It's a pretty special week in the North East, and with hated brewing between our two clubs as the week goes on, we managed to get hold of the last decent Mag. I present to you, Mr Pete Donaldson! XFM DJ, and part of the hugely popular Football Ramble Podcast. Here's his thoughts ahead of Sunday...
So normally we start with a "Hows your season going" type question, but I think we live so close we're fully aware of eachother. That said, tell us anyway about the season so far!
Pete: Very pleasantly surprised – players like Barton and Enrique have really stepped up their efforts – and Carroll's form is of course a massive bonus. Didn't see this coming in the slightest. My player of the season so far is Cheik Tiote – easily the best deep-lying midfielder we've had for ages. He's gotten us out of trouble so many times this season. Plus, with Ben Arfa and Gosling coming back before the end of the season, it's all looking pretty good, even after Mike Ashley chucking a P45 spanner into our works.
We both suffered horrific FA Cup defeats at the weekend, how can NUFC bounceback, tactically and personnel-wise?
Pete: We looked absolutely knackered – ever since boxing day we've barely gone three days without a match. We haven't got anywhere near the deepest squad in the world, so we're mainly counting the milliseconds until players like Carroll and Jonas get back on the field. We were never going to be able to mount a realistic cup challenge and in a way I'm glad we can just concentrate on staying in a league which is as open as a Jon Parkin's fridge.
Cheik Tiote will miss the game with suspension. How much of a loss will he be? Barring a major error against Blackburn he's looked a good signing.
Pete: As I mentioned before, I think he's been breathtaking. Watching him away at West Ham and Arsenal, he's able to operate and prosper in a such tiny avenues. A genuine talent, a superb signing from Chris.
Stories continue to circulate about Andy Carroll's misbehaviour. At what point would you cash in, or is he simply irreplaceable?
Pete: I don't think bad behaviour has ever been a barrier to playing for Newcastle United, sadly. He has to understand that he's a marked man now after his past indiscretions – an Andy Carroll story will sell newspapers – that said, if in the cold light of day I was presented with a list of shit I'd got up to on a night out when I was 22, I'd probably look pretty bloody awful too. He is indeed very important to NUFC right now, but who's to say his form won't suffer in the second half of the season? He's certainly very reliant on the ability of Joey Barton to hit those high, drilled balls, and our pursuit of wide players who can actually cross... so I guess only time will tell.
A few good results now under Pardew after his surprising appointment. Are the crowd fully on board with him now?
Pete: I've always been pleasantly surprised at the willingness of Newcastle fans to support the shirt and not the guy wearing it. Personally I believe that Alan may very well be a competent manager, but he should never have had the opportunity as Hughton gave us a magnificent season in the Championship, spent wisely and was on course for a very decent mid-table finish. That said, I think the fans realise that we're stuck with a classless chairman who doesn't give a toss what we think, so we've kinda got to get on with it. Not supporting the team is sadly not really an option.
Obviously, the result earlier this season will go down in history for your lot, but what other memories of Derby Day stick in your mind?
Pete: Probably Emre's free kick in '05, and Alan's free kick a couple of years earlier – with the latter I seem to recall us getting turned over by Phillips and Quinn a couple of seasons in a row, and a heavily bandaged Shearer gave us one of his drilled free kicks into the bottom left. To be fair, you lot were having a stinking season, so it was like setting upon a baby deer with a claw hammer.
Any derby day superstitions?
Pete: Not really – the last time I shared (and could afford) a season ticket was the '94-95 season, before I moved down South a few years later for uni, so I've never been able to consistently attend the derby. Telly just isn't the same, much less a dodgy US feed which I'm not doubt going to have to scour the interplops for come Sunday. Sad, but true.
We've turned a bit of a corner since the humiliation earlier this season. Where do you think the key battles are on the pitch this weekend? And where do you think SAFC might have the edge over NUFC?
Pete: I just hope the Gyan/Bent/Welbeck from the Blackpool game turn up – God knows how you weren't well in control of that game. Bizarre. I think it's going to be your back four that gives us the biggest problem – your home record for conceding goals is miserly in the extreme.
A real problem is if we're without Carroll. I doubt there's gonna be a 'Michael Chopra' moment at any point. I like Elmohamady – he reminds me of Jonas – on his day his balls and his running are both magnificent, but he's a wee bit inconsistent.
Steve Bruce has said he's got a special song lined up, chosen by himself, to be played over the PA, should we win of course in revenge for music played following the 5-1. As a man involved with radio/music etc... What do you think it could be, and what would compound the misery most?
Pete: Jeez, Bruce is an insufferable gobshite at times. Erm... 'Pardew-de Looks Like A Lady' by Aerosmith?
We're 6th, you're 8th, but get your crystal ball out and tell us where will be both finish come the end of the season?
Pete: I know Bruce is trying to downplay it a bit, but as long as Bent gets back on the goal trail I think there's no reason why you can't challenge for Europe. Ever the pessimist, I'd be more than happy for mid-table for us.
And lastly, a prediction for the game please.
Pete: A score draw, possibly? Shola will no doubt score if he plays, mind. He's a startlingly different player in the derby.
Hopefully we'll be hearing from Pete again after the match, and hopefully he's feeling suitably depressed after SAFC give them a damn good spanking! Fingers crossed everyone!