Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Watford

It’s one of those moments in time when god is in your heaven: I’m off work for Christmas until 9th Jan, and West Ham are playing with the style and panache we all long for, yet seldom see, scoring freely and entertaining us all. These times are to be treasured. This weekend West Ham welcome Watford, who have rediscovered their scoring boots after a dismal run, for a mid-table fixture at the London Stadium. Ahead of the game I chatted to Watford season ticket holder Aubin Stafford to discuss the season past, present and future.

Hi Aubin, this weekend sees both of our teams in a good vein of form, sitting on 24 points , in 9th and 10th in the league. Are you happy with your season so far?
Yes I am happy with the season so far, as I did not expect us to be doing this well before the season started, and definitely did not expect us to go on a 4 game win streak at the very start.

Match of the Day ended last week showing a montage of Watford’s goals so far this season: which of these was your particular favourite?
My favourite goals would either be Pereyra’s goal against Brighton where he volleyed it ‘top bins’ or it would be the ex-West Ham player Domingos Quina’s goal against Cardiff last weekend: the kid looks a bargain at £1m.

Watford seem to be following the Chelsea/Southampton school of appointing managers, where the system in place is more important than the individual manager – witness your sacking of Marco Silva last year. Are there any of your managers that you think were let go too soon, and you wish were still at the helm?
It is true. We do part ways with a lot of managers. E.g. Slavisa Jokanovic who got us promoted, then demanded a pay rise which our owners were not willing to pay. And of course there’s the Marco Silva situation where his head got turned by Everton, and he stopped caring about Watford because he knew he wouldn’t be there at the end of the season. But the one manager I still feel emotionally connected to would have to be Quique Sanchez Flores who kept us up in the first season in the Premier League: I would’ve liked to see what he could do with another season.

Having said all of that how do you rate your current manager Javi Gracia?
I rate our current manager Javi Gracia highly. Although expectations and hype about him were low when he first came in, he has now shown how much he has improved players such as Holebas after having a full pre-season.

What are your thoughts, if any, on the appointment of Manuel Pelligrini as West Ham’s manager?
When I first heard about West Ham signing Pelligrini I thought it was a brilliant move and I was silently jealous about it. Him being a premier league winner just shows the intent of West Ham and what you want to achieve in the long run. Even when you were struggling at the start of the season I knew it would only be a matter of time before you picked up form.

Somebody must be doing their job properly in your recruitment department. Richarlison was a great buy, and looked to be a big loss when he followed Silva to Everton, but at the moment it looks as he is not being missed. Who did you bring in during the summer, and how are they fitting into the team?
The Richarlison situation was weird. He seemed to only do well under Silva and when Javi came in he lost his place in the team to Pereyra who stepped up his form just as Richarlison’s was dipping. Pereyra then continued this good form into the current season and we haven’t looked back at Richarlison since. As of regard to players we’ve brought in Deloufeu signing a permanent deal with the club has helped us but i think the main reason we are not missing Richarlison is because of the amount of players that have stepped up.

The transfer window will soon upon us. Any areas of your team that you think need shoring up, or are you pretty happy with your squad?
One area I think we will have to address in the transfer window is a striker. Andre Gray is not one to score many and Deeney is playing a deeper role whilst Gray is out injured. This is not to mention Stefano Okaka who is incapable of exercise. Another position which may need strengthening is the defence. Sometimes our defence can be brilliant and sometimes it can be awful with people like Kabasele acting like he doesn’t have a brain.

Who have been your best players so far this season?
I think our player of the season so far has to be Ben Foster in goal he’s saved us god knows how many points this season: other players who deserve a mention would have to be Étienne Capoue, Craig Cathcart, Roberto Pereyra and Gerard Deloufeu.

Conversely which players have so far not played up to expectations?
I think Doucoure has not been playing to his full potential in central midfield after his fantastic form last season and Kiko Femenia at right back has struggled in recent games.

If you could have any West Ham player in your squad, who would you choose and why?
Out of the West Ham squad I would definitely take Arnautovic. This is because of his passion and also he is clinical in front of goal from what I’ve seen. Definitely up there for one of the best players outside the top six.

