Well here we go again. Newcastle find themselves smack bang in mid-table with an extremely even record of three wins, three losses and two draws. How have you assessed the season to date?
Leazes Terrace: It's been as unpredictable as it suggests! The wins against Aston Villa, Cardiff and Fulham were all fully deserved, but the performances served up against Hull and first half against Everton were truly woeful - not to mention the mauling at Man City which we were almost complicit with. To some extent it's not a surprise as Pardew has struggled settle on a best XI and style of play to work at; and of course there is the matter of the infamous Gaelic eccentricity to deal with. I usually have a reasonable inclination of what to expect of the team before a game, but currently they're erratic and bewildering - effortless or effort less...
Putting rivalry aside for one moment, Newcastle have to be commended for their endeavours in seeking a better deal for away fans this season - a big win for a much maligned management?
LT: Certainly - regardless of allegiances I'm delighted a club has taken what is a fairly bold business step in attempting it. Naturally it won't be taken up by all, but I believe it's a huge step in the right direction for away ticket prices in general and I hope to see other clubs attempt to do it for their fans. Now if only the allocation of TV fixtures could have a set of reasonable guidelines to follow us much neglected lads in the North-East might have a less stressful life getting to the football.
Much mirth was had at Newcastle's expense courtesy of Joe Kinnear's appointment and rumours still persistent of him simply existing as a mole in the camp for Ashley, what does the future hold for the club in this respect? Do you put any faith in the various conspiracy theories?
LT: He's certainly been employed as a mole for Ashley - the problem being is he's also a hindrance, distraction, embarrassment, pest, clown... Many theories have been aired; the particular one about replacing Pardew if / when things aren't to the satisfaction of elusive Ashley I think has some (undesirable) weight. Whatever happens, he's neither needed nor wanted by anyone here except one man - the owner.
Is Pardew indeed a Patsy?
LT: Ha! Possibly - it depends on what side you're on. He probably takes more blame than is actually his to take, however the more he deflects blame from things which are very easily proved as being his fault the more heat he takes. In turn, he appears to react tit for tat, instead of a badly needed session of self-reflection - something that could have easily relegated us last season as he made wild, damaging reactions to a sizable but not unmanageable portion of bad luck thrown his way.
The two sides head into this weekend's derby following vastly different performances last time out, with Sunderland embarrassed and Newcastle securing a battling draw which has widely been regarded as, cliché alert, as good as a win. Do you believe Newcastle have the advantage this time around?
LT: Difficult to say - Newcastle's form and performances have been too erratic to predict, and although Sunderland's results have been dire the spirited performances against Liverpool and Man Utd won't be easy to handle. The advantage Newcastle do take into the game is the team is creating and scoring goals well currently (12 in the last 6, with 6 different scorers) which is a relief to a defence which is pretty bad, but not as bad as Sunderland's.
With Coloccini ruled out through injury and now Yanga-Mbiwa suspended are there any concerns with regards to your defence? Is this a possible weak spot Sunderland could exploit?
LT: The defence has drifted between mediocre and utterly terrible so far this season so it's a concern. Debuchy has rightly taken much flak, but Santon is also being caught wide open; my concern primarily being that decent width and wing play can undo us too easily.
Vice-versa, Sunderland have shipped goals for fun this season, surely you must be confident that Newcastle will be capable of grabbing a goal or two at least, especially the likes of Loic Remy and of course Hatem Ben Arfa?
LT: Remy has made a world of difference to our forward line - his confident efficiency on the ball, and tidy finishing exactly what we've needed as Papiss Cisse's form drops deeper into the bowels of the earth. Yohan Gouffran has been just as important in improving our goals return - although not possessing the ability of Remy, his work rate is superb, he's great on the counter and pops up with a smart finish here and there. Ben Arfa... I've given up trying to work out - although since Pardew labelled him 'unplayable' after Aston Villa he's been either ineffective or terrible (and I don't over exaggerate with the latter word.) If only you knew which one of him was going to turn up on the day.
Dismissals have altered the course of a few derbies in recent years and with Lee Cattermole and Chiek Tiote looking likely to be reunited on Sunday, sparks are certain to fly again?
LT: More than likely, but it does annoy me when it occurs. Obviously a derby is likely to be bad tempered, but I want to see my team play football over anything and not get drawn into a slog. Having said that, it worked in our favour in 2011/12, so swings and roundabouts.
Gus Poyet has masterminded a couple of famous wins with Brighton over Newcastle in recent years, any recollections of those games and what he did right?
LT: Not particularly - the first game I think Newcastle turned up expecting things to be too easy and didn't match the home team's effort. The defeat last season was practically a gimme, with injuries meaning we had our u21s squad out, most of which aren't good enough, the remainder fragmented by being dragged into the first team for European games. It would have taken an implosion by Brighton to have won that game.
Any Sunderland player that gives you reason for concern?
LT: Fletcher is a natural goal scorer, so even if he's not 100% fit I'd still be wary of him - Altidore's size concerns me if there's a battle on up front. From what I've seen of Sunderland this season, Giaccherini has stood out by a mile, although I understand that he might not carry the same consistency. Still, he's a concern if our full-backs aren't up for the game.
Who do you expect to have an impact on the game from a Newcastle perspective?
LT: Cabaye is in excellent form, so I'm hoping he carries it into this game - his only concern being whether he can last a full 90mins. Tiote also was excellent against Liverpool as captain and I'd to think he's got a chance of returning to his early form at the club. Of all players, I'd be disappointed if Remy were not to cause your defence some problems.
LT: Neither confident nor worried, to be honest. The inconsistency of Newcastle mixed with Sunderland's home advantage (and presumably a reaction to last week's result) leaves it more balanced than recent results would suggests, even though on paper I would have reason to be confident.
LT: Least worse defence wins, so I'll go with 2-1 to the away side.