Interview With A Magpie
1) So how has your season been so far?
A bit like watching one of the worst films you’ve ever seen interspersed with clips from The Godfather II and Citizen Kane. We’ve lurched from sublime (namely Palermo, Blackburn and Spurs away) to ridiculous (Birmingham City) via downright ugly (Sheffield United at home), and whilst we’ve scored some truly memorable goals, we’ve conceded a succession of howlers to match.
2) Is Glenn Roeder the man to take you forward?
There’s a degree of uncertainty surrounding Newcastle at the moment. I think Roeder is the man to lead us in the immediate future, and I’d challenge any manager in the league to take on the injuries we’ve had this season - 15 players at one point - and still be within touching distance of the top six. Having said that, should the protracted take-over ever get off the ground, the new owners may well have other ideas.
3) Realistically what can Newcastle achieve this season now and what do you expect in the next few years?
In an ideal world, the injuries will clear, players like Duff, Parker, Emre and Given will rediscover the kind of form they’re capable of and propel us to at least seventh place. However, with so many walking wounded and a lack of options at the back and up-front, a mid-table finish is more likely. As for the next few years, this is Newcastle United. We’re as likely to qualify for the Champions league as we are to be relegated.
4) How far away is Michael Owen from a return?
The news on Owen is positive, with an early-April return being talked about in the North East press. One further plus is that fact that Owen has used his rehabilitation to strengthen his troublesome hamstrings as well as the injured knee, so hopefully he’ll hit the ground running in the same way Kieron Dyer has.
5) What is your opinion of Aston Villa?
As someone who can remember Villa winning the European Cup in the early Eighties, I’ve always viewed The Villains as a club of considerable size and stature. Lately, however, and much like ourselves, the club seems to have slipped into that middle-zone of the Premiership and joined the gang of clubs feeding off scraps from the top table. Having said that, the recent takeover coupled with the astute capture of Martin O’Neill could change all that in the not-to-distant future.
6) What do you think of Martin O'Neill and were you hoping he'd join the Toon?
O’Neill is one of the managers I’ve always thought would be tailor-made for St James’ Park - as long as he was able to bring in his own staff, which may well have been the reason he didn’t opt for Newcastle last summer. He is undoubtedly one of the more insightful managers in the Premiership and seems to strike a good balance between shrewd decision making and all-out, heart-on-your-sleeve passion.
7) If you could swap a player or two of yours for one or two of our players, who would they be?
I’ve been very impressed with Gabby Agbonlahor this season and I’ve always been an admirer of the way Gareth Barry applies himself. I’d happily take those two as well as Aaron Hughes, who knows Newcastle United inside-out and posses the kind of defensive versatility we’ve sorely missed this term. As for our squad, you’re welcome to Carr, Babayaro, Luque, Sibierski, Ameobi, Bernard, Bramble, Pattison - basically any prize off the bottom shelf.
8) Who do you fear in the Villa side?
See above, plus the craft of a fit Stilian Petrov and the aerial threat of your new-boy John Carew.
9) Who should Villa fear in your side?
It all depends which Newcastle turns up. On their day, Martins and Dyer can shred any defence you care to mention, plus Jimmy Milner - who you know all about, has had an excellent season so far and has probably been one of our most consistent performers.
10) What is your prediction for the game?
Heart = home win. Head = score-draw.
With thanks to Vital Newcastle writer and North East sports correspondent Dan Sheridan