Below the streets of Paris are vast catacombs, where are interred the French dead in the tens of thousands. Deep within those catacombs there is an iron-shod door. Knock three times on the door, then once, then twice, then speak the Holy Name ("Platini"), and the door will open and you can descend into an ancient Parisian meetinghouse. Here, generations of artists, philosophers, and football fans have met to feast on forbidden meals of ortolan, discuss matters of fomentation and revolution, and consort with the Green Fairy.
It is here that I once again met with Jim McMeachin, writer for SB Nation's Toon blog Coming Home Newcastle. In this ghastly, hallowed place we talked football in between sips of 200-year old armagnac and plotted how best to overthrow our bloggish overlords. He answered questions for me. I answered questions for him. We let history determine the outcome.
Uncle Menno: When last we spoke, Spurs were sixth in the table, Toon were 11th. So, in terms of the table, it's not much different. How are YOU feeling about Newcastle's season since last we faced each other?
Jim McMeachin: First of all, can I just say that this is the second time I've been in a Q&A? [Editor's note: No, I'm sorry, there isn't time...]
Sadly, the season is exactly what our fearless leaders told us it would be. Early on at a "Fans Forum", representatives of the club told fan representatives that our goals were a top-10 finish and cup competitions would not be a priority. These are perhaps the only two things they have been truthful about this year. For me? I said in our preseason round table that my minimum expectations for a "successful" season would include a deep cup run in one or the other (like Wembley deep), so needless to say I'm pretty disappointed. It's a very frustrating place to live where you're stuck between "good enough" and "no ambition" - the club have no desire to tangle with that pesky Europa League again (read the investment-reward ratio is too far out of balance for our benevolent owner) so we'll just hover around 8th and hope that we don't suck to the point that we waste the gap we had built earlier in the season.
UM: The two biggest stories for Newcastle this January were the sale of Yohann Cabaye for £20m and the "resignation"/sacking† of your DoF Joe Kinnear. First question: was the Kinnear era at Toon really as disastrous as what it looked like from over in White Hart Lane, and with fans glad to see the back of Kinnear, do you have confidence that Pardew can get the job done in the transfer market?
JM: First question: Yes. Absolutely. Every bit as bad and then some. Assuming you all saw it as being as disastrous as Kinnear trying to say the names of Yohan Cabaye, Sammy Ameobi or Derek Llambias in this interview announcing his appointment. Not only has he managed to antagonize seemingly all of France (which is a difficulty if you are aware of our recent recruitment policies). His ineptitude was on painful display with the Cabaye situation. If you believe Yohan Cabaye's assertion that an agreement was in place that he would be moved in the January window (which I believe him over anything coming from the club) then he has had an entire month to try to get a replacement in. Clearly it did not happen, and a last-minute deal for Clement Grenier failed after Kinnear was unable to convince the player to come (possibly) or we went back to a club (Lyon) that he had pissed off so irretrievably in the protracted Bafétimbi Gomis transfer saga in the summer window (probably). He scuppered a deal for Brazilian-born Dutch CB Douglas who was ready to come on a free in the summer because "he hadn't heard of him." Sure the player had been identified under the Llambias administration, but the two players he did manage to bring in (Loïc Rémy, Luuk de Jong) were also long-term targets of Llambias as well, so... Regardless, he fell well short of his early statements which implied we would be in the hunt for players in the class of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
† (Post answer note - Joe Kinnear "resigned". Allegedly. So he still "has never been sacked." Allegedly.
Second question: I have no faith in Alan Pardew to lead a Premier League team as manager, let alone as personnel executive. I suppose the cogent point regarding an Alan Pardew-led acquisition team is that he could finally try to get players in to fit what he wants to do (whatever the hell that is) instead of trying to square-peg-round-hole the players he's been given as he has done for the last three years. We're told there is to be a "major retooling" this summer; maybe that's what it will be. Pardew players to play Pardew "system". There are still rumors that Llambias could return above Pardew, though. Want to know how bad Kinnear was? I would welcome Llambias back in a heartbeat.
UM: Followup question: Cabaye's loss seriously hurts Newcastle's midfield. Do you all kinda sorta secretly wish you had Joey Barton back now? Just a little bit?
