For the latest in our very long line of must-wins, we head north to Newcastle and so it’s to Paul Mannion I turn – my old mucker from the Metro Sport days – who’ll give us chapter and verse on what’s happening in the Land of Ashley and Bruce…
So… if, before the season started, you’d have been offered 14th place after 24 games and 30 points, you’d have taken it, right?
After the tumultuous end to last season, talk of failed takeovers, as well as Rafa unceremoniously leaving, both the club’s top scorers from last season leaving and then Steve Bruce being appointed. I thought we were looking at a guaranteed third relegation under Mike Ashley’s ownership. In short. Yes, I would have bitten your hand off. But then this season seems unlike any other and now we’re closer to fifth place than the bottom three so you can’t help but look up the table, for once.
Same question after matchday 2, when City beat the Toon 3-1 (plenty of doom and gloom at that time I’d imagine).
It’s very difficult to judge whether a team is in for good or bad season or simply having a bad day in the first few games of the season, but we weren’t alone in being blown away by Norwich in Autumn. We’re no stranger to slow starts to a season though, in Rafa’s last season as manager we didn’t win until November.
How’s Brucey managed to turn this all around? Quite the achievement given how he was initially received by the Newcastle fans.
Generally speaking, I don’t think there was animosity towards Steve Bruce. The anger was aimed and still is, at the Ashley regime. Whoever came in was going to face more protests, anger, and frustration – especially after losing Rondon and Perez. How has Bruce managed to turn around? I’m not so sure he has. A lot of fans seem to have stayed away – clever marketing campaigns and cheap ticket deals are filling the stadium this term.
How do they feel about Steve Bruce now? An uneasy stop-gap? Or the future?
They say the table doesn’t lie but it certainly doesn’t reflect the performances, or lack of, that we’ve been putting in at times. Some of the wins, like over Manchester United and Chelsea were lucky. We never feel in control of a game. Bruce-ball is based on a strong defence, a quality goalkeeper and lucky breaks. Bearing in mind how many managers allegedly turned the club down before Bruce was appointed, I’m not sure who else would want the job under the current ownership.
Talking of which… any updates on the takeover talks? Ashley finally going to be on his bike?
I’ll believe it when I see it! It’s been the same for several years now. I’m not sure what motivation Ashley has to sell? It’s free advertising for his High Street brands, he doesn’t need to put his hands in his pockets, and the stadium is still full. He obviously doesn’t mind/ hear the animosity towards him.
Has the unrest off the pitch had an impact on it? Or has Bruce been able to successfully detach the two?
Bruce appears delighted to have been given the chance to manage the club meaning, unlike Rafa, he’s not playing games with the hierarchy. He’s managed to avoid any difficult conversations so far. He has been helped by Ashley opening the purse strings for him with the signings of Joelinton and Saint-Maximin for big fees.
True. Big money.
So, who have been the big plusses, either of those two? In other words, who will hurt us tomorrow?
It’s been a very disrupted season. Saint-Maximin has a dangerous unpredictability and all the physical attributes to change a game. Unfortunately, he’s had an injury-plagued season so far and we’ve only seen glimpses of his talent. Almiron has broken his goal-scoring duck and gone from strength to strength. He’s pacey, bags of ticks and runs all day. Beyond that, Matt Richie, also recently returning from injury, remains our most consistent performer and can put in a quality final ball. We’ve struggled with injuries across the park this season so it remains to be seen who is available to play come the game.
What have you made of our season (be gentle!) … and are we done?
I think it’s admirable that Farke and Norwich have stuck to their brand of football which is good to watch but perhaps at the expense of grinding out results. I know the club has also struggled badly with injuries this year which doesn’t help. As we’ve seen with Southampton, a run of results can propel you up the table quickly. The talent is there, Pukki can score the goals and Cantwell has been a revelation. But it’s not going to be easy.
Fair comment/understatement 🙂
Finally… standard … a score prediction?
Despite being thrashed several times this year, Newcastle have earned a reputation as being difficult to beat. Last time out at home in the league we beat Chelsea. Last time out at St James’ Park we couldn’t beat League One Oxford with a full-strength side. I expect it to be a closely fought contest and a 1-1 draw the most likely outcome.
We’d take that… I think, even though it’s officially a “must-win”! Cheers for your time, mate.