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true faith - the special no. 134, Preston North End v Newcastle United, 29th October 2016, 3:00pm K.O.
Illustration of Preston's Deepdale Stadium

And fade in .... 

I didn't think the week could get any better on Tuesday night as we left SJP floating on air after absolutely battering Preston North End to the point that the lad next to me asked me 30 minutes into the second half - have they played a pass to one and other this half yet? I could only smile my ignorance as an answer. It didn't seem like they had. 

The naysayers will point to the changes made to the Lancashire club's team and the sending off but in response I'd remind them we've been watching Newcastle United lose games like this for as long as any of us can remember. Frankly, we were imperious and our play was superb. Once again, the back-line was drilled within an inch of its life but the midfield contributions of Colback/Shelvey-Hayden was the real platform for a win that every corner of a packed SJP purring in pleasure. 

I didn't think it could get any better but then Wednesday's draw came and the tie away to Hull, who look dead and buried in the Premier League gave us all another injection of excitement. That is an eminently winnable tie. 

Crowd in Milburn cheer and wave scarves at Preston home in the League Cup

But we have to park all of the cup talk for a while yet. The number one priority remains promotion and I suspect we will face a very different Preston North End at Deepdale to the one that had its pants pulled down at SJP this week. The personnel will change as will their application. Simon Grayson's team have been in good league form and the pride of PNE will have been bruised by the tonking they got on Barrack Road this last week only a few days ago. In front of their own public they will want to bounce back and what better opportunity than against the team that has just humiliated them. 

The team Rafa puts out at Deepdale will have to start from scratch against Preston and that will mean by doing all the hard graft that has been the rock solid foundation of our surge in results and performances. 

There will be some calls for Mitrovic to be selected on Saturday but I have reservations. His conduct in the run-up to the penalty was straightforwardly unprofessional and I'm certain Rafa will have torn a strip off him. That was also an utterly pointless and self-indulgent yellow card to collect. I also thought he should have scored that second half header in front of the Gallowgate but on the alternative there was evidence of decent hold-up play and of course he did score two. I do worry about his tendency to become something of a liability however. If he is to progress he will have to listen to Benitez. He will never play under a better teacher. 

true faith issue 127 - cover illustration of Gayle & Ritchie celebrating a goal with headline "Unity is strength" on a background of articles from the new issue

true faith 127 - FREE read it here.

I thought Diame did well. He missed a sitter but didn't let it upset him and made up for the miss by notching impressively at the Gallowgate to get his second goal for the club. This lad has pace, physicality and I've seen plenty in him to suggest he will do a really good job for us. Like many I'm utterly astonished by the change in Shelvey. The lad has always had talent but his work-rate has been phenomenal and as well as an accomplished range of passing he is all over the pitch as part of the packs we now have which hate the opposition having the ball. In Hayden we have a player who looks like he has real star quality and I predict he will become a really big player for us. 

Right then, today offers a different challenge to any we've faced this season. We are playing a manager with a group of players who are sore at the skelping they got only days earlier. Grayson will have fresh players just as we will. Rafa has had plenty to think about now. Players are competing strongly for starting places. That is driving up the standards. They all know a dip in quality and workrate could mean them being out of the side. Rafa likes to keep them fresh and doesn't flog them to death. His rotation policy means we are incredibly difficult to prepare to play against. What will be attacking the Preston backline? Who will be attempting to control the midfield and how will the back-line be set up? Let's face it, if we don't know what chance does the opposition? 

But today, I don't think its so much about formations, personnel and tactics. For me its all about hunger, application and attitude. When we start games with that coursing through our veins we win football matches. When we don't, well we struggle. 

The only team that can beat Newcastle United in this division right now, is Newcastle United. 

Come on United! 

Keep On, Keepin' On...

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Preston North End (a)

SWOT analysis - Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

Preston are currently on a fine run of form culminating in a 1-0 win at Norwich City last Saturday, Alex Baptiste taking advantage of slack marking in the Canaries defence to get on the end of a set piece from Daniel Johnson. Paul Gallagher had a similar impact on Tuesday night with a series of excellent free-kicks in their 3-1 win  at home to Huddersfield. Chris Maxwell had an excellent game in nets for North End at Carrow Road, pulling off a series of saves from Cameron Jerome in the second half. That said Jordan Hugill also had several chances in the second half as Norwich pushed forward in search of the win they needed to stay in touch with us. This is the pressure we are putting our rivals under at present.

