This weekend City take on Newcastle for the first time since the 2-0 win last season which a long way to securing the league title. Newcastle have endured a poor start, taking just 17 points from 16 games, leaving them in 14th place. Ahead of the match, we caught up with Leazes Terrace to get his thoughts on Newcastle’s season so far.
How impressed are you with Alan Pardew’s time as manager?
My views on him are fairly mixed, but still more positive than negative. Last season’s relatively excellent league finish aside, he was pivotal in creating some stability at Newcastle – the only problem is much of that good work has unwound this season through a horrible ball of factors (injuries, lack of investment, poor tactical decisions etc). His management of the squad generally has been pretty impressive, particularly in keeping the players focused and happy: his management of the infamous attitude of Hatem Ben Arfa being the shining example. He’s also managed to work minor miracles with some players – two examples being Leon Best and James Perch who have both been turned from dead wood into pretty handy squad players in his time. On that front though he’s been a victim of his own success, with the board believing stop gaps such as Perch, Williamson and Simpson had another season of performing to the very best of their very limited ability in them. Pardew certainly has my support, and will continue to – although it’s plain as day he needs to up his performance as results are undoubtedly unacceptable.
How much are you enjoying European football?
Personally, it’s been great having it back after a five-year break. The Thursday night games are doing no good for my head going into work on a Friday morning, and the trip to Bruges did no good to my bank balance, but I love being involved in it all the same. The group draw was very generous to Newcastle which has posed a catch-22 as we’ve managed to qualify by applying the least effort (regularly playing the reserves) for the second round which could prove an unwelcome distraction to the team itself after our league worries have started to gather serious pace.
Your form in the league isn’t good. What’s changed from last season?
Formations, a bizarre long ball strategy, injuries to key players, suspensions to key players, ‘filler’ players such as Williamson being over-relied upon, lack of from from key players (Cisse, Cabaye etc) poor conditioning in pre-season, widespread fatigue from overplaying, non-existent training work on set plays (awful defending and attacking), lack of consistency in team selection and players in regular positions – compounded by a worried and nervy crowd. I think that pretty much covers half of it…The season is far from over, but it’s been a very messy, very unpleasant, stop-start / non-start experience so far. The polar opposite to last term.
Who has been Newcastle’s best player this term?
Demba Ba – and by some distance. The majority of my Newcastle compatriots will probably shout ‘Ben Arfa’, whilst throwing things at me; and he has shown some superb flashes of ability but goes missing for huge portions of games and has played far below the consistency of Ba. Ba has been taking the brunt of all the poor build up play, over-hit passes etc without giving up, works as hard as any other player and doesn’t give up even until the death. Simply, without him this season we’d have been in serious trouble.
What’s your perception of City?
Fairly neutral, to be honest. I didn’t take your title win last season with any great satisfaction or regret – as I do with most of your results. The whole financially doped thing does leave a little bitter taste in the mouth, but I don’t hold that against the club, especially not Man City fans, as the game allows it. Furthermore, the state the English game finds itself in, it’s the only realistic way to dine at the top table consistently – and every fan of every club would want to see their club be the best of the best. As for the team itself – pretty pleasing on the eye, and mostly likeable on a personal level. The risible character to me is golf-swinging perma-pet Carlos Tevez. That shit-heap should have never been let back into Manchester.
Which City player would you most like to sign?
Split between Kompany and Silva. A Kompany – Coloccini partnership would be as solid as a rock. Although my Geordie heart yearns to see reckless attacking football, and with Silva alongside Ben Arfa and Cabaye supplying the football would be a joy to watch.
Think you’ll probably win 2 or 3-1. Newcastle are hemorrhaging goals at the minute, and I can’t see us outscoring you with our approach play being sluggish and our set-pieces a complete non-threat.