I should be doing more of these, but on the eve of tomorrow's match John Murphy of Coming Home Newcastle and I exchanged questions with each other. You can check my answers out there, and here's John's about Newcastle.
Obviously a surprise season from the Magpies. What's been the most pleasant aspect (other than the wins of course).
It has been a wonderful season so far, especially when we were walking on air for the first few months, there. Since the Stretch of Doom against ManU, City, and Chelsea, we've looked much more humble, beatable, and realistic on the pitch, but, to be fair, we got nipped with a bit of an injury bug for a bit as well. For me, the most pleasant aspects (I'm going with three, because it's Liverpool week and why not), have been Tim Krul's rise, the return of Steven Taylor at the back, and our first team central mids looking as incredible as anyone in the League.
With Krul, we had some pretty firece debate at CHN before the season on whether we should start the young buck or our salty veteran Steve Harper (for the record, I was always in the Krul camp). When Pardew went with him from the beginning, we knew there might be some growing pains, but his play has been out of this world for most of the season, the highlight being his other worldly performance at Old Trafford. We might be biased, but we'd all put Krul right alongside De Gea, Hart, and Schezney as a member of the "Amazing Young Keeper" club.
People forget that Steven Taylor was once captain of the England U21s, and looked like an absolute shoe-in for a secure national team spot as he got older. The injury bug (or in some cases Andy Carroll's fist) has absolutely desimated the poor guy, but when he is healthy and in form, there is zero doubt that he belongs with the best of them. When Colocinni and Saylor are playing well together at the back with Krul behind them, we've got an absolute top central defense.
Finally (and were going to come back to this), Tiote and Cabaye have been lights out when we've been able to get them on the field together. They possess well, with Tiote often taking a spot just a bit behind Cabaye, whose better at building the attack. The two of them seem to be telepathtic with each other when they possess at the back, and are a threat to build an attack from anywhere. Add the consistency of Guttieriez on the left and the surprising form of Gabriel Obertan on the right, and Newcastle's midfield is one to be reckoned with even after the summer departures of Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan.
What is it you're feeding Demba Ba?
He was free... so that's always a plus. He also is our one player who has shown that he can consistently score. Ba has done very, very well for us, and we're thrilled to have him. The one knock we could say against him is that he seems completely aware of the fact that he is Newcastle's only real threat, and will sometimes launch ill advised shots when another pass might have netted a goal. I like Shola Ameobi, Leon Best, and Hatem Ben Arfa just fine, but right now Demba is our only goalscorer on a week to week basis, so we need him to stay healthy and out of trouble. Even with Ba, though, our offense will go through funks were we look absolutely anemic. If we hit a slump like that against a team like Liverpool, we'll be toasted. Finally, one last note on Ba: the fact that he is Senegalese is going to make January very painful. When he (and Tiote) leave for the African Cup of Nations, Newcastle will be sans arguabley their two most proflic players... thanks a lot, Africa.
We know Newcastle fans weren't thrilled with Alan Pardew's hiring, but there was a time when he guided West Ham to the top of the table, which now seems like a minor miracle. He's obviously not an idiot, but what do Newcastle fans think of him now?
The thing about that whole episode wasn't really that we were against Pardew, far from it. We were upset that Mike Ashley had so uncerimoniously dumped Chris Hughton, who by our estimation wasn't doing a poor job at all. We were just in shock at the whole thing, really. When Pardew was hired, my immediate reaction was a resounding "meh?" We didn't know much about him, it kind of seemed out of left field, and given the emotions of Hughton's style, and the up and down nature of the club up to that point, Pardew's calm resolve seemed completely out of sorts with our club's identity. Then he came in and beat the heck out Liverpool (wink wink), and since that time life has been jovial indeed. Pardew has worked hard to upend the image of NUFC and put a team on the pitch that reflects his identity: clam, reassured, confident, professional (none of those words could have been used to describe Newcastle in the early 2000s, so this is a good change). By brining in the "French Revolution" of impact players (Cabaye, Ba, Marveaux, Obertan) and getting Tiote, Colocinni, Jonas, and Krul to buy into his plan very quickly, Pardew has made a team that is HIS baby, which is a wonderful thing for a manager to have. Hughton, unfortunately, was always dealing with goods that didn't entirely seem his own. I think Alan Pardew is very, very well liked in Newcastle now, a year into his tenure with the club. To boot, he is easily the best looking manager in the league (perhaps the world, if it weren't for Guus Hiddink, of course). Plus, when things get bad, he makes this face, and Newcastle fans swoon accordingly.
Boy, that Cabaye and Tiote thing was real thievery, no?
It's difficult for us not to prance around like little children when this topic comes up. The Tiote/Cabaye combo has been amazing for us. Tiote was always good, but under Pardew he has turned the corner and become one of Newcastle's absolute superstars (and arguably our best player), and Cabaye has perhaps had even more impact than Ba has in the way of summer transfers. While Ba's output is more tangible because of the goal scoring statics, when Cabaye does with possession, defense, attack building, and even some set pieces has been top notch stuff. He brings a calm reassurance next to Tiote's raw agression that creates a yin/yang effect in our central midfield that works wonders. For the four (or so) million we paid for him, the investment has been wonderful. In terms of the players being a "thievery," we paid 3.5 mil for Tiote and 4.3 or so for Cabaye, and both of those investments have returned a resale value that is out of the park. If Tiote leaves in this transfer window (and I pray he doesn't), I would put him around 8 million easily, with Cabaye at about 7. I don't think we'll sell either player, when considering the price for the return, yes, they were some serious steals.
Yes... yes he will. I have zero doubt that the traveling Toon Army will boo the piss out of him. Maybe it wasn't his fault, but he was sold, to a rival, for lots of money. The thing that really made it sting was that Carroll was home grown talent from the Academy AND we had given him our cherished #9 shirt at the open of the season. It may not be fair, but Newcastle fans don't take kindly to departures of any sort, even if it's a homegrown kid who gets screwed by management (see: N'Zogbia, Charles).
Prediction for Friday:
Let's go with another 4-3 thriller, but I say Newcastle comes out on top, we need those points.