JM: It's an interesting thing about Newcastle fans - the names of players who have left the club tend to stay in our mouths for some reason. (See Owen, Michael; Nolan, Kevin; Barton, Joey for instance) With recent history, this is very rarely in a good light (Owen), but Joey is one who has managed to keep the affection of large portions of the fan base. It's predictable, though. With a perceived lack of heart and effort in the squad - particularly as it comes to the derby (thanks for not asking about that, btw) - a player such as Joseph who isn't afraid to get stuck in on his teammates possesses a desired quality. Add in the fact that he had a go at our unpopular ownership/leadership structure and he's nearly the stuff of legend. Additionally, he was pretty decent at that whole football thing for us. But nah. Not now. As an outsider ... no... as someone who breathes looking in you wanted this move before Kinnear became not with the club anymore in whatever form that took. Barton v. Kinnear would have been highly entertaining.
UM: Has the (disastrous? Is that too strong?) January transfer window impacted your goals to the season? Why or why not? And can Luuk de Jong make an immediate impact for you?
JM: In normal situations, I don't think that the January window was particularly "disastrous" per se. In a situation where you have Alan Pardew who claimed that science was against us when we lost yet again to Manchester City and you really want meet him on the street, shake him and say "DO YOU EVEN TACTICS, BRO??" you really need a new player in to replace Cabaye. You have a finite window between a player joining the club and the point at which they become "Pardewed", a process that renders them essentially useless.
UM: What the heck is up with Papiss Cisse? Is he secretly injured? Why has he barely seen the pitch this season?
JM: One league goal. Via penalty. He was seeing plenty of action in the first part of the season, but some misguided Pardew affection for Shola Ameobi (I guess he gets us as close to Stoke City style hoofball as we can get) and a back injury from which he will return for Wednesday's match have kept him sidelined for quite a while. The pessimist might say he used up all of his goalscoring mojo when he first joined the club (go back and look at some of those goals. They're luscious.) and hasn't managed to get it back. Personally, I think he's mentally damaged past the point of no return with regard to his Newcastle United career.
St. James' Park Sports Direct Arena St. James' Park hasn't exactly been kind to Tottenham, as they haven't won there since 2008. How confident that you can come out of this match with a result against Spurs?
JM: Our new Wonga overlords have returned the name of our hallowed ground to just plain St. James' Park thankyouverymuch. Streaks are made to be broken, and there will be one broken for sure on Wednesday. Whether it's our string of 3-0 defeats or the alluded to streak at St. James' Park will remain to be seen. I am certain of one thing, though. There will be a result.
UM: Spurs totally dominated the last match at White Hart Lane and still lost 1-0 thanks to Tim Krul impersonating Spider-Man in the Newcastle goal. Fess up -- what did Pardew slip into Krul's gatorade? What will Newcastle need to do to beat Spurs again?
JM: Sources within the club have confirmed to me that Krul was given Cammy Cam Juice prior to the previous match between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur. What will we need to beat Spurs again? Divine intervention.
UM: You seem to be one of two clubs, along with Southampton, that constitute the "mid-table" this season, with everyone else either in European contention or a relegation battle. That said, why will Newcastle be relegated? Please be thorough.
JM: Yay for us. Mid-table. We are the most successful of ALL the clubs! Newcastle will be relegated because Loïc Rémy will remember he never wanted to be here in the first place and continue doing stupid things to get himself ejected, leaving us to the devices of the striking trio of Papiss Cissé (1 league goal in 13-14), Luuk de Jong (0 league goals in 13-14) and Shola Ameobi (0 league goals since 12/22/12). Alan Pardew will continue to do things like play Davide Santon at holding midfield instead of playing actual central midfielders (although to be fair, Santon wasn't terrible against Chelsea) and we'll be left hoping as a collective support base that it all blows up before poor Adam Armstrong gets thrown into the fire and gets fully Pardewed.
UM: Finally, let's get a prediction for Wednesday's match.
JM: Why turn our backs on what's working for us? Newcastle 0 - 3 Spurs (War, Pestilence, Death)
Jim McMeachin is a writer for SB Nation's Toon blog Coming Home Newcastle. I confess that I have rarely had as much fun doing interviews as I have during the two tête-à-têtes with Jim this season. He is, as they say, part of my tribe, and now I want to see if I can just interview Jim for KYO about EVERY match. (Spurs go to Norwich next, whaddya think about that, Jim?) Follow Jim on the Tweeter thing and check out my return interview for Coming Home Newcastle.
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