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West Ham Utd v Newcastle Utd: preview

Filed: Friday, 19th September 2008
By: Preview Percy

And on we move to a new era against a club whose recent history makes ours look almost dull. Whilst we moved with, what was, for us, almost impressive speed to bring in a new manager, Newcastle’s managerial saga seems to have been going on for ever.

First there was the “has he gone or not” mystery, with rumour and counter rumour ruling the roost. Then, once it had been established that Keegan had actually left the club, this was followed by the “did he resign or was he sacked” conundrum. Most clubs would leave it there but the soap opera had another twist or two to turn. Amazingly, we are told reconciliation talks were held. The fact that the matter is now in the hands of lawyers will tell you exactly how successful they were. Amazingly out of all this the one person still in a job is convicted thug Dennis Wise.

The managerial departure led to mass protests from the Geordies that led to club owner and outfitter to the chav nation Mike Ashley to put the club up for sale for anything between £300-500m depending on newspaper and time of day. Clearly the words credit-crunch have not hit Ashley Towers. As ever there was something faintly daft about the Geordie protests, many of them blaming some “Cockney Mafia” for their ills in the somewhat strange geographical misapprehension that everyone south of Birmingham is either a cockney or Welsh.

Since Ashley is clearly not Welsh, he must be a cockney goes the logic so the good people of Buckinghamshire’s Burnham and High Wycombe, both of which might lay claim to the title of Ashley’s “home town,” will be pleased to know that the sound of Bow Bells extends so far West. Ashley is unlikely to make an appearance this weekend, citing fears for his safety as the reason for his absence. I suppose it would be too much to hope that he might have been banned from football grounds like the rest of us would have been for knocking back a pint in the stands. Still if you get caught, the defence that you thought it was Kaliber is apparently now valid.

At the time of writing the managerial reins are being handled by former Hammer Chris Hughton and it’s unlikely that that will change any time soon- the potential sale of the club will not help that one little bit. Hughton presided over a depressing 2-1 home defeat to Hull City at the weekend, a match that culminated in Danny Guthrie’s shocking assault on Carl Fagan. After that match Newcastle sit in 16th position in the fledgling table, above ever-so-slightly disliked rivals Sunderland only by virtue of alphabetical order.

They are likely to start with Ireland no.1 Shay Given twixt the sticks. The back four on Saturday consisted of Canadian U20 cap Edgar, Taylor, Argentine international Colocini and N’Zogbia. Beye remains a doubt but his availability would lead to something of a defensive reshuffle. Last weekend the Magpies lined up with a three man midfield of Butt, Geremi and Guthrie, though Guthrie’s antics will ensure his absence against us and a couple more games only, the FA disciplinary bods having predictably bottled the prospect of further action. Argentinian midfielder Jonas “Spiderman” Gutierrez has a broken shoulder bone and has stayed in Buenos Aires for treatment so we won’t be seeing him without a miracle cure and the reintroduction of Concorde.

Indeed the Geordies’ injury list is nearly as long as ours was last season with the likes of Fat Aussie Viduka, Damien Duff and Oba Martins all having suffered of late. Duff and Martins are close to a return. Current mutterings are that this may be a game too soon for them but given the player shortage it wouldn’t surprise me if one or both played some part in the weekend’s proceedings.

Michael Owen is likely to start up front, possibly alongside Shola Ameobi. Legend has it that, whilst on England U21 duty, Howard Wilkinson once asked Ameobi what his nickname was. On hearing that he didn’t have one, Wilkinson enquired what the notoriously forgetful Bobby Robson called him. “Carl Cort” came the reply. If they stay with three-up, a formation that will be dictated by player availability, there may be also a start for Xisco who marked his debut with the consolation goal against Hull.

It was Xisco’s transfer, along with the arrival of Uruguayan midfielder “Nacho” Gonzales on loan from Valencia that brought the differences between Keegan and Ashley to a head, Keegan making the rash assumption that, as team manager, he might have some sort of say in the players coming into and leaving the club. Imagine a club so badly run that the Chairman and manager disagree over something as basic as that. Oh, hang on a moment….

Still at least at the Boleyn we’ve gone for the better end of those who spent part of their careers slumming it at Stamford Bridge. Instead of Dennis Wise, we have gone for Zola and, just as significantly, Steve Clarke. Zola has said all the right things about playing decent football and, seemingly in anticipation of the new boss’s arrival, there was an element of “going for it” about our play up at West Brom, particularly in the first half.

Unfortunately this also coincided with some criminal defending, not to mention some equally dire refereeing which ultimately saw us come home pointless. The appointment of Clarke is a clever move in that he will bring both experience and a certain focus to defensive issues within the squad, thus addressing the two main concerns that fans have had over the Zola appointment to date.

Of the new boys last weekend, Ilunga had the more impressive debut at left back and seems likely to keep his place. Di Michele showed some promising touches early on but some of the flicks and overhead kick attempts he attempted later on left the travelling support puzzled as to whether they should applaud the effort or hold their heads in despair at the execution. Zola may be left with little option but to select him though since Dean Ashton will be missing for a few weeks having gone over on his ankle and Bellamy’s hamstring is still apparently suspect. Ashton’s absence may mean a return to the first team squad for Freddy Sears who spent last week in the U18s where he picked up a brace in the 3-0 defeat of Aston Villa.

As for the rest of the side much will depend on how well the players have impressed the new managerial team during training. There are a number of places in the team where choices will have to be made. Boa-Morte and Etherington will compete for one spot on the left with Behrami and Faubert being the options on the right so predicting a starting line-up will be difficult.

With a new boss on board I expect there will be something of a lively atmosphere at the Boleyn, especially if the travelling Geordies continue to vent their collective spleen on their chairman. If Zola is true to his word we can hope for some attacking football – hopefully without the defensive errors we saw last week - so I’ll take us to win an entertaining 90 minutes 2-1 to continue the 100% home record and to add the name Zola to those of Di Canio and lasagne that currently make up the Hammers list of favourite things from Italy.

Enjoy the game!

Last season: 2-2

Danger Man: Michael Owen – always seems to score against us

Look out for: Their chairman – he’ll be the one wearing a wig, glasses with false nose and moustache. The visiting support might buy you a pint if you spot him and point him out, just don’t drink it in sight of the pitch…

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

Your Comments

by Olympian Hammer
02:58PM 19th Sep 2008
''Going to the match for first time in years and very much looking forward to it. Last time I saw Newcastle at Upton Park we beat them 3-0 (Don Hutch got the first goal!) so obviously hoping for a repeat.

Good article.''

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