Steak Bakes to the rescue…?

Question: What do The Wealdstone Raider, Kim Jong Un, HRH Queen Elizabeth II and Yosser Hughes (ask your dad) all have in common?
Answer: Had the powers that be at SJP asked any of them for their view on NUFC prior to the new season, every last one of these individuals would have confidently predicted our current plight that sees us winless and languishing in the bottom three.

So, why Steve Bruce, Mike Ashley, Lee Charnley or Justin Barnes thought things would pan out any differently is anyone’s guess – if any of you can name me a quartet of people working in the top flight of English football with less combined knowledge of the beautiful game, I will buy you a pint at the next home game.

Defeat at Vicarage Road on Saturday afternoon will see Steve Bruce’s charges fall 7 points behind newly promoted Watford after only 6 games, and unfortunately, given our tendency to struggle at the home of the Hornets, I cannot see any other outcome.

Whilst Watford may not be blessed with a squad full of stars, they still carry a significant threat – just ask Villa, Palace and Norwich, who have all been on the receiving end of defeats by Xisco Muñoz team so far this season.

Taking to the field in a kit that will have people up and down the country repeatedly reach for a polishing cloth to clean their glasses, Watford will no doubt play a 4-2-3-1 that will be spearheaded by Josh King – but for me, it is the three playing behind the ex-Bournemouth man that fill me with the greatest sense of dread.

In Ismaïla Sarr and Emmanuel Bonaventure they have pace to burn, and this, coupled with Tom Cleverley’s ability to find pockets of space and pick a pass, means that Watford have just the sort of attacking players to hurt our clumsy, cumbersome centre halves and our positionally poor wing backs.

It’s not going to be pretty.

There IS hope, however.

Should Steve Bruce have a bump on the head that leads to him having an epiphany between now and Saturday and revert to a 4-2-3-1 formation, in which players are actually played in their preferred positions, we have the tools within our squad to get at them.

In Danny Rose and Craig Cathcart Watford have two of the most immobile defenders in the Premier League, and given the right opportunity Almiron and ASM could cause them all sorts of problems – but for this to happen they simply have to be played in their preferred positions, instead of being wheeled out to play as a defence-minded midfielder and a centre forward.

We can only hope that Darsley Park witnesses an incident involving a very tall freezer, a pack of frozen Greggs steak bakes, and Steve Bruce’s skull before the weekend…

I fear that is currently our only hope.

Dangerman: Ismaila Sarr. The thought of him bearing down on Matt Ritchie will give me a sleepless night on Friday.

Prediction: No pastry related injuries will result in a damaging 1-2 defeat that will see the bookies slash the odds still further on Eddie Howe rocking up on Barrack Road before Christmas.

Lee Forster @LeeDForster


Winter is coming…

The nights are drawing in, the seasons are officially changing, and the reality must set in – it’s almost October and we have not won a football match yet.

For me, for us to be able to change the course of our season we simply must pick up 4 points from our next two away games – this starts on Saturday as we travel to Vicarage Road to play Watford.

I was fairly confident going into the Leeds game – the draw we got was the least I was expecting. I thought a depleted Leeds were perfect for us. Watford? I’m worried.

I’ve only seen the Hornets on highlights this season and the searing counterattack goals they scored against both Aston Villa and Norwich make up a huge part of my worry. I shouldn’t be really; they are a newly promoted side who are expected to go down, but the word PACE sends shivers right down my spine when it comes to this team of ours.

Gayle really should start and Bruce saying he doesn’t fit into our system is ludicrous. Gayle isn’t a Premier League player but the same can be said of 7 or 8 others.

If we are to get that elusive win, we must start well, keep the ball, take charge of the game without relying on other clubs’ profligacy to stay in football matches.

This is one of those games we either sneak or get hammered. If it’s the latter the away end should be interesting.

It will be nice to see our Southern supporters back in the grounds after the big absence, and those lads and lasses will see for themselves how badly organised this team is.

Dangerman: Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis. A handy looking player we didn’t stump up the cash for. You know what happens next.

Prediction: I hate to be overly negative on these things, but I think we will lose 2-0.

Scott Robson


Another sting in the tail?

We travel down south to Vicarage Road this weekend, to take on newly promoted Watford. The hornets have had a fairly decent start to their life back in the big time, and have some players that should concern us. In particular Ismaïla Sarr, the young winger has been in scintillating form so far this campaign, and will definitely fancy his chances against a shaky and mismatched magpies defence, and a legless Matt Ritchie shoehorned in at left back.

With 3 goals in 5 games, the 23 year old forward is far and away Watford’s star man. His impact to his side is akin to our very own Saint-Maximin, without whom we would at present create very little, and score even less. In fact, last Friday we had 7 shots on target, 4 of them from the enigmatic Frenchman, enough said really. We’ll need him at his magic best to get a badly needed 3 points this weekend, but I just can’t see it. This is the feeling of negativity and pragmatism I feel when predicting our results these days.

I’m going for a draw, maybe score, maybe nil nil, but a draw nonetheless. Does that really help us? Not really. Does it buy Steve Bruce more time? More than likely. With bookies odds slashed, and Twitter awash with Eddie Howe rumours, it feels like a change could be in the air. With the news Ashley himself visited the training ground this week, no doubt adding fuel to the fire.

Whatever happens, we need to win this game, but Bruce will set up just not to get beat, such is the negative, and defeatist approach he has to games. Watford on the other hand will go for the win, as they play a lot more positively than Bruceball, which isn’t too hard to achieve. It’s got to the stage when the best we can probably hope for is a draw against a newly promoted side, good god!

Get this man out of our club.

Chris Currie @wig82


More Sad Songs and Sacrifice

Let’s face it, good things don’t generally happen at Vicarage Road. Maybe it’s the childhood trauma. I still remember the pain listening to Charles Harrison on Metro Radio commentating on the third replay in the third round of the FA Cup in 1989 (?) when, in the 116th minute of the match and nearly seven and a half hours into the tie, Glenn Roeder sliced the ball into his own net to decide matters. We’ve lost four of our last five matches there. To be honest, I’m not actually sure that we’ve ever won a top-flight match in Elton John’s patch of Hertfordshire.

So, the omens are all good for Saturday! Especially given our current predicament. Of course, Watford was also the scene of Glenn’s last match as manager in May 2006 after a 1-1 draw. Maybe that’s an omen of a better kind, and Vicarage Road will again prove to be the graveyard of an NUFC manager. Fat chance, as the lifers at St James’ Gaol scratch the 95th line on their cell walls. My commemorative Brucey centenary mug is already on order.

The only sliver of hope is that we’ll finally see an admission that 532/352 has not worked and a reversion to the back four deployed in the second half against Leeds, maybe even the lesser-spotted 4231. The experience of last season suggests that a shift in formation brings short-term results, but I’m less optimistic this time around. Wilson is out, Willock seems to be playing injured, we’ve had 18 (EIGHTEEN, as the vidiprinter would have put it) different starters in 5 matches – including 6 different centre-backs – and have given game-time to 21 different players. Of course, the only available player not yet given a single minute is our most effective player in pre-season and our only recognised striker. Obviously.

Prepare for a routine away defeat full of more entirely imaginary positives.

Dangerman: Ismaila Sarr

Prediction: Watford 1-0 Newcastle

Matthew Philpotts @mjp19731