Manager Simon Grayson sent out the following team on Saturday:

Preston v Norwich, 5-5-1: GK Maxwell, LB Cunningham, CD Wright, CD Clarke, B Baptiste, LW Pringle, CM Gallagher, CM Johnson, CM Robinson, RW Pearson, CF Hugill

Preston currently lie in 9th place with 22 points from 14 games. Their home record is played 7, won 4, drawn 0 lost 3 but their more recent form home and away is impressive.

The team Grayson fielded at SJP on Tuesday outdid Rafa, showing nine changes to the one he selected last Saturday, with only Pringle and Wright keeping their places. He also seemed to be playing in a 352 formation

Preston v NUFC 3-5-2: GK Lindegaard,  CD Davies, CD Huntington, CD Wright, LW Spurr, CM Pringle, CM Grimshaw, CM Browne, RW Humphrey, CF Makienok, CF Doyle

I think the team we see today will be much more like Saturday’s team with Jordan Hugill presenting the greatest threat, having already scored 5 goals this season. It will be a very different game this afternoon. We may have a psychological advantage but Grayson will be using Tuesday’s result to galvanise his team.   He certainly seemed to use the 0-5 defeat away to Brentford on 17 September to start them on their recent run of good form - 3-2 away to Bournemouth, 1-0 at home to Wigan, 2-2 away to Birmingham, 2-0 away to Villa, 2-2 at home to Brighton, 3-1 at home to Huddersfield and 1-0 away to Norwich before it all fell around their ears at SJP. These are good results by anyone’s standards and the majority of the team we play today will not have been adversely affected by Tuesday’s result. In his pre-match presser Grayson said “We have had four home wins on the trot and only conceded one goal, so we have been very effective at Deepdale. There will be a fantastic atmosphere and we have done well at home against the big teams of late, with some good performances and there will be a fire in the belly from three o’clock on Saturday.

“In the last few games we have been at it from the start. We have got in amongst teams, stopped them from playing, doing our jobs as individuals and working collectively as a team and that’s what led us to the victories that we achieved.”

“People will come back into the equation who were out of the team on Tuesday night. Jermaine Beckford was back on the bench on Tuesday, Marnick (Vermijl) would have been involved if he hadn’t been cup tied and Aiden McGeady is back in full training as well, so we will have a few more players available to us.

“We have been in a fortunate position in terms of results to be able to give these players a bit of extra time to make sure they are fully recovered and to drop straight back in and it gives us options for the weekend,” he added.

As well as McGeady and Vermijl, Alex Baptiste, Ben Pearson and Greg Cunningham could also return. Obviously Alan Browne is suspended after his red card but it’s unlikely he would have started anyway.

Make no mistake, this is going to be a tough game, similar to Bristol City, Barnsley and others. The difference is that the Lilywhites are on a hot streak with the belief that that brings and that makes them more dangerous. They offer a real threat from set pieces through the quality of Gallagher’s delivery, as we saw at the end of our game in midweek when only an excellent save from Sels prevented a late consolation for the visitors. Our victory on Tuesday night means nothing here and I expect a tight, fiercely contested game.

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Author credit -  Wallace Wilson follow on twitter @wallacehwilson
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Newcastle at Swansea & Cardiff and home to Man City, October 1983

As it Was, When It Was

Sheffield Wednesday Home, 22nd October 1994

Sitting 7th in Division 2 prior to a home game v Portsmouth on 1st October 1983, new signing Peter Beardsley’s full debut saw a 4-2 victory and the first of 4 successive wins that moved Newcastle United up to 2nd place in Division 2.

Beardsley, who had scored his first goal in Black and White in the previous game at Cardiff (2-0), was part of a new look front three that included Kevin Keegan and Chris Waddle who were on 7 and 5 goals respectively. 

Next up on this day 33 years ago, were Manchester City at St James Park.  The visitors had secured a 6th win in 7 games with a recent 2-1 victory over Middlesbrough and replaced United, who had no fixture to play, in 2nd spot.

The Mags had taken 3 points in 12 of their last 14 home games.

For The Record:

Beardsley’s hat-trick was some 13 month’s since a previous Newcastle player scored 3 when Kevin Keegan notched 4 in a 5-1 win at Rotherham.

The 33,675 present was United’s highest home gate since 35,718 turned up for Kevin Keegan’s debut in August 1982.  This would be bettered on 4 occasions before the season’s end.

