Hear that? It’s the sound of the entire north east taking a deep breath as the international break brings about some timely respite from a season opening with more talking points than a Joe Kinnear press conference. Team TF has taken this moment to take stock and reflect on the story so far… 


Rus Trevethick 

Do you have any concerns following the first 4 games?

There are plenty of concerns. Only a few weeks have passed since the 5-1 demolition of Villa, but it also feels like a lifetime ago. We’re not a bad team with bad players, and we haven’t forgotten how to play overnight – however, particularly against Brighton, we looked like a shadow of our former selves. The press was lacklustre, the midfield looked scared to get forward, we couldn’t finish our chances, and we lost our solidity. We also gifted the game away against Liverpool, and I can’t ever remember that happening under Howe. Individual mistakes are costing us – wayward passes and poor decisions. Eddie will sort it, and we will get there, I’m sure. 

How do you rate our business in the transfer market?

Matches against Liverpool and Brighton have exposed us somewhat. A fantastic window, but we’re lacking in some key areas. A number 6 would have been great, but we do have an exceptional selection of midfielders, and one of them will make that holding role their own. Over to you, Eddie – who’s it going to be? We’re definitely short on quality CB cover. We simply don’t have anyone who can effectively deputise for Botman. Lascelles and Burn are so far behind the Dutchman in every way. We need to hope our Rolls Royce doesn’t pick up a serious injury.

Have you changed your expectations for the season?

I loathe the word expectations, so prediction it is. My prediction was and remains that we qualify for the Champions League. How we get there and what we put aside (cups) along the way remains to be seen. We must maintain Champions League status – if we do so, the cups will come as we invest those European millions. The club, management, coaches and players will get back to winning ways, but we also need our big players back on song. Pope, Bruno and Isak have work to do. What we can’t be sure of is the target within the club. Do they want a cup at all costs, or does Champions League qualification trump everything? I suspect we all know the answer.



Scott Robson

Do you have any concerns following the first 4 games?

After walking out of the ground after hammering Aston Villa, it’s a safe bet that not many people expected us not to get another point until mid-September at least, but that’s how it is. Am I worried? Not particularly. I put it a bit like being on a honeymoon period – but having a decent row right in the middle of it. Newcastle in 2023 are already exceeding expectations.

This side worked wonders last year. What did happen really shouldn’t have happened, by rights. Everything aligned – enabling a side who don’t concede many and were brilliantly well-drilled, to qualify for the Champions League. But that’s gone. Now, they have to go and do it all again.

A combination of things for this ragged start: we have played over half of the teams being sent from England into European competition this year (despite the early bravado, it was a tough opening). The good teams are counteracting Eddie Howe’s tactics when he virtually won every battle in every game last season. This was bound to happen. Most players have not hit the sort of heights needed to beat these elite teams, and the current midfield combination isn’t working.

How do you rate our business in the transfer market?

I actually liked our transfer business. Tonali is exceptional but will need to settle, and I’ve no complaints over the others. Possibly a centre half, but that has been exaggerated by Botman’s injury. 

Have you changed your expectations for the season?

My expectations have not changed. I think we could lose around 12 or 13 games this year but still qualify for Europe and possibly win a domestic or Europa Cup. Is that not good enough? 

Our expectations must be realistic, but it’s hard when the owners are so openly bombastic. We all need to rein it in and enjoy this autumn like no other in a generation.

For me, we need to get back to the basics that served us so well last year, from Pope through to Bruno. It’s been a fine line in all the games so far. Even against Brighton, we could have been two up before they overwhelmed us. It is disappointing that we have dropped below our usual standards, but crisis? That’s laughable.

Bring in Longstaff and Wilson and see if those old slippers steady the ship, because that’s all we need to do – steady the ship. United will hit all the heights this season – if your expectations are measured, controlled and realistic. It’s early, early days.

Geordies (and others) in the Champions League

Martin Baker 

Do you have any concerns following the first 4 games?

We’ve gained 3 points from 4 games, against sides that qualified for Europe last season. This is roughly the same points per game recorded against the bigger sides as last season when we finished 4th. It hurts that we’ve lost 3 in a row, but people forget that Mancini lost 3 in a row in his first season at City, including a 3-0 hammering at Arsenal and a listless 2-1 loss to Wolves. We’ve not found our mojo yet, but we’ve shown before that we can bounce back, and I think pressure brings out the best in our players and our manager alike. I’d rather be arguing in the pub about how our midfield of internationals can thrive than how we’ll survive a court case, player scandal or a £100m flop.

How do you rate our business in the transfer market?

I’d give it a passive 8/10. My heart wanted Madison or Szoboszlai, but the former could underwhelm in the long term, and the latter could yet have shins made of glass. Time will tell whether Tonali and Barnes strengthen our starting line-up, as neither has featured in a full game yet. The deals for young players and successors are a savvy approach. I’m relieved we haven’t splurged huge sums on players who may buckle under the pressure for the rest of their 8-year contracts. My head says a pacier right-sided centre-back would have made the window more complete, but who had one available for reasonable money and wages?

Have you changed your expectations for the season?

No. I expect a plateau rather than a fall-off. However we fare in the UCL, I know my heart will want more next season. To lose only five games last season was extraordinary, but we drew 14, including both fixtures against Palace and Leeds. Progress for me is putting more of the middling sides to the sword whilst accepting we may lose some games, too. Only once in the last 10 seasons has a side needed to lose less than 8 games to qualify for the UCL. If we’d managed 3 draws from these same first 4 we’d claim it a solid start. I want to see us win more than 20 games, and there are 34 still to play. 



Grace Laidler

Do you have any concerns following the first 4 games?

I knew this season would be tricky. Last season was a fairytale, but now there’s a packed schedule. However, the increase in squad depth and opening victory showed promise. 

Now, things are different. On one hand, we’ve lost against three of the best teams in the league, one being the best in the world. However, our concerns are not around the scorelines, but how we’ve lost.  

Man City was disappointing but acceptable. Only one goal was let in against the team that won three pieces of major silverware last season. There were many who’d hoped we’d give them a game and walk away with a point, but the balloon was burst. With that came the first wave of ridiculous hysteria. We could’ve pressed them harder rather than cowering, but we didn’t roll over and walked away with minimal damage from a loss. 

Then came Liverpool. Heartbreaking and unacceptable. A game of two halves, marred by strange substitutions and taking eyes off the ball (literally). Hysteria turned into upset, with a questioning of Howe’s judgement starting to bubble. However, optimism prevailed, and I thought, ‘One game of tactical errors won’t make for a bad season.’ It’s just that everything felt worse because we handed the victory to Klopp. Shakespeare couldn’t write that tragedy.

Then Brighton. Just bad all round. Why are the players so off-the-mark and slow? What happened in pre-season? Why the same routine substitutions? Why have £60m sat on the bench? What the Hell has happened?

Have you changed your expectations for the season?

Overall, the panic is premature. It’s only four games in against strong sides. I’d be more panicked if we’d lost to Luton. However, I won’t sit here and say everything’s sunshine and rainbows because it’s one thing to lose with dignity but another to let these teams turn us over. It’s like there’s an impostor syndrome within the team, making us hesitant to stick it to the big boys. We’re in the Champions League! We’re just as good as they are!

Someone light a firework up their arses, or the Milan Ultras will when we get laughed off the pitch at San Siro!