Newcastle United's Flying Circus
Pre season: Good, bad or ugly?
Whilst I can certainly understand any Newcastle fan (or anyone looking in from the outside trying to keep a straight face) thinking we've had a bit of a nightmare this summer, history has always taught me to first consider how much worse it could have been. And, on that twisted logic, it's not been too bad.
Obviously the Joe Kinnear news was about as horrific as watching your childhood home be destroyed by a freak tornado of jellied eels, but he's since managed to avoid setting fire to anything. There's some alleged disharmony behind the scenes, but nobody's been photographed wearing a schoolgirl costume and getting their a***s tanned in a quayside sex den. Clubs around Europe are crying out for a creative and fiery central midfielder, yet somehow Yohan Cabaye's still here. All things considered, we've gotten away lightly by our usual standards.
Hopes for the season:
Any improvement on the last one. Nobody on Tyneside's asking for anything unrealistic, but there's a growing consensus that we've currently got one of the most talented sets of players we've ever had at the club, we've just not seen it yet.
In goal, one of Europe's highest rated young goalkeepers; the defence contains a former Premier League team of the season entrant, a Ligue 1 winning captain, France's first choice right-back, and Davide Santon's cheekbones; the midfield's obviously missing James Perch but still contains a monster truck that walks like a man in Moussa Sissoko; and there's now a brand new shiny Loic Remy to add to Hatem Ben Arfa and Pappis Cisse.
I'm not being daft, that's legitimately a canny team of footballers that. Hoping for an improvement on 16th isn't a delusion.
Fears for the season:
That a combination of dodgy tactics, off the field drama, petty power squabbles, or Kinnear appearing on TalkSPORT again will stop any good work getting done. Also that David Moyes will wake up in a sweat one night in August screaming “CABAYE! WHY THE GIDDY HELL DIDN'T I THINK ABOUT CABAYE!?”.
Absolute bare minimum you’ll accept:
With what we've got to play with (as it currently stands), top half and an honest account of ourselves in a cup is, if nothing else, owed to the fans.
Fixture you’re most looking forward to?
As with every season, whoever we get in the FA Cup 3th round. In the league though, our opening home game against West Ham provides an opportunity to put a lot of fears to rest.
Got the right manager?
The Alan Pardew of 2011/2012 is brave enough, smart enough, and big enough to mould our current crop of players into something that could make a real mark on the league this season. The Alan Pardew of 2012/2013 might as well resign tomorrow.
By Christmas you’ll be…
Looking back on the more optimistic elements of this article and wincing.
Player you’d most like to sign?
Somewhere out there is a 20 goal a season centre forward with 15 minutes left on his contract and a deep seated love of bridges, shite weather, and lasses going out wearing less than a twix wrapper. He'd be nice.
Failing that, someone with a bit more backbone who's capable of providing a goal threat from the midfield. Something Siem De Jong shaped.
Which player should we look out for?
This should, hopefully, be the year that Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa firmly establishes himself as one of the strongest and smartest modern centre-backs in the league. In reality he'll probably nick a goal from a corner and put in a few decent challenges in the pouring rain, which to most people is just as good.
From the academy? Well, for the 4th year in a row I'm declaring it "Vuckic's year". Also left-back Paul Dummett has apparently been pulling up trees and crushing them on his head in training.
Which player would you love to ditch?
I've long been a defender of the potential ability of Gabriel Obertan. But after being given 4 or 5 big chances to prove himself last season he turned in performances that teetered somewhere between disinterested and incompetent. Time's up, Gab. Sorry.
Opposition hate figure?
Well, with Harry Redknapp and his face like a play-doh crème brûlée consigned to the league below, and Mark Lawrenson getting his Match of the Day role reduced to pressing his nose up against an outside window, I'm personally pretty happy.
He's not even laced his boots yet, but the “God bless Remy's feet, viva Remy's feet, ces't magnifique, Remy's feet” to the Fools and Horses theme tune is definitely my new jam.
Where will you finish?
In a pit of my own shame, disappointment, and unwavering blind loyalty. Like I do every single season.
Any other news?