The wait is over. City’s title defence can finally begin. This Sunday we take on Newcastle at St James’ Park, the scene of one of City’s most hard-fought wins last season. Samir Nasri had the living daylights kicked out of him and Alan Pardew was typically disparaging towards our manager, but we emerged with a glorious and vitally important 2-0 win.
Every time we play Newcastle I get hold of Leazes Terrace, one of Typical City’s favourite football tweeters. He’s a rational, sensible football fan, and my God are those few and far between. Here’s our latest chat from earlier this week.
Hi mate, welcome back. As an outsider looking in, Alan Pardew is one of the most detestable men in football. What do Newcastle fans think of him?
It’s fair to say he doesn’t have many (if any) friends around these parts now. His position with the fans became untenable at the end of last season – the feeling of ill will being so much that he decided to remain on his seat in the dugout during the last home game (being roundly booed any time he stood up). At any other club he would have left or been sacked after the final game of last season, but with him unwilling to leave such a lucrative contract, and Mike Ashely’s meagre ambitions of simply staying in the Premier League at minimal cost fulfilled by Pardew, he remains. All of this to the deflation of those who have to endure his now tiresome excuses and turgid football.
Last time, we spoke about Debuchy, a player you raved about. He had a ‘mare at our place but then looked really good for most of the season. What exactly are Arsenal getting?
Debuchy’s main strengths are definitely in supporting attacks, but his work-rate makes him a pretty strong defender – although not up there with the very best as far as defending goes. At Arsenal he should get better midfield cover than he had here – he’ll certainly have the reliance of a good defence unlike at Newcastle, so should do well at the Emirates. He’s been seamlessly replaced by Feynoord’s Dayrl Janmaat, who looks an absolute steal so far at £5m, and 4 years the junior.
You’ve signed a load of foreign players I know nothing about and Jack Colback from Sunderland. What do you make of the business you’ve done?
The business has for once been quite impressive. There had been severe scepticism on incomings; more so the volume required after a number of squad players were released and loans returned – plus there was enormous void Cabaye’s departure created. Beyond Janmaat, Remy Cabella and Seim De Jong promise to be class acts, Colback is a steady player and Emmanuel Riviere looks like the athletic striker we’ve been missing. There’s still plenty talk of us chasing another striker, but we’d be better advised buying a centre back that can actually defend – a strange concept these days, I know.
Do you want Loic Remy back permanently?
In a word – yes, although as mentioned a defender would be my priority. Currently, we have 3 senior strikers, Gouffran who can play up top if necessary and Adam Armstrong coming through from the Academy, so we’re not as desperately staffed as last season but Remy is a class act on the pitch and would improve most teams. There’s question marks over his mercenary ways, although that doesn’t bother me personally – he’s personally ambition but it doesn’t really affect his performances on the field.
Where do you think you’ll finish and what would constitute a good season?
I’d say the minimum the squad is capable of is 9th, so anything 8th and above would be a good season. On paper, Newcastle are easily the best of the rest (taking last season’s top 7 out of the equation) with Southampton having now been swallowed by Liverpool and on that basis I expect us to be finishing top of that. At this point fans of other clubs would be saying ‘and a decent cup run’, but as Newcastle United officially don’t prioritise cups as a board directive, I’d settle for some watchable football from my team. I’m sure that’s not too much to ask…
What’s the latest thing to hate Mike Ashley for?
The latest is a non-outrage about the club now making backroom staff pay for their once complimentary tickets. As nearly all of the local press are now banned from the club, the local rags are giving the club management a hammering at every opportunity – from a supporters point of view it seems all quite tit-for-tat, but what the bans are heavy handed. Beyond that, there’s still the unapologetically function first running of the club – a running which has meant the club is now financially healthier than any time in recently memory, but has been done at the expense of any flicker of ambition. As mentioned earlier, cup runs are now actively avoided – the thought of Europa League petrifies the board so mid-table on a budget is the way. When that will end is anyone’s guess.
What did you make of City last season and do you think we can retain the title?
Worthy champions, first of all. At the time, it appeared City were making a hash of wrapping up the league, but on reflection the phenomenal late season run of Liverpool took some beating. City’s team is packed with talent but perhaps you need a few more trophies behind the squad to get a strong winner’s mentality to take on Europe’s best – which in fairness needs to be built rather than bought. However, I have to say I’m still surprised that with the figures that City are spending there hasn’t been a galactico style signing – a Falcao / Neuer type recently. Still, with the squad you’ve got your certainly challengers. Chelsea will push hard again, and I think Arsenal will also. Your illustrious neighbours will undoubtedly improve this season but I don’t see them being the biggest threat to the title. I thought last season it was between yourselves and Chelsea, and I’ll stick with that again.
Combined Newcastle-City XI?
Difficult to see any Newcastle player breaking your first choice XI – Cabella and De Jong would push, the former perhaps being the most suited. You could always play our full defence from last season in an elaborate ‘both teams to score’ betting scam…
2-1 City. Think Newcastle will give a good go of it but our defence will struggle to keep you out.
Interview by Rob Pollard