Opposition Q & A
After last week’s heart-breaking last minute away loss to Southampton, we at least received a little bit of cheer beating Cheltenham away in what I shall still call the League Cup. On Saturday Hammers fans face a journey to Newcastle to watch West Ham try to gain their first points of the season. Ahead of the game I spoke to Newcastle fan Dave Punton from “www.themag.co.uk”:http://www/themag.co.uk to find out his opinions about the fixture.
A poor start to the season has left both our clubs pointless after two games, in what position do you expect Newcastle to finish the season?
As a newly promoted side it’s going to be tough for NUFC to find their feet in this league. It seems a league that gets harder and harder to operate in due to the finances required. It’s very early to make predictions but I suspect a slog for NUFC. Maybe 16th or 17th, maybe even 18th and relegation again. We have a manager with a fantastic CV behind him, my hope is he can give us that extra something over the whole season that gets us to 40 points, if he doesn’t walk away. So plenty of fun ahead then!
Early days yet, but what league position can West Ham realistically achieve this season?
Tenth. West Ham are a well established Premier League club and have got enough there in the squad to be fine, though there does seem to be talk that Bilic is under more pressure. If the hangover from switching stadiums has worn off then who knows, maybe you can finish a few places higher. Moving to that athletics stadium seems to have hindered the club in some way, though that’s just a guess.
Which three teams do you think will suffer relegation and who will lift the title this season?
Well I’ve got to back NUFC to stay up, despite the growing concerns, so on that basis I’ll go for Brighton, Palace and Huddersfield. I think the title will be Man City’s.
The press keep on touting Rafa to be West Ham’s next manager. How do you view this speculation, and how do you rate West Ham’s manager Slaven Bilic as a manager?
I wouldn’t rule anything out. Mike Ashley would listen to any offer if the right money was put on the table to release Benitez from his contract. We know that Rafa wants to work in the UK and his family still live on Merseyside. Newcastle was a good fit for him, and I genuinely feel he loves the passion and everything that NUFC is, but the honeymoon may well be over. He’s clearly not happy with the way the club has gone about business this summer, though most of his media statements have centred on one of a man staying put. If a real offer for his services landed then I do wonder what would happen. His departure would shaft NUFC.
Bilic has done a pretty good job at West Ham and I like him. He knows how to put a team together. Is he the man for the long term there? Maybe not. Results have slipped and there seems to be speculation about the his position. West Ham would be an attractive option for a lot good managers, not just Benitez.
Presumably you are happy with Rafa as ‘The Gaffer’?
Benitez has been a breath of fresh air. The contrast between him and his two predecessors is marked, though as I said earlier, there is a sense that the gloss of promotion has well and truly been rubbed off.
Here is a manager who knows how to set up a team, everyone knows their jobs and he gets it spot on with the media. He’s singlehandedly transformed the club’s PR, though Ashley is doing his level best to wreck that. My only issue with Rafa is he can lack a bit of flexibility on shaking things up when it’s not going well, and he seems to prefer defensive games at home, which irks a few. However, the way he rebuilt NUFC last summer and oversaw promotion was nothing short of turning water into wine.
Mike Ashley has been interviewed recently about his time at your club, having read what he said do you have confidence in your long-term future?
Simple answer: no. The Sky interview was stage managed tripe which saw Ashley try to submit his disclaimer for all the strategic blunders he’s made. The nonsense about being unable to compete was rubbish too, as fans don’t expect to compete with the likes of Man City and Chelsea, but Bournemouth and Huddersfield would be realistic for a billionaire. It’s the unhappiest marriage in football and NUFC fans have had ten years of this clown. Don’t buy into the media narrative that he’s just a nice honest bloke doing his best. He thinks he can run a Premier League club on buttons and it’s a fundamentally flawed approach.
Ashley has stated that Rafa will not have a lot of cash to spend, but are you hoping for more additions to your squad before the end of the month, and if so where do you think needs strengthening?
The club has a low net spend and we need more players with top-flight experience. We need a playmaker, a left back and a centre mid. We take too long over transfer deals and that glacial pace is a worry.
If you could have any current West Ham player in your first team who would you choose and why?
I like Lanzini but I have to say Andy Carroll given he’s from Newcastle and would give his all for the cause. Pity about all the injuries he gets.
Which Newcastle player(s) will be key to your hopes this season?
Gayle’s goals were the key last season, but he’ll need others to help him out, namely Atsu, Mitrovic and Perez. We have to keep the first choice back four fit and Yedlin at right back is an important player for his pace, as is Matt Ritchie in midfield, not least for his desire and passion for the cause. He’s a great lad.
How do you expect Newcastle to setup against West Ham on Saturday/ Team/formation prediction?
Rafa will deploy his 4-2-3-1 formation. I’d imagine he’ll want to keep it tight and try and pinch a goal and then probe for a second. I’d like to see us give it a right go and not play so deep, like we did against Spurs.
Prediction for score
The mood music isn’t great at the moment. I’d snap your hand off for 1-1.
Buoyed by the fact we have scored four goals in a week, combined with a confidence sapping midweek defeat, for Newcastle I’m going for our first league victory of the season 1 – 3 to West Ham – Come on you Irons!