup competitions. Newcastle doesn’t even do that anymore, so they’re nowhere near “big club” status. At one point, they were, but that’s no longer the case.

The fact that more than 50,000 fans turn up for every home game to watch a mediocre team is a testament to them, yes, but it doesn’t mean the product they’re watching can be compared to the likes of the “Big Four” by any stretch of the imagination. They’re some of the best fans in the Premiership, but they’re gluttons for punishment.

Now that that is over with, let’s take a look at this season’s edition of the Magpies.

It’s been a pretty quiet summer on Tyneside. Keegan has brought in just two players so far, Jonás Gutiérrez and Danny Guthrie, both midfielders, although the permanent acquisition of young French defender Sébastien Bassong from FC Metz should be finalized within the next couple days. Five players have left St. James Park, including right back Stephen Carr and creative, but injury-prone, central midfielder Emre Belözoglu, who returned home to Turkey to play for Fenerbahçe. All-in-all, the moves in and out have essentially been a wash, with Newcastle not losing much or gaining much.

They are undoubtedly strongest up front, where they have three strikers in Michael Owen, Mark Viduka, and Obafemi Martins who are each capable of scoring 15 goals a season. Newcastle closed the ’07-’08 campaign in impressive fashion, going 5-3-2 in their last 10 games, including a seven-match unbeaten streak, to wind up in 12th after failing to win any of their first eight league fixtures under Keegan. It isn’t coincidental that that good run of form for Newcastle started when Keegan switched from a 4-4-2 and began playing Martins, Owen, and Viduka all at the same time. Those three lit it up at the end of the season, giving the club’s fans some hope heading into the summer and this season.

Projected Starting Lineup (4-3-1-2/4-3-3):
GK: Steve Harper

RB: Habib Beye
CB: Steven Taylor
CB: Abdoulaye Faye
LB: José Enrique

*RMF: Geremi
CMF: Nicky Butt
*LMF: Damien Duff

RF: Viduka
CF: Owen (captain)
LF: Martins

*The wide midfield positions are most up for grabs, and although those are my projected starters, others will see plenty of playing time. James Milner and Gutiérrez will both play on the right. Duff can play on either flank. Charles N’Zogbia is comfortable at both left back and left wing. Even Alan Smith can play anywhere in midfield, but he’s used more up front. Joey Barton was played on the left during the club’s late-season push, but he’ll miss the start of the season due to his incarceration, so look for either Duff or N’Zogbia to open the year there. During that run, Geremi played on the right, and I’m not sure Keegan will mess with what worked. The only sure starter is Butt, who is still a quality defensive midfielder.

Two of Newcastle’s first three matches are on the road, which is tough enough as it is, but these are even more difficult as they’re at Manchester United and Arsenal. Newcastle was outscored by a combined 8-0 in the corresponding fixtures last season, so an ugly start to this year is highly probable.

If that does come to fruition, Newcastle will get a chance to make it up in September and October. Those months bring home games against Hull City, Blackburn, Manchester City, and West Brom, all winnable, and road trips to West Ham and Everton, which aren’t extraordinarily difficult by any means. October 25 is the first of two Tyne-Wear derbies against Sunderland, with this one played at the Stadium of Light.

In an interesting schedule quirk, Newcastle will see West Ham, Blackburn, Man City, and Sunderland (in that order) again in January, and West Brom and Everton in the first two weeks of February. Everyone plays everyone else twice, but it’s rare to see the same opponents you played in one long stretch like that at two different times. Usually teams are scrambled up on the schedule and this kind of thing doesn’t happen, but it does in this case.

A brutal four-game stretch in March and early April brings matches against Man United, Arsenal, and Chelsea, all at St. James Park, broken up only by a visit to Hull.

Bottom Line: We’ll see if Keegan can reignite the flame that propelled Newcastle to that 5-3-2 record to finish last season. His strikers are good, as I mentioned before, but there are question marks at the back aside from Taylor and on the flanks, where it seems to be a case of musical chairs to determine starting spots. If he can push the right buttons again, Newcastle has a chance to be a top-10 team. If not, North East rivals Middlesbrough and Sunderland will be right on their heels, which is unthinkable for Newcastle fans.

