The Qatar World Cup break interrupting this Newcastle United season.
An ideal time to get a snapshot of views from NUFC fans on how they think things are going.
So we sent out various questions to a number of regular / irregular contributors to The Mag.
Next up we have The Belgian Geordie:
Player of the season so far (top choice and then second and third)?
This is actually a more difficult question than it seems because it’s impossible to look at this season without looking at the end of last season.
Pre-August Miggy, as much of a grafter as he was, would not be player of the season. Now he has to be a real candidate.
Bruno is an amazing player but teams are getting wise to his game so the next phase of his development is going to be how to counter that.
Botman… does exactly what he needs to do. Strangely, the reason why the Netherlands don’t pick him is because they think he’s not a good enough ball player and is too direct. Amazing player and I’m sure he’d walk straight into any other national team.
Joelinton… well he’s just turned into a beast of a midfielder under Eddie: hand on heart; who would have thought it.
Trippier then Miggy second and Bruno third.
The three most improved players this season (in order)?
Without a doubt Miggy. Amazing transformation from a willing runner to a goal machine!
Number two and three are more difficult.
It’s hard to track how much Joelinton is improving as he just got so good so quickly. Joe Willock and Sean Longstaff seem to have benefited more from the pre-season coaching and hopefully will come on further during the winter break. Again, it’s difficult not to look back to the end of last season. Fabian Schar was certainly one of the earliest beneficiaries of proper coaching and man management.
However, if we are to keep it just to this season: Joe Willock is again showing the type of form that we bought him for and Sean is showing the type of form that interested Man U.
Sean Longstaff second and Joe Willock third.
Miggy, if you hadn’t realized, is numero uno.
A must win game and the whole squad fit and available, which 11 would you select?
Darlo, Dummett, Lascelles…
Nah just kidding!
Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn
Shelvey, Bruno, Joelinton
Miggy, Wilson, Willock
Main back-up on the bench:
Best atmosphere at a match this season?
Well that’s easy as I have only been to the pre-season friendly against Atalanta!
Living in Belgium and having a job with inflexible holidays, does not lend itself easily to popping across for a match. Let alone the cost. On TV, or my trusty Raspberry Pi, they all seem great atmospheres. I hated listening along to Radio Newcastle for the EFL Cup match.
Both of my daughters’ first home games were the Atalanta match and they thought it was amazing, and that the post and pre match vibe in the city center was also amazing.
I still remember the open top bus parade after the two cup finals we lost under Keegan. Amazing turnout given the circumstances. Imagine if we actually won something. And the funny thing is, that is now actually a possibility.
World Cup break – Has it come at a bad time (breaks momentum potentially etc) or a good time (players needed a break, injuries cleared up etc etc)?
Mixed feelings on this.
It is important to keep up the momentum but, with the size and squad depth we have, playing front football (as Eddie likes to describe it) is tiring and the ‘rest’ has probably come at a good point in the season. We don’t have two or three world class players for every position (unlike the Big Sick clubs); we have a sprinkling of world class players and a squad of enthusiastic grafters and to go forward to the next level, whatever that is, we will need to recruit.
Luckily for Newcastle fans, most of our players are likely to spend a lot of time watching from the bench, so they will hopefully come back from the world cup refreshed. All in all it has created a weird winter break which will probably be more of an advantage to us than our rivals.
If you are honest, ahead of the season kicking off, if you’d had to put your mortgage, rent…energy bill on it, where would you have predicted Newcastle to finish this season?
I would have been happy with a decent cup run and challenging for a European place. Whether that would be enough for Bruno and ASM is a different matter. Also, recruitment is easier when you can offer a bigger stage, so if I am entirely honest some sort of European football is a must.
Same as above but where now do you predict Newcastle to finish this season?
Following on from my previous comment, some form of European football will allow Newcastle to compete more effectively in the transfer market, but with bigger players, come bigger egos and bigger squads. This will be Eddie Howe’s next challenge. To add quality and depth to the squad while keeping everyone happy and on board.
Assuming he manages this, there is some sensible recruitment in January, and everyone stays injury free, motivated and in top form, then I think we might just sneak a Champions League spot. Any of these factors not being in place then we slip into challenging for European football.
