Newcastle United come to a floodlit Craven Cottage tonight in a Premier League encounter that should provide plenty of goals and plenty of entertainment. I spoke with the lads at Coming Home Newcastle to get an insight on what the Magpies will bring to our humble abode.
1) What do you think of your new man up-top, Alan Pardew, and, more importantly, how do you feel about the debacle that preceded it with Mike Ashley and Chris Hughton?
Alan Pardew has turned out to be a fine influence, but the jury will still be out even after the season finishes. After that Pardew will need to prove that he can deliver consistently, and convince us that he's the man to take us back toward the top of the league. The problem of manager at Newcastle hasn't been one of quality, but one of staying power, we thought we had found that in Chris Hughton, but once again Mike Ashley saw fit to spit in our eye. Make no mistake about it, the move to sack Hughton in midseason while the club was sitting mid-table was attrocious. It's just the kind of thing you expect from a man like Mike Ashley. That said, we had to move on didn't we? There is a song sung on Tyneside that goes, "We don't care about Ashley, we don't care about me, all we care about, is NUFC.
2) Are you pleased with your form of late and are you happy with your league position?
For a club that has it's main goal as avoiding relegation (as any club should in its promotion season) I think our table position is more than acceptable. Though we have given up 4 points in stoppage time over the last two weeks, I can't make any great comlaints about recent form either. This is a team that realizes that avoiding relegation is the most important thing, but hasn't lost sight of loftier places either. The team wants to win every week, and that's payed us with games that by all predictions we should have lost.
3) Where do you think you guys think you will finish come the end of the season?
I think this team has the ability to finish top 10 on its own merit, and with some help from higher placed teams falling off late, I'd be willing to give us an outside chance at Europa next year. Let me be clear though: for this football club, anything above relegation is bonus.
4) Who's likely to be the biggest threat to Fulham's defence?
It's kind of hard to say. With Andy Carroll missing the last few weeks, Pardew has run several different strikers out to try to find out who has the best chemistry, so we don't know week to week who is going to start. If Fulham play this game with as many men behind the ball as they did in the early half of the season, then scoring will be hard to come by at any rate. I'd say the most dangerous man in that case is the one who can find himself in the right place at the right time. That man is usually Kevin Nolan, and I'm already looking for him to bounce back a bit from two rather quiet weeks.
5) What do you think of the lovely Fulham? Good side? Great side? Amazing side or the best side in the World?
I think Fulham play much too conservatively. They force lots of draws, many of them 0-0, and to me that's not attractive football. It's sort of like watching the Worldcup but not having all that patriotism getting you going. I don't think they're going to get relegated this year, but it seems like there are some pieces missing from the puzzle for them. On the other side, being American and moreover Texan, I do like Clint Dempsey!
6) Which way do you feel this match is going to go?
I expect this tie to be every bit the beating that the first match was. I expect Fulham to play behind the ball, but I'm hoping that, if I may turn a phrase, they will play less craven at Craven Cottage than they did at St James' Park. If the game opens up I think both teams can be dangerous to the other, but as I said I don't think that's the way it will play out. I think this one ends in another draw, or a one goal difference. I'll call it NUFC 1-0 FFC.