Who is going to win the League, and which teams will end up in the Premier League slots?
I still think Man City will win the league because of their squad depth I think Liverpool will have injuries affect them. My predicted top 4 would be Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham.

Which teams are going to get regulated?
Teams I think are going are get relegated would have to be Huddersfield, Cardiff and Burnley.

Where do you think Watford and West Ham will end the season?
I think both our teams are definite top 10 contenders so my prediction for the end of the season would be Watford 8th and West Ham 9th (trying to be positive).

How will Watford line up against West Ham this weekend? Team/formation?
How we’ll start against West Ham. I would have to guess it would be a 4-4-2 formation with Deeney and Deloufeu up front. The midfield I guess would be Quina against his former club next to Doucoure and Pereyra down the left and Ken Sema down the right. The defence would probably be Kiko at right back with Holebas at left back and Cathcart/Kabasele as the central defenders.

Are you going to bring an end to our winning run? Prediction for score?
I think it will be a really competitive game if we decide to turn up. I’m going to stay positive and go for a 2-1 Watford win.

Well many thanks to Aubin for his time and insightful comments about Watford. I had to smile when he said the kid’s a bargain when talking about Quinas, because Aubin must be about 18 himself. Well even though I think this will be one of the hardest games in our current run, which West Ham fan is not going going to back a fifth win on the trot? After only bagging two last weekend I’m hoping we can get back to scoring three again: so 3 -1 West Ham. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Fulham

After three consecutive wins, scoring three in each game, West Ham fans will be looking forward to welcoming Fulham to the London Stadium in the 5.30pm kick-off game this Saturday. Ahead of the game I spoke to my son’s old school friend and lifelong Fulham fan Joe Potter to discuss the season so far and our game.

Hi Joe, this time last season you were lighting up the Championship, and you were eventually promoted via the Play off final, at what stage did you become confident you would be promoted?
I think during the play off semi final second leg against Derby, at the Cottage. We’d lost 1-0 at Pride Park but there was a special atmosphere that night and it just felt fated that we were going to do it. We went to Wembley with so much positivity and confidence .

In great contrast you sit at the bottom of the Premier League having recently sacked your manager. Was Slavisa Jokanovic given enough time to keep you up: how do you rate his time with you? And is Claudio Ranieri the man to guide you up the table?
‘Joka’ will always be held in high regard at Fulham. He gave us back a footballing identity, pride and excitement for the first time since Hodgson. We’d been a poor Premier League and Championship team before he arrived. In the end his lack of pragmatism and unwillingness to change his principles was his undoing. I was sad to see him go but it just wasn’t working – we were much too easy to play and score against. Claudio feels like a good fit with the club. He’s a calm and classy character but he has a hell of a job to keep us up. We’re all just hoping his pedigree as a Premier League winner will come though and get us out of trouble.

What do you think about Manuel Pelligrini’s appointment and tenure as West Ham manager?
You had a dodgy start, but no one can doubt Pelligrini’s credentials. Expectations are obviously high with the stadium and spending that you did in the summer and it looks like things are bedding in with a few wins recently. There’s no doubt that you have quality in the squad.

Which teams have impressed you at this season, and which teams do you think will win the league and end up in the Champions League slots?
I think City have to be favourites for the league and I think they will pull away from Liverpool as the season goes on. They dispatched with us up in Manchester pretty easily. Arsenal were strong when we played at the Cottage, probably the best performance against us so far and they look to have improved in a number of areas. I’d put them in the Champions League places alongside Spurs (if only to keep the other team in Fulham out).

On the other hand who has been poor this season, and who are your favourites (or hopes)for relegation?
I think Cardiff will struggle, although they are out of the relegation zone at the time of writing. I’ve got no love for them as a club and wouldn’t be disappointed to see them go down. Huddersfield is a great away day and I admire what they’ve done as a club but money talks and I think they will be down there at the end of the season. As for the 3rd relegation place, anyone but us!

