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Andy Gray - Sam calls the toon

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It's no great surprise to see Newcastle heading into the weekend sat in fifth - just as it's not a massive shock to see Bolton struggling.

 

The difference? Sam Allardyce.

 

It didn't take a genius to work out what was needed at Newcastle and Sam is clearly the right man. He has already made his team tough to play against, just as Bolton were.

 

Newcastle's defence was always the problem and Sam has tackled that head-on. He has brought in a couple centre-backs in Caludio Cacapa and David Rozehnal and a full-back in Habib Beye and already they are looking better for it.

 

And the one word to describe a midfield of Nicky Butt, Alan Smith and Geremi is functional. There may not be an abundance of creativity in there, but defensively those three will do a good job.

 

It's not a criticism of his predecessors, but Newcastle probably needed some discipline. Big Sam is a big man with a big reputation. He doesn't suffer fools gladly and after years of great football going forward but not much else, it it was clearly time to instil some backone.

 

They always struck me as pretty haphazard in the way they went about their defensive responsibilities and even after six games, the difference is clear. There is still plenty to be done though because in reality, Newcastle should have made an even better start.

 

I thought their attitude against Derby was all wrong. A newly-promoted side, without a win, Derby where there for the taking, but Newcastle blew it and were deservedly beaten. It might be their best start in six years, but that one game underlined the size of the task in hand.

 

It will be interesting to see how they evolve from a playing perspective as well. We all know how Sam liked to do things at Bolton and we all know that Newcastle and their fans are used to open, attacking football. Maybe he will have to strike a balance between the two.

 

I wouldn't expect that to become clear until midway through the season, but maybe the injury to Michael Owen will give us an insight earlier than expected.

 

With Michael fit again, Sam was almost forced into playing a 4-4-2. We know he prefers the tight three in the middle of the park and one man up front with the two wider players joining in.

 

It was a system that brought him success at Bolton down the years and indeed at The Reebok on the opening day of this season.

 

With Michael out, I just wonder whether he will go back to it with Mark Viduka leading the line and Obafemi Martins and maybe James Milner either side of him.

 

Whatever happens you have to feel for Owen, you really do. I know exactly what it's like to find yourself in a wretched run of injuries and it must heartbreaking for the lad, for Newcastle and of course, for England.

 

What people don't realise is that when you come back after such a long lay-off, you tend to try that little bit harder and that's why it happens.

 

The groin is a classic example of a muscle you can easily pull when you have been out and are so keen to make a mark that you perhaps over-exert yourself.

 

As much as Owen's absence gives Allardyce the chance to change his system it also gives Martins the chance to show the new manager what he can do. He was unlucky to find himself edged out by Owen's return, particularly after such a good season last year.

 

There's no doubt Mark Viduka is the first name on the teamsheet though, whatever the system. He is one of the best in the country at what he does and in many ways - for those of you old enough to remember - he reminds me of Mark Hughes in his playing days.

 

He's as strong as an ox, he has fantastic ability and with his back to goal there are few better.

 

Whatever system Sam uses, Viduka is the focal point of their attack. He might lack a bit of pace but when he's in and around the box, he can make things happen and bring others into the game very, very well.

 

His goalscoring record at Middlesbrough stands up to any amount of scrutiny and he showed against West Ham last week just what a good finisher he is.

 

Newcastle needed to sort their rearguard out, but tradition and necessity dictate they need a decent centre-forward at the other end and Viduka is just that.

 

Now all Sam needs to do is keep all his players fit. Newcastle have had an horrendous injury record over the past few seasons and it cannot be down to coincidence.

 

I remember speaking to Graeme Souness about it a while back and he reckoned it was because the training pitches up there are way too firm - something which seems to be a common problem in the Premier League.

 

You don't need Sam's medical staff and backroom experts to tell you that pounding the joints and muscles on a rock-hard surface day in, day out, is not what you want to be doing and I am sure if anyone can get to the root of the problem it is Allardyce.

 

He has tried to play down their start and rightly so. Any improvement on last season's 13th place should be considered a success, never mind bringing the club its first trophy for almost 40 years.

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There's some reasonable points in there.

 

But there's a lot of the usual BS too (does he even really ever watch us?), and of course the old classic "defence" stuff, which broadly has been an issue over the last 15 years, but under say Robson pretty much wasn't that bad, and had rather good seasons in fact.

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Any improvement on last season's 13th place should be considered a success, never mind bringing the club its first trophy for almost 40 years.

 

dunno if i'd be happy with 12th like

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I'd be dissapointed with 9th or 10th, but that's the absolute minimum in the sense of where I expect us to finish if our whole first team picks up horrible injuries and don't play again for the rest of the season.

 

In Carroll we trust.

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Get a fucking reality check you fickle twats, last season was the lowest finish we've achieved since the club has been in the premier league. What were we a mere 5 points of the relegation battle and allegedly in serious financial debt, tettering on the brink of disaster?

Now we are four months, yes FOUR MONTHS down the track and some of you would be disappointed with 10th, for fuck sake.

Yes we all want the club to be champions and win a cabinet full of trophies but be sensible.

Let the club build for a successful future.

 

Would you really want to be like blackburn were, champions and then relegated three seasons later?

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Some fair points there but nothing new. We should have done better I thinkn given the start we had, but its probably better than our underperforming side of last season. so the improvement is there for sure. Of course Sam needs time and things have yet to gel. He prob wants a couple more players and still needs his current squad to settle down while he works out what he thinks is best. Id be happy with a top 10 finish, though Im also happy now with the new regime. We seem more professional off the field and thats got to be a good start.

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Get a fucking reality check you fickle twats, last season was the lowest finish we've achieved since the club has been in the premier league. What were we a mere 5 points of the relegation battle and allegedly in serious financial debt, tettering on the brink of disaster?

Now we are four months, yes FOUR MONTHS down the track and some of you would be disappointed with 10th, for fuck sake.

Yes we all want the club to be champions and win a cabinet full of trophies but be sensible.

Let the club build for a successful future.

 

Would you really want to be like blackburn were, champions and then relegated three seasons later?

You're an idiot.

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Get a fucking reality check you fickle twats, last season was the lowest finish we've achieved since the club has been in the premier league. What were we a mere 5 points of the relegation battle and allegedly in serious financial debt, tettering on the brink of disaster?

Now we are four months, yes FOUR MONTHS down the track and some of you would be disappointed with 10th, for fuck sake.

Yes we all want the club to be champions and win a cabinet full of trophies but be sensible.

Let the club build for a successful future.

 

Would you really want to be like blackburn were, champions and then relegated three seasons later?

You're an idiot.

What was that? Something about the arsehole calling the armpit hairy?

Twat why am I an idiot?

Because unlike you I'm not running around in a circle crying the sky is falling?

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Get a fucking reality check you fickle twats, last season was the lowest finish we've achieved since the club has been in the premier league. What were we a mere 5 points of the relegation battle and allegedly in serious financial debt, tettering on the brink of disaster?

Now we are four months, yes FOUR MONTHS down the track and some of you would be disappointed with 10th, for fuck sake.

Yes we all want the club to be champions and win a cabinet full of trophies but be sensible.

Let the club build for a successful future.

 

Would you really want to be like blackburn were, champions and then relegated three seasons later?

You're an idiot.

What was that? Something about the arsehole calling the armpit hairy?

Twat why am I an idiot?

Because unlike you I'm not running around in a circle crying the sky is falling?

You should join me. It's fun.

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