This Saturday sees Rafa take his upwardly mobile Mags to East London for an early evening kick off v West Ham United.

For the first time since the back end of the 17-18 campaign, we can start looking up the Premiership table after our recent great run of form. We’re not totally out of danger, but are looking close to it.

What of our opponents this weekend?

It’s been a somewhat mixed campaign for the Irons. Better than recent seasons, but too much flattering to deceive to make a dent on the top 6 or 7. No on pitch protests either, mind.

When we last met, back in early December our opponents used a deserved win at St James’ as a springboard to embark on a victorious six game run. They were playing excellent, effective football and their expensive Brazilian import, Anderson was pride of place in many a fantasy football team.

Fast forward to today and results aren’t quite so stellar. I can imagine that much of their support are disappointed they didn’t use the platform of their pre Christmas run to kick on. They currently occupy 10th spot and are 5 points better off than us.

A match up of youthful English talent.

An intriguing subplot to Saturday’s game is a tale of two very impressive young midfielders. West Ham have Declan Rice and we of course, have Sean Longstaff. Rice is a player who’s really grabbed much attention this season. I thought he was absolutely superb at St James’ as they cruised to a 3-0 win. A cultured player with a decent engine and an eye for the killer ball. It’s testament to the performances of our boy Sean, that his dramatic entrance has drawn some comparisons.

On that, I’ve read a fair bit of ‘our kids better than yours’ type of stuff over the past few days (re these two). Some simpleton even went on a Talksport phone in this week to offer the Nation some pearls of ‘wisdom’ on this very subject. Such is the dearth of real NUFC related ‘news’ stories, the Chronicle actually printed this as an ‘exclusive.’ ‘Cutting edge’ as ever!

This particular radio station (Quinny apart) are clearly derisive in their view of Newcastle United and it’s supporters. Going ‘live’ from Byker, with your half baked views only adds weight to their stereotypical view of our club and fan base. They have us all down as ‘salt of the earth’, thick as a whale omelette, loud & erroneously opinionated gobshites. Vociferously proclaiming how much ‘berra’ our boy is, is unlikely to buck that unwelcome trend. Sorry to go on so. It just boiled my piss a bit. Rice is much more established. Longstaff has made an extremely encouraging start. Let’s try not to get ahead of ourselves, eh?

So, what’s going to happen this weekend?

It’s a tricky one to call, I reckon. West Ham are fairly warm favourites with the bookies, but the way Rafa has us set up and playing, we are a tough nut to crack these days. Everyone knows their job and confidence is high. West Ham showed their belligerence on Wednesday, only succumbing to an Aguero penalty, in a ‘backs to the wall’ performance at the Etihad.

However, they’ve been so erratic this year it’s hard to predict which Hammers side will turn up.

It’d be mint to repeat the same type of result as last season, but Rafa will have taken a lot on board from our last encounter, where we went explicably gung-ho and we’re too easily picked off. I’m expecting a more conservative approach and I’m plumping for a fence sitting 1-1 draw.


Nick Clark


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