What positions do you think Fulham and West Ham will occupy at the end of the season?
I’ll take 17th for the Lilywhites and reckon West Ham could make 8th quite comfortably, although expectations are probably higher!

Most fans will have heard of Ryan Sessegnon and his potential, who are the other players who are going to be instrumental in keeping you up this season?
If we can find a system which suits him then Jean Michael Seri could be instrumental. He has so much quality on the ball. Also Tom Cairney if he can get fully fit. He still makes us tick. Mitrovic’s goals will be crucial.

The transfer window is soon upon us, where do you need to get players in to strengthen you?
There’s a lot of strengthening to do. No secret that our defending has been shambolic so we need some steel and defensive nous. That includes in midfield as well as defence. A lot got made of the money we spent in the summer but we lost 5/6 first team players who were on loan last season and needed to be replaced. That was always going to be expensive.

Which players have disappointed this season so far, and you would be happy to see go?
The fact that Seri has so much quality means he’s the biggest disappointment despite not being our worst performer. When we beat Burnley 4-2 at home early in the season he was getting stuck in, spraying passes and scored a great goal. Unfortunately his lack of interest recently in tracking back (there was a shocking example against Man Utd at the weekend) is not what you need when you’re fighting for every point.

Which if any West Ham players would you like to see playing for Fulham and why?
Even though West Ham have much more talented players, and he has his limitations, we badly lack Premier League experience and for that reason probably Mark Noble.

How will Fulham set out against West Ham on Saturday? Formation/Team?
We’ve got the Tinkerman so it’s hard to predict! We’ve lacked consistency of selection all season which has been a problem.
Ranieri has tried to sure things up at the back and I hope Callum Chambers will come back into defensive midfield. We missed him against Man Utd at the weekend when he was injured and Ranieri called it ‘11 lambs against 11 wolves’!
Mitrovic and Sessengon are very likely to start in forward positions, probably alongside Schurrle

Are you confident you can get a positive result against West Ham this weekend? Prediction for the score?
I’ll take a gritty 1-0. However it comes!

Well many thanks to Joe for his time, although he did post his answers to me within about an hour of receiving the questions. For my part I can recall a few memorable victories at The Cottage and will take us to continue our winning run, I know I’m getting delirious, another three goals: 3 – 1 West Ham. COYI

PS I couldn’t find any pictures of West Ham v Fulham so posted this one of Anderson striking the ball for that glorious goal last week. Great goal!

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Crystal Palace

This weekend, bolstered by two wins on the bounce (perhaps Dan can let us know when we last scored 3 goals in consecutive league games) West Ham welcome our South London neighbours Crystal Palace to the Olympic Stadium. Ahead of the game I caught up with old friend and Crystal Palace die-hard fan, Angela Couch, currently living in exile in Lincoln, but still managing to come down for games, to discuss the game and the season.

Hi Ange, after the current round of mid-week games Crystal Palace sit 4 places behind West Ham with 12 points. That must have been a particularly painful loss to Brighton on Wednesday: what are your feelings on the season so far?
On the most part I think Crystal Palace have played well when I’ve watched them this season. We just can’t seem to get the ball in the back of the net and that’s not through lack of shots. I thought Jordan Ayew would have a run in the side and could net us a hatful of goals, especially with Benteke being out of action. I hoped Jordan would start every game and provide us with a proper, well-needed, striker but we don’t seem to play a striker at all.

Having had three consecutive one season visits to the Premier League, with this being your fifth season in the top flight, you must consider yourselves to be ‘established’?
Firmly established just above the relegation zone but living in hope each season we’ll creep into the top half of the table.

