Sometimes before games we get questions from a web-site of the opposing team.
The We are Brighton web-site banner
And earlier in the week Scott McCarthy, who runs the We are Brighton web-site contacted me and I agreed to answer his questions related to Newcastle and tomorrow’s game.
Here’s Scott’s questions and my answers – I thought it may be interesting – and how would you have answered the questions?
Question 1: Newcastle have really shocked everyone by how well they have done in the Premier League so far this season, especially when many people tipped them to struggle after selling Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton and Andy Carroll. What’s been the main factor behind your great form?
Newcastle brought in some excellent players last summer in French International Yohan Cabaye from Lille for £4.5M and Senegal striker Demba Ba on a free transfer from West Ham. We haven’t missed the players that left and Cabaye has made a big difference in central midfield and of course Demba Ba has scored 15 PL goals this season and he looks awesome.
Alan Pardew is also proving to be an excellent manager for the Newcastle club, and he has the team very well prepared for each game and has generated a phenomenal team spirit this season, with the help of the rest of his coaching staff. Tim Krul has also been performing very well indeed in goal.
We lost four of our very best players last year, yet we ended up with a better team, so we have to think Alan Pardew knows what he’s doing.
Question 2: Alan Pardew is a bit of a pantomime villain to Albion fans after our run-in’s with him during his time at Reading and Southampton and his Palace connections. What was the initial reaction to him taking over from Chris Houghton and have the fans views changed owing to how things have gone so far?
Newcastle fans didn’t want him in at all, and you can include me in that group. But ever since he had his first press conference, when he did everything right, he has come across very well, and seems to know exactly what he is doing.
Alan has also slotted in well at the club and has good relationships with the owner Mike Ashley, the Managing Director Derek Llambias and the other board members, and with the scouting staff.
You have to remember that he will have learned a lot from his previous jobs in football, but he seems to have matured on Tyneside, and he is very ambitious – which is fine with the Geordie fans. Most fans are right behind Alan now, after how well he has done so far in just 13 months at the Tyneside club. 6th place in the league cannot be bad.
Question 3: Given the fact that you seem to be a lot more stable on the pitch now, what’s the current state of play in terms of the relationship between the fans and Mike Ashley?
Mike will never win a popularity contest at Newcastle, and he never talks to the fans. But on the positive side, Mike supported Pardew in bringing in about six good players in the summer transfer window, although we didn’t spend much of the £35M Andy Carroll cash.
But the players were all good buys brought in on very good deals, and last week we signed the great Papiss Cisse from SC Freiburg for around £9M – a deal that really excited the Newcastle fans.
So the fans are probably OK with Mike at the moment, and as long as we keep doing well – which we would expect to – things are looking up on Tyneside.
Question 4: In terms of fan base and passion, Newcastle are easily one of the biggest clubs in the country. Where do you see their natural place in the footballing pyramid these days and do you think they can ever get back to challenging at the top of the table like in the not-so-distant past?
This season we are probably the 7th best club in the Premier League, and maybe even better than that, since we are in with the big boys and 6 points clear of 8th placed Stoke City. The stretch goal this season is to qualify for Europe again, but with some of our results – like the 3-0 win over Manchester United recently – in any one game we are a match for any side.
However, our squad is not big enough and when we lost centre-backs Steven Taylor and Coloccini through injury, we were well beaten 4-2 at Norwich – in a game we would have been expected to win. We just didn’t have sufficient cover in central defence, and the lads who were playing at centre-back were playing out of position and it showed.
So this summer Newcastle will be building up the squad even more, and it looks like the targets are already well defined. It’s hard to get back into the top four, but if we can keep improving like we have since Alan Pardew arrived – anything is possible – but we’ll also be patient.
Question 5: It was only two seasons ago that you won the Championship. Obviously keeping the quality you had in your squad following relegation helped, but from that season at our level what do you think it takes to get out of the division and have a good go at staying in the Premier League?
Good players and a good manager. When we were relegated, which was a huge shock because we had the 6th highest wage bill in the Premier League in that season, everybody was saying we would do another Leeds United and be relegated again.
But we were able to keep some of our top players and pay their wages for that Championship season via a loan from Mike Ashley – and Chris Hughton the manager was simply magnificent for the club. West Ham are trying to do the same thing this season, and will probably lose money but it’s a gamble they can win promotion immediately.
It’s more physical in the Championship, but that helped a number of our players become better – like our captain and Argentine International
Fabricio Coloccini – who is now a much better player in the Premier League. In the last couple of years the teams who have been promoted have done well, with Swansea City and Norwich City doing very well this season, so the gap between the divisions may be narrowing.
Question 6: With Manchester City already out of the FA Cup and one of Manchester United and Liverpool guaranteed to be gone by the time we kick off on Saturday, do you think that this presents a realistic chance of silverware for you this season and will that influence what sort of team Albion fans can expect to see?
Yes, but we are trying to keep low key about it. The relegation season shocked a lot of us big time, so we are more down to earth these days, but at the moment with our best team out, we can beat anybody on the day.
So we may have a very good chance to progress, if we can get past Brighton on Saturday of course, and the game is being shown live around the world. Alan Pardew has a fairly good record in the Cup competitions too and has
made them a priority for the Magpies this season.
And Alan was only a couple of minutes away from winning the FA Cup when he managed West Ham in the FA Cup final, back in 2006 against Liverpool. Maybe he can have better luck with Newcastle United.
Question 7: Brighton fans will obviously be familiar with the big names in the Newcastle line-up, but who would you recommend they keep an eye on?
Yohan Cabaye, Tim Krul and Ben Arfa. Yohan and Hatem Ben Arfa are French Internationals and are loaded with skills, especially Ben Arfa who will probably start on the right wing.
Fabricio Coloccini at center-back is also very good and now our captain, and he has 35 caps for Argentina. Jonas Gutierrez is another Argentine International with 22 caps and he plays on the left wing, and he played in the 20010 World Cup.
Davide Santon at left back is an Italian International and only 21, and he is still getting to grips with the game in England, but he is an excellent technical player to watch.
Question 8: What did Newcastle fans make of the draw and what sort of turn out can we expect from the Toon Army on Saturday at The Amex?
It was better than drawing Manchester United at Old Trafford, but it’s looked on as a game Newcastle can win, but we expect a very tough game. We’ll need to be at our very best to get through the game, and we have no illusions about the tie – it will be a tough game for us – we know that.
Question 9: How much do you know about Gus Poyet’s side?
Quite a bit because we followed Brighton when Kazenga LuaLua was out on loan last season and this season. You had a good start to the season and then had a bad patch but you are
coming through again.
You have done very well since winning League One last season, although second placed Southampton have done even better. If Gus can get the team back on track through the end of the season there’s no reason why you cannot be challenging for promotion next season. And of course you are only 2 points out of a playoff place right now – so there’s still a realistic chance you could get promoted this season.
Question10: Finally, a predicition please if you would be so bold?
We’d be very happy to get a 1-0 win.
How would you have answered these questions – any big differences – let us know.