NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Shola Ameobi of Newcastle United is challenged by Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal at St James' Park on August 13, 2011 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
After starting the season with a stretch in the top four, Newcastle have dropped slightly to 6th. What would you consider a successful season? What were your expectations in August, and if you adjusted them after the team's great start, has there been another adjustment as some teams have caught and passed you?
"C’est la vie," as they say. You’re correct, our recent run of form has been lackluster and best, and while we are decimated with injuries on the back line, it is our lethargic goal scoring that has the Toon Army most frustrated right now. In August, things looked quite bleak indeed. Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan, and Jose Enrique all jumped ship, and we were resting our laurels on the untested Ba, Cabaye, and left leg of Ben Arfa. I think most of us were simply hoping to avoid a dogfight in relegation. To open the season with such an incredible unbeaten streak was shocking and incredible. We were on the absolute top of the world in late November, some of us even flirting with nonsense talk of Champions League.
Now that it is nearing the end of campaign, I think most of us still feel pretty amazing about the way the season has gone, and Alan Pardew’s silver-haired grin can make most Newcastle fans melt like an M&M in summertime. The issue, now, is trying to figure out what, exactly, we’re fighting for. Obviously, 4th place isn’t out of reach yet, but it’ll be a tough road to get there (starting Monday night). I think maintaining our position in 6th is going to be vital, but even that will be difficult given our ending stretch. We’re currently 7 points clear of hated rivals Sunderland in the 8th position, and it’s looking like the 7th spot may still next a Europa bid if Liverpool, Chelsea, or Spurs win the F.A. Cup (and God, we hope they do). In spite of how transcendent this season has been, missing Europe by only a few points (or, God forbid, Sunderland winning the Cup) would still be heart-crushing... but we’re really good at dealing with that as Newcastle fans.
Has Alan Pardew worked out to play all 3 of Cisse, Ba and Ben Arfa?
We wish. We actually tried to hash out that very issue here, to absolutely no avail. The issue is that HBA doesn’t really have a defined role, we just know he likes playing on the right, kinda behind the front line, and doesn’t do nearly as well closer to the middle or as a winger (complicated I know, trying to fit him into a position in a circle in a square peg... damn French creativity). The major problem, as well, is that we don’t have any coverage in the back if we sacrifice a backfield player (namely Mike Williamson), and we’re all a little shaky trying to employ a three-back set. It’s a frustrating predicament, especially when HBA will come on and wow the pants of the fans with his magic and trickery (again, damn French). He has disappointed in his few starts though, whereas Ba and Cisse are much more sure-footed in the front. It’d be nice, but right now I think most NUFC fans are content having HBA come on as a 12th man spark plug.
How excited are you that Ryan Taylor, Tim Krul, and Fabricio Coloccini he all signed new contracts with the club?
Though most of my compatriots over at CHN were most giddy about El Capitain Colo, I was particularly thrilled with the re-signing of the Flying Dutchman. I think Timmy Krul will absolutely be a super duper star of the Premier League, and definitely the Netherlands keeper sooner rather than later (definitely by Euro 2016, perhaps by Brazil 2014). He has been our rock in the net, and I’m WILDLY biased, but I rate him higher than Hart and Szczesny in the "sexy young keeper" club. Raylor is a great player to have for a free kick, and he has been a Newcastle faithful for a long time. Basically, to answer your question shortly: "For them."
Managing Director Derek Llambrias admitted that he and Mike Ashley still call the club's stadium St. James' Park. The club's wikipedia page still calls it St. James' Park. I still call it St. James' Park. Presumably you guys do, as well. Do you have any opinions on the whole situation with naming rights in football?
You presume WRONG, my man! Actually, I think I might be the only one at CHN who is still hard-lining towards SportsDirect. Almost everyone else was all gutted and asunder when Ashley made the call, but I pride myself on being Coming Home Newcastle’s most ardent Ashley apologist. I love the man and all he has done for Newcastle, and I recognize that I am in the very, very slight minority there. I think a place, even one as historic as SJP, is absolutely for-sale if it benefits the overall bottom line of the team. I recognize that makes me cynical, greedy, and horribly capitalist, but I also understand the reality that Financial Fair Play is close at hand, and Newcastle need to turn a profit to continue to exist (isn’t that right, Leeds United?) Anyway, I am totally behind the naming rights, and if you’d like to see a lovely little debate about the whole fiasco, we had a tizzy of one right here.
I'm looking for a copy of David Coperfield with one "p". Can you help me?
Edmund Wells is the favorite author of CHN, bar none.
Prediction for the match?
Hmmm... it’ll be the first time that our clubs have met at Emirates since the 4-4 stunner of last season. I’m sure Arsenal fans will still remember that one and not be too keen to take it easy on the visiting Toon, especially given how amazingly close our two sides are right now (this is one hell of an important match for both clubs). I’m going to be bold and say that Newcastle pull out a 2-2 squeaker with yet another injury time goal... or at least I have my fingers crossed that that is what happens.
Thanks so much to Mr. Murphy!