St James’ Park
5.30pm. Live on BT Sports (with wonderful anchorman, Jake Humphrey alongside those charmless tossers, camel gob & the little dead eyed diver)
This Saturday sees the Saints come marching up Barrack Road for an early evening kick off, with our visitors still nervously glancing over their shoulders.
I don’t want to be blasé, but even after Cardiff’s 2-0 win at the Amex on Tuesday night, to get past Newcastle they still require an eight point swing with only twelve to play for. They also have a few stinking fixtures,
making it beyond improbable that they’ll get anywhere close to us. Even though Southampton remain in a more perilous position, I think it’s realistically the Welshies or Comrade Chris’s mob who’ll be unwanted incumbents of the dreaded third ejector seat come early May.
For the second successive season, the South coast outfit have at times had rather a terminal look about them approaching the run in. When they last visited Gallowgate, thirteen months ago I think it was the worst Saints performance in recent memory. Whilst United were impressive on the day, our 3-0 victory actually flattered them.
They took swift action in immediately replacing one awful manager with another. That Mark Hughes (clearly the most miserable man in Britain) managed to save their arses, I still find puzzling. The Southampton players must have really hated Pellegrino for the once permed curmudgeon to so rapidly get a tune out of them. The Saints’ board then made the cardinal error of giving him the gig full time, damning their supporters to another shite campaign. I confidently predict that in years to come such knee jerk, myopic ‘caretaker’ decisions will be known as ‘doing a Solskjaer.’
With hope evaporating quickly, the Saints’ board threw the dice again pre Christmas. New guy, Ralph Hasenhüttl may sound like a 70’s German pornstar, but in fact he’s none of those things. I have to admit I knew frig all about Herr Hass so had to do a bit of wiki-work to discover he’s an Austrian, ex journeyman centre forward of the bustling variety.
Since hanging up his boots, he’s learnt his trade the old fashioned way, managing in the lower Eric leagues. He got his big break in 2016 with the controversial Red Bull Leipzig in Bundesliga 2 and did a fine job, grabbing promotion in his first season and getting them to 6th in the top flight, the year after.
Going from battling for European slots to maintaining Hampshire also rans’ Greed league status may seem a slightly odd career move, but the Prem is where the big wedge is and money usually talks. Other notable wiki-bites are, he’s the first Austrian to manage in Premiership and erm, he once contracted hantavirus. This, I discovered is a nightmare condition usually caused by being in too close proximity to rodents. Well, you will pay the price for taking your family on a cheapo option holiday to Roker-on-sea.
I’ve had enough of talking about our (hopefully) ex bogey team. Wallace and the boys will give you all a proper SWOT analysis in ‘the Special’ so make sure you have a scan, eh? It’s always mint.
What of the Mighty Magpies? Just as things were looking like deflating following Arsenal and Palace, we go to upwardly mobile Leicester and rule them on the turf and in the stands! The NUFC predictor’s task is never an easy one and I’m delighted to say I got it totally wrong here. An excellent performance all over the pitch was further boosted by a superb Ayoze header (subtly aided by his ever present hair pomade) which turned out to be the decider and leaves us in fine fettle for Saturday.
So, onto the tricky bit…. The Saints have definitely improved since Ralph arrived and come into this one buoyant following a 3-1 win over flip flop wearing Wolves. Rafa’s Mags however, are slight favourites and I think correctly so. I’m gonna plump for 2-1 to the Toon and fancy the soon to be departing, (boo hoo) Lord Rondon of West Bromwich to feature heavily. Make it so, Salomon.
Nick Clark