This was the first of 5 occasions that the 3 forwards would score in the same game for United.  The final 3 occurred in the last 3 home games of the season notching 12 between them.

United wouldn’t win a league match 5-0 again until September 1992 when Bristol City were hammered at St James Park.

The Mags would win the following game v Fulham (3-2) to win 6 in a row for the first time since the 7 achieved in 1964-65’s promotion winning season.  The run would end a week later at Chelsea (0-4).

A 2-1 win at Maine Road the following February ensured The Mag’s would finish 10 points above City and claim the 3rd promotion place.

Culture Club’s ‘Karma Chameleon’ was Number 1.

Culture Club - Karma Chameleon
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Illustration of Rafa with graphics of tactics board in background

What Would Rafa Do?

Rafa Benitez makes it hard to write about Newcastle United. There is nothing to debate, there is absolutely nothing to complain about and there is nothing different about the performances and results week on week. He’s got it nailed and we are just too good for this league at the moment.
 
The games in the Championship come thick and fast, especially with a cup run, yet because of Rafa, each game can’t come quick enough. It seems like an age since Tuesday night’s fantastic show at SJP as non-footballing days once again seem to drag on due to the anticipation. Thank you, Rafa.
 
So what can we expect this afternoon? The biggest question for Rafa to answer is what to do with Mitrovic. If you ignore his ridiculous behaviour over the penalty, Tuesday’s performance was very good. He did all the things he failed to do so often last season. Winning headers (and keeping the ball), connecting play, unselfish passing AND scoring fucking goals. The only criticism would be that he perhaps should have scored more than 2 on this occasion!

Matt Ritchie scores penalty at the Gallowgate End to make it Newcastle 4 Preston 0

Alas, Rafa has shown absolute faith in Gayle so far. The reason for that is obvious. He always does the right thing. Mitrovic has undoubted talent but always represents the risk of a red card or doing things like the penalty on Tuesday, which does not help the team. As the safe bet Gayle will always get the nod, and he’s scored the goals to absolutely justify that. This afternoon I can’t see it being any different, and the Mitro fans out there might need to accept that. That means we don’t need to hear chants of “MITRO” if it’s 0-0 after 30mins. That’s not helpful.

Alternatively, because it’s Rafa, Mitro might get his chance because IF he is scoring goals, he is of course an asset! As always though, it doesn’t really matter because Rafa will have a plan to win the game. We all love Mitro’s passion, but if he’s not on the pitch, let’s direct our enthusiasm towards those that are. There’s nobody in the side at the moment that doesn’t deserve our backing.
 
The rest of the team as usual now could be any 10 out of about 16. Clark and Lascelles are highly likely to keep their places, Dummett captained fine on Tuesday so definitely starts. Yedlin, also great on Tuesday, will also play unless he is unfit. Shelvey, Hayden and Ritchie will start the game. Gouffran is still unbeaten this season and continues to play well on the left but he has some serious competition from Atsu now and he looks a class act. We’d all love to see either.

Players celebrate with Mitrovic after he scores the 4th goal against Preston
Finally, Diamé or Perez (how good is it having 2 genuine options in all positions!). MD linked up really well with Mitro on Tuesday and he looks more and more comfortable each week with what he is being asked to do there. He looks fitter and is growing into a position that so many others (don’t mention Sissoko) have struggled to fulfil. Perez also got a goal on Tuesday but, for me, we’ve taken that gamble too many times away from home and it hasn’t worked. Rafa likes him though and clearly still sees his potential. Once again, it’s a case of Rafa knows best and we get to enjoy another fitting performance at Deepdale.
 
What would Rafa do?
He will actually win the Football League and the Cup.
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Simon Campbell - true faith podcaster, follow him on twitter @simoncampbell11

Club and county - We are the Mags. 

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SJP Scoreboard, NUFC 6 - Preston 0

Fighting on Two Fronts

Cup Fever has taken hold of Tyneside following Tuesday's demolition of Preston in the last-16 of the League Cup. We've been in the quarter-finals of this competition as recently as 2014-15 when we were hammered 4-0 at Spurs but something is different this time. It feels like we're going for it. Previously it just didn't feel like the club's heart was in it, we'd got there by chance and they weren't that bothered if we got any further. The club's attitude to cups at the time was well-documented. They felt it wasn't worth the risk to try to succeed in them because the extra games, injuries and suspensions might be the difference between another year of Premier League survival and dropping down a division. It was all part of the general strategy of having indispensible 'purples' in the first team and unusable youngsters and bargain basement captures filling in the rest of the roster.

