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Home discomforts

By Lee Ryder on Jan 21, 11 09:03 AM


The football cliche-ometer went into meltdown over the summer with much talk of Newcastle United's Premier League survival prospects based around making "St James' Park into a fortress".

Exactly what Newcastle United can produce at the home of football will be tested once again tomorrow against Spurs at SJP.

Spending last season on loan to the Coca-Cola Championship certainly resulted in some positive experiences for Toon fans you and old, but remaining unbeaten on home turf was certainly one of the biggest highlights.

However, Newcastle have won on their travels the same amount of times this season and have so far racked up eight wins in total, more than the summer's supposed European chasers Everton, Liverpool, Aston Villa and the same as Sunderland and the team who have had a fantastic season so far in Ian Holloway's hard to ignore Blackpool.

On their day, Newcastle should be able to beat anybody on their day at St James' Park, especially with such a big crowd behind them.

But for some reason in the top flight it hasn't been so straight forward and notably should Alan Pardew pull off another home win over Tottenham, he will move ahead of Chris Hughton when it comes to victories this season at SJP.

There has been one similarity when it comes to the nature of these home wins.

Indeed when United have been good, they've been pretty much awesome.

There was nothing bent about the 6-0 win against Villa, then the 5-1 Mackem mauling that had some away fans heading for the exits at half-time, a strong 3-1 win over Liverpool and then the 5-0 hammering of the Hammers.

Frustratingly, United lost to Blackpool, Stoke and Blackburn and could only manage draws against Fulham and Wigan.

At this stage, don't imagine where we'd be in the table if we'd managed to harvest another six to nine points from that lot, it isn't good for your health.

Losing to moneybags Man City was disappointing but not the biggest shock in the world and holding Chelsea would have to be considered a point gained.

The reasons for such patchy home form are difficult to explain.

Joey Barton commented at the start of the season that the crowd at St James' were too expectant at the start of matches in the Premier League and more patience was needed.

There's also the theory that Blackpool, Stoke, Blackburn, Wigan and Fulham have arrived at St James' and put 10 men behind the ball in order to leave Tyneside with something to show for it.

Glenn Roeder argued in a recent interview that it was all down to the amount of quality and experience in the Toon team and until United were allowed to grow it would continue to be a learning curve.

It's worth considering that Newcastle have been better away from home when the expectations have been lower and a healthy enough return of 14 points on the road is testament to that.

Indeed that's two more points in the bag already than the relegation campaign of two years ago.

Whether or not you might think it's tempting fate, some United observers - Bob Moncur being one of them - feel that relegation is now not likely to happen this time around.

But back to the issue of home form.

Pardew's record of two wins from three is respectable enough so far but is beating Spurs too much of a big ask?

Certainly should fans be heading into their favourite watering holes after the clash with Spurs wearing smiles, that dreaded R word will be getting ready to leave Toon in the next few weeks.

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Lee Ryder

Lee Ryder - Proudly born and bred on Tyneside, the Chronicle's chief sports writer has followed the fortunes of the club over the last three decades as a Toon fan and football writer.

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