You’ve been through a lot of managers in the past ten years including two of own ex-managers in Big Sam and Pards, are there any that you think should have been given a bit more time? How does Roy Hodgson rate on the list? Is he going to be your manager for the long term?
I had to look up just how many managers we have had over the past ten years and yes, it is a lot.
Starting with Neil Warnock back in 2010, I was gutted when he left. It’s strange that you can dislike someone but as soon as they become your team’s manager you can easily change your mind. Neil Warnock was a lot calmer when he came to Palace and he did good for us. I believe he left because he wanted to retire. Mmmmm. That didn’t last long.
I quite liked Alan Pardew as a manager but I think it was the right time for him to leave the club. Sam Allardyce was another manager that I did not like before he came to the club. I remember feeling very upset when I heard he had been appointed. It was actually my dad that made me feel better about it, he said it was probably just what Palace needed. He was right. I would have liked Big Sam to have stayed longer, definitely.
I was not a big fan of Roy Hodgson when he came to Palace but he has been a stabling influence on the club and we needed that. He is also a Palace man through and through, having been born in Croydon (as was I). I like the way he sets out the team to attack when we can and not always sit back like so many other Palace teams have done in the past. One thing I would say though is that we need to incorporate a proper striker and I don’t think Wilf is at his best in that position. I hope he stays for the rest of this season at least.

What do you think about Manuel Pelligrini’s appointment and tenure as West Ham manager?
I think it is a great appointment for West Ham. If he continues to take West Ham in the right direction I think he could stick with the club for years.

Which teams have impressed you at Selhurst Park this season, and which teams do you think will end up in the Champions League slots?
Arsenal played well at Selhurst. Most of the other teams didn’t look that impressive.
Champions League slots – Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal.

On the other hand who has been poor this season, and who are your favourites for relegation?
Burnley were poor. I was at that match and it was a fantastic atmosphere. Burnley offered very little, which is strange because I have seen them in other matches and they looked like they had enough not to be relegated.
My favourites for relegation are Huddersfield, Fulham and Cardiff. Southampton always manage to sneak out of trouble at the last minute.

What positions do you think Crystal Palace and West Ham will occupy at the end of the season?
Palace will likely finish 16th, just above Southampton. West Ham 10th.

I’m sure most teams in the League (apart from Man Utd) would take Wilfred Zaha, which other player(s) would you be loathe to lose?
As a Palace fan I am used to losing our best players so I don’t get too upset about it anymore. I like our new midfielder Max Meyer. I want to keep him in the side.

Who would you be happy to see go?
Another midfielder, Milivojevic. He is not always in the game enough. Some of the ex-Liverpool players like Martin Kelly and Christian Benteke. (Although, I understand that the whole time that Benteke has been playing for us he has had an injury.)

Most West Ham fans I think (without any evidence to back it up) were surprised to see James Tompkins and Cheikhou Kouyaté leave West Ham, how are these former ‘fans favourites’ transfers turning out for Crystal Palace?
Tompkins has been immense. One of the first on the team sheet now.
It has taken Kouyate a little bit of time but he has started to play well. He definitely adds something to the team.

Which if any West Ham players would you like to see playing for Palace and why?
Quite a few. I like Lanzini, Antonio, Perez, Arnautovic, Hernandez. People that can score goals because that is what we are lacking at Palace.

How will Crystal Palace set out against West Ham on Saturday? Formation/Team?

Hennessey

Wan-Bissaka Tomkins Sakho Van Aarnholt

McArthur Kouyaté Milivojevic Meyer

Zaha Townsend

Are you confident you can get a positive result away at West Ham this weekend? Prediction for the score?
No, I am not confident. West Ham are in good form at the moment and I think they will win 3-1.

Well many thanks to Angela for her time. I hope she is right and that we can win another game and score three more goals, but surely it can’t be true? A bubble of a dream, rising high, let’s hope it won’t fade. 3 – 1 West Ham 3 – 1. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Cardiff City

On Tuesday night West Ham welcome Cardiff City to the Olympic Stadium feeling more confident after that great away victory against Newcastle. Before the game I chatted to Paul Evans from Cardiff City Blogsite Mauve and Yellow Army to discuss the upcoming game and the season so far.

First off welcome back to the Premier League: after running close a couple of times in previous years, at which stage last season did you start to believe you were going to get promoted?
Thank you Jeff. First of all I was thinking it was in March when we came back from going 1-0 down at Griffin Park early on, but came back to beat a good Brentford team 3-1, but, truthfully, it wasn’t until the last minute of our final away game of the season when Sean Morrison scored a remarkable goal to clinch a 2-0 win at Hull – we only needed to equal Fulham’s result and the last day to go up automatically and with our final game being at home to a Reading ream with the worst current form in the division, I knew then that we’d be okay.

