Top NUFC Sports Writer Interview – ‘Colo and Taylor Hold Key’
A regular feature in our magazine sees us interviewing one of the journalists who are actually paid to watch Newcastle United, something that the rest of us think should have happened to us at times this season!
In our brand new issue which hits the shops on Saturday, we speak to the head sports writer at The Journal, Mark Douglas.
We spoke to Mark at length with there being a ‘few’ things to talk about at the moment and we couldn’t quite fit it all in the new Mag, so here are the bits we had to leave out due to lack of space.
You can also follow Mark on Twitter @msidouglas
From what you know, do you think the Newcastle squad will be a happier place without Ba?
I don’t think Ba was a particularly corrosive influence. He had an ego – no surprise there – but he wasn’t disruptive. There will be huge relief that the circus surrounding his future is over though. Everyone knows where they stand now – and someone like Papiss Cisse will relish the chance to move back into his favoured striker role.
Who do you see as the key players to drag Newcastle out of this mess?
The attacking players (Ben Arfa, Cabaye and Cisse) all need to come back into the team at their very best, because United are relying on them. But Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini hold the key, because it is at the back where United’s problems have developed. The team needs to rediscover that defensive authority that has been sadly missing over recent months.
Would you accept that overall Newcastle’s squad (non-first team) players aren’t good enough?
Not necessarily. They all have their merits but putting four or five in the team at any one time – and when the team are losing in particular – was asking for problems. I wouldn’t write off Sammy Ameobi and company just yet.
In these days of Twitter and message boards, we probably see more extreme reactions than we did in the past. The anger and frustration that fans feel straight after games now has an outlet – but I don’t think it reflects the general opinion. I might be wrong, but I’m not getting readers hammering my Twitter account or ringing the office to demand editorials calling for change.
People are asking questions, as you would expect. But that’s yet to mutate into any desire to replace the manager – or outward rebellion. Many sympathise with the hand he was dealt in the summer, when he didn’t get the players he needed.
I don’t think Newcastle fans relished the days when there was a revolving door at St James’ Park. But they need to see some evidence that a season of unremitting gloom can be turned around.
As a journalist do you enjoy the whole transfer window scenario?
Sometimes. I don’t like the dishonesty that sometimes surrounds it and there’s a few too many chancers claiming to know what is going on when they’re really guessing. Sometimes the truth gets lost this month, and journalists can become unwitting pawns in it all.
It’s funny how many people who disappear during the winter or spring months suddenly pop up proclaiming to have the inside track on United! Twitter has increased this – although I think most of us have wised up to one or two high profile wind up merchants!
Having said that, there’s plenty to write about and I do like the thrill of a big transfer story. If you’ve got decent contacts, you’re always confident you can get a heads up on something big that’s about to break.
It also encourages us as journalists to make calls, hit the phones, talk to contacts and try and source the big tales. I love that bit of it – and so do most journalists worth their salt.
How do you think Newcastle will approach their Europa League matches in February?
I really hope they take them seriously. I think the competition is there to make progress in – and I’m not sure Metallist is the nightmare draw it was portrayed to be. They’re coming off the back of their winter break and Newcastle can beat them if they’ve got a full team out.
You’d hope the league form might have improved by then too.
The fans need something to cling onto and I’m not sure the manager can really afford to write it off. If he puts out the kids again it’ll be tough to justify.
If you had to put your mortgage on it, where do you think Newcastle will finish in the league this season?
Mid-table – anywhere between 10th and 15th. Can’t see relegation.
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