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The Special Newcastle United v reading, 17 August 2016, 7:45pm
Illustration of supporters holding up a "Keep calm and believe in Rafa" banner

And fade in …. 

Welcome to another epistle from the depths of the true faith bunker and the third such treat in eight days. Many thanks to everyone who puts material in for The Special but most of all Glenn Ashcroft who shows the patience of a saint and determination of a charging rhino to get these designed and all the rest of it. 

Anyway, onto the football. After the disappointment of the Fulham and Huddersfield games, there was another massive turnout on Wednesday night for the visit of Reading to SJP. The result was everything but there were parts of the performance which really encouraged we can have a good season and get back to where we belong come next May. 

Today's challenge is altogether different (Read Alex's match preview here). Not to put it too finely, our away form has been rotten for longer than I'd care to remember and we really need to witness a step change in results on the other side of the Tyne Bridge is we are going to dominate this division in the way many of us believe we should. An away win would really set us up nicely for the visit of Comrade Chris to Barrack Road with his impressive Brighton side. I'd take a scruffy 1-0 win today and even a draw wouldn't be a disaster for United. Collecting all kinds of points will be the trick this season and I'm not fussy how they come.

Players walk out in front of a sea of flags at the Gallowgate End.

The trail appears to have gone cold on some players leaving United with no-one really knowing properly where Sissoko and Tiote are going but the departures of Riviere, Saviet and De Jong looking more likely as I put pen to paper. 

Hopefully their departure will signal a bit more activity from us because we still need a left-back, winger and striker. I'm convinced they are on the United radar and we'll do that business. 

One player who may have done himself a few favours is Yoan Goufrann. He could have a good season for us and if he does I'd only be too happy to celebrate his contribution to our just and righteous cause. 

Anyway, another fabulous sold out away end at Ashton Gate and an opportunity to take in the delights of one of England's fantastic cities. 

Come on United. 

Keep On, Keepin' On…

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Follow Michael Martin true faith editor on twitter @tfeditor1892
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The Entertainers @0th anniversary game, Newcastle Legends vs Manchester Select, in aid of the Alan Shearer Foundation. Sunday 9th October 2016 Kingston Park.

Bristol City (a)

SWOT analysis - Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

The Robins have had a decent start to the season, and currently lie in 8th place after three games. They came from behind to beat Wigan 2-1 at Ashton Gate and defeated Burton  2-1 away before losing 1-0 at Carrow Road. They also won 1-0 at Wycombe in whatever they call the League Cup this season. The City line up in their last game at Norwich was:

Abraham already has 3 goals this season. He is another loanee from Chelsea and scored 74 goals in 98 games for their youth team. This usually doesn’t mean much but the fact that he already has three at senior level including the winner at Wycombe plus two at Burton means the centre forward will need watching. He’s 6ft 3in which means he also offers a threat in the air. Jonathan Kodija, who plays alongside Abrahams is another big lad at 6ft 2in. He joined City from Angers of Ligue 2 in 2015 for £3m and went on to score 20 goals in his first season. He has yet to notch this season but will be a threat.

At the back Aden Flint is a player we were linked with before signing Hanley and Clark. At 6ft 6in he’s a goal scoring centre back who managed 15 goals in the Robins’ promotion season, including an incredible hat-trick against Walsall in their final match of the season. Given our predilection to concede from set-pieces someone needs to make sure he doesn’t get any clean headers or we will be punished. He plays alongside Hordur Magnusson in central defence. Magnusson actually had a spell at Juventus but never made the first team. Although he went to the Euros he didn’t make it onto the pitch. Probably does a mean clap chant though.

Gary O’Neill is a former smoggie, having spent 4 seasons at the Riverside. He’s actually won four promotions to the Premier League over his career with Boro, West Ham, QPR and Norwich. Lee Tomlin is another former smoggie who arrived at Ashton Gate on loan from Bournemouth and is another player who was linked with us over the summer. His 6 goals in 18 appearances persuaded the Robins to make the move permanent.

