Fan Focus: Tell The World I'm Coming Home... Newcastle

Stu Forster

Sunderland make the short trip up the road to visit our friend's on the Tyne for the second installment of the Tyne & Wear derby this year. We spoke with fellow SBN blog, Coming Home Newcastle, to guage how the old enemy are feeling ahead of tomorrow's game

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Roker Report: A fairly eventful and I imagine disappointing transfer window for Newcastle to date. Just how frustrating was it to lose a player of Cabaye's calibre or was it expected?

Coming Home Newcastle: We always thought it would be a possibility. Remember that he missed games in August as he tried to engineer a move to Arsenal. This is also a club that will not hesitate to sell for a profit, product on the pitch be damned. That doesn't mean it doesn't hurt to see him go, though. The team will definitely take a step back without him.

RR: Have Newcastle got ready-made replacements for Cabaye or would failing to replace him before the window closes be a big risk?

CHN: It would be a big risk if Newcastle were a serious contender for a Champions League spot, and they aren't. They're also in no danger of relegation, so we're standing on stupid middle ground. Mike Ashley will view the season as a success because the team will stay in the top flight and there won't be any pesky fixture congestion issues that go hand-in-hand with European competition. It's an extremely frustrating place to be.

There have been a few names mentioned as a Cabaye replacement, but I'd put the chances of one of them actually signing somewhere south of 10%. (I'm writing this very early on Friday morning.)

RR: Luuk De Jong looks set to be Newcastle's main piece of business in the transfer window. Despite having a superb record in Holland with FC Twente he has lost his way of late in the Bundesliga having moved to Borussia Monchengladbach. What kind of pressure will be on the Dutchman's shoulder's to hit the ground running?

CHN: Immense pressure. Loic Remy will be out Saturday due to suspension and Papiss Cisse's back (and form) will keep him out as well. He almost has a mandate to score his first goal for the club in his first match, which also happens to be the derby. Doesn't get more pressure-packed than that.

RR: Newcastle currently sit eighth in the table, enticingly just outside of the European places, realistically where do you see your season going from here?

CHN: That's about where they'll finish. Maybe one or two of the pack of teams that currently make up the bottom half will catch them, unless they surprise us all and go on a run. Even if they do, Europe simply isn't realistic at this point. I'd like to have hope, but the last week or two really has me down.

RR: Alan Pardew remains rather a marmite character on Tyneside from what I gather and seemed a dead man walking following Joe Kinnear's appointment as DoF - what are your thoughts on the Premier League's second longest serving manager?

That may be a bit generous - there are certainly those who are convinced he's a mental midget who has no idea about tactics or man management, but you won't find too many that are all the way on the other side of the scale. Those who defend him (our blog harbors many such characters) fully acknowledge his shortcomings.

He's loyal to certain players to a fault, slow to make necessary changes, and at times way too conservative in his game plans. He is a steady hand at the wheel, however. It's not a very strong argument in his favor, but the fact that there's been so much manager turnover over the last several years underscores the importance of stability, which a dirty word among the Pardew Out crowd by the way.

RR: Looking ahead to Saturday, both sets of fans secured a moral victory over Northumbria Police ahead of kickoff - a victory for common sense?

CHN: No doubt about it. Obviously, the police have reason to take every precaution, but forces in other municipalities around the country have been able to figure it out, so it makes sense that they should, too. Hopefully cool heads prevail all the way around, no matter the outcome.

RR: Newcastle will be without the influential Fabricio Coloccini, top goalscorer Loic Remy and of course midfield maestro Yohan Cabaye come Saturday afternoon. What kind of impact is this likely to have on Pardew's team selection and approach to the game?

CHN: We'll likely see a similar lineup to the one fielded Tuesday at Norwich City, with Luuk de Jong taking Remy's spot up top. I expect the following:

Krul | Debuchy, STaylor, Williamson, Santon | Sissoko, Tiote, Anita | Ben Arfa, de Jong, Sammy Ameobi

Ben Arfa and Ameobi were both influential on the match Tuesday, and I expect Pardew to reward them. Look for Ben Arfa to be subbed off early.

Pardew will press all over the pitch, as he it wont to do against non-elite competition. Newcastle will take lots of shots from outside the box and struggle to find anybody in the mixer with any consistency (unless de Jong is really the target man that he is advertised to be). Obviously, this matchup dictates a certain level of physicality, and we should see that in spades from both sides.

RR: Hatem Ben Arfa remains something of an enigma to me, he clearly has bucket loads of skill but often fails to make an impact on games, what's amiss with the Frenchman?

CHN: He's got to get out of his own head. When he does that, he can be the best player on the pitch. We all know about his ball-handling skills, and the problem sometimes is that he knows how good he is. Occasionally he forgets that he has teammates, so he is vulnerable when double-teamed effectively. Just don't give him any room to go to his left.

RR: While Sunderland still remain deep in relegation trouble what have you made of the club's "revival" of sorts under Gus Poyet?

CHN: As a partisan, it was hard to be convinced of certain relegation back when Sunderland were firmly 20th in the table. That they've climbed out of it is remarkable by itself, and now anything can happen given the sheer number of teams involved. As most know, Poyet directed Brighton Hove & Albion when they knocked Newcastle out of the cup two years running, so we're not big fans of him. He seems capable of getting the best out of your players. It doesn't hurt that anybody is going to look sane after the last guy.

RR: Sunderland have a good record in the Tyne/Wear derby of late, how are your nerves ahead of the next installment?

CHN: Shot. They always are. A loss in this fixture is always devastating, but would be doubly so given the circumstances this time.

RR: Any Sunderland player in particular that gives you reason for concern?

CHN: Adam Johnson is in superb form, and I've always rated him anyway. Another would be Jozy Altidore (don't laugh). His skillset is one that can give Mike Williamson and Steven Taylor trouble. On the occasions that I've tuned in to watch Sunderland, he's seemed frustrated by his inability to find someone to run onto the ball for him, so we'll hope for more of that.

RR: Prediction?

CHN: A scrappy 1-1 draw. Luuk de Jong will score first. Newcastle, feeling overconfident, will concede late.

RR: Bonus question: The "True Geordie" on YouTube? Thoughts and do you know where I can pick up such an impressive sheepskin coat?

CHN: Talk about Marmite. I always feel uneasy when one person claims to speak for the fanbase. I don't always agree with him, but there's no denying that he's a compelling character. And yeah, nice coat.

Many thanks to fellow SBN blog Coming Home Newcastle for joining us for ahead of the Tyne/Wear derby - Be sure to check them out over the weekend for all the Newcastle perspective and fallout from the clash

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