Newcastle head to Villa Park tomorrow afternoon for yet another Premier League away game at a ground which holds bad memories for us fans in recent years.
The biggest one is undoubtedly the day that we were relegated after what can only be described as a shambolic and embarrassing performance in our hour of greatest need.
I’ve still not got my head around why Aston Vila – a team we’ve had no previous with prior to that day – took such delight in our demise. The 1-0 defeat that day was enough to send us spiralling to the Championship and for the Villa fans to get the banners out as they poked and prodded fun at us. Being honest, it hurt, and it still makes me angry now.
We returned to Villa Park last season. I remember it well. We’d dished out a thumping to them at St James’ Park earlier on in the season, which was nice, but there was pretty much zero difference in terms of our performance in the Midlands. The result was another 1-0 defeat, which was rather embarrassing for Joey Barton who captained the side just after yet another outburst to the press. On that occasion he claimed to be the best English midfielder in the Premier League. He didn’t show it that day.
It’s early days so far this season but both teams have made good starts to the Premier League campaign and remain unbeaten from the opening four games of the season. Hopefully we still have our unbeaten record come 4:50pm tomorrow afternoon although personally I’m not too fussed about Villa’s!
The home side will be without Emile Heskey, which is good news for the occupants of Rows X, Y and Z, whilst Jermaine Jenas is
riding Sol Campbell (allegedly) out injured.
Last time out Aston Villa earned a rather creditable 2-2 draw with Everton at Goodison Park. In that match they lined up with a team of:
Aston Villa: Shay Given, Alan Hutton, Stephen Warnock, Richard Dunne, James Collins, Charles N’Zogbia, Fabian Delph, Stilyan Petrov, Darren Bent, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Emile Heskey
As far as Newcastle are concerned we’ll be without Davide Santon, Haris Vuckic, Mike Williamson and Hatem Ben Arfa although the latter of the quartet is still pencilled in for an appearance in the Carling Cup tie at Nottingham Forest on Tuesday.
Shane Ferguson is fit and flying again after coming through a reserve game in midweek although I dare say that a space on the bench is most likely and that Ryan Taylor will continue in his role as makeshift left-back.
I know the old saying goes along the lines of ‘not changing a winning team’, and whilst we haven’t been winning we are unbeaten still. However I’d like to see at least one change tomorrow in terms of formation, which would in turn mean one change in playing personnel.
I would go with five in the middle, with open of those being slightly more attacking with the job of supporting the striker. For me that team would include:
Newcastle: Tim Krul, Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini, Ryan Taylor, Gabriel Obertan, Cheik Tiote, Yohan Cabaye, Sylvain Marveaux, Jonas Gutierrez, Leon Best.
Something along them lines anyway. I just think it suits us a bit more at the moment. The fact that people could change the players involved and where they play probably demonstrates that.
This fixture is a home fixture. If you’re at home then you generally win seems to be the pattern. Seven of the last eight games between the two teams have ended in victory for the home side. The other one was a draw.
Aston Villa have four former Mags in their ranks: Shay Given, Stephen Ireland, Charles N’Zogbia and Habib Beye, although the sight of Habib in a first team shirt at Villa Park has been described as “rarer than rocking horse shi….” well, you know.
Charles N’Zogbia scored the winner the last time Newcastle won at Villa Park back in 2006. Shay Given also saved a penalty (not pelanty!) that day.
If Newcastle can keep a clean sheet tomorrow they will have equalled a record that has stood for 110 years. Not since 1901 (when Icedog was younger!) have the boys in black and white managed to keep clean sheets in the first three away league games of the season.
All of Newcastle’s league games this season have been level at 0-0 at half-time.
Alex McCleish has never beaten Newcastle in the Premier League.
I personally think that this will be a very tough test for our boys. They will need to retain that defensive solidarity whilst trying to attack the opposition this time around. Villa pose a threat going forward so if we do concede we will need to score to secure any points. Sounds simple, but scoring goals has been far from simple for Newcastle so far this season.
I’m going to keep my run of no predictions going for now in the hope that it keeps our unbeaten run going that little bit longer. I’d settle for a point right now to be honest, and a hassle free day at work which includes finishing on time so I can get home to see the match! You know something will go wrong though…
Howay the lads!
Date: Saturday, 17th September, 2011
Kick-off: 3:00pm (UK time)
Venue: Villa Park