Opposition View – Newcastle

Michael Martin of True Faith fanzine answers our questions for this weeks opposition view.

How long have you supported Newcastle and what was your first game?

Since the early 1970s. The first game I can remember being at was Malcolm Macdonald’s debut when Supermac was born with a 3-2 home win over Liverpool at St James’ Park with my Dad on the old West Stand Paddock (now The Milburn Stand). A very different ground to what it is now.

Favourite and least favourite games in your time as a fan?

There are a few that  stand out games. I think the best result I’ve witnessed was beating Barcelona 3-2 at St James’ Park in the Champions League when Tino Asprilla got a hat-trick in 1997. Then followed by beating Juventus 1-0 at SJP around 2004 under Sir Bobby when I had my daughter with me and that was a very special night personally. The same year we beat Feyenoord in the Champions League at the De Kuip and that’s a marvellous memory.

Being in the San Siro when we drew 2-2 with Inter under Sir Bobby and Shearer got two was a special trip, particularly as everywhere you looked there supporters who really had put the hard miles in following Newcastle United – I’m sure you experience those times now too. We all loved that trip.

There were some marvellous games under Kevin Keegan when the football was unbelievable and we destroyed teams – obviously battering Man Utd 5-0 at SJP the season after we came so close to winning the league is a great memory. Countless derby wins and its a bit like picking your favourite child for those.

I’ll narrow it down – Kevin Keegan’s debut as a player for us in 1982 when he scored and we beat QPR 1-0. The joy inside SJP that day was incredible. The other I think was a game we had to win in ’92 to be sure we weren’t going to be relegated to the old Div. 3. David Kelly scored in the last 10 minutes and SJP was simply delirious. Had we gone down that season we’d likely have gone out of business. Four years later we were so close to winning the PL title. The Keegan effect.

Least favourite – it will take a long way to feel how I did when Sunderland beat us in the 1990 Promotion Play-Off Semi Final at St James’ Park. Similarly, seeing a team with so many well-rewarded players slip meekly out of the Premier League in 2009 with Alan Shearer looking on helplessly at Villa Park, 24/05/09 wasn’t much fun. Their fans behaved like utter cocks and it will never be forgotten.

Who is your favourite ever player and manager and why? 

My favourite player is without question Alan Shearer – the only truly world-class player we have ever had on the books of Newcastle United in my lifetime. When he signed for us in 1996 he could likely have picked any club in the world to join. He chose us and he was immense. An honour to have him in a Newcastle United shirt and happily he believes it was for him too.

There is only one name for all time favourite manager and that is Kevin Keegan. People need to understand where United was when he joined us in ’82 as a player and again in ’92 as a manager. The journey he took us on, the pride he gave us in our team and how he transformed Newcastle United. We wouldn’t be pulling in crowds of 50K per game if it hadn’t been for him. He’s one of the most important names in the history of our club – right up there with Frank Watt, Colin Veitch, Stan Seymour, Jackie Milburn. The man is an absolute giant in football but nowhere else is there the love for him than there is at Newcastle United. The King.

Were you happy with the appointment of Steve McClaren as your new manager?

Its been expected for years because of his friendship with Director of Football, Graeme Carr. His CV is somewhat patchy. His biggest problem is Mike Ashley and his lack of ambition and warmth towards Newcastle United. It’s an unhappy marriage.

Mike Ashley appears to have loosened the purse strings slightly this summer. Are fans less hostile towards him at the moment and are you happy with the signings you’ve made so far?

If new players hadn’t been bought, we’d have been nailed on for relegation this season. I expect the players we’ve bought will be in the shop window in 2 or 3 windows time. That’as the drill, that hasn’t changed. Thousands have chucked going to the games and attendances are being kept up artificially by a range of desperate ticket offers because Ashley is desperate to avoid empty seats. That’s bad for the “product”. Ashley (currently) has done the bare minimum. Yes, three players have been signed but we needed more and that doesn’t alter the fact that for years there has been chronic lack of investment.

What other positions need strengthening and is anyone else likely to arrive before the window shuts?

We need another centre-forward, central defender and we need creativity down the flanks because if Obertan is the answer, what the is the question? We could also do with a proper time-served left-back as well.

Swansea have a good record in this fixture with 5 wins in the last 6 meetings. Why do you think you have struggled against us?

Because you have better players and better managers.

What do you make of Swansea and what players if any will you have to watch out for?

I’m an unashamed admirer. I like everything about Swansea. I think your club is based in a similar community to mine – a staunchly working class area with a similar way of looking at the world. Its a former coal-mining area so that obviously has a role. Your fans always appear good-natured and when I’ve met them in pubs before games etc they have always been affable, obviously love their team and the game. Basically good, decent crack. As a club I’d love for United to be run in the sum way. That 20% ownership the Supporters Trust has in the club is absolutely vital to ensuring Swansea City is run as a football club for its supporters rather than and advertising hoarding or a slush fund for the owners. As a team, I think you have a nice balance and play good football and the style never seems to change much between managers. The people picking your managers seem to know what they are doing as well. So, you appear to have people of good will and good sense running your club. What’s not to like?

Predict the score and where both teams will finish?

1-1 and I think Swansea will finish 9th and we’ll get 12th or thereabouts.