City’s Head Coach is Lee Johnson, son of Gary Johnson, who made his name as Yeovil’s manager and is actually one of his son’s predecessors at Ashton Gate. Johnson jnr took the Robins up from League One in 2014/15 and managed to consolidate their position last season, finishing in 18th. At his pre-match presser Johnson said he was excited at the prospect of playing in front of City’s biggest home crowd of the season. We are going to have to deal with this everywhere we go. Johnson also said that they intend to go on the front foot from the off to try to whip their crowd up. As ever we will have to match them for effort and then impose ourselves on the game.

City have the air of an ambitious club and have undertaken a £45m redevelopment of their Ashton Gate ground over the last couple of seasons, opening a new stand just before the season started. They actually share their ground with rugby Premiership newcomers Bristol (who will probably be scrapping it out with the Falcons to see who can stay in the top flight) so playing them early in the season before the pitch gets wrecked is probably to our advantage. They see themselves as having Premiership potential which will hopefully mean that they will not be content with parking the bus this afternoon, giving us a bit more room to play than we have seen in the previous three games.

City’s strengths are in coming forward so they will test us defensively and they will be backed by a passionate full house crowd. However, they are a bit one paced in midfield and defence so I am hoping that we can catch them on the break if they over-commit. This is going to be a tough game but we have the quality on and off the pitch to prevail.

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Support Gallowgate Flags. Paid for by fan donations to create a better match day atmosphere, donate here https://www.gofundme.com/gallowgateflags

What Would Rafa Do?

Well - after another glass of Rioja I'd expect he was straight back to work late Wednesday night. Transfer market has been surprisingly quiet last few days as I'm still convinced that Rafa needs more in this squad, but I'm sure there's work going on.

A good win against a poor Reading side will not have Rafa losing focus as we need more wins and more importantly the performances have to be even more impressive to ensure a successful promotion campaign.

The need for a left back was exposed again on Wednesday and I'm sure Rafa will be pushing for Galloway or A.N.Other before the end of August. However it looks like we go into Bristol with the same choice of players as on Wednesday.

I was surprised to see Rafa wield the knife so quickly on our captain. That said, Iv also stressed each week that the Beauty of Rafa is that he will always do the right thing and there will always be a plan a/b/c. Jamal's had a bad start and before letting the confidence become an issue, Rafa shuffled things about whilst keeping him involved. Steve Mcclaren wouldn't have done that. Too Stubborn.

Paul Dummett was another surprise that we just have to trust there was a logic too. Shop window?

Bristol City away is a tricky fixture and I expect the team to be amended accordingly. We had a very positive front 6 on Wednesday and I can't see that being the same here. Hard to say if Shelvey keeps his place. The work rate of Goufrann might just see him remain in the side. Janmaat surely plays if fit, but I don't see Anita being dropped at the minute. As I said first game, Rafa will back grafters at this stage. Once confidence has been built, then we might see more adventurous selections.

Whatever side goes out there, the same rules apply. 100% effort and the rewards will follow. Rafas philosophy is everything we've needed at NUFC for the past decade. There'll also be one eye on Tuesday where Rafa will surely have identified the League Cup as a winnable competition!

What would Rafa do?

1 or 3 points. Either is fine. Continue with the good work. This club is going to be something special in 12 months!

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Simon Campbell - true faith podcaster, follow him on twitter @simoncampbell11

Club and county - We are the Mags. 

Get into these absolutely top notch true faith t-shirts which celebrate the identity of Mags from England's two finest counties, Northumberland and Durham. 

Only £17 plus P+P. 

Northumberland Mags t-shirt - get them here
Durham Mags t-shirt - get them here
sunderland v newcastle highlights score 0-1

As it was when it was

sunderland Away, 20th August 2010.

Having won 3 of his first 5 games as Newcastle United manager, Alan Pardew had turned The Magpies into somewhat draw specialists having taken a point in 10 of the 18 league games that followed.

Starting the 2010-11 season with a 0-0 draw at home to Arsenal, United made the short trip to wearside hoping to continue an impressive run of 7 wins and 5 draws in the last 13 meetings.

