Newcastle United v Nottingham Forest 

Premier League, St James’ Park, 3pm, Saturday 6th August 2022

Not being shown on any (legal!) ‘live’ TV

Saturday sees both the return of Premiership football and the long awaited re-emergence of a ‘sleeping giant’.  First up, Eddie’s Mags home to promoted Nottingham Forest.

Circa 10 months ago, the vast majority of Trent-sider folk would’ve snapped your hand off for another bout of Championship togger this August. They spectacularly went one better than that, following an incredible turn in form which saw them narrowly miss automatic promotion, but finally succeed via the play offs, beating Huddersfield Town 1-0.

In a nightmare start to the last campaign, Forest managed only a solitary point from their opening six games with Chris Hughton at the helm.  Mags know a fair bit about such early form, but we had a massive takeover and an incoming excellent coach to help us out the clarts.

So, how did their miracle turnaround occur?

Quite simply, they struck gold by replacing Comrade Chris with Steve Cooper.  Despite possessing a curiously punchable face, the Welshman clearly knows his onions.

I recently spent a good 20 minutes at the school gate chatting to (ex of this parish) Forest player, Jack Colback.  I asked him how they went from being so awful to so good.  In response, he talked of football ‘moving on’, and whilst still possessing respect and fondness for Mr Hughton, he believed that the new coach’s man management and attention to detail was on a different level altogether.

He elaborated by telling me that every opposition side are thoroughly studied and that every player absolutely knows their job come kick off.  I recall thinking, ‘let’s hopefully get these once their honeymoon period has expired.’  But, here we are….

Our opposition have spent wildly over the summer (FFP anyone?) sensibly bringing in the likes of custodian, Henderson and talented Tik-Tokker, Lingard.  They also have a ‘jewel in the crown’ with young attacker, Brennan Johnson. Any worries re his suitability of adapting to the Premiership should probably be assuaged when you note that he’s recently notched for his adopted country, Wales ve. the might of both Belgium and Holland. Impressive.

If I were to offer a note of caution to any Forest folk who may happen upon this; it’d be, look to Fulham.  The West Londoners took a similar approach to recruitment when last in the Premiership.  Whilst the names looked largely impressive, the result was a squad of strangers only capable of occasional good performances. This of course led to an instant return to the Championship.

Anyway, on to Eddie’s Mags!

We enter this campaign following a largely successful pre-season and looking in good form.  Having watched all three games v Benfica, Atalanta and Bilbao, it was clear what-ever the personnel, we attempt to continually press the opposition and move the ball about quickly. The work ethic is laudable, with even St Max busting a gut to get back and help out.

Eddie has more than a few conundrums to solve this weekend.  In goal, will it be Martin or new boy, Pope? Does he throw recently acquired centre back, Botman straight in to the fray?

In the midfield, there are a plethora of wide players with only two positions available.

As fans, we go into this season feeling upbeat for the first time in a generation. If there’s one potential fly in the ointment it’s our (current) lack of success in bringing in a couple more attacking type players.

As I write, we’ve had two bids for gifted posing pouch, Maddison knocked back by Leicester. We’ve also courted a talented young French striker who ended up plumping for PSG’s bench instead.

It doesn’t take a genius to envisage the problem we’ll suffer if (when) Callum gets fettled.  I’m sure they’ll sort something prior to the window shutting, but it would have been nice to have our full squad in place now.

On to Saturday….

This has the potential to be a tricky game.  Our opposition will be well drilled and will definitely have done their homework. They will no doubt look to dampen the raucous SJP atmosphere by repelling us early on and attempting to nullify Bruno.

They also have the pace and talent to play on the break, and I believe this will be their approach.

This is a different United though. There’s belief running through them. We’ll need to be patient, but I think we’ll overcome them by continually probing and sticking to the plan.

I’m going for 2-1 to United. With goals from CW and Bruno G.

It’s good to be back….

Nick Clark – @Clark5Nick 

NB: get into your seats early and support the flag display, turn SJP into a sea of Black & White with a roar of Geordie noise!