Newcastle v West Ham – Sunday 24 May 3pm

Who Manages Them?                  

Big’ Sam Allardyce, ‘Big’ as in ‘big-headed’ presumably rather than ‘big’ in achievement.

He’s been around the block as a manager but this year Allardyce has shown glimmers of a sense of humour and a liberalism generally missing over his 22 year managerial hoofathon. He allowed the Hammers to bring in an attacking coach to try and improve the dour football on offer at The Boleyn Ground after he was retained as manager in the summer and acknowledged the West Ham board’s demands that the team “provides more entertainment”, former England striker Teddy Sheringham (has seen better days – see pic below) became attacking coach for a season before moving on to manage Stevenage this week.

newcastle v west ham

Allardyce also amusingly accused Louis Van Gaal of “long ball tactics” after a last minute Blind equaliser gave the reds a point in London this season, having previously said after a 3-0 win at home to Hull: “Getting the ball into the box quickly with quality is definitely sometimes the best way forward, that’s what we did in the second half and that’s why we won the game. All this tippy-tappy stuff – everybody keeps on going about the right way to play football.”

So he has got a sense of humour, even if it is an ironic one. After the previously mentioned point against the Red Devils,  Allardyce quipped “I don’t think there is any coach more sophisticated than me any more.” You can still hear his jowls wobbling from here.

Still, it wasn’t the most ridiculous thing of that weekend. A glance at the league table on Sunday the 8th of February when the Hammers drew with Manyoo – you can see that we had 31 points, hard to believe we are in this position now, having to beat Allardyce to stay up, 13 games and 5 points later.

If the two head coaches on show today are anything to go by, maybe ‘Big’ Sam is the most sophisticated in the league, easier to believe than ours being the best in the league.

newcastle v west ham

Of course Allardyce is an ex-Manager of NUFC and some are quietly saying he could also be the next manager of NUFC. He has a meeting on Monday with filth magnates Gold and Sullivan to decide whether he keeps his job or not at the Boleyn Ground and the signs are not good. Allardyce has done a progressive job in his three years at West Ham but has always seemed like a man hanging onto his job despite results, a bit like Alan Pardew at NUFC in the respect that people who don’t have to pay to watch them play, hold the manager in a higher regard than the people who do have to pay to watch them play. It is expected that time has run out for Allardyce and West Ham will thank him for his stability and punt him for someone more exciting. A bit like we did 7 years ago.

Allardyce himself will no doubt have an eye on the Real Madrid or Inter Milan job again but the reality is that he and Mike Ashley are far more suitable bed fellows than either admitted in 2008. Allardyce happy with a payday of stable mediocrity and a forum to voice his self-promoting babble, Ashley happy with a man who knows his place and can keep NUFC in theirs. Only time will tell but Allardyce may yet decide who the next manager of NUFC is.

If West Ham lose today then John Carver may keep the job, if Hull are relegated, Steve Bruce will be looking for a new job. Whatever happens, it looks like ‘Big’ Sam will be looking for a new job in the summer at a time when no one else wants to be our manager, those at SJP may well consider him to be our best option, as sobering a thought as relegation itself.

Who have They Signed?              

£7million Senegalese international midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate and £12million Ecuadorian Enner Valencia have joined the Hammers and done a decent job this season and both should play today.

Joining Kouyate in a midfield with talent is former Arsenal midfielder Alex Song, on loan from Barca. Song has had a mixed season thus far, though his performances were much better than Cameroon manager Volke Finke said when dropping the lad for the 2015 African Cup of Nations. Song himself announced his international retirement after being told he’d missed out on the squad, though no one cared, Song stating: “You can’t dump me, I’ve just dumped you first.”

Amongst a massive influx of strikers who came to the club in the summer, including Mauro Zarate and Diafra Sakho, came the re-signing of the claret and blue Shola, Carlton Cole on an 18 month contract. Cole had been released the season before after being deemed to be a complete bag of shi…, surplus to requirements, but an injury crisis that saw permanently injured Andy Carroll get injured, meant that Cole was re-signed on a short term deal and then a longer term one. “It’s like signing a new player,” said Alan Pardew, despite it having nothing to with him. And don’t worry Toon fans, Shola will no doubt be back in black and white next season, spearheading our campaign for affordable football in whichever league we are playing in.

Who Have We Seen Before?

6 foot 4 Andy Carroll (Andy talks tactics with Big Sam – see pic below) has black and white blood charging through his veins supposedly, which hasn’t done him much good since leaving Toon in 2011 because he’s always injured. Proof that he’s got much softer since moving Sarf was shown in January when he hurt his hand while making lunch, he used to hurt his hand knocking out his team-mates when he lived up here.

newcastle v west ham

When he was at NUFC he said that he wanted to be the next Alan Shearer but with his gammy hands he’s more likely to end up as the new Marcelino. Not really of course, he already had an ankle injury when he cut his finger making pregnant fiancé Billi Mucklow a winkle butty, or whatever it is they eat down there. Aye, not only is his missus on the telly more than him now, she’s got more chance of playing for England. Again I’m joking, it takes more than a cut finger to keep Andy off the field of play, it takes something wrong with the feet that used to kick a football and the 26-year-old won’t play today because of some ailment or other. Still, it’s our gain, his 5 goals in 14 starts this season shows that if he can get fit, he’s a formidable opponent.

Ex-NUFC captain Kevin Nolan will play today and much is being made of the fact that he can join the select bunch of players who have scored 100 PL goals if he scores today and wouldn’t it be ironic if his 100th goal sent his former employers down etc etc. I don’t see the irony of it though, players like Nolan are good at what they do and his disappointing first season at SJP was more than made up for by his performances over the next two years, when he led a team that won the Championship and then proudly battled to a mid-table finish the season after. He has his limitations, lots of them, but I wouldn’t put any money on us being able to keep him out of our goal for 90 minutes today, we have very few players with his bottle or his brains on the pitch. When we sold Nolan we were told we were moving on to better things. It doesn’t look much better at the moment.

Are We Going To Win?

All of the conspiracy theorists are looking at the opposition and giving a million reasons why they want to see us relegated but the reality is that the opposition don’t really matter today and haven’t mattered for much of this season.

Newcastle have simply looked incapable of beating anyone for much of 2015, it’s not the opposition we need to worry about. Mid-table Swansea, already relegated QPR and the Mackems in the bottom three have beaten us recently without even a whimper of opposition from those in black and white and frankly if we can lose those games against those teams then we can lose to anyone, anywhere.

We can certainly lose to West Ham, whether they are motivated to beat us or not, earlier in the season West Ham’s players were charged with not “conducting themselves in an orderly fashion” by the FA. God knows what the FA would charge ours with, given the last 10 games. The only silver lining today is that at least NUFC know exactly what we have to do, a win and we are safe, we just need to go out and win.

No messing about, nothing cagey, no keeping it tight, just get into the opposition and beat them, the sooner we score a couple of goals, the easier the game will be. Sing the lads to victory today. It never matters who is in Toon today, as long as we are.