Having played about a third of the season, how would you judge things to be going so far? What so far have been the highlights?
Much as expected really. We were given a decent start by the fixture computer with matches against Bournemouth, Newcastle and Huddersfield and, when we failed to take advantage of that (we only managed two points), we were always going to struggle in September and October because we were almost exclusively playing top six sides – now we are having more matches against sides who are likely to finish half way or lower, we are beginning to show that we can beat the sides likely to finish around us in home matches. Getting that first win in an open and entertaining match with Fulham was a highlight, but I think I’d go for Friday’s win over Wolves because we had two spikey games against them last season.

Neil Warnock is famously known for getting teams promoted, yet can’t quite manage to keep them up, or is not given a full chance Is this a reflection on him, or the clubs that he has managed? Presumably at the moment you are quite satisfied with his performance?
I think Neil Warnock has never been at a team which could feel at the start of the season that they would finish in the top half of the First Division/Premier League, so it follows that his record at the top level is not going to be good. That said, any argument which says that his approach and playing philosophy is a bit too limited to succeed in the Premier League would not get too much argument from me. I would qualify that last bit mind by saying that we have played some pretty good stuff at times this season (e.g. our first goal in the recent win over Brighton) – we may not qualify as a passing side, but we do play more football than we did during the second half of last season in particular.

What if anything do you think about West Ham’s appointment of Manuel Pelligrini as manager?
It’s a statement of intent which continues your efforts to become an established top half Premier League side I suppose, but I find it disappointing that, almost as a reflex action, so many teams turn to foreign coaches or managers these days. I suppose though that if you’re determined to go down that route, Pelligrini is one of the better ones you could bring in.

Your last visit to the Premier League was rather short-lived, is Cardiff City going to be able to stay up this season? And who are the players that are going to play the biggest role in this task?
In 13/14 we were I believe the seventh transfer highest spenders in the league for all of the good it did us. It was obvious from the comments coming out of the club that it would be different this time around. Broadly speaking, I agree with this approach, but, unless we go about things in a very different way in the January window, the money men at the club are asking an awful lot of our manager, his coaching staff and players because we look on course to spend less than the likes of Huddersfield and Brighton did last season in staying up. It will depend a lot on who comes in during January, but, despite encouraging signs recently, I think it’s just too big a task for Neil Warnock and his team and that we will return to the Championship after one season like we did five years ago.

Which of our joint former players Danny Gabbidon and Craig Bellamy do you have the fondest memories of?
That’s a very tough question! I have so much admiration for Craig Bellamy because he tried to give something back to his home town team when he first came here at a time when he would walk into most Premier League clubs first team. However, having been watching Cardiff games since 1963, I rate Danny Gabbidon as the best defender I’ve seen at the club and that’s an even bigger compliment when you consider that he played in the position where I would say we have definitely had the most strength in depth over the past fifty odd years. Gabbs was great because he was so much more than a head it, kick it defender. We’ve had some with a lot of ability down the years, but I don’t think “classy” is an adjective which normally springs to mind when you think of Cardiff City players – Gabbs was classy though and it’s good that you were able to see that for a season at least before he sustained the injury from which he never completely recovered.

Which of the current West Ham team would like to see pulling on the blue shirt of Cardiff City?
We need a right back and a striker, so, if I was being realistic and practical, Sam Byram and Jordan Hugill are the sort of players at your club who could probably be bought on our budget under different circumstances – if you’re talking money no object, then Arnautovic and Anderson would be very nice and I’ve always liked watching Masuakua play.

