Newcastle v Aston Villa

Who Manages Them?                  

‘I was great at Spurs’ yapped Tim Sherwood outside the window of the Premier League after his release from an average five months in charge of Spurs.

‘I made Harry Kane what he is’ he yapped, as first West Brom, then Palace, NUFC and QPR opened their managerial windows, threw a shoe at him, before employing someone else.

Eventually a skint Aston Villa heard his Spurs is my legacy’ yap echoing around the sports pages of the Islington Advertiser and realised that this stray dog was the cheapest available replacement for departing boss Paul Lambert. Perhaps when Steve Bruce at Hull likened the relegation battle to a ‘horrible dogfight’ Villa went for someone who was yapping like a horrible dog.

It hasn’t taken long for any initial ‘positivity’ to wear off, Villa owner Randy Lerner said he was convinced that the ‘fresh, positive approach’ of Sherwood would be ‘very good for the club’ and ex-Toon keeper Shay Given continued that theme when he said after the Leicester FA Cup win: ‘He’s a very positive character. He just came into the dressing room at half-time and spoke positively to us’.

It all lasted one game, a 1-2 home defeat to Stoke. Mark Hughes suggested ‘Before the game there was a lot of positivity around Villa’ but Sherwood was left deflated after a last minute defeat: ‘You can’t take any positives’.

So if the positive rhetoric doesn’t work, what is Plan B Tim?

Well if this week’s quotes are anything to go by there isn’t one: ‘We’ve had five days training’ he told the press this week, ‘of course it’s going to take time’.

Ominously for the Villa fans, Sherwood has pointed to his time at Blackburn with manager Kenny Dalglish as his inspiration for management: ‘His man-management and knowledge of how he wanted his team to play is something that sticks with me’ Sherwood said this week. So nil-nil today then, Villa lining up with a goalkeeper and ten full backs.

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Who have They Bought?

Ex-Mackem freebie Kieran Richardson is injured and it is probable that other defensive signings Ally Cissokho and Philippe Senderos will miss out due to lack of fitness, but it is in midfield that Villa have signed some quality, and from the outside, where this game and their top flight status could be won or lost.

In the summer, Villa recruited ex-England international Joe Cole on a free transfer  after his release from West Ham, current England international Tom Cleverley from Manyoo and£5million Colombian international Carlos Sanchez from Elche, nicknamed ‘the rock’ due to his strength on the pitch supposedly, not because Villa have sunk like one since he started playing for them.

In the January window Villa signed Scott Sinclair on loan from Coronation Street and Carles Gil for £3million from Valencia. Tiny Carles Gil is technically very good and had the talent to succeed in La Liga, showing that in a very successful loan year at Elche, but in the end Valencia were happy to get money for him as he disappeared from games and didn’t progress over the years despite crowd backing for the local lad. Sounds like he’s the same size as Vurnon Anita and the same player as Sammi Ameobi then.

Who Have We Seen Before?    

Ex-NUFC lads Shay Given and Charles N’Zogbia, two more different footballers you couldn’t find, the only thing binding them together today is that neither of them will be in the first eleven.

Shay Given was a top quality goalkeeper and has over 600 league and international appearances to his name, most of which were for us in a twelve year stint that almost made him our record appearance holder. After an outstanding career with NUFC, professionally speaking at least, he had every reason to move from our shambolic Ashley inspired mess of a relegation season to Manchester City, then the richest club in the world.

Personally speaking, his engineering of a move left a bad taste in my mouth and definitely contributed to our relegation, something I’m not all that keen on forgiving him for. He should be on the bench today and overall will deserve his round of applause at perhaps his last appearance at his spiritual home.

Charles N’Zogbia played 158 games for us and scored a staggering 9 goals, a stat which tells us that when we sold him to Wigan for £6 million in the same transfer window as Given left for City, we let a blatantly average player go. He under-achieved at the TOON in every department except moaning and when he left claiming that he wanted to play ‘at a higher level’, we all knew he’d never find that ‘higher level’ unless it resided up his own arse, where he spends most of his time. He normally plays well at SJP for the opposition, which makes it more of a shame that he couldn’t do that for us but N’Zogbia won’t play today. Why not? Because in his pre-match press conference, boss Sherwood said: ‘well, if we fail, we will fail trying’. Trying would rule N’Zogbia out.

A Special Mention For?                               

There is a sign in the Holte End which says the ‘Holte End The 12th Man’, which apart from lacking the necessary punctuation to make any sense should also probably read ‘Holte End The 12 Men’ if the atmosphere and attendance is anything to go by this season.

newcastle v aston villaI know there are those at NUFC who are still looking for revenge for the anti-NUFC bed sheets at Villa Park during our relegation a few years ago, but is difficult not to have some sympathy for any supporters who turn up while their club is dismantled in front of them and a manager no one wants, squeezes very little out of puny resources as a half-arsed owner looks to save money and punt to the highest bidder. While that may sound familiar to another club much closer to home, at least Aston Villa can rely on the support of the Prime Minister and the Duke of Cambridge in the current relegation fight, both of them staunch Villa fans. Typical Villa fans at the minute as well, never there when the team needs them most.

How Will They Do This Season:

Villa may well get relegated but they might get out of it as well, from what we’ve seen this season it won’t take much to finish above the like of Leicester, QPR and Hull. If they can find the guts from somewhere that this season have been missing, Villa have got the talent to escape.

Any team with midfielders like Cole, Gil and Sinclair can open defences up and Benteke is still a great centre forward if he can be dragged out of his current slumber.

Tim Sherwood is just the man for that according to, well, himself:  ‘Yes, it was the case with Ade (Emmanuel Adebayor) and, yes, it could possibly be the case with Christian and we hope it will be’.  Sherwood said, whilst also claiming the credit for Spurs 1963 Cup Winners Cup win and inspiring the Two Tone movement while playing for Coventry earlier in his career. According to the press this week Benteke has been staying behind at training for extra shooting practice to improve his goal tally. Presumably he did it without a ball, to make it seem more like a Premier League game.

Are We Going to Win? 

It is years since we lost at home to this lot and I can’t see that changing this weekend. With Vlaar suspended there should be goals in it for us and Villa haven’t scored for 5 away games now so a clean sheet is on the cards if we defend their talented but spineless threat properly.

Villa should be a bit more attacking under Sherwood who won here with Spurs 0-4 as last season spluttered on in very similar fashion to this one, but Villa don’t have the attacking confidence that Spurs had a year ago. For NUFC, this is an excellent opportunity for 3 points against a team whose yap is definitely bigger than their bite.