Saturday, July 28, 2007

Premiership Preview--14. Newcastle

14. I was tempted to slot Newcastle a bit higher than this. Sam Allardyce is an extremely capable manager who coaxed successful results out of a Bolton team that wasn't stacked with individual talent, and Newcastle have, on paper, a better team than 14th place. However they had a team that should've finished higher than 13th last season and a couple of the teams that finished below them (Fulham and West Ham) are markedly improved and will end up leaping above Newcastle in this year's table. You also can't forget about the curse hanging over the Tyneside club; Neil Armstrong walked on the moon more recently than the last time Newcastle won a major trophy.

Sam Allardyce wasted no time in putting his mark on the club since he was hired as manager. He released Craig Moore and didn't retain Oguchi Onyewu. Titus Bramble and Antoine Sibierski were told their contracts wouldn't be renewed and both went to Wigan. Letting Scott Parker go to West Ham may prove to be a big, big mistake if Parker stays healthy and performs at the level he's capable of for the Hammers this season as Nicky Butt isn't getting any younger. Kieron Dyer may also leave the club as well, but at the time of writing this, he was still a Newcastle player. The players Allardyce brought in all have a chance to be successful at Newcastle. However, Joey Barton will already miss the start of the season with a broken bone in his foot. Mark Viduka hasn't had any time to rest this summer as he played in the Asian Cup for Australia. Geremi has played in only 72 Premiership games since 2003. Signing David Rozehnal should turn out to be a great move for Newcastle, as Allardyce has proven that he can take low-profile, middle-aged defenders (Abdoulaye Diagne-Faye, Abdoulaye Méïté) and stick them in the back and be successful.

The winter holidays won't be happy for Newcastle this season. October-November (Halloween and Thanksgiving here in America) brings four home games, but difficult ones in Everton, Tottenham, Portsmouth, and Liverpool. Trips to Reading and Sunderland won't be easy, nor will a game at Blackburn on December 1. With the new year comes an even more difficult stretch of games, one that lasts into the beginning of March and will be what condemns Newcastle to the middle of the bottom half of the table. Ready for this? Road games at (in order) Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Aston Villa, and Liverpool, mixed in with home games against Bolton, Middlesbrough, Manchester United, and Blackburn. If Newcastle can survive that and come out of it with good results, they can think about a top half finish..oh wait, they won't survive it.

Bottom Line-After four consecutive years of top-eight finishes for Sam Allardyce, the run will end. Managing Newcastle is considerably more difficult than managing Bolton because of the increased stress and pressure that comes with it. Newcastle has a roster built around experienced, veteran players which are mixed in with some very talented, promising youngsters who will be the future of the club. Look for them to be better in the 2008-2009 season, but for this year, it's another bottom half, disappointing, trophy-less year for Newcastle.

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