3pm, Saturday 20th November ’21

St James’ Park


The PCP revolution continues this weekend, as we welcome Edward John Frank Howe to SJP for his inaugural match as Head Coach. Next up, it’s West London’s recently promoted, Brentford. 

The talking is over.  The twenty seven different ‘hot’ managerial favourites are now history, having made Mr Ladbroke and his pal, Paddy a fortune.  It’s time for every Mag to get behind our intelligent and likeable new gaffer.  He’s walked in to an Ashley/Bruce created shit show, and will require our unswerving support to help get us out of the mire. 

These are very different days.  I was abroad, two and a bit years ago when the ‘Bruce’ news filtered through.  I distantly recall it ruining my ice cold pint in the Ibizan sunshine.  At that point I was of course still blissfully unaware of the plague heading our way from the Far East, but I could however confidently predict this typically humdrum Ashley appointment would be no fun; particularly following the Rafa resurgence. 

Mr Howe arrives with us winless, and looking short on confidence, goals and clean sheets.  His squad has far too many Championship journeymen and a paucity of proper top flight talent. However I, like the majority of you (I’m guessing) feel a great deal happier.  

The tortuous Ashley years of neglect are now consigned to annals of history. We’re under no illusion that the Good Ship Newcastle will take some turning around, but for the first time in a generation, the determination is there to do just that.  And, whether we survive in the Premiership, or have to suffer a return to the league below, I’m invigorated to get behind our owners, coaching team and playing staff. 

To paraphrase the words of that famous banner; as a support, we don’t demand a club that wins, just one that tries.  Well, whatever happens on the pitch going forward, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve now regained that much needed philosophy. 

Our visitors will arrive on Barrack Road, hoping to be the quintessential ‘party poopers.’  There’s a lot to like about Brentford these days.  From their new, compact but smart looking stadium, to their floppy haired, intense, tactically savvy Danish boss, Thomas Frank.  They innovatively scrapped their academy five years ago, instead promoting youngsters from a novel and budding ‘B’ team.  This may go against the grain, but when you look at how universally poor our u18’s/u23’s are, perhaps it’s the type of ‘out of the box’ thinking we should have a look at? 

I enjoy watching the odd bit of Championship football, particularly as the season reaches it’s climax. I just feel it’s a more interesting competition compared to the ‘closed door’ nature of the top flight.  Brentford were a team  that I viewed a number of times, last season.  Mr Frank was an advocate of 4-3-3 for much of that campaign, plumping for a change to 3-5-2 for the run in. However they set up, they play with high tempo and are clearly well coached. Up top, they had genuine Tier Two class in our ex, Ivan.  I still reckon he has the chance of being a ‘hit’ going forward, but goals have thus far been understandably harder to come by for him in the Prem. 

The Bees hit the ground running in this campaign, but are now showing signs of hitting the buffers. They began their debut top flight season with an uproarious 2-0 home win over the Gunners; and soon after they shared the points in an absolutely brilliant six goal thriller at home to Liverpool.  The week after, they turned over the impressive West Ham, 2-1 away. 

Their recent form however, is not so clever.  Like so many other sides who’ve emerged from the Championship, a strong start is beginning to fade badly as the Autumnal leaves hit the deck. Since those heady, late summer days, they’ve lost four off the bounce.  Firstly, and understandably, Chelsea and then Leicester bested them; but it’s the last two defeats which will really have the alarm bells ringing.  A 1-3 away defeat to Burnley was followed by a disastrous 1-2 home loss to a previously winless Norwich City.  

This brings us nicely on to Eddie’s Mags.  Whilst Brentford are desperate for three points, their hosts absolutely require them.  The next run of games will basically frame our season. Our woeful current position dictates that we require three wins from our next home games versus sides around us in the table, before we head into a particularly naughty looking Festive period. It’s a big ask, when you consider we haven’t won a competitive fixture for about six months. However, with clear daylight already between ourselves and 17th, anything less could sink us.  It’s that stark, and that simple. 

Had Bruce or Jones been in the hot seat, I’d have little hope for success on Saturday.  Does Mr Howe being there give us more of a chance? I’d definitely say so.  Whilst recognising the limitations of our current playing staff, it’s clear that the new managerial regime mean business.  I’m guessing that the word ‘failure’ is not one that Eddie allows anyone to dwell upon.  

The part time training schedule, made popular by his joke of a predecessor is no more.  From 8AM on day one, the players have been in, being coached properly; including extra sessions at St James’.  I’d imagine that whatever starting XI he goes with, they’ll have a much better idea of their role, and be playing to impress their new gaffer. 

So, what to expect this weekend? 

It’s a shame it’s not a tea time kick off for extra peeve time, but I still foresee a flagged & pumped up St James’ come three bells.  I’m also sure we’ll get to view a Newcastle side sent out to press high and use the flanks.  Here’s however where the questions begin….. 

Do we have the quality to play in such a manner for 90 minutes?  How will our opponents view the match? Sit deep, and hit on the break, or go ‘toe to toe?’  Will the returning, aforementioned Toney make us pay, or be a bit part figure? 

I don’t have the answers, but my gut tells me we’ll nick this one. Whether it be the ‘dead cat bounce’ of a new manager, improved tactics, a reinvigorated playing staff or plain old dumb luck, I think we’ll edge it by two goals to one.  Callum, first goal scorer is basically printing money btw. Just ask TF betting wunderkind, @paullynufc79 ! 

HTL ✊️

Nick Clark