NEWCASTLE UNITED meeting the opposition.
Tranmere return to home comforts, after games on the road against Hartlepool United and Newport County, as Micky Mellon’s side will face Newcastle United in Carabao Cup action.
This is a game in which many home supporters are looking at the money that Rovers will receive more than the actual ninety minutes, due to the level at which United operate as was seen on the weekend as they drew 3-3 against Manchester City.
However, looking into the match which will be televised on Sky Sport cameras I caught up with Alex Richardson as he gave his thoughts on all things regarding The Magpies.
Alex, thank you for your time answering the upcoming questions. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what Newcastle United means to you?
Hi Ethan, being brought up in a football-mad family, all supporting our beloved Newcastle, there wasn’t any choice for me to support anyone else other than The Magpies, and I couldn’t be happier. Following the team home and away now for over 13 years, also making the trip down to Prenton Park this Wednesday, it hasn’t been the best decade to support us, but thankfully things look on the up.
Last season, Newcastle finished eleventh in the Premier League after starting the season with relegation fears. We’ll soon talk about the manager, Eddie Howe and the new relatively controversial ownership, but how would you reflect on the 2021-22 campaign as a whole?
The first fourteen games were dreadful, I remember only going to the games for the day out and had to accept that nothing else mattered at that point as we were definitely headed for our third stint in the Championship since 2009. Ever since the end of Ashley’s tenure, there’s been a complete change in the city, not even just on matchdays. Granted it was a slow start to Howe’s time at the club, frustrating at times – the real side started to show at the back end of January, seeing us go on a nine-game unbeaten run, within that, making St James’ have a fortress feel, resulting in turning over Arsenal in the penultimate game of the campaign.
This summer, the three biggest incomings are Matt Targett, Nick Pope and Sven Botman as United have improved their backline significantly. Are you happy with the transfer window and if you could strengthen one final area, what would this be?
A clear problem last season was the defence, the number of goals, cheaply, that we would let in were ridiculous – it was charitable at times. Our goal difference was a sorry sight. These additions, along with the ones we made in January, have been smart and have all impressed since coming in so far. Although they might not be the prettiest of names, Matt Targett in particular, was a given after last season’s performances, relishing in a position we have struggled to fulfil in recent years, and with Trippier on the other side, we soon recognised vast improvements.
As for more incomings as three is far from enough, a backup centre forward to knock Chris Wood down the pecking order could be likely, or a winger to balance out the pressure put on our talisman, at times, Allan Saint-Maximin.
We are deprived of quality and depth up front and although Callum Wilson is renowned for his goal scoring ability, and there isn’t any doubt about that, injuries hinder him a lot, seeing him likely to miss ten games, minimum, per year. So someone who is able to come on and change games with one chance, or be prepared to lead the line once Wilson is in the treatment room is the priority in my opinion.
Bournemouth legend Eddie Howe was appointed manager on November 8th, 2021. How bright does the future look with him at the club and what are your thoughts on his new long-term contract? Also, what would you say his playing style is?
An appointment that was maybe frowned upon and not backed after hearing the names we were initially rumoured with soon changed the opinions of not just Newcastle fans, but those up and down the country. A manager who has instilled a mentality in this club that is deserved of one our stature and someone who oozes class. I do hope he can be our “Sir Alex” type of manager in terms of his length of tenure at our club, granted to be hard in the modern game.
His long-term contract was a no-brainer, we were up there with Liverpool and Manchester City in terms of form at the back end of that campaign – results drastically improved and not only that, we began to control games the way we wanted to, and dominate sides where appropriate.
Setting up with a 4-3-3, seeing one sit in front of the back line, and two either side in the role of box-to-box midfielders and one in a more advanced role, it has been clear what Eddie Howe has tried to do since day one.
Being a team who press high up the pitch, as opposed to previous management where sitting deep and counter-attacking was our only plan, means standards had to change from day one and as stated by many around the club, training sessions and just overall management of the game has drastically improved.
The club was taken over by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund with Mehrdad Ghadoussi and Amanda Staveley being the two front runners. This ownership is seen, by some, as relatively controversial. What is your opinion on them?
Like many Newcastle fans, and supporters up and down the country of their own club, the only thing I want to see is my team succeed, for it to be enjoyable week in, week out and have hope, whether that be for individual games or just simply, success. Being neglected as a club for thirteen years, we pleaded for a takeover, a new lease of life away from Ashley and with that, our club was deemed attractive enough to become the richest club in the world.
We, all, as Newcastle fans understand that morally, it is not the name we want over our club, we need to educate ourselves on all activity that goes on and not side with anything that isn’t our club and solely our club. After all, all we want to do is support Newcastle United.
Who would you say are your side’s key players and where will the key battles lie during a Wednesday night game set to be filmed by Sky Sports cameras? Do you believe, as you’re facing a League Two side, that Howe’s chosen eleven will be strong? Also, whilst we are on the strengths the team has, what do you view as a realistic ambition for the Prem this campaign?
In a fixture where I am expecting changes to be made, having 5 games in a two week spell, naming a side for an early cup tie is a tough one to call. A player I would like to see in the Newcastle eleven is Elliot Anderson. A 19-year-old who thrived in a loan spell at Bristol Rovers last season is on the fringes of our side, Howe has seemed to have made the call to not loan him out this season and slowly embed him into our side, and what better opportunity to do that. Looking calm and dangerous every time he’s on the ball, with the right chances, this lad could be with us for quite some time.
Asides from that, Saint-Maximin, Joelinton and Bruno Guimaraes are all ones to keep an eye on, should they feature, all having an element of quality within themselves in their own rights.
I expect to see rotation, but hopefully not too much, still having the foundations of our squad but with some chances for those needing to make an impression. I expect a good seven or eight changes, at least, from our normal line up.
As for our campaign as a whole this year, anywhere between 8th – 10th I view it as a successful year, an improvement from our previous years but still that little bit off those in and around the European spots, a place we wouldn’t have dared to have dreamed of this time last year. An enjoyable cup run somewhere in there certainly wouldn’t go amiss.
How do you see the upcoming match panning out? What is your score prediction?
Our form in domestic cup competitions is horrendous, having been knocked out by Cambridge in the 3rd round of the FA cup last year, we’ve experienced embarrassment. Since our revolution, using history isn’t really something that we can do as it is a completely different football club nowadays.
Realistically, I can’t see much more than a dominant Newcastle performance, but I do think you’ll keep it low scoring to an extent, I’ll go for 0-2 to the visitors.
If you have been keeping up with Tranmere, or know a little bit about the club, what are your thoughts on them and how do you believe they will do as they chase promotion to League One?
Attending University down in Liverpool, I managed to get to a couple Tranmere games last year and intend on doing so this campaign if I get a spare weekend.
As far as I’m aware, with the squad you had last season, promotion might have been such an overachievement to the point your squad wouldn’t have been ready for the forthcoming season, had you been in League One.
Still looking at last season, that push for promotion was ridiculously close in which I don’t think, as a fanbase, you should feel too hard done by. I fancy a play-off position, and from what happens then on could genuinely be decided by a flip of a coin. The best and worst feeling in football.