Newcastle United v West Ham United

It's a long way to Newcastle. However, it's still not the furthest place mentioned in Preview Percy's look at our fourth away match on the trot. Not by a long chalk. To find out the where EFL Cup's next target audience is based, read on. If you like..

Next up we embark on our longest away trip of the season where we will be hosted by Newcastle United. Kick-off at St James' Park is 3pm on Saturday. Don't get used to it.

Trains between Kings Cross and Geordieland are all operating normally - probably best to take that as a bad thing rather than a good one. Trains won't run between Barking and Fenchurch Street on Saturday with diversions to/from Liverpool Street being the order of the day. If in doubt check etc etc...

OK Newcastle then. As ever I am indebted to my old (in every sense of that word) "friend" (in the loosest sense of that word) Preview Alastair who, hailing as he does from Gosforth is of the Geordie persuasion for some of the background information on his club. Well for some of the bits that the work-experience kid of as yet-to-be determined gender wearing a hoodie who seems only able to communicate with some strange grunting noises wasn't able to dig out anyway. As is traditional, Preview Alastair and I will travel to this match together though such are his advanced years these days it's touch and go as to whether he will make it home. The man is so old he rents his senior citizen railcard by the hour, just in case.

So the Magpies then. They had a season off from the Premier League last term, spending it instead in Division 2 (or The "Championship" if you insist). For much of the season it looked like they would return in second place behind Brighton. However, the Seagulls' failure to win any of their last three matches allowed the Magpies to sneak up on the inside and eventually take the title by a single point. Hilariously, Reading finished third and missed out in the playoffs which, although not strictly relevant to the matter in hand, still makes all right-thinking people smile.

Now if ever there were a club to rival us in the soap-opera stakes it's Newcastle. Part of the problem has been the stewardship of Mike Ashley who is universally despised by the supporters for being a "cockney bastard". This is because due to a typographical error in the 1944 Education Act it was, for many years, actually illegal to teach Geography as a subject within the city boundaries up there. As a result millions of kids were brought up not acknowledging the existence of anything outside Newcastle. The typo was eventually rectified at which point the City finally had to come to terms with the actual existence of Sunderland as a real place (as opposed to one of those things you threaten the kids with to scare them into eating their greens). However, to this day, to a Geordie anyone from outside Newcastle is either "Scottish" if they live to the North, Scouse (West) or Cockney if they come from the South (except Sunderland), hence Ashley's 50% inaccurate nickname.

At this point we at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For the Bewildered should own up to being at least partly responsible for the Ashley phenomenon. In his early years as a businessman he once spent time here looking at the home's employment practices and adapted them for use in his "Shell Suits for Spurs Fans" emporia. Obviously he uses a watered-down version of things though - I recall him being quite appalled at the way both staff and residents are treated around here.

With Ashley I have noted something of a cycle with how he runs things. Firstly, he will do something that annoys/upsets the fans. Then every couple of years he will pitch up on TV - usually Sky - to give what the tv companies like to refer to as a "rare" interview, during which he will blather on something along the lines of "yes I have made a few mistakes and I'm genuinely sorry. Won't happen again. Leaning more about the club every day. Etc etc." Then he disappears back into relative obscurity for a couple of years before re-emerging with another 24 months' worth of mistakes to hold his hands up to. His latest appearance before the cameras saw him apologising for the "re-naming" of St James' Park to the "Cheap Tat Aimed At Spurs Fans Direct Park". Actually what he should have done is apologise for attempting to rename the stadium since the renaming caught on about as well as a mass recruitment drive by the Piers Morgan Fan Club.

Incidentally, I rather thought Sky's David Craig gave Ashley a fairly easy ride in the interview. That must have pleased Ashley's PR advisor, a cove by the name of Keith Bishop. I am given to believe that David Craig is also a client of Bishop's. What an amazing coincidence!

