Inside Info is a new feature for St Mary's Musings. We will be asking the SB Nation Soccer fraternity for a lowdown of how their fans are feeling, the atmosphere around their respective clubs and what they expect ahead of their fixture with Southampton. This week, we talk to Coming Home Newcastle's Jim McMeachin ahead of our St Mary's showdown this afternoon.
How are you feeling about your season so far? How much have those feelings changed since you were making your promising summer signings?
Predictably, we're not thrilled, but it's been an odd ride to get to not thrilled. Only losing to Manchester City by 2-0 on opening day was very encouraging (it was joint-best result v. City in the Pardew Era!) but following up with the draw at home with Palace was less than palatable. For many, frustration is the default setting for our attitude toward the club, so it's easy to get back to that feeling, even when things are relatively good. I think that largely, the feelings about the team and the summer signings has gone about as you could predict - rampant optimism and hope has been crushed by underwhelming performances (Riviére, Cabella) and training ground injury (Siem de Jong). I suppose ultimately, it's a net neutral situation - the highs of the signings have been cancelled out by the lack of performances thus far by those signings and the club in general. Small sample size and all, though.
You're winless so far this season. Is there any reason for this?
We're not really very good attacking, and we're not really good defending. The three goals against Palace were not at all a testament to our great attacking prowess - largely it was down to a rather phenomenal 30 minute appearance by Rolando Aarons and some not particularly stellar defensive work by Palace's rearguard. If you want to go on a deeper level, it's a predictable pattern in the Pardew era - He has never finished a match at Newcastle closer than 2 goals behind to City and has made a habit of dropping points to teams that you feel you should be beating (i.e. Palace at home)
What are your season aims?
The club's season aim will be to finish either a) in the Champions League or b) as high as possible to maximize performance money at the end of the season while not qualifying for the Europa League. I think the fan base is hoping for something closer to top-6 as opposed to scraping by in 10th place (or barely escaping a relegation scrap). Personally, I want to see the club challenging for something meaningful next season, even if I know that the ownership will likely not reinforce the squad and it will mean a nervous last few weeks of the 15-16 PL season.
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How do Newcastle fans view Saints as a club? Are we seen as rivals in terms of jostling for league position?
I think that we do see you guys that way, yes. Part of it is that you all are a favorite talking point for Alan Pardew - how great your academy is (which frankly when you hold ours in comparison, we can't even hold a candle), how great your culture is in that it's different than Geordie culture which allows your footballers to succeed more readily and more. It's even been suggested that as a club, Newcastle United can't compete financially with Southampton, let alone the Sky 6 clubs. I think that sections of the Newcastle support still cling to memories of the glory days (such as they were) under Keegan and Sir Bobby and view us as a big, Champions League, PL challenging club. The reality is that as our clubs have had both relegations and promotions in recent times, lots of ups, lots of downs, lots of what-have-yous, and as a result we're probably much closer rivals than some want to admit. Of course, there is a large section of the fan base that has seen what has been going on down there and watched on with no small amount of jealousy, what with finding managers who have a firm grasp of modern footballing tactics and who are willing to use players to their maximum effectiveness in order to achieve those tactics. I think the most direct answer to your question would be this: I think that at this point, Southampton could be forgiven for feeling that they are above competing with Newcastle United and have their sites set elsewhere.
How many Newcastle fans actually want Pardew to stick around? Why do Newcastle fans seem to dislike him so much?
I've kind of touched on this in a couple of the answers so far, but It's really down to three or four major points -
1) His squad usage and "tactics" have been poor. There has been a lot of disappointment in his handling of players who are regarded as being able to do a job for the club - players such as Sylvain Marveaux or Hatem Ben Arfa - while he is steadfastly loyal to others who seemingly bring nothing to the table such as Shola Ameobi or most weeks, Mike Williamson.
2) Outside of the 11-12 season when Demba Ba was scoring for fun and then Papiss Cissé took the mantle and scored that goal against Chelsea (that's how ridiculous his form was that season) resulting in a stress free season of apparent (now) over-achievement, Pardew has been increasingly antagonistic with Newcastle supporters, their expectations and their feelings about their club. Part of the situation makes me feel sad - Pardew is really nothing much more than a mouthpiece for Mike Ashley in the public arena which is a lose-lose proposition... but it goes deeper than that.
3) His frequent need to tell us who we can and can't expect to compete with (We can expect to compete with whomever the hell we want, thankyouverymuch) and his apparent disdain for Geordie lifestyle.
4) Promises made regarding transfers in and out that have not been kept
It goes on and on. But largely, it has been a very poor product on the pitch for the vast majority of his tenure. If the Keegan and Robson eras showed us anything about the Newcastle fans, it is that we love to be entertained. The product on the pitch has often been significantly short of that benchmark, which I believe is the ultimate failing of the Pardew regime... which is saying something in light of the validity of the other complaints about him.
I like to annoy my Newcastle-supporting mates with constant reminders of Saints being the club who helped produce Alan Shearer. Can you please put your gratitude into words?
I mean, if we're going to be purely accurate about it, Alan Shearer was produced originally by Gosforth Boys School... so we'll still take the credit on that one, I suppose. But thanks and all. Anyway, it didn't work out too badly for you all... that Le Tissier fella was pretty decent.
Finally, what are your predictions for the match on Saturday?
Pain. For us. One of our writers is going for another 4-0 reverse. I don't think that it's going to be that bad, but I do think we'll lose. It's probably going to be a 2-1 or 3-1 type result that is much closer than how the match actually played out.