Newcastle United v Leicester City, St James’ Park, 17/Apr/22, KO: 14:30. Premier League.

Sunday sees a swift return to the Mecca of Northern football for Eddie and his charges.  Next up, it’s Wee Brendan’s ‘hit & miss’ Foxes.

Our visitors will arrive on Barrack Road only six points ahead of the Mags with a negative goal difference, in what’s been a proper ‘head scratcher’ of a season.

Having won the FA Cup last May, to follow up from their amazing Premiership title win a few years before, everything pointed to ‘lift off’ for the Filbert Foxes this campaign.  They are a side with quality throughout, and a bash at 4th spot looked a possibility.  However, as we enter the season’s ‘home straight’ they’ve managed to win just over a third of their fixtures.

So, what’s gone wrong at the King Power?

I guess you need to start with the manager.  To be honest the cod philosophiser, Rodgers has always got on my nerves.  He’s got so much money on himself, and really a side boasting the talents of (amongst others) Tielemans, Barnes and that little prick, Maddison should be miles away from us, especially given the disastrous first half season we endured.

You’d probably need to ask a Leicester fan what the crack is, but whenever I’ve watched them, I’ve been struck how one week they can look superb, and the next, pretty av/poor. Weird. Let’s hope for the latter this Sunday.

The Mags will enter the fray this weekend hoping for three points that would all but guarantee Premiership football next season.  The incredible run of Eddie inspired form came off the rails after a dubiously unfortunate reverse at Stamford Bridge.  The next two fixtures saw unacceptable performances from United away at both Goodison and Spurs.  Whilst Wolves was a nervy affair; a workmanlike home victory, the maximum points haul was all that really mattered.

I think much of our support got a little carried away as we went on a ‘Champions League’ run of form. This current squad is still of lower Premiership quality.  And this is where I mention our manager.  In a mirror image of Rodgers; and in a few short months, Eddie has a side where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

He’s done an astounding job.

I was drunkenly debating at length with a younger TF whippersnapper last Sunday, who believed that Howe should be seen very much as a ‘stop gap’ appointment. His main argument was that he’ll never be able to rise to the heights of say, an Antonio Conte. My answers to this were, 1. We’re at the very start of a major building process that could/should see us rise the League incrementally over the next couple of seasons, and who better to have at the helm than our current incumbent? And, 2. How do you know he won’t be able to mix it with the best a few years down the line? I recall some Man U fans saying the same about Sir Alex in his early days of Old Trafford struggle! From my pew, it’s very much ‘Keep going, Eddie lad.’

Anyways, back to Sunday….

As I write, the Foxes are in Eindhoven for a tough UEFA Conference League QF with PSV.  Most of their main players are injury free but Albert Steptoe up top, is currently fettled.  For the Mags, it’s looking like both Willock and Fraser are the latest major doubts.

I’m expecting another war of attrition, and Leicester will be a tough nut to crack. I’m seeing them with the majority of possession and too much talent to hold at bay for 90 minutes.  They do ship though, and therefore I’m plumping for 1-1 this time around. Of course we’d love the win, but I reckon many of us would take that.

Looking forward to more Flags & Fun. Enjoy your Easter weekend and….. Howay the Lads.

Nick Clark – @Clark5Nick