Now the plan is different. Every game is to be won, and the squad has deliberately been built to enable rotation to keep the players fit and on their toes without weakening the standard. We're experiencing the direct opposite of what went before, where cup success is actively pursued and the positivity it engenders is used to build towards further improvement. Success breeds success and the excitement of the cup run can feed into the confidence beginning to surge through the team.

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Players celebrate goal against Preston in the League Cup

Ripped Off, Rolling On

Chris Waddle has been complaining this week that the League Cup is a rip off, with fans buying tickets to see teams who then put out drastically weakened sides. On the one side, I don't think we could put out a weakened side if we tried. For the first time ever here I'd say it really is a squad game. It's also clear that Waddle isn't really referring to us, but to the Premier League sides following conventional wisdom and using their reserves. The 10 top-flight sides in the last round made 71 changes from the previous games played.

Long may it continue. If teams want to rest their best players against us I'll happily ride that wave as far as it'll take us. They underestimate us at their peril and if teams don't want to win enough to risk key players then we should be rubbing our hands together in expectation. We want to win and if teams want to make that easier for us all the better. I'll contain my disappointment at not getting to see whoever Hull's superstars are in the next round should they not be there and gratefully take the opportunity to go through with both hands.

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true faith - pin badges

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We are delighted to announce we have a new batch of pin badges on sale. 

Our Leazes and Gallowgate SOUL pin badges are now available and you can get them here - 

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Our hugely popular Durham and Northumberland - We Are The Mags pin badges are also back in stock 

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NUFC tweet announcing 100 loyalty points needed for Leeds away tickets

Loyal Subject

There's been a fair bit of chatter this week about the number of loyalty points required by the club to get first dabs at tickets for certain away trips. In particular the Leeds match has been announced as requiring 100 loyalty points. It's not fair, some say, that those who can't make every trip for no fault of their own are prevented from an equal chance of going. 

This seems to be a simple case of supply and demand. We've been given a fairly restrictive allocation of tickets for Elland Road and counter to the opinion I cited, it would seem unfair to me that those who attend every game religiously are unable to go to this one, a game that would have been in high demand no matter how many tickets we got. With reference to the League Cup run, should we by chance make the final it would be a travesty if someone like me who picks and chooses the games he goes to had as much chance of a ticket as semi-regular away travellers and this is exactly the same principle on a smaller scale.

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Author credit - Mark Brophy tf writer & blogger, follow on twitter @mark_brophy
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Fortiter Defendit Triumphans

We developed this interpretation of the city crest some years ago for a cover of the fanzine and its fair to say it has proven extremely popular.

Now we have incorporated that design into this fantastic t-shirt which we expect will be a must for anyone who loves the city that plays host to our beloved football club. Let's not forget for many years, the city crest emblem sat proudly on the shirt of Newcastle United FC.

The t-shirt comes to you for a very reasonable £15 plus P+P.

To order one of these t-shirts just click here.

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What the papers say

What the papers say

Another week, another two wins as yet again Newcastle swept aside their opponents at St. James’. Now comes the task of facing Preston for the second time in a number of days. Tuesday’s game gave the Toon a chance of reaching a quarter final for the first time in years and they duly obliged. Here is what the papers have been saying over the past few days.

Saturday’s win saw Newcastle extend their lead at the top of the Championship, as Benitez’s men look to kick on and cement a commanding position at the summit. Ipswich didn’t offer much in terms of attacking threat but they did bring a hefty number of supporters up the country. Despite being miles apart in terms of distance, the two clubs share a bond due to the late, great Sir Bobby Robson. The 76th minute saw both clubs singing together in memory of the former manager. 

Tuesday saw Benitez make a number of changes. Isaac Hayden returned to the squad, as did Matz Sels. However the main talking point was the inclusion of Aleksandar Mitrovic. The Serbian netted twice in midweek and had numerous chances to get a hat-trick. He had the place rocking and he once again showed his passion for the club. After the match, Mitrovic said ‘words cannot describe his love for Newcastle fans’.

