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  1. Saturday lunchtime in the North East against a team who clearly used the loopholes around Covid postponements to get their fixtures played once they’d jibbed off their old and stale manager, got a new one in and spent the first tranche of their blood money on reinforcements. It’s pretty obvious what their new owners were hoping to do, and the Premier League and the FA allowed it. Of course they did. We as a country are governed by the sort of people who would sell their arse (and anyone else’s) if it made them a quick buck. It’s not an ideal time for this fixture but seeing as we travel to Spain for a game on Tuesday night, to play Newcastle any later would have posed a real problem when it comes to preparation and especially recovery. Still, we go into the game with a chance to go top of the league again, and at least ask the question of City. So what is required at St James’ Park? Audacity. Urgency. Fire. Work-rate. Intelligence. Electricity. Determination. Effervescence. Relentlessness. Speed. Energy. Heart. Energy x2. Nerve. Productivity. Energy x3. Tactical nous. I don’t ask for much. Last season’s correspondence fixture was out first post-Christmas fixture in 2020, and it was effectively the start of us relinquishing our title as we dropped 2 points and embarked on a run of dreadful form that last the better part of 3 months. The game finished 0-0 and we just could not get going. The only real positive was that it marked the return of Thiago after his enforced lay-off following the derby at Goodison a few months earlier. It was a shit-fest all round. We’ve had some incredible results at Newcastle during the Premier League era, dishing out a hiding on more than a few occasions, but as these match thread pieces veer towards an older era, I’m going back to a game in mid-November 1975. Sir Bob Paisley was beginning to find his feet after a tricky first season in charge following the resignation of a club legend. The players would spark this season and match the stars of the 1972/73 campaign, pipping QPR to the league title and winning a second UEFA Cup by defeating Club Brugge. The game against the Geordies was somewhat routine, with the Reds coming from 1-0 down to win it 2-1 late on. Geoff Nulty opened the scoring for the hosts. Brian Hall grabbed the equaliser shortly before half time, and North East native Ray Kennedy grabbed the winner 2 minutes from the end. It was exactly the sort of game where you aren’t quite at your best but you keep going and grinding your opponents down. That’s what ultimately wins league titles. I couldn’t find any footage so here’s a match report from The Guardian. Al Pacino was on a roll in the mid-70s, and the film topping the box office in November 1975 is one of his best. Directed by Sidney Lumet and co-starring John Cazale, Dog Day Afternoon is an absolute triumph of casting, acting and storytelling. It’s basically about a bank heist gone wrong, and the situation only gets worse as the would-be bank robbers are effectively cornered in the bank and reduced to taking people hostage and making increasingly desperate demands. It’s also a perfect example of how a media frenzy can feed events and contribute to them spiralling out of control. Lumet visited this theme again the following year when he directed Network. Dog Day Afternoon also includes a memorable moment when Cazale ad-libs a reply to try and make the notoriously intense Pacino break character and start laughing. He almost gets there! Newcastle away is not an easy game to call, as Eddie Howe has brought about an upturn in fortunes and seen the Geordies sit comfortably in mid-table whereas upon his arrival they were one of the favourites for the drop. As a boyhood blooshite fan, maybe they ought to have gone for him instead after sacking Rafa! Anyway, I’d expect Klopp to ensure that his players are fully focused on the immediate job at hand, so motivation, preparation and application should not be an issue. As is the general theme of our season, we have the tools to go out there and get the job done. No repeat of the late-2020 tail-off. Go out there, put a shift in and grab the 3 points.
  2. In a period when fixture scheduling has repeatedly raised concerns, we go into this one just 3 days before the next fixture. I bet amongst fan of other clubs we are still the more despised club, but the Saudi’s investment in the Magpies is reason enough to absolutely detest them. They’ve gotten into bed with a human rights-abusing oil-wealth inflated band of cunts, no matter how much the bean counters of the PL want to bury their heads in the sand and believe the club ownership is entirely separate from the regime itself. Such is the absolute control of regimes like the Saudis that any claim that the ownership is a separate entity is utter bollocks. The PL, UEFA, FIFA and co will do sod all because they cannot afford to be tied up in legal knots by less wealthy sovereign Arab states like the UAE or Qatar, so they’ve got almost no chance to going toe to toe with the Saudi royal family. Bravery. Liveliness. Accuracy. Class. Know-how. Attitude. Nerve. Drive. Work ethic. Heart. Intelligence. Tactical flexibility. Energy. Speed. Heads screwed on. Ingenuity. Tenacity. Electricity. I don’t ask for much. Last season’s fixture at Anfield was typical for an Anfield fixture against a Steve Bruce side. We didn’t play particularly well but dominated. We took the lead but failed to add to our total. They profited from their one and only foray into our penalty area. OK, it wasn’t quite their one and only foray when the Geordies equalised deep deep DEEP into stoppage time, as they’d had one ruled out by VAR only a minute earlier, but it was still a result that did not paint a true picture of the match. We did not manage those last few minutes well at all, having failed to add to Mo’s tidy finish only a few minutes into the game. Points dropped. We were far sharper and more clinical when the Geordies visited Anfield post-Christmas in 1987. This was the era of Aldridge, Beardsley and Barnes in attack, with McMahon and Houghton in top form behind them. Gazza was still a Newcastle player back then, but he could do nothing to stem the tidal wave of Red. It was a comfortable 4-0 romp thanks to Macca, 2 from Aldo and one by Ray. They’d already been ripped apart at St James’ Park earlier in the season when Stevie Nicol got a hat-trick. You can see photos of the 4-0 win in this video around 45 minutes in. Oddly, there doesn’t seem to be any footage of the game. Never mind,you can enjoy a review of the entire 1987/88 season anyway. The big post-Christmas film in 1987 was Three Men and a Baby, directed by Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy, and starring Cheers star Ted Danson, Magnum PI star Tom Selleck, and Police Academy smug bastard Steve Guttenberg. Three bachelors are left to look after a little baby girl that is the product of a one night stand for Danson's character when the child is left outside their door one day. Cue loads of twee moments as the three reluctantly embrace the task at hand, gradually warming to and eventually not wanting to give her up. The plot also involves some drug dealer shit to add a dose of peril to the baby’s safety. Apparently it’s based on a French story written in the 30s, but America in the 80s loved this sort of thing. Grown-ass men forming a bond with widdle baybees also led to Look Who’s Talking and its sequels. I have actually seen both this and the sequel Three Men and a Little Lady (the baby is all grown up) but I can’t recall anything about them. Probably for the best. A hectic fixture schedule for Jurgen to manage, so I’d imagine he’ll make more changes for this one. There’s not much point over-exerting just for the sake of it, but at the same time there should be no let-up with the players’ attitude and application. We ensure those are right, get the job done and grab the 3 points. Newcastle have been crap all season. Let’s show why that is.