Presuming you don’t think you will be relegated, who are your favourites for the drop?
Although they beat us, Burnley were the worst side I’ve seen this season and, based on what I’ve seen of them in other matches (e.g. at Palace on Saturday), I don’t believe they were having an untypical bad day when they played at Cardiff City Stadium – I think they are in real trouble. Southampton have been on something of a downward spiral for two or three years now and I reckon their latest stay in the Premier League may be coming to an end. Drawing with Man United on Saturday seems a decent result on paper, but when you look at how the game mapped out, it’s typical 18/19 Southampton – I don’t see how they can expect to survive unless they rediscover the knack of winning at home. The other place is tough to predict – Fulham will probably throw even more money at it in January (I assume they have an exemption from what I still call FFP regulations!), but I reckon they’ll be down there for the rest of the season now. However, although Huddersfield played really well at Wolves, this weekend’s match came over as the sort of defeat relegation sides suffer, so, with not much confidence at all, they’d be my third tip.

Which teams have most impressed you so far this season? Who do you think will end up in the top three positions?
Funnily enough, Wolves were the team which I was pleasantly surprised by early in the season, but, having not watched a whole game of theirs for a few weeks, I was really shocked by how much they had declined when I saw them against Huddersfield and they weren’t much better against us. As for the top three, Man City beat us 5-0 at our place and could have scored double that if they had needed to – they seem obvious Champions to me. Liverpool are more boring now because they have tightened up, but that’s probably a good thing if you are to be thought of as title challengers and if they keep on getting the sort of luck they did against Everton, they should finish second. Until yesterday’s North London derby I would have said Spurs to finish third, but if Arsenal can keep that level of intensity, then maybe they could sneak it – Chelsea haven’t impressed me too much in recent weeks.

How will Cardiff set out against West Ham on Tuesday? Formation/Team?
When Neil Warnock was asked if more would be seen of the three-centre backs with attacking wing backs: the formation used against Wolves, his reply was “you must be joking”! Although I quite like playing with three central defenders because it means Bruno Manga gets to play in his best position, I think we’ll see a more cautious approach from City tomorrow and a return to a back four. With three games in eight days this week, there is likely to be a lot squad rotation seen with Premier League teams, but my guess is that we’ll line up something like this;-

Etheridge

Manga
Morrison
Bamba
Bennett

Camarasa
Gunnarsson
Ralls
Arter
Hoilett
Paterson

with Josh Murphy possibly on the left instead of Hoilett.

You won your last game, are you confident you can get a positive result this time out? Prediction for the result?
The pundits talk about our poor away record, but don’t seem to make an allowance for the fact that, after beginning with a defeat at Bournemouth and a draw at Huddersfield in August, all of our games have been at clubs currently in the top six since then. That’s why, for now at least, our lack of away goals is a bigger concern for me than the fact we have only taken the one point on our travels. Tomorrow’s match is the first of five we have against teams in the mid/lower table range before we visit Arsenal and so I feel it would be more realistic to form conclusions about our capabilities away from home in about six weeks time. That said, I don’t see us ending our run of consecutive away defeats tomorrow, I’ll go for a 2-1 home win.

Many thanks to Paul for his time and thoughts on the game. I hope and think that we will finally get to win 2 consecutive games for the first time in a couple of years. We really were great on Saturday, and think that result will spur us on to mop up a load of points that are available to us over the coming month. 3 – 0 West Ham. COYI

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Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Newcastle United

This weekend West Ham travel ‘haway’ to Newcastle with our collective tails between our legs after that mauling by Man City. Unfortunately for us, previously languishing in the relegation zone Newcastle have put together a three match winning streak. Ahead of the game I spoke to David Punton from NUFC fanzine The Mag to gain his thoughts on everything Claret and Blue and Black and White.

You have just had three wins on the bounce, you must be feeling a bit more optimistic than you would have been three weeks ago. What are your thoughts on the season so far?
We had been staring into the abyss until the recent turn around in results. The three wins on the spin have been massive for everyone connected with the club because things had looked decidedly bleak. We had a hard start to the season and players struggled for form, but where we are now some will argue is about par given the lack of investment over the summer compared to other teams. Overall I’d say fans are a lot happier and it just goes to show how quickly things can start to go your way again despite a bad run.

