November 2012 Archives

When Newcastle United were relegated there were too many players who buried their heads well and truly in the sand.

As it stands (before tonight's game with Stoke), the Magpies are not yet - in my opinion - in a relegation battle.

Of course they soon will be if results continue the way they are, however, the current squad to me give me more encouragement that they can turn things around and claw their way back into the top half of the table.

Newcastle United head to Stoke City tomorrow night to face a Potters side that won't feature Michael Owen.

That should come as no great surprise with the injury prone former England striker spending another stint on the sidelines and unavailable to Tony Pulis' side.

Had he played Owen would have been subjected to more than a few boos from the travelling support.

Just like Newcastle United's season has been fragmented through injuries, suspensions and the stop-start nature of life in the Europa League, the Magpies' team play has suffered badly in the last two games.

Of course just three narrow goal victories all season in the Premier League shows that the free flowing Newcastle United that blasted their way to six successive wins last season and stayed in the top seven for almost the whole campaign, are yet to turn up.

The valid questions still remain over the squad strength at St James' Park and whether it is really equipped to tackle life in two competitions.

Alan Pardew will demand a response to Newcastle United's no show against West Ham United after his troops return from international duty - and I expect him to get it.

Newcastle have been blasted by fans this week after slipping up against the Hammers, failure to do the business against Swansea City is unthinkable.

Some of the stick dished out this week has been warranted, some of it has been far-fetched but either way United players know where they stand.

If tonight's game is as good as the build-up here in Brugge then we are in for a real treat at the Jan Breydel Stadium.

Newcastle United fans waited long enough to get their European trips back and it is safe to say they are making the most of this.

The vibe in this picturesque city has been excellent from being in Market Square - which feels like walking around the Bigg Market by the way - to just simply walking around the cobbled streets of Brugge.

Xisco's appearance in Newcastle United's squad to tackle Club Brugge reminded me of the night that his fellow countryman Albert Luque covered himself in glory in the old UEFA Cup.

Like Xisco, Luque's big money move from Deportivo la Coruna turned a bit sour after the manager who signed him in Graeme Souness quickly moved on.

It was left to Glenn Roeder to try to get something out of him and despite Luque clearly not suited to life in Newcastle, he squeezed out three goals from the ex-Depor man.

Scores of Newcastle United fans were today making the trip to Brugges today as they prepare for the Magpies' Group D clash against the Belgian League outfit knowing that victory will book a place in the last 32 of the competition.

A triumph over the struggling Belgian side - who go into the game manager-less - will ensure a place in the draw for the knockout stages with two matches to spare.

Many wondered just how the Magpies would cope on their return to continental competition.


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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