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21 Responses to Premiership Preview–12. Newcastle

  1. Mala says:

    Clearly written by a Man Utd Fan?????

    Starting your “preview” by kicking the Geordies is a sure fire way to ensure they will not read nor respect your opinions. Why don’t you go and eat another prawn sandwich and concentrate on supporting which ever team is winning.

    Taxi to London anyone?

  2. Mala says:

    I would Love it if we beat Man U !!!

  3. Chad says:

    He’s not kicking the Geordies. He’s accurately explaining what every supporter other than those of Newcastle think of the club. Newcastle has some the best support, but the club’s trials and tribulations are well known. Don’t ‘kick’ the writer for realistically portraying the state of the club…unless you really think Keegan is the future or that the Intertoto cup counts as a respectable piece of silverware worth mentioning.

  4. Simon Burke says:

    I was listening to BBC’s the Monday Night Club and Ray Parlour, Steve Claridge and the host all fear for Newcastle a bit, plus the takeover saga surrounding them makes me think this is anothe reset season for Newcastle. Keegan must be peeved at the offseason progress. The squad listed above looks light to me and a bit on the old side too. I hope Newcastle do well however, one of the sides I like but I just think they are going to get off to a miserable start.

  5. so true says:

    such an accurate description of newcastle and its fans its scary. i salute you michael for coming out here and telling it like it is.

  6. Karthik Balasubramanian says:

    I think they would be better off with a 4-4-2.. its been too many times that the toon have been outplayed in midfield.. your formation of 3 midfielders with 3 holding mids will leave the forward line isolated.. especially I dont trust Viduka and Owen are very good coming deep to get the ball..

    Newcastle desperately need some width.. Geremi and Butt can add some steel in the midfield, but they are not too creative going forward.. They really need their creative wingers to play.. Milner/Gutierrez and Duff/N’Zogbia must play. Otherwise I see a complete lack of creativity in there..

    The toon also need a creative attacking midfielder for home games where they can try to play with just one holding midfielder

  7. Karthik Balasubramanian says:

    But.. they also need 2 Holding mid’s to bail out their ridiculous defense.. Getting Coloccini must be a priority..

  8. Michael says:

    I’m with you, Karthik, but Newcastle played their best last season with a 4-3-3 and 4-3-1-2, so I can’t see why Keegan would mess around with what worked.

    They have plenty of players who can play on the flanks, it’s just a question of whether or not Keegan will use them.

  9. When newcastle* wind up in the Championship next season, I’ll be leading the conga line.

    * – Not a typo, they just deserve a capital letter.

  10. john poulson says:

    wtf, what newcastle supporter has gone running round town braggin bout the intertoto cup ya f in wank. gluttons of punishment?? what choice do we have as supporters, we dont run the team if we won every year would that make us gluttons of victory just because our fans dont turn coat at the drop of a hat. f off you prat.

  11. Michael says:

    John, I was actually complimenting Newcastle fans in a way, but criticizing them at the same time. It’s great that they come out to watch their team every week no matter what, but they’re misguided in thinking their club belongs in the same sentence as England’s best. Maybe you’re not one of them, but trust me, I’ve heard way too many Newcastle fans try and convince me they support a “big club”.

  12. Hepstyle says:

    “Big Club” is pretty ambiguous on its own. Some Big Clubs are Big Clubs because they’re in the top four. I would dare say that Newcastle are a Big Club in their own right if only because their fans ARE so loyal. Perhaps we support a Big Club that refuses to play like one?

  13. Michael says:

    No, that’s impossible. The only way a “big club” can exist is through winning and continued success. Newcastle has done none of either in over a decade, and they weren’t even in the top flight for some time in the ’80′s. Fan support is great, but that’s not what makes a “big club”.