The visitors had also started the season with a draw (1-1 at Liverpool) and despite losing 10 of their last 15 league games were deemed favourites.

The Mags won 6-2 over the previous season’s 2 games earning 4 points.  The recently departed Kevin Nolan scored 4.

For The Record:

This was the last time we’d see Joey Barton in Black and White leaving on a free to QPR.

United’s victory was the 6th in the last 22 (all competitions) on enemy soil. Only 2 ended in defeat.

Despite going out to Blackburn in the League Cup, Pardew’s side continued good form into mid-November winning 7 and drawing 4 of their opening 11 league games.  This was the first time since 1994-95 that the Mags started their first 11 Premier League games unbeaten.

Steve Bruce would never get to ‘play DJ’ and would be sacked once the mackem support turned in November following 2 wins in their opening 13 games.

Newcastle would qualify for the Europa League some 20 points ahead of their bitter rivals as the mackems won only 2 of their final 14 games.  

‘Promises’ by Nero was a new Number 1.  Lasting only 1 week, this is their only chart topper to date.

Nero - Promises
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Entertain with the Entertainers, 20th anniversary charity dinner St James Park, Saturday 8th October 2016.

Let Bygones be Bygones

Twitter manna this week, as a few Palace fans aiming for big numbers on the retweet front posted tweets along the lines of "the geordies were right all along, Pardew is rubbish, he has to go". A lot of our fans have lumped onto that, and there's been a fair bit of crowing. OK, we all know Pardew's a liability but  we've nevertheless been getting our faces rubbed in it ever since he left of how stupid we are for "hounding him out". It's gratifying to be proved right, and so also understandable to want to remind a few people of things that have been said.

Having said that, it feels like it's time we just stopped going on about him. He's not our problem any more, he's Palace's, and their fans are just beginning to realise the misery they are in for. To be fair to them, they are at the same stage now as we were at when we were trying to give him a chance while West Ham fans took great delight in predicting our future (correctly as it turned out), and we didn't want to hear what they were saying. His career does seem to consist of history repeating itself at club after club, of initial relative success followed by steady decline as his tactics get found out and he's unable to come up with anything else. Of course I'm not telling anyone else what to do but personally I think Palace fans are to be pitied right now rather than goaded. We've been in that trough and now we are slowly coming out of it, on the up slope again. We know how it feels to be where they are.

If there's an exception to this it's where certain media rentagobs are concerned, naming no names, who gave us all a shellacking that was spared West Ham, and will be spared again of Palace's following when he finally leaves there. They deserve no amnesty.

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Tourist Information

What is it about Bristol? Wikipedia informs me it's England's 6th biggest city and yet neither of their league teams have had any success to speak of. Today's opponents City are undoubtedly the bigger of the two but they haven't been in the top division since 1911 apart from 4 years at the end of the 1970s. It's puzzling, it's a big enough city for a club to have achieved more at some point.

You could say they have a lot in common with us. We're a big enough city with a big enough support to have done loads better than we have over the years, and what success we've had is so far in the distant past that to most of us it is no more than the stuff of legend. If we ever get our act together then all those clubs we're constantly told are naturally bigger than us should watch out. There is no natural hierarchy, just clubs which do the best they can and clubs which don't.

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true faith - pin badges

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 - 

Leazes Soul, and Gallowgate Soul,

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

Durham, and Northumberland.

Each badge is only £5 Plus P+P. They will be delivered the day after they ordered. 

Baby Steps

A good result on Wednesday night, and one we badly needed. A few heartening performances and a couple of goals for our main striker, all of which are good things obviously. It was a great result but one which flattered us. That's an improvement on the two previous games and a good habit to get into but we're not where we want to be yet. We have a fair distance to go until we get there. For one thing, despite Reading having zero cutting edge and seemingly zero ambition to get at us our back line still managed to look uncomfortable at times. We'll need to improve on that. Most importantly, we're told there are still big changes to come in terms of the personnel at the club, both incoming and outgoing. Until the squad is finalized we can't really make any progress, all we can do is hope that game by game those on the pitch and the approach we take is enough to get a result. Our target is just to stay in touch with the top of the table until the end of the transfer window and that's when we have to start getting things together.