The latest scuttlebut is that there seems to be a bit of tension between Ashley and his manager Rafael Benitez. Benitez arrived at the rear-end of 2015-16 but was just a wee bit too late to keep them up. It was widely thought that Benitez's continued stay on Tyneside would be subject to Newcastle staying up. However, Benitez elected to stay on and stewarded the club to an instant return to the Big Boys League. From what I can piece together, Benitez supplied some sort of blueprint to Ashley back in May detailing what he thought he needed in terms of resources for the return to the top flight. Benitez was given the impression that the masterplan had been agreed with Ashley. However, in amongst all the apologies in Ashley's latest interview was the suggestion that Benitez wasn't going to get all of the money that he thought he was going to get. Which made Benitez's subsequent interviews uncomfortable viewing. A parting of the ways is always inevitable at some stage if you are managing Newcastle and, whilst nobody is suggesting that this is in any way imminent, I can't help but thinking that it just got that little bit closer. Newcastle fans shouldn't worry however. It's only two more years until the next apology from Ashley.

Their start to the league season won't have improved the supporters' disposition to their owner. An opening day defeat at home to Ashley's biggest customer base was a bit of a disaster all-round. Quite apart from the stigma of losing to 2-0 Spurs they lost Jonjo Shelvey for three games, including this one, as a result of a stamp on Dele Ali who does rather seem to engender such a reaction amongst opponents. They then lost two defenders in the form of Paul Dummett (hamstring) and Francois Lejune whose ankle never quite recovered by a scissors tackle by Harry Kane, who was spared the red card the challenge merited because "he's not that kind of player". By my reckoning that must be the fifth or sixth time he hasn't been "that kind of player" in the past few seasons, which must make him at least borderline "that kind of player".

The opening day defeat was followed by a 1-0 reverse at fellow new boys Huddersfield. The mood won't have improved any with the 3-2 home defeat in midweek by Forest in the League Cup, though they can at least clutch to the thought that they made 10 changes for that one. And they did at least score which was something I suppose.

The aforementioned Lejune was one of the players that the club did shell out on this summer. The player came in from Spanish outfit Eibar (no, me neither). A centre-half by trade, Lejune is actually a former Man City player, not that you would have noticed it. He was on the books at the UAE Torture Ministry's plaything during 2015-16, though he was immediately lent back to Girona, who had been paid a massive ?225,000 for the player's services. The sort of cash that City have down the back of their sofa. The transfer smelt a bit iffy and a bit of digging provides the information that Girona are owned by a group including a football agent by the name of Pere Guardiola. That's the brother of Pep. City had little genuine interest in the player but were happy to sling a few bob at Girona as part of their courtship of Pep who shortly went on to become City manager. Lejune was voted best player in the Spanish second-tier that season but was due a shot at La Ligua. Man City were reminded that he was their player and flogged him on to Eibar who I am now informed are Catalonia's third biggest club and who one way or another had found themselves in the top flight despite existing on crowds of 4,000. A season there saw the minnows (or would they be sardines in Spain?) finish in the top half and was enough to persuade the Magpies shell out a reported ?8.7m for his services to give him a genuine attempt at the Premier League.

Talking of dodgy deals brings me to the subject of Chelsea and their loan stock. It has long been a source of bemusement to most people in the game that Chelsea bulk-buy players who they keep purely, it seems, for the purpose of loaning out to other clubs. I think that they had no fewer than 33 players out on loan last season (there are a mere 26 out at present but there's still a week or so until the window closes). One of those players was Christian Atsu who, in his 4 years on the books at Stamford Bridge made as many appearances for them as I have. As is the norm he spent all of his time elsewhere and ended up at SJP last season, the deal containing an option to purchase at the end of the season. Newcastle exercised that option and paid ?6.2m to spare the player the embarrassment of having to ask directions to his own training ground on his return to Chelsea.

Up front they have brought in Joselu from Stoke. Joselu spent two years under contract but never really settled there, taking to life in the Potteries much as a normal person takes to Piers Morgan. Last term was spent on loan at Deportivo La Corunna. The striker has returned to the Premier League at Newcastle for a fee of ?5m, which is about ?750,000 less than the Potters originally paid for him.

The biggest fee paid at time of writing is the ?12m paid to Norwich for striker Jacob Murphy. Or at least they think that was the case. Jacob has an identical twin brother Josh who also plays up front for Norwich so we only have the player's word that they have signed the right chap. Apparently so difficult are they to tell apart that Chris Hughton once ordered them to wear different coloured boots to give him a chance. Let's face it the temptation to meet up in midweek and swap clubs just for a laugh must be overwhelming. You'd just have to wouldn't you. Although born in Wembley Jacob, or was it Josh, referred to his parents' background (both are from the North East) in declaring the fact that he was now signing for the club that he supported as a boy, in the way that footballers now seem to feel is necessary whenever changing clubs.