Mitrovic celebrates by ta,ing his shirt of at full time in the Brentford match

As mentioned before, Newcastle United find themselves in a cup quarter final. Pinch yourselves, it’s real. After years of managers not taking the cup serious, Benitez has made cup success one of his priorities. Yes, the run in has been favourable but the manner of the victories have been impressive. Luke Edwards of the Telegraph spoke this week about the subtle changes Benitez has made, that have made a big difference. 

Finally, despite the defence looking fantastic this season, Benitez may be looking to strengthen his options at the back with Celtic’s Jozo Simunovic. The 22-year-old was linked with Torino in the summer but stayed at the Scottish outfit, where he has been putting in some good performances. Crystal Palace are also reportedly after the player, although Brendan Rodgers is hoping he will remain put.

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Vamos Rafa & Gallowgate Corner - t-shirts

As we start our first full season under the management of our excellent new manager Senor Benitez, the sentiment of this t-shirt and its superb design could not be clearer - VAMOS RAFA - we are right behind you. Only £15 get it here.

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Seagulls lead way on safe standing

Brighton & Hove Albion launch consultation

This week Brighton & Hove Albion held a forum with their supporters to discuss safe standing at the Amex Stadium - the first in the Championship to do so. The club's chief exec Paul Barber told the audience: "Over the last year or so my position has shifted quite a lot – from being someone who was quite sceptical about it to being someone who’s much more in favour of it. It’s certainly a system that is safe and is working." They have now sent out a consultation email to all season ticket holders to gather views and gauge demand.

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tf weekly podcast radio tower logo over background of NUFC players celebrating

Podcast Preston preview

We're buzzing, for obvious reasons. We also preview this weekends game with two Preston fans who give us the lowdown on North End. Listen here.

We're on Radio Tyneside every Friday 6:30-7:00pm and pre-match every Staurday match at 13:30 listen on 1575 MW or online here.
 
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Ritchie puts in a cross from the left in the 2nd half against Preston

Fresh 

In the last seven days Norwich have dropped five points in their last two league games and gone out of the cup.  Meanwhile Rafa’s rotated mags have scored 11 goals and not conceded in the same week.  It’s not just the fact we’re much better than Norwich (we are) but more likely our rotated side are reaping the benefits are staying fresh by not getting bogged down in the relentless nature of the division.  The next time you hear some fool say ‘he shouldn’t be changing a winning team’ just smile and nod and remind this person that Pardew never used to change a winning team, and that’s why everyone was injured all of the time.

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Mitrovic

Can’t change the past

Here are some facts for you:  Last season NUFC’s main striker was a 21 year old Serbian striker who cost £14 million.  He scored 9 goals in 35 appearances.  He missed numerous sitters, most notably in crucial games against Everton (h), Sunderland (a) and Vile (a) but also countless others.  He was red carded twice and let down his team mates badly. These are facts.  Those games he missed easy chances would in my opinion all have been won by NUFC.  Not that it matters now.  You can think Mitrovic is playing well under Rafa and has a bright future without having to re-write history.  There’s a growing number of fans who want to shout over anyone who mentions this and pretend that Mitrovic was some sort of child thrust into the heat of battle who’s goal return was excellent in such a poor team and he was a major bright spark last season.  There was only one positive last season, and his initials are RB.  I’ll get behind Mitrovic but like anyone else who plays for us, he has to earn his place and the respect of the non-swooning teens who chant his name at every opportunity as he runs about a bit and acts mental.

It won’t have escaped Rafa’s attention that Mitrovic picked up a booking for taking his shirt off – as he got the fourth goal against ten man Preston.  He needs to grow up – fast. He needs to respect Matt Ritchie and the manager who designated him penalty taker.  I felt awful for Ritchie who is a fantastic penalty taker, and more important to this side than Mitrovic. Too many people indulge him when in fact he needs to understand that the team comes first.  He was superb against Preston.  The most impressive thing he did for me was laying the ball off for Diame to miss a sitter when he could have scored himself.   That’s the Mitrovic I’m desperate to see.  The team man who wants his team mates to score when better placed.  There’s a serious player in there, somewhere.

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Sky TV Graphics showing badges of Brighton v Norwich

They can’t both win

Norwich are away at Brighton this weekend.  As I’ve alluded to above the Canaries are struggling. A draw is what the bookies are going with on this one and who am I to disagree.  Providing United do the business we would open up a morale sapping four and five point gap over our promotion rivals.  Not bad for October. 

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Alex Hurst - tf podcaster & writer, follow on twitter @tfalex1892

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