What’s the latest on the ownership shenanigans? It looked like you might be up for sale last season, but as ever it came to nothing.
The cynics say that Mike Ashley has no intention of selling Newcastle United and every story about potential buyers is all spin from his PR stooge. There remains constant muttering of interested parties wanting to come in but it all feels log jammed by his asking price, which he won’t budge. It’s a pretty unhappy marriage at NUFC and we look saddled with the Sports Direct dictator for a bit longer. He’s tight as a hen’s face.

Presumably you are of the opinion that Mike Ashley didn’t put his hands deep enough into his pockets during the summer? How are those signings you did make fitting into the squad?
When you analyse the net spend and the fees we have recouped from player sales it’s a scandal the way we’re run. Money has been banked for outgoings and promises of investment turn to dust as the regime continually fail to deliver credible levels of investment. That said, some of the players they have brought for buttons in have started to perform, especially the centre halves.

Still happy with the way Rafa is setting up the team?
It has its moments but you always tend to find it’s Rafa who proves the critics wrong. He is a very good manager and coach. A tactician. The football isn’t exactly what Kevin Keegan served up, and at times this season it’s looked like Benitez has been fed up, but he always seems to battle back and coax results when they’re needed. Given our ownership issues many fans would say we must keep Rafa as he’s the best CV we’ve had since Bobby Robson and is the probably the best we can hope for.

Who are the Newcastle players that have been playing up to standard this season?
Federico Fernandez who came in from Swansea has been a revelation. Very solid defender and a great attitude too. You have Matt Ritchie who gives you that leadership and effort and Jamaal Lascelles is a great skipper. Salomon Rondon has the number 9 shirt and it’s been a slog on the fitness front but he’s getting there now and is a real handful when he’s firing. He could be a key player for us.

Conversely, who has been playing, but might as well have been sat on the bench?
Ayoze Perez drives you mad as he’s so inconsistent. Christian Atsu should be way better than he has shown and his poor form is all despite him coming back early for pre-season. Our Stoke City reserve Joselu is a terrible finisher, poor lad.

Which of the past Newcastle legends would make the biggest difference to your current team if playing?
We’re desperate for a number ten so what would we give for Peter Beardsley, who was a wizard with the ball at his feet.

How do you rate Manuel Pelligrini ‘s appointment as West Ham manager?
He looked a good choice on paper but it doesn’t seem to have fully gelled as of yet. He’s a very astute coach though and he’s one I’d take at NUFC. I like him. Always was a bleak day for NUFC when Pardew called him nasty names and brought the office Newcastle Utd manager into disrepute.

Which West Ham players, if any have caught your eye this season?
You’ve spent a lot of money, there’s a fair few there I’d really like at NUFC. Arnautovic is the one who always catches the eye. He’s a bull and knows where the goal is. I can see why Man Utd have been linked.

Who are your picks for the top three this year?
Given the way they’re funded it would be good to see Liverpool pip Man City for top spot. I think Spurs should get third place and they have some great players too.

Which teams do you think will end up being relegated?
Tough one! I’ll have to say Cardiff, Huddersfield and after our game on Monday I’ll throw Burnley into the mix too. They looked very dodgy at the back and have conceded 27 goals already this season.

How will Newcastle line up against us on Saturday? Team/Formation?
With Dummett and Lascelles injured I think Rafa may go for this three at the back again. Same side that started at Burnley, but Shelvey is fit again so I’m sure he’ll appear at some stage. Dubravka in goal, back three of Clark, Fernandez and Schar, three in midfield Ki, Diame, Kenedy. Wing backs Yedlin and Ritchie, with Perez just off Rondon up top.

You beat us home and away last season, you must be hopeful of another victory this weekend? Prediction for score?
The rub of the green has returned for us and a little bit of form too. I always expect a hard game from West Ham though and we’re famous for messing up when the opportunity is there to kick on after an away win. You’re lot will be hurting after the Man City mauling so there surely has to be a reaction. I’d settle for a point. 2-2.

Many thank to Dave for his time and his honest opinions. Well I confess that I would also take a 2 – 2 draw, but for no particular reason at all I think we will sneak a 1 – 2 win. COYI

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