Newcastle v West Ham, TOTT preview
Wednesday night`s visitors to St James` are one of the new manager`s former teams. As the first home fixture of 2011, it is really a case of out with the old and in with the new.
Alvin Pardew will have good reason to remember this fixture. His first away game and point as a Premier League manager was here, West Ham the visitors in a match which finished scoreless. His last game in charge of Charlton against his current team was a 0-2 home defeat on his way to being sacked, his last two victories with being against Sunday`s opponents, Wigan and his current team, before a run of 7 winless games and relegation.
This game will be one of the benchmarks of Pardew`s impact on the squad, the reverse fixture resulting in a win for Chris Hughton at the Boleyn Ground in October last year. Anything other than a win will be a poor reflection against a team that occupied the fateful bottom slot for Christmas and the New Year.
Team selection for the home team should be relatively straight forward on the back of an away win. Harper has been announced as the first choice keeper, with Simpson and Enrique the only full backs with positive experience, Perch being on the bench. Steve Taylor and Coloccini are the men in possession in the middle.
There is no need to change options in midfield, Barton proving energetic and accomplished out right with Tiote getting even better with every game. Jonas has started to show his pace with Nolan due a goal from his midfield role. Routledge could again figure as a sub with Smith also providing cover.
Shola has the opportunity to celebrate his elevation into the top 5 scorers in the last 50 years for Newcastle, as well as cementing his place in the top 10 post-war. Although Lovenkrands appeared short of match fitness on Sunday, his record of scoring at home over the last 12 months warrants a continued place, despite Alvin`s support after Leon Best`s comedic cameo on Sunday. Ranger, as ever, provides a supporting threat.
Ironically for Avram Grant, he must surely be celebrating Christmas this year, West Ham`s form having taken them out of the bottom 3 for the first time this season, before last night`s results. A draw would see them nudge just above the danger zone, a win would ensure a massive 25% climb up the league.
Grant seeks to avoid the rare distinction of being relegated from the Premier League in consecutive seasons, being in charge of Portsmouth during the last campaign. He also seeks consecutive wins for the first time since May 2008 - beating Newcastle 2-0 at St James` Park with Chelsea.
Selected for the task will certainly be error strewn former England keeper, Rob Green who can expect an entertaining reception from the home crowd. In front of him will be the only West Ham survivor from Pardew`s first PL away match, Welsh international Gabbidon. Youngster, England Under 21 international James Tomkins will also feature.
In the centre, captain and unfortunate England international, Matthew Upson will lead the side. Alongide him will be a player who rejected Newcastle under Allardyce, Tal Ben Haim, who is now playing for Grant at their shared 3rd club and at international level for Israel.
Midfield sees the return of Kieron Dyer to a role that Newcastle supporters know only too well, in the treatment room. The Hammer of the season is former Magpie, Steve Parker who left following poor form which followed a bout of glandular fever. Wide should be promising England youngster, Junior Stanislas with Mark Noble, discovered by Pardew, set to return. Czech international, Kovac should also start
Forward options include another player to have followed Grant from Portsmouth, the sprightly top scorer and French cap Piquionne. The England player with an identical international record to Leon Best is also a threat, with the Tom Dalyesque Freddie Sears as cover alongside enigmatic AC Milan loanee Obinna.
Referee for the evening is veteran Mike Dean, perceived by many as favouring the bigger, or the home team. Newcastle supporters last saw him in the defeat at West Brom, following a match of 12 games under him unbeaten. West Ham have not won away under him since 2003.
History suggests that a home defeat is unlikely. Goals are a near certainty, this fixture being goalless once in the last 22.
Newcastle v West Ham at SJP
P60 W33 D20 L7 F117 A64
P14 W7 D5 L2 F26 A14
Newcastle (from): Harper, Krul, Simpson, Perch, Ferguson, Enrique, Coloccini, Williamson, S. Taylor, Kadar, Barton, Tiote, Nolan, Smith, Routledge, Gutierrez, Guthrie, Vuckic, Tavernier, Donaldson, Ameobi, Lovenkrands, Best, Ranger, Xisco.
West Ham (from): Green, Ben Haim, Tomkins, Upson, Gabbidon, Jacobsen, Barrera, Stanislas, Kovac, Parker, Behrami, Spector, Boa Morte, Cole, Obinna, Piquionne, Sears, Reid, Faubert, Boffin.