Many fans will comfortably put club before country. Yesterday, football fans across England turned their attention from one of the most exciting major tournaments in years, towards the first sign that the Premier League is fast approaching, if not fast enough.
For the 9th season running, we’ve drawn a home game to start the season off. Fixtures at St James’ will both open and conclude Newcastle’s second full season with Alan Pardew at the helm, both involving North London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal. The opening game mirrors that off the first ever Premier League game United played back in 1993, as the new season kicks off with the current manager-less Spurs visiting on August 18th.
It could then all come down to the last game of the season against the Gunners to determine who secures European football. Fingers crossed that we’ll be in contention for it again, come May 19th. Wenger’s side opened up Newcastle’s campaign last year with a heated goalless draw, remembered for Gervinho’s ‘brutal’ attack on an ever composed Joey Barton. Pardew will have to turn Newcastle’s fortunes around, after failing to win an opening game since the 3-1 victory at the Reebok Stadium in the 07/08 season. That opening win sealed by a brace from Obafemi Martins, including his acrobatic overhead kick, and it was Sam Allardyce’s first game in charge of United.
Returning Former Managers
Allardyce will return to Tyneside, alongside former Newcastle skipper and fan favourite Kevin Nolan, on November 10th with Play Off winners West Ham. The last time the London side visited St James’ they were on the losing side, thanks to a 5-0 thrashing and Leon Best hat trick. The Hammers bounced back from relegation to return to the top flight, similarly to the Newcastle side lead by Chris Hughton, now in charge of ensuring Norwich don’t suffer from Second Season Syndrome. Hughton will return to St James’ with the Canaries on September 22nd.
Although unbeaten in their last eight meetings, ranging back to 2002, Pards will have to see off the challenge from Championship Champions Southampton, travelling down to St Mary’s on the 24th of November and then welcoming his former team to St James’ on February 23rd.
With the thrilling return of European football, comes potentially the most congested season in years. The uniquely compelling prospect of midweek football in Milan then weekend football in Stoke, without an influx of squad players, could lead Pardew to struggle to balance both competitions with great success. Much like Tony Pulis failed to achieve, last season.
The start of the season will bring a hectic opening fortnight of games, as we will have to play a two leg qualifier, in order to reach the group stages of the Europa League. Games against Chelsea on August 25th and Villa on the 1st of September are likely to change in order to give Pardew’s side more time recover from their European travels.
December and January Struggle
Over the Christmas period, spanning from December 22nd to New Years Day, Pardew’s men will have to juggle five matches including away trips to Old Trafford and the Emirates, while hosting champions Man City, QPR, and then see in the 2013 with Everton visiting Tyneside on New Year’s Day.
The exit of Bolton from the Premier League leaves fans with one less memorable away day, as three more Southern sides enter the ‘Greatest League in the World’. However, last season’s Boxing Day trip to the Reebok could be toppled by the Magpies visit to Old Trafford on December 26th. The ninth away fixture on Boxing Day, within the last ten seasons, will surely turn out to be a nervy encounter; going by the draw we left Manchester with back in November, courtesy of a Demba Ba penalty.
The African Cup of Nations could again cause Newcastle fans worry as we may lose key players at the beginning of the year. Depending on results in qualification, and of course the factor that we can keep a hold of them all, Senegal strike duo Cisse and Ba, along with Ivory Coast’s Tiote, could miss out on four key games if they are away until the end of the tournament. Theoretically, if both nations qualify and reach the final, the trio would miss the following fixtures:
African Cup of Nations – 19th January to 10th February
Reading (h) January 19th
Villa (a) January 29th
Chelsea (h) February 2nd
Spurs (a) February 9th
The Big One
It goes without saying that when we all see the fixtures list we immediately search for the Tyne-Wear derbies. Along with any of the fixtures that were released yesterday, they are likely to change, more so with the derby due to television schedules. However, that doesn’t stop fans circling the clash on their calendars and count down the days until the big day. No matter if we’re fighting relegation, or battling for Europe, everything is put to the side whenever the derby comes around.
(h) Saturday 13 April 2013
(a) Saturday 20th October 2012
You can see it now, Shola benching weights beyond normal human strength. The 13th of April written on the inside of his eyelids. Cometh the derby, cometh the Shola. It’s enough to give every Newcastle fan goose bumps. Now let’s hope that these next 59 days don’t drag and we can pack our England shirts and flags safely away, ready for one of the most exciting seasons on Tyneside in recent years.
Click here for a full listing of Newcastle’s fixtures