  14. Jackie says:

    I’d have to agree with Hep. It seems you are confusing ‘big’ and ‘successful’

    Newcastle United are clearly one and not the other. Even drunken Geordies know they’ve been shite.

  15. Michael says:

    I’m not confusing the two at all — to me, they’re one and the same.

  16. Mala says:

    Karthik,

    Thank you for your comments……. What you have done is a preview…….. Looked at the squad, seen it for what it is and predicted that we will struggle……… I agree……….. At the same time you made no reference to any off field rubbish or past failings……… Amazingly a preview is exactly that……….. Looking at where you are at and looking forward to predict what happens.

    Michael,

    I apologise almost unreservedly. But, you must understand that “the overall feeling” of Geordies is somewhat different to that of what “the pundits” would have you believe.
    Go to Newcastle enjoy a few beers and some nightlife ask about what the real fans think.

    Allow me to put it another way……you are going to be on the TV for an hour prior to kick off……30 minutes to talk about NUFC and 30 minutes to talk about their opponents…….. Such is the state of the boardroom and their horrendous decisions they lay out material week after week…….. Assume that you are lazy and want to fill the time with comments……… What would you do? Probably the same as you have done here……..which is the same as Andy Grey or whoever else……… Ramble on about all the rubbish that is going on………. Instead of looking at the most likely team the tactics they can employ, where the main battles will be etc…..
    The fact that you listen to all their rubbish [which is mainly based on third hand information of the rubbish that does go on!] you would conclude as you have done. [that is still not a preview]……To prove my point even further……with the demise of Fat Freddie and his side kick Douglas Hall……..all of the stupidity and continuous foot in mouth remarks have disappeared……so without that constant stream of lazy journalism all they can come up with is Ashley wants to sell……..he probably went to India or wherever so he could organise some cheap clothing line for his sports shops…..and suddenly we are selling to some rich guy……and so the merry go round continues. Newcastle will always be a fish bowl the fans cannot do anything about that. Do not chastise them for that which is out of their control.

    Anyway which ever team you support enjoy what is to come……no one knows what is to come and that is why we watch it…..isn’t it?

  17. Michael says:

    The thing is, Mala, I don’t listen to any of those pundits, I don’t watch any of those pregame shows; I form my own opinions based on what I see on the field.

  18. Michael says:

    Also, Mala, I did a preview, that’s what you’re commenting on..the whole thing is a preview!! Karthik added on to it, which was great, but I discussed tactics and their lineup and their strongest area and their schedule..

  19. Mala says:

    The title of your article states preview that is what you should stick to…I have no problem with the preview part of your article……it is the rest of it that makes you sound as conceited as Ronaldo talking about Real…………dont forget it was only 24 months ago that the man u fans wanted rid of ferguson and were in uproar a lot of them ACTUALLY wanting allardyce!!!!………just goes to show if you listen to the man u fans it will go wrong ha ha ha
    Take it easy…..I will look forward to you review at the end of the season…….maybe you will focus on 1983-4 season :?)

  20. Karthik Balasubramanian says:

    No personally I think it was a great article. I thought Michael did a good job identifying some key problems that the toon have. I think u might have had an easier life if you dint talk so much about the fans :). But hey, thats what we are all here for right? we write our opinions and if Michael feels he wants to compliment the fans of Newcastle and also talk about some of the tough times the fans are having now, he is entitled to do so.

    Also, right now, the way Newcastle is being run, the fans seem to play an important part in how the club is run – starting from the appointment of Keegan.. So no preview about Newcastle would be justified without a comment about its fantastic fans..

  21. Karl says:

    Club size is not merely driven by silverware – if so then Portsmouth are the second biggest club in the England!

    Other fans attempt to mock the Geordie faithful – by suggesting they are not a BIG Club due to our lack of success ; this simply highlights their limited intelligence.

    To arrive at this opinion without taking Turnover/Profit into cosideration is ridiculous!

    3rd Biggest Crowd in league – without any success

    5th Largest Turnover – without any success

    Not a big club – are you having a laugh !?!

    PS: alreet MALA – hows OZ ?!?!

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