This may well be the season to do a Leicester, given the unique circumstances of the winter World Cup, but I think that it has come one transfer window too early. If Eddie had a full pre-season last year and the appropriate purchasing power, I would say we had a chance… but he didn’t…
If the new NUFC owners had decided to stick with Steve Bruce come what may, what do you predict would have happened these past 13 months and where would Newcastle United now be at?
The simple answer is, that you don’t get to be as rich as these people are, by being sentimental. They might have given Bruce more of a chance but if the results hadn’t picked up he would still have been out the door in good time for the new manager to plan for the January window.
That new manager might not have been Eddie Howe, but whoever was advising the owners was giving them prudent advice, so I am sure it would have been someone who would be doing a decent job… if he would have kept us up is a different question …
As for Brucie: all you have to do is look how he took West Brom from the cusp of the play-off places to the trapdoor of the relegation zone. It can’t always be the players or the owner: at some point you have to say that the fault lies with the manager.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how interested are you in England at the World Cup?
I am always interested but, as I’m sure is the case for a lot of the rest of us, England not winning or getting hammered is annoying, but not something that leaves me in a bad mood for days.
I also have the luxury of being able to support most of the Home Nations (diverse genes), Ireland and now Belgium, so I have always had a team to maintain my interest in most major football competitions.
Also, always having had a soft spot for Holland, Germany, Spain, Cameroon (since the days of Roger Milla) and Brazil, means I can be usually kept interested for a while… I will also be interested to see if Garang gets enough game time with the Socceroos to prove themselves against top international opponents.
So in short, I am an international football polygamist, although very monogamous when it comes to Newcastle. I think Brazil, with or without Bruno (thanks Fabinho), will get to the final and whoever beats them will win. England should manage to get out of the group stages, as will most of the other teams I have mentioned, but I think Germany will go further than the rest. 7 out of 10 for interest in any of the teams I have mentioned.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how interested are you in this Qatar World Cup?
This World Cup interests me a lot less than previous ones.
Coming so hot on the heels of the Euros it feels less of a spectacle. Or less of a treat. I certainly would not be interested in a World Cup every two years. I don’t like the fact that it’s totally f…ing with the fixture list in the EPL, although this may work to our advantage, and I think it’s leading to injuries and fatigue among the players. I also feel it’s a bit like having to put a live football match on pause, because your elderly aunt has called round unexpectedly.
FIFA continues to show their contempt for fans by their choice of World Cup hosts. I doubt this will ever change when money remains the deciding factor. The ethical side of football has long been lacking and FIFA really does not need to be giving us lectures on ethics and history given their own ongoing lack of ethics and appalling history.
Three words to describe Eddie Howe?
I know this is not a three word answer but after watching the High Performance Podcast with Howe, I ended up having an even an even higher opinion of him.
I have never believed in the one size fits all style of management in any workplace, what motivates one person severely pi..es off another, and the quick learners may not necessarily be the most consistent and reliable performers. Personalized Performance Management are the three words I would use to describe him.
Would you rather win the League Cup or finish top four and qualify for the Champions League?
I’d be happy to win anything after all these years!
If everyone is honest with themselves, who really gives a flying f… about the EFL Cup.
Practically, it’s a place in Europe; but the Europa Conference League is not going to convince up and coming players to sign for Newcastle. The FA Cup gives a Europa League place so I would be more than happy to win that and push for top four, so that one of the Big Sick clubs can have our Europa League place!
Best (realistic) signing Newcastle United could make in January?
I would have liked us to have signed either De Ketelaere, Onana or Openda in the summer, however, all of those players signed elsewhere in that window. In the Summer I would have also loved to have pipped Man City for Kalvin Phillips: imagine, him Bruno and Joelinton! Now that would be a fearsome midfield!
Second best midfield option would be Declan Rice: West Ham could be in a relegation fight, the carrot of European football, top quality coaching and an actual chance to play, might be enough to swing it. Failing that, Mason Mount.
What are your thoughts on the job the Newcastle United owners have done since the takeover in October 2021?
They have chosen a great manager who understands what the fans and the city want from their football team.
Investment in the women’s team is also welcome.
Investment in the infrastructure is always welcome and will hopefully bring jobs to the area.
Investing in the academy structure is also welcome.
If no one has seen Newcastle Fans TV’s excellent interview with Lee Clark, he does a better job of explaining what they have done than I could ever do.
Newcastle United third in the table, how are you feeling?
It’s great but I am old enough to remember the 12 point lead we lost… so I am enjoying the feeling but keeping the party hats packed away for now.