Inside the Opposition: Newcastle United

Football is back and after a summer of nonsense transfer rumour after nonsense transfer rumour I, for one, am extremely glad. Ahead of our game against Newcastle on Monday, I invited back Leazes Terrace, one of the most sensible and knowledgeable fans on Twitter, to get the inside track on the Magpies.

From the outside looking in, Newcastle are just about the most poorly run football club in the country at the moment. What’s you assessment of what’s gone on over the summer?

An assessment is quite easy as nothing has happened!  It’s standard Newcastle under Mike Ashley that every one sensible decision is met with two stupid decisions (even if they’re not all his decisions).  A positive behind the scenes is the introduction of a top class fitness coach to work on the conditioning of the players – a particular annoyance of mine, as Newcastle’s painfully slow tempo and statuesque defending was traceable straight back to scandalously unfit players. Of course, the deluded elephant in the room is the appointment of the clown that is Joe Kinnear. I don’t think I need add to anything that’s already been said on, or indeed by him.

The relationship between Pardew and Kinnear looks strained. That can’t be good, surely?

I think the relationship is only strained at the minute because Kinnear is failing to deliver the players Pardew needs, to nobodies surprise. Once the transfer window is over in theory Kinnear should be far enough away from Pardew to not trouble him – although the cynic (or perhaps realist) in me thinks if things aren’t going well he’ll only end up sticking his nose in and eventually replacing Pardew. A disgusting thought, but he’s been appointed in an important staff role twice by Mike Ashley now, so…

We were linked with Debuchy very briefly this summer. I’m thinking it was spurious given how well stocked we are at right-back but just in case it ever materialises, what’s he been like for you?

Personally I think Debuchy has been great considering he was thrown into a disjointed defence. He’s had some criticism about his defending from some of our own which frankly I think is nonsense.  His attacking energy is often on display – all I think he lacks is settled player in front of him to build up a partnership, particularly when it comes to attacking.

Signing Loic Remy is a clever move from Newcastle. Is he what you needed? Where else do you need to strengthen?

Remy is certainly what was needed – but only part of what’s still needed.  We badly lacked width when playing 433 (or 442 for that matter) and he should be a brilliant foil to Cisse (central) and Ben Arfa (opposite).  That’s until Pardew plays him behind Cisse of course… If the move for Gomis ever does go through – and it’s still looking unlikely – he’ll provide us with another desperately needed wide / forward option, but we also lack cover at centre back. So still plenty of work to do.

Pardew came under pressure last season but was spared by the brilliant season you had previously. Do you see him lasting the season?

At the minute I don’t see Pardew lasting long – Ashely’s favourite, Kinnear, is too conveniently placed and I get the feeling Pardew’s performance last season upset Ashley, to the extent he would have been dismissed if he hadn’t been placed on such a long contract. Whether it’s been a lack of investment in the playing staff he’s publicly craved for, or the appointment of Kinnear over his head, the situation stinks of MA stifling his control.  My personal view is Pardew should have been sacked immediately after the QPR once we were safe, and a new manager sought quickly – but Ashley seems unwilling to pay the compensation to do so, and the wages necessary to appoint a competent successor.  The problem now is a dismissal of Pardew – constructive or conventional – would only result in a further downgrade.

Is Mike Ashley a terrible owner?

More than anything I feel Ashely is a frustrating owner.  The playing squad is only a reasonable investment (in the context of the new TV deal) and a competent manager away from regularly challenging the top 6, yet the businessman rules and he’s more interested in turning a regular profit. His money in buy the club undoubtedly saved Newcastle for some long term difficulties, but his ownership has become a stranglehold on the very social heartbeat of a city obsessed by football and its football club. As a business the club is being ran more prudently now than ever before – but the message of stability has only delivered stagnation and now the stink of repulsion between fans and owner hangs in the air constantly.

Is your association with Wonga and SportsDirect something which upsets you? Is it something the fans care about?

My observation is that many weren’t bothered by Wonga from the start but a sizable portion were fervently opposed to it and remain against it to this day.  I can’t say I’m too happy with it myself, but that’s been tempered by the fact that there’s little that can be done about it other than refusing to buy anything carrying its name or using the company itself – and neither would be likely regardless of opinion. As for Sports Direct – Ashley’s free advertising hasn’t gone unnoticed and its slimy brand being crudely pasted all over one of the more beloved landmarks of Newcastle is disgusting, although ironically Wonga have managed to scale that back somewhat with the ‘purchasing’ of the stadium naming rights.

What do you think of City’s summer dealings?

I think Navas will be a very handy addition – particularly away from home, using his pace and enthusiasm. As the squad was very strong to begin with the new additions provide choice, although not a great deal more than City already had.  Pelligrini I believe is comfortably the best addition with that in mind – I was never overly convinced Mancini would qualify as a top class manager but MP certainly does in that regard.

Where do you see us finishing?

I think it’s between Man City and Chelsea for the title, but I don’t want to write Man Utd off too quickly so it’ll be a close top three, then a chasm to fourth..

Prediction?

Think you’ll get a goal fairly early on, we’ll fold as usual, but you’ll take it easy – so 3-0.

Interview by Rob Pollard

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