Coming Home Newcastle is SB Nation's Newcastle United blog and we've had some great chats with them over the years. As usual, we sent our questions over to Robert but look what happened instead!
Read our corresponding interview on their site right here.
RBM - Alan Pardew - the man flirts with controversy like a bullfighter goading an enraged bull. Is he beneficial or a distraction?
CHN - Owing to Robert having been tied up in a Very Important Meeting, I will be playing the part of "Newcastle Blogger" in today's production. My name is Jim... but most people call me... Jim.
Alan Pardew is an interesting study in character development when considering his relationship with the Newcastle support if you're into that kind of thing (and not a Newcastle supporter, that is). With his Premier League resume there to be seen, he was an unpopular choice to replace very popular Chris Hughton in the 10/11 season. He managed probably one of the most stunning face turns in PL history in 11/12 when he somehow accidentally stumbled upon something that resembled tactical acumen and played a swashbuckling brand of attacking play that earned him both adoration from the Newcastle support and an 8-year bullet-proof contract extension. Enter the 12/13 season in which he did his heel turn on the back of a squad that was not strengthened for a taxing campaign that included the added "benefit" of the Europa League and he was who we thought he was - a poor manager with very little tactical vision or nous that is punching above his weight somehow (purportedly working off some sort of debt owed to Mike Ashley).
He would enjoy a brief face turn once more in the summer of 2013 thanks to the announcement of Joe Kinnear as ... whatever the hell he was supposed to be doing ... where he garnered some manner of sympathy for what seemed an untenable setup until, you know, he had to start attempting to manage a Premier League team again.
There have been many words written about Mr. Pardew, and I'll let them tell the rest of the story, but ultimately Alan Pardew is a distraction in every form. At best, he is a lame duck manager with so many years left on an ill-advised deal. At worst, he is a nutter that headbutts players, shoves refs and requests that colleagues "shut their noise".
RBM - There will be disappointment among the fans that the team is adrift of the Europa League mix at the very least. What does Mike Ashley need to do to spark things up in the offseason?
CHN - Being a Newcastle supporter in the Mike Ashley era is like the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day, except for we relive the 5 Stages of Grief and Loss through one of his decisions or another. This is germane only in the fact that we've learned that Ashley won't invest in the squad for a Europa League campaign – let's be honest, it doesn't make financial sense to do so either – so we don't have to relive that particular day over again. It's not so much the being adrift from the Europa League spots that bothers us. It's the complete and utter lack of ambition displayed by the ownership with regards to Premier League existence that gets ya. What we have been given this season is exactly what was promised in a pre-season Fans' Forum. Top-10 finish (with the unspoken caveat of NO EUROPA LEAGUE) and Cups will not be a priority.
What does Mike Ashley need to do to spark things up in the offseason? Maybe spark one up and loosen up the grip on the purse strings... or at least make investment in Newcastle much like he would any of his other wildly successful businesses in his portfolio.
RBM - How did Newcastle do over the transfer window? Who was the biggest loss? The best addition?
CHN - Umm.
If you're specifically referring to the January window, the biggest loss was a fella you may have heard of by the name of Yohan Cabaye. He saw the handwriting on the wall and/or was outright lied to by Joe Kinnear regarding what the club had planned for him and insisted on a January move despite reports of a "Gentlemen's Agreement" that he'd stay through until the summer.
Our best addition was Luuk de Jong, I guess... by default. Brought in on loan until the end of the season, he was the only new player of any sort to turn up in January.
RBM - What about the youth setup at Darsley Park? Any young players you expect to breakthrough to the top flight soon?
CHN - Sadly, the biggest story to come out of the Newcastle youth setup was the firing of Willie Donachie for allegedly striking a youth player. This is another question on which I could wax poetic for a large number of words. We spoke in one of our recent podcasts about whether or not there was a "lost generation" with regard to the Academy as very few players have managed to make any sort of senior impact in recent times. Shola Ameobi is going to the World Cup (probably), but is as useful as a screen door on a submarine for his hometown club... his brother Sammy has shown glimpses of a brighter future but can't get consistent time under Pardew because he doesn't really fit a 4-4-2 or modified 4-4-2 tactic.
Tim Krul, Steven Taylor, Paul Dummet are recent names through (with varying degrees of actual success) but we're really looking at a big void between the emergence of The Benign Ponytail who is a success story only in the fact that we managed to get Liverpool to spend £35m on him and the next group who are giving us hope. Headlined by England youth international Adam Armstrong (who incidentally had his PL debut in the 0-0 draw with Fulham) and fellow 17-year-old eventual Tim Krul replacement Freddie Woodman, it looks like a very large void. I guess I should mention names like Adam Campbell or Haris Vuckic or those from that "generation", but it seems like the ship is sailing on them.
RBM - Hard to get a handle on the Magpies over the last few weeks - three spankings to begin February followed by three wins in four games. What do you expect in the remaining fixtures of the season?
CHN - As I mentioned above, a Top-10 non-Europa League finish is exactly what the club promised and exactly what we will be delivered. Combine that with a liberal dose of players getting Pardewed and you will continue to see the same type of Jekyll-Hyde performances that you have seen recently in whatever measure will keep us exactly where we're at in the table.
RBM - Who have been the best players for the team in the last month or so? Can they sustain that form?
CHN - Sadly, I don't know that I'd describe anyone in the squad as being "in form". Papiss Cisse has scored 1 in his last 1 (1.0 g/match) ... but I suppose the form player is maybe Mike Williamson, who has improbably solved his problems with revolving door defending and turned himself into the best player on Newcastle's back line. Vurnon Anita has been able to step into the breach left by Cabaye's departure while Moussa Sissoko has had some good play but continues to be employed as a right midfielder/winger instead of a central midfielder because Pardew.
So far as sustaining form, there's really no incentive for them to do so besides professional pride - which is hard to live on from the point that we punted the FA Cup until the end of the season. The thing is - there will be no "let's run out the frozen out first team players and make sure we've got the measure of them" to keep a fire burning underneath those who are playing. Gabriel Obertan, Dan Gosling, Sylvain Marveaux and the rest of the players who can't get a look from Pardew won't get a look. I guess, yeah. They'll be able to sustain a highly functioning mediocre form. I have faith in the players, even if the manager can't draw decent play out of them.
RBM - Newcastle vs Everton always tends to be a rollicking affair - how does Tuesday's game end? Who shines for either side?
CHN - I don't seem to look on fixtures with Everton with the same fondness... of course we haven't defeated you guys since November of 2011, so I guess that follows. We haven't stopped you from scoring since our relegation season, but you all haven't stopped us from scoring since the first meeting upon our return. I guess I'll say it ends: Everton a lot, Newcastle not very many. Unless John Carver stabs Roberto Martinez. Then it will be Everton 0 - 5 Newcastle.
Our thanks to the very entertaining Jim, looking forward to the game today.