Following on from an impressive start to 2012 which saw the Magpies progress to the FA Cup 4th Round and smash Man Utd 3-0, our Toon charges welcome Queen’s Park Rangers to St James’ Park hoping to notch up three wins in a row.
If we were hoping for an easy three points against Rudderless Rangers following the sacking of Neil Warnock, we can think again now that Welshman Mark Hughes has been given the QPR hotseat on a two and a half year deal. He will be keen to bring new ideas onto the training pitch and instil some confidence and enthusiasm in his boys. They will know places in the team are up for grabs and will want to impress their new gaffer.
Old news, but I’ll repeat that Steven Taylor (achilles) and Sylvain Marveaux (groin) are both long term absentees, whilst our rock Cheick Tiote (Ivory Coast) and leading scorer Demba Ba (Senegal) are both away for the African Cup of Nations (ACON). Danny Guthrie could return although a spot on the bench would appear most likely while Sammy Ameobi (knee) done himself in during the midweek reserves clash with Wigan. It’s looking like a long term lay off.
Squad from: Krul, Elliot, Coloccini, Williamson, Perch, Santon, R Taylor, Simpson, Cabaye, Smith, Gosling, Abeid, Gutierrez, Ferguson, Ben Arfa, Vuckic, Obertan, Lovenkrands, Best, Shola Ameobi.
Former Toon midfielder and general bully Joey Barton misses out after getting himself a three game ban for violent conduct. I was looking forward to Yohan Cabaye showing him what a proper midfielder looks like! Luckily for us their star player Alejandro Fourlin (anterior cruciate ligament) is out for the rest of the season alongside the sicknote of today’s generation – Kieron Dyer (foot). Adel Taarabt (Morocco) and Armand Traore (Senegal) are also at the ACON.
Squad from: Kenny, Cerny, Hill, Hall, Gabbidon, Orr, Connolly, Young, Ferdinand, Perone, Derry, Buszaki, Ephriam, Wright-Phillips, Andrade, Rowlands, Gibbons, Vaagen Moen, Macheda, Helguson, Smith, Mackie, Bothroyd, Campbell.
Shamrock’s Top-10 Really Interesting Stats and Facts:
1 – QPR were formed in 1886 when their original team – St Jude’s – merged with Christchurch Rangers. They called themselves Queen’s Park Rangers as that is where they sourced most of their players.
2 – This will be Newcastle’s 4th home tie against QPR since the Premier League was formed. They have not beaten us in the league since an encounter in 1995 at their ground, but we have only played five times since and the scoreline has always been close.
3 –Rangers’ Heidur Helguson has scored 8 goals this season in 11 starts. That’s as many as Best, Lovenkrands and both Ameobi’s put together.
4 – The Super Hoops are the 5th fairest side in the league, with 206 fouls this season compared to Newcastle’s 228, who are the 8th dirtiest.
5 – If selected, Danny Simpson and Tim Krul will be the only players out of both the Toon’s and Rangers’ squads to play in all 21 Premier League games so far this season.
6 – QPR have not won a single game this season when they have been drawing or losing at half time, collecting 4 points from a possible 45. Newcastle have not dropped a single point when winning at half time.
7 – Newcastle have never recorded a league win by more than two goals against QPR. In fact they have only ever won by more than one goal in the league on three occasions – the last being in August 1985 thanks to a 3-1 win. Meanwhile, the Super Hoops have beaten us 3-0 four times as well as smashing us 4-0 in our own back yard in 1982.
8 – Shola Ameobi is still looking for his 50th career league goal.
9 – Newcastle have scored 10 more goals and had 11 more shots on target than QPR this season despite having three shots less. We also make almost 20 more passes per game than our next opposition.
10 – The highest ever scoreline between these two sides came in September 1984 in London. Toon manager at the time was Jack Charlton and his team was as follows: Carr, Brown, Saunders, Haddock, Anderson, Roeder, McDonald, Wharton, Waddle, Beardsley, McCreery. Chris Waddle scored a hat-trick in this game as the Magpies went in at half time 4-0 up. It was a magnificent fightback from Rangers and John Gregory got in on the goal scoring action for the club he would one day manage.
Tactical thoughts and ponderings:
Again like Blackburn previously, I can’t pretend to know how QPR are going to set up. They are missing key players in Taarabt, Barton, Traore and Faurlin and have just changed manager. They are on the back of a pretty bad run leaving them dangerously close to the dreaded drop zone and may take this opportunity to tinker with playing staff and formation in order to give themselves a chance of staying up this season.
