NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 05: Cheik Tiote of Newcastle celebrates scoring the fourth and equalising goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal at St James' Park on February 5 2011 in Newcastle upon Tyne England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
As promised here are the answers to the questions I posed to Robert from SBNation's excellent Newcastle United blog Coming Home Newcastle.
1) After the drama of recent seasons this year has been largely stress free for Newcastle. What are your thoughts and feelings on the Magpies first season back in the Premier League?
Well, our "stresses" have been well-documented, with Chris Hughton's sacking and Andy Carroll's sale being chief among them. You are right, though, that the team is sitting at a position in the table that even the most optimistic of supporters would have had trouble believing at the outset of the season. I don't feel like NUFC is safe just yet, but it sure is fun not to be talking about another relegation battle.
2) Alan Pardew was in a no-win situation when he came to replace the popular Chris Hughton, the sacking of whom I still can’t understand. What are your opinions of the current Newcastle boss?
Don't worry about trying to understand it; we don't either. We loved Chris Hughton and will continue to maintain that his sacking was unjust. Having said that, I've really come around on Alan Pardew, and I'm not alone in that. He seems to have a great understanding of his own team's talent, and by that I mean that he has shown loyalty to all the right players, and he's been able to get the most out of some of the others. It helps that the brand of football he prefers is rather entertaining. Above all, it seems to me on the outside looking in that he knows what buttons to push with this team to set them on the right track mentally. I think both of those last points are pretty evident in the now-famous 4-4 draw against Arsenal a month ago.
3) With that £30million burning a hole in the club’s back pocket where should it be spent in the summer? And who should the club sell?
There are three players whose contracts are up that are hinting that they might look elsewhere: Jonás Gutiérrez, Joey Barton, and Jose Enrique Sanchez. I wouldn't mind if a good portion of that money was spent keeping those last two on Tyneside. A striker is also an urgent need, as is cover for Jose Enrique at left back (or a replacement for him if he leaves). James Perch has been woeful in replacement this season. If there's one guy that I want gone it's him.
4) Who is you key danger man that Everton should look out for on Saturday?
Without a doubt it's Cheik Tiote. The man only has one goal to his name, but he's the key to everything, both in possession and distribution. If I'm David Moyes, I would run at Cheik and try to draw some fouls against him early. He has 9 yellow cards and doesn't want to pick up a 10th, so if your lot can frustrate him, they'll have an easier go of it.
5) And finally, how will Newcastle line-up and what is your predicted score?
The midfield is a bit of a mystery, since Joey Barton is doubtful and so is his projected replacement, Stephen Ireland. I'll go ahead and stick Steven Taylor in that spot. Everything else stays the same in a 4-4-2.
Harper | Jose Enrique, Coloccini, Williamson, Simpson | Jonás, Tiote,
Nolan, STaylor | Best, Lovenkrands
I'm awful at predicting scores, but this looks like a draw to me all the way. 1-1