View From Rd End: Newcastle (h)

Co-editor Matt Ladson puts the questions to Newcastle fan and True Faith fanzine contributor Mick Dodds ahead of this Wednesday’s clash between the Reds and Magpies at Anfield:

Q. The season so far; not far in but what’s your opinion on how Roeder’s first season in charge is heading?

Well I must admit it’s been something of a mixed bag so far. If you looked at results alone, it wouldn’t really tell the whole story. After a deserved win at home to Wigan on opening day with only one fully fit striker, we went to Villa and totally dominated yet were beaten 2-0 (our defence was a shambles that day – surprise!!). We were 1-0 up and cruising against Fulham at home with eight minutes to go, then, two crosses and two unmarked Fulham players later we were losing 2-1! It has to be said that we were magnificent at Upton Park on sunday and were well worth the 2-0 win. With Bramble out and Ramage and Moore in, we looked solid in defence, our strong midfield completely ran the show, and with Oba and Shola up front, we always looked dangerous. We’ve been threatening to turn someone over for a while and on sunday it all came together for us.

Q. And speaking of Roeder, is he the man for the future or will big Freddie wield the axe sooner rather than later – again?

Every Newcastle fan I know is behind Roeder. The guy just comes across as being so intelligent, passionate, and aware of the job at hand. The media are quick to criticise our defence, manager, and club in general, yet they seem to forget we’ve only lost two of our last 15 games at the end of last season and start of this. He worked on a tight budget over the summer, and with Shearer gone and Owen injured long-term, I thought the acquisitions of Duff and Martins were excellent. We are still a couple of defenders away from being a very decent team – Roeder has publicly admitted he is aware of this – and I believe we would have signed Woodgate if it hadn’t been for the lure of his hometown team.

Shepherd on the other hand is living on borrowed time. The protests against him are getting louder by the day. To be honest I think he is now aware of this and he must know that if Roeder is sacked, then he will have to follow him out of the SJP door. 3 out of the last 4 Newcastle managers have spent a fortune and failed miserably – the buck has to stop somewhere.

Q. Obafemi Martins – the new Alan Shearer?

Alan Shearer is impossible to replace, simple as that. When the best centre forward of a generation retires, it’s bound to leave a big void on and off the pitch. However, the manager seems to have anticipated this well and changed our style of play to suit Oba. He’s not the tallest guy in the world, but he’s lightning quick and strong as an ox, hence lots of through-balls and one touch passes to feet. The partnership with Shola is coming on in leaps and bounds, and I can realistically see him getting 20 goals this season.

Q. Scott Parker; better than Hargreaves?

By a country mile! Obviously we see him week in-week out and the lad is just something else. By far the most under-rated midfielder in the country, he will tackle all day long, plays easy sensible passes, and isn’t scared to venture forward either. He clearly loves it at Newcastle and would run through brick walls for the team. We couldn’t have wished for a better successor to Shearer with regard to the captain’s armband. Fantastic player and already a Gallowgate hero.

Q. What’s your thoughts on our Rafa-lution? Do you see us being closer now to the top 3 than under Houllier?

I cannot believe it’s only a couple of years since we were competing with yourselves for 4th spot. The two clubs have gone in completely opposite directions since then. Under Houllier I always thought you were a decent team but never really good enough or consistent enough to trouble the serious title contenders, he always seemed to run out of ideas when things were going badly for you and some of his signings were questionable to say the least aswell.

In Benitez I really think you have one of Europe’s top managers. Always appears calm, thoughtful and tactically aware. I now see Liverpool as serious title challengers. In a strange way, I think the Champions’ League victory maybe came too early, increasing the expectation levels instantly, instead of the gradual transition that Benitez would have liked. With the additions of players like Kuyt, Bellamy, Sissoko and Gonzales there’s no reason why you can’t go all the way. To be fair, Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea have all looked beatable (and been beaten) this season, and if Kuyt or Gerrard had taken their chances on sunday, against 10 men, you could well have won.

Q. This could be one of your last few visits to Anfield if the new stadium goes ahead for 2009, whats your memories of the place and the fans when you visit?

Well i’m only in my mid-twenties but i’ve had some brilliant times down there. We usually get beat, but it’s a trip I always look forward to. A few pints in the Arkles, chatting to genuinely knowledgable supporters around the ground, and the sight of the Kop in full swing. I was at Anfield in april ’94 on the fifth anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. We actually won 2-0 but the result seemed kind of irrelevant, an impeccable minutes’ silence, Newcastle fans laying wreaths in the goalmouth and both sets of fans singing You’ll Never Walk Alone. It was one of those occasions where your emotions are stirred to such an extent that it almost hurts. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the away end that day and I’ll never forget it.

Q. Predictions for:

LFC will finish the season: Top 3 definately, possible winners
NUFC will finish the season: Top 6
Premiership Champions will be: Tough call, LFC or Man Ure
Prem Top Scorer will be: Thierry Henry. He’ll be back soon, and there’s still no-one to touch him.

And the score on Wednesday will be:
Not as predictable as you think, 1-1.

Thanks to Mick Dodds of True Faith for answering our questions. You can read what co-editor Matt Ladson said when Michael asked the questions, here.

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