What I’m reasonably sure about, is that Mark Hughes will not have signed unless the QPR supremo Tony Fernandes could guarantee him a decent transfer kitty to get his own players in pronto. The trouble is, what good players will want to join a relegation battle at this stage of the season and risk playing next year in a lower league? Either way ‘Sparky’ will not manage to get new signings made and bedded in by the time our game comes around, but the thought of personnel changes within the side will make Rangers’ entire squad work that bit harder in order to ensure they don’t get shown the door. That begins with putting in a good performance against the Toon.
For the above reasons our boys should not be over confident about this game. QPR will be fighting for every ball and desperate to show their new boss they can do a job for him. With the Premier League’s top tackler Faurlin ruled out for the season following his injury in the draw against MK Dons, QPR will be lacking bite in central midfield. Having already lost Joey Barton to his ban really brings the above point home. Yohan Cabaye should really be bossing the midfield in the absence of those two and there would be an argument for us to go narrow as a result.
That said, Wright-Phillips on his day can be deadly on the wing and I think we need to be careful to make sure we have the right balance across the field in order to counter their wing play. It makes sense for Rangers to go wide and we don’t want to put too much pressure on our full backs by neglecting them. Pardew likes to keep a regular shape and I can see us sticking to 4-4-2, with Benny slightly withdrawn from the main striker of Best or Shola Ameobi.
Santon is starting to come into his own now and it is pretty clear that he is a better full back than Ryan Taylor. I’d expect him to stay in the left back position with the ever present and continually improving Danny Simpson at right back. Obviously Captain Coloccini will be leading the side from central defence alongside Mike Williamson, who I for one have been mightily impressed with since his return from long term injury.
We know who the keeper will be (don’t make me name him, it’s so obvious) – Oh, OK then Tim Krul. This leaves right wing and a spot in central midfield up for grabs. I’m not sure Pardew will play Gabriel Obertan at home at the moment. The lad is struggling to consistently deliver…well….anything, and the home crowd are not helping matters by belittling him. I agree that he is a bit of a headless chicken, but generally heckling him really is not going to give him much confidence or drive. Not only that, but I wonder if his team mates secretly resent those fans for such bullying behaviour? Either way, it’s not going to encourage potential new signings to come here is it?!
My point is, he’s not up to scratch but the manager and his staff know this. They are doing a good job and surely deserve a bit of trust from us to let them do their job? Let them resolve the issue and lets get on with supporting the entire team for the entire 90 minutes. A 12th man really can make all the difference… The clue is in the name…UNITED!
So, hopefully Obertan will be used as an impact sub. I like the thought of having Gutierrez down one wing for pace and Ryan Taylor down the other for his crossing ability. It gives us a better balance in my opinion and allows the strikers to get forward a bit more and pressurise defender from the air. Best or Ameobi would be great at nodding down for Benny to latch on and sweep up.
I’d like to see Dan Gosling get a start alongside Cabaye. We have still not seen what he can do due to a mixture of injuries and great form from Tiote and Guthrie, but he is a talent and it would be great to unlock it. When he’s in the zone, Gosling can run forever from box to box and has a great energy about him. I think Cabaye would provide the perfect foil for him if they played a few times together. That said, young Abeid is knocking on the door and just might get the nod, although I secretly doubt it for this one…
Finally, I think that this game will be tougher than many give it credit for. However, we are gaining a bit of momentum again and showed against Blackburn that we can get results without Tiote and Ba. I’m sure Pardew and his staff will have our lads suitably prepared for a tough game and to be honest we should be beating QPR at home anyway, so I’m going for a 2-0 victory for the Toon in a hard fought contest.
49-year-old Lancashire (Liverpool really – St Helens) born Chris Foy will be taking this one. He has been in the game since the 1980’s and has been a Premier League whistle blower for over 10 years. He has taken charge of finals in both the League and FA Cups and been involved in International football, albeit not very much.
As an open Everton fan he will be impartial for this one (some don’t seem to be), whilst this will be his first game between Newcastle and QPR. A bit worrying maybe, but of the nine home games from all competitions that Chris Foy has officiated for us, we have managed only two wins and a draw.
Newcastle United v QPR
Date: Sunday 15th January 2012
Time: 13:30 Live on Sky Sports
Venue: St James’ Park
Howay the lads!