Meanwhile, unlike our opponents, we safely negotiated our 2nd round League Cup tie. It was a professional, rather than a spectacular performance to be sure but there were some bright spots. Sakho looked interested - I even spotted him chasing down a loose ball in the corner in the first half. The youngster Rice had another quietly impressive run-out and, on the injury front, Kouyate made a welcome return to action. Banana skin safely negotiated.

While we are on the subject of the League Cup I'd like to return to the subject of the draw. So having made a complete pig's ear of the first two rounds they elected to do this one in China at 4:15am UK time. This was, we were told, part of the EFL's marketing strategy to "grow the brand" in that market. So was there a massive tv audience in China for what must surely have been a major tv event for them to shift the draw out there? Er, well no. Not exactly. You see they didn't show it on telly in China. That's right, they moved the draw to the other side of the world to show it to an audience who didn't want to watch it in the first place. Still modern communications being what they are at least it didn't take forever for the news to get back here. Er, well not exactly. Apparently if you were insomniac enough to log on at 4:15am it took the powers that be nearly an hour to complete the draw. Apparently the draw for the next round will take place in a satellite in orbit around Kepler 186f as, although the planet is 500 light years away from Earth, it is a market in which the EFL would like to increase its profile. Sure there's only a slim chance of the planet harbouring intelligent life, but that's still a better chance than you will have of finding some at EFL HQ.

Injury news is that we are down to three on the list. Reid, having pulled up lame in last weekend's warm-up is definitely out. The latest news is that Andy Carroll faces a late fitness test to see if he can face his old club. If not, the international break will mean that he should be ready to pick up his next injury against Huddersfield. Lanzini is slated for a return though, though we await official confirmation of that.

A prediction then. Well we both started poorly, their league problems being largely as a result of a lack of goals. They have yet to open their account in the league. We at least got off the mark even if Mason's continuing bout of insanity messed things up for us. On the other hand, we aren't travelling well at present (League Cup notwithstanding.) I think I would make us slight favourites if I were the chap who does the odds at Winstone's The Turf Accountants but I'm not. I think that as a patient we are on the recovery list if not quite back onto full solids just yet so I will plump for a draw on this occasion. I will therefore place the traditional ?2.50 that I was going to pay a firm of "brand consultants" to come up with a good idea for the next League Cup draw (how about holding it in England at, say, lunchtime UK time?) on a 2-2 draw.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at St James' Park: Lost 2-1 (Premier League January 2016)

Goals from Perez and Wijnaldum were enough to give the home side the points. Shelvey made his debut for them and played well, though he ought to have seen red when clotheslining Valencia. Jelavic pulled one back and Kouyate had one cleared off the line at the death as a nine-match unbeaten run came to an end. Nine matches. Imagine.

Referee: Neil Swarbrick

Spineless. Stood and watched as Reid was elbowed in the face by Liverpool's Wijnaldum last season and turned down a stonewall penalty in the same match that would have been given for just about any other side in a performance eerily reminiscent of that we encountered last weekend.

Danger Man: Matt Richie

Nominated by Preview Alastair he can operate on either flank which, given our vulnerability to the wide stuff so far this season, is a bit of a worry. Came close to scoring in the 1-0 defeat to Huddersfield with a curler which, had it gone in, would have been a carbon copy of the one that Mooy scored for Huddersfield in the same match.

Percy's Poser

In midweek we asked you what part Cheltenham hostelry "The Salisbury" had to play in the history of the club. The first correct answer out of the digital hat came in from Mrs Marjorie Jong-Un of Havering-Atte-Bower who remembers that it was the Salisbury in which then Cheltenham manager Martin "Mad Dog" Allen decided to let his hair down at an end of season do. And his trousers. The incident resulted in his ejection from said hostelry. Allen was later in hot water over a trumped-up accusation of making a racially-unpleasant comment to a bouncer. Although totally exonerated of the accusation, Allen and the club parted company "by mutual consent". And he seemed such a nice boy when he played for us.

For this week's poser we ask you what connects 1800's American newspaper publisher James Gordon Bennett with Newcastle owner Mike Ashley. First correct answer out of the digital hat will win one of those Sports Direct "bags for life" that I am given to believe they try to sell you every time you visit one of their emporia.

Good luck everyone!

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