Football is back. Not that pointless international drivel that we’ve been subjected to for the last couple of weeks, but actually Premier League football. The only good thing about internationals is I am like a child on Christmas when Newcastle United are back in action, and back in action they are indeed with a home game coming up tomorrow against former United manager Chris Hughton and his charges Norwich City.
In a way, the international break came at the wrong time for Newcastle United given how we’d just beat Chelsea at home and survived an onslaught away at White Hart Lane to come away with a priceless 3 points against Spurs. However, during the international break our French stars secured qualification from being 2-0 down in the first leg so that should see them return with an added bounce in their step.
I am always cautious in the games that follow unexpected victories, especially when they are home games, and especially when they are home games against lesser opposition whom we really should be beating. Unfortunately, that is the case that is being presented to us with a home tie against Norwich. No disrespect to Norwich or their manager – the gentleman that is Chris Hughton – but we really should have enough about us to dispatch of them. I did, however, say the same thing when we were at home to Hull City following our impressive away win at Villa Park earlier in the season, so now I am keeping shtum regarding such predictions.
Newcastle United can be content with their start to the season. The unexpected 6 points from our last 2 games has put evened out some of the more disappointing results this season, and arguably has us where we would generally expect to be at this stage of the season. Now is the time to kick on, and as Alan Pardew rightly said earlier this week, we are in a ‘poised’ position, a win here, followed up with 3 points in another very winnable home game next week against West Bromwich Albion, and we could be in an excellent position. However, if we pass up this opportunity, we could quickly find the top half of the table begin to break away.
Norwich City have had a pretty rocky start to the season in contrast, with some quarters even questioning Hughton’s position as manager, following a start to the season that saw them in the bottom three. However, recent results (discounting the thrashing by the 2 Manchester clubs) have improved and Hughton will surely be taking his men to St James’ Park with a point to prove, not only to the man who unceremoniously gave him the sack in 2010, but to the doubters within his own camp. Given how many players have spoken of their intense desire to give 100% for Hughton, tomorrow’s game may not be as clean-cut as it would appear.
So to summarise, I do expect us to win tomorrow. Newcastle United should be beating bottom half teams at St James’ Park every day of the week. However, I do expect Norwich to put up a fierce battle for their manager, and if we are not fully switched on, we could see a repeat of the shambolic performances that saw teams like Swansea, Reading, West Ham and even Sunderland bowl us over at St James’ last season.
Over to you Pardew, keep the lads focused and we could well be talking about a good run of form with us pushing well into the top 10. A defeat will drag us back to discussions of glaring inconsistencies. Where we go next is up to you.