Having faced the legendary Louis Van Gaal last week, and with the “Special One” due at the Hawthorns a week on Monday, Tony Pulis must be cursing this run of fixtures as he is also facing the self-proclaimed “best coach in the Premier League” on Saturday!
John Carver showed enormous self belief in making that statement this week, particularly after a run of eight consecutive defeats for his Newcastle United side culminating in him accusing his centre back, Mike Williamson, of deliberately getting himself sent off so he could avoid being involved in their battle against relegation.
The Toon are a club in crisis. With owner, Mike Ashley, the most unpopular man on Tyneside and a coach seemingly unable to get his players to follow instructions, many pundits are expecting United not to pick up any more points this season with their survival determined on whether Leicester, Hull and Sunderland can get enough points to overhall them – the first two would need just one point and Sunderland two points to overtake the Magpies.
What appeared to be a meltdown this week could, however, be a turning point. Carver has gone to extremes to get a reaction from his players, perhaps even too far for Mike Ashley – had Steve McLaren been willing to step in for the remainder of the season, it seems likely that Carver would have been out of a job. Meanwhile, captian, Fabio Coloccini, has written an open letter to fans apologising for the team’s performances and promising that players and staff will come together to fight for their place in the Premier League. So rather than sleepwalking to relegation, this week’s turmoil may have woken a few players up to the prospect of massive wave drops in the Championship, which could make a difference.
In contrast, Albion seem to have put their “blip” behind them by following up their disastrous displays against QPR and Leicester with three clean sheets and seven points, six of them away from the Hawthorns. Last week’s result at Old Trafford was impressive, if a little fortunate. United may have had 80% possession, but there weren’t that many clear cut chances as Albion’s defence were superb and, when they were breached, Boaz Myhill was in inspired form.
The Throstles and the Magpies first met at St James’s Park in a Division One match in December 1898, a game that was won 3-0 by the hosts. Albion gained their revenge four months later with a 2-0 win in the return fixture at Stoney Lane thanks to goals from Billy Bassett and Arthur Smith.
World War I was underway before Albion got their first win at St James’s Park, however, on their ninth visit. Alf Bentley and Louis Bookman scored for the Baggies in a 2-1 win in September 1914. It was Bookman’s only goal for Albion – the Russian-born Irishman returned to Ireland at the end of that season due to the cancellation of league football in England for the remainder of the war.
Albion won at the home of the Magpies again on their next visit, Tommy Magee and Howard Gregory the scorers in a 2-0 win in September 1919 as the Baggies marched towards their only League Championship in that first post-war season.
34 years later, another title-challenging Albion team recorded the best ever win for a Baggies side at St James’s Park. In September 1953, the great Johnny Nicholls scored a hat trick, Ronnie Allen bagged a brace and Frank Griffin and Reg Ryan also scored in a remarkable 7-3 win for the team that won the FA Cup that season and finished runners up in the League Championship.
Newcastle United’s record win over Albion is 5-1 achieved on four occasions – at St James’s Park in 1931, 1938 and 1949 and at the Hawthorns in a Division Two fixture in November 1989.
Ironically, Albion had recorded a win at St James’s Park a week before that surrender at the Hawthorns when Chris Whyte scored the only goal in a League Cup Third Round tie, Albion’s first win there since Bryan Robson, Cyrille Regis and Laurie Cunningham had given them a 3-0 win in September 1977.
An extra-time winner from Lee Hughes gave Albion their next win at St James’s Park in 2003, also in the third round of the League Cup, but we had to wait until 2011 for the next win in the league. Peter Odemwingie and Gareth McAuley exchanged goals with Demba Ba before Paul Sharner grabbed the winner for Albion with five minutes to go.
That was the Baggie’s last win on Tyneside, but another memorable visit of recent years came on the final day of the previous season when Somen Tchoyi scored a hat trick in the last 30 minutes to rescue a point from 3-0 down.
Albion would seem to have a fully fit squad with the exception of Ben Foster, so I’m not expecting too many changes.
Newcastle, on the other hand, have a shortage of defenders with Williamson and Janmaat both suspended following their red cards at Leicester, Steven Taylor a long term absentee and Paul Dummett also facing a late fitness test. Papa Cissé, on the other hand, could feature as he returns from his seven match ban for spitting, although he also has a niggle that could restrict his involvement.
Having predicted defeat in Albion’s last two away games, both of which the Baggies won, I’m tempted to do so again! As I said earlier, this week’s mayhem may prove to be a wake up call and, should United get an early goal, the Geordie faithful could roar them on to greater things. On this occasion, I would advocate a typical Pulis approach and keep it tight early on – Albion will get chances against a shaky defence that will be further weakened with the two suspensions.
If Albion can avoid conceding early, I think they will go on to win this game.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
9 Nov 2014 – Premier League
West Brom 0
Newcastle United 2 (Perez, Coloccini)
Last meeting at Newcastle United
30 Nov 2013 – Premier League
Newcastle United 2 (Gouffran, Sissoko)
West Brom 1 (Brunt)
1 Jan 2014 – Premier League
West Brom 1 (Berahino (pen))
Newcastle United 0
Last win at Newcastle United
21 Dec 2011 – Premier League
Newcastle United 2 (Ba (2))
West Brom 3 (Odemwingie, McAuley, Scharner)
Albion’s Record against Newcastle United
|Premier League Record|