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Mark Lawrenson predicts how Newcastle will start the season with concerns for Steve Bruce

1 month ago
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Mark Lawrenson has been contemplating Newcastle United’s start to the season.

Whilst Brentford v Arsenal kicks off the Premier League action tonight, for NUFC it is a wait for Sunday and the visit of West Ham.

Whilst 10,000 supporters were allowed into the final home game of last season against Sheffield United, Sunday will be the first time in a year and a half that St James Park has been fully open to Newcastle fans.

St James Park will be one of very few Premier League stadiums, maybe the only one, that will not be sold out for the opening game of the season. However, there is still set to be a crowd in the high forty thousands as despite well over ten thousand season tickets going unsold, the novelty of watching live football has helped fill many of those seats for at least this first game after easing of restrictions.

Mark Lawrenson questioning whether this will be a positive or negative for the Newcastle United Head Coach: ‘Newcastle playing at home with the crowds back in St James’ Park is all great on paper. But what sort of atmosphere awaits manager Steve Bruce? I don’t know.’

The mood of the crowd on the day will no doubt, as usual, rest largely with what happens on the pitch.

I still don’t hear a single Newcastle fan I know of who wants Steve Bruce to be at NUFC, but when it comes to this West Ham match, the focus will be very much on how the team perform, unless…

The last time St James Park was fully open, a crowd of 52,219 (including 10,000 free season ticket holders) watched an abysmal 0-0 home draw with Burnley on 29 February 2020. Steve Bruce with his usual ultra negative tactics helping to ensure Newcastle made it four Premier League games in a row without scoring a goal and extending the run of PL matches to one win in ten.

The Newcastle fans were far from happy that day and if Steve Bruce serves up the same then they will no doubt take advantage of being inside St James Park to let him know. However, if he approaches the game in the right way then I don’t think it will be a factor.

Some very contrasting stats surround Sunday’s match, on the one hand West Ham have only won twice in their last seventeen visits to St James Park, but on the other hand Newcastle have only won three of their fourteen opening day matches during Mike Ashley’s reign.

With his usual superficial non-fact based predictions of what will happen with Newcastle United, Mark Lawrenson takes Callum Wilson’s fitness as the biggest positive for Newcastle.

The reality of course is that Callum Wilson is one of a number of players where Steve Bruce has decisions to make, after a disrupted pre-season where injuries and failure to buy a single player so far, have impacted on preparations.

Due to hamstring problems, Callum Wilson has only played 45 minutes of the final three friendlies, whilst Allan Saint-Maximin has only managed 45 minutes of the final four friendlies due to an ‘illness’ that was never specified.

As well as that pair, Miguel Almiron has only had 45 minutes of pre-season football due to joining the squad late, whilst Jonjo Shelvey recovering from a calf injury has only managed 76 minutes in friendlies in total.

Usually all four would be Steve Bruce choices but in the absence of any new signings, he has big calls to make on whether any or all of these four are in a position to start Sunday’s game.

Mark Lawrenson predicts a 1-1 draw but much will surely depend on the strength of that NUFC starting eleven, you just hope that Bruce doesn’t take unnecessary risks with any key player if they aren’t fully fit.

Mark Lawrenson talking to BBC Sport:

“Newcastle playing at home with the crowds back in St James’ Park is all great on paper.

“But what sort of atmosphere awaits manager Steve Bruce?

“I don’t know.

“Magpies striker Callum Wilson is fit which will help them.

“But I think West Ham will get something out of the game.

“Prediction is Newcastle 1 West Ham 1.”

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