'They're Where Newcastle Want To Be'
We get the lowdown on Everton's next opponents.
Events at Newcastle United this season have been as close to Sky's Dream Team as reality could get.
Supporter unrest, failed takeover talks, the resignation of a Messiah, a much-questioned managerial appointment and a player who handed in a transfer request because said new manager mispronounced his name on live television; it's been a long campaign at St James' Park.
With results slowly turning the corner and the January transfer window closed, all looked to finally be settling down on the Tyne when the Club was rocked by news Joe Kinnear would undergo heart bypass surgery.
The former Wimbeldon boss is now recovering well but he is unlikely to be seen in the Newcastle dugout for much of the remainder of the season.
With Everton set to make the journey to the North East on Sunday, evertonfc.com caught up with Lee Ryder of the Newcastle Chronicle to discuss the Magpies' 'full-scale blockbuster' of a season.
How have things gone for Newcastle since their 2-2 draw at Goodison Park in December?
Well, when you look at the big picture this season has been a big disappointment. But if you look at the season in terms of a survival bid, then Everton was probably the turning point. To come from two down to take a point against a team as good as Everton gave everyone a lot of confidence, and since then they have picked up.
Did you think Newcastle deserved a point that afternoon?
To be honest Everton went two up and thought they had done the hard work and I think Newcastle just shocked them when Steven Taylor scored before the break. It obviously gave the Newcastle players a massive lift and they scored again right after half time. They were perhaps a little lucky to get the first goal when they did but in the end, if Newcastle had won, I don't think anyone could've complained.
Unlike that day Everton seem so full of confidence going into this one...
They've got three big players missing for this one but they have gone on to prove that they are a real Premier League force. Everton are probably where Newcastle would like to be but the reason Everton are is because they've got the stability, and they've stuck with their manager. That's paid dividends for them and it's a message to Newcastle to do the same.
Who will be the key man for Newcastle?
We signed Peter Lovenkrands in the January transfer window and a lot of people were probably underwhelmed by it. But he made his first start against West Brom last week, was absolutely brilliant and scored a goal. If he picks up where he left off he could be a real thorn in Everton's side.
Who will Newcastle fear in the Everton team?
They've got a lot of good individuals. I was pleased to hear Tim Cahill will be missing because he's a real dangerman. But Mikel Arteta is also fantastic and Newcastle will be doing their best not to concede any freekicks in the final third.
How big an impact will Joe Kinnear's absence have on the Newcastle players?
Well, we know he's out for three months so, getting back to the theme of stability, then it's a problem. Whatever people think about him, he is the manager, he is a leader and players look for a leader in times like this. When it comes to the players needing a rollicking from the touchline, that just isn't there when Kinnear's not there.
Everything's a drama at St James' Park, isn't it?
That's a very good way of putting it. We used to say it was a soap opera, but now you could probably make a full scale movie out of it. You just don't know what's going to come next. As far as Kinnear is concerned, every time he turns his head he gets hit by a different fist; he's had problems with the media, injuries, players and now his health as well. If you wrote a script of this season, I'm not sure anyone would believe it.
Any injuries or suspensions?
It's actually looking up for us on that front. Oba Martins is hopefully back, Alan Smith's got through two and a half reserves games in recent weeks, Mark Viduka's coming back and Jonas Gutierrez is back from suspension. Michael Owen (ankle), Joey Barton (foot) and Danny Guthrie (hamstring) won't be involved and Habib Beye and Nacho Gonzalez are long-term absentees.