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true faith - one love t-shirt

Vamos Rafa - new t-shirt

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.

What the papers say

So Newcastle finally got off the mark on Wednesday, as a pretty poor Reading side were turned over by NUFC at St. James’. The performance wasn’t exactly stellar but it is a step in the right direction. Notching four goals won’t have hurt the players’ confidence, either. Here is what the papers have been saying over the past few years. 

As mentioned, Newcastle weren’t at their best during the week but managed to get the job done pretty comfortably in the end. There was some good performances, as the likes of Shelvey and Ritchie showed that they can dominate matches in this league, whilst Gayle showed he has that eye for goal we desperately need. However, Rafa has insisted that more is to come from this side. The Spaniard says he knows his team can play better. Hopefully this is the start of our season!

Benitez made a bold statement with his team selection last night. Throwing Yoan Gouffran into the mix was a surprise and dropping Daryl Janmaat was a bold call but the decision to leave out captain Jamaal Lascelles shows that Rafa will show no mercy if a player isn’t playing well. Lascelles has struggled so far this season and the decision to replace him may make him step up his game in the coming weeks. Benitez explained his decision to leave out the new skipper by stating he needed to pick the best team for each individual game. 

Finally, it looks like Benitez may be about to miss out on a potential transfer target as Brighton winger Anthony Knockaert seems to have committed to the Championship outfit and ruled out a move to Newcastle. The Frenchman has been linked with a move all summer and with Newcastle’s left flank looking devoid of any creativity, a move for the winger would be welcomed. Brighton seem confident they will keep the star but Newcastle will still be hopeful of a move before the end of the window. 

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An evening with Andy Cole Friday 16th September 2016, 7pm. Nine Sports Bar and Lounge St James Park. Ticket hotline 0191 229 9632 or visit www.newcastlelegends.com

Authorities promise fan dialogue

Lessons learned from crowd congestion at West Ham's final Boleyn fixture say police

Sometimes things go wrong on matchday like they did before West Ham United's final match at Upton Park against Manchester United. Large crowds gathered on Green Street and the area became congested, thankfully no serious injuries were reported. FSF caseworker Amanda Jacks met with the Metropolitan Police and local councils to discuss the problem. There was a positive outcome, both authorities say lessons have been learned and promise "more meaninful dialogue with fans".

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GET YOUR FAVE MATCH HERE

Podcast: First win

United have won and all is well with the world. The lads bring you another post match podcast but this time are far happier, and apologetic. Rafa has got this. 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.
 
Follow us @TFweeklypod

LISTEN ON SOUNDCLOUD
SUBSCRIBE ON iTUNES
LISTEN TO US ON RADIO TYNESIDE
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COMING SOON - FORTITER DEFENDIT TRIUMPHANS

The British Disease

Only one game into the season and poor old Alan Pardew is kopping some flack and it seems that weekly gripes at poor old British managers  will see their numbers diminish as the season progresses.

Often over looked by British managers is the biggest barrier to British managers, is the performance of existing British managers.  When the likes of Moyes, Pardew, Dyche & Howe all failed to win a game this weekend (with the only confirmed British manager who won a game, won it against another British manager) – maybe the current crop bemoaning their insularity need to look at the damage they do, rather than their more successful European colleagues,

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Mags in Bristol 

I’ve never been to Bristol before and I’m looking forward to it tremendously.  Although plenty of mags will have been when we played there in 2010 and many years before that – there’s something refreshing about visiting a new city and league ground. 

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Newcastle 3 Barcelona 2 an evening with Tino Asprilla, Keith Gillespie and Joe Allon. Thursday 7th October 2016, Nine Bar, Newcastle United St James Park. Call 0191 229 9632 or visit www.newcastlelegends.com

Delusional

Loads of people going to watch Newcastle at home.  Only 500 people bothering to watch Reading away.  You’ve got to feel for the angry, pathetic author of this ‘piece of writing.’

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