Football: Breakneck Newcastle in pursuit of United's 10-win start: Phil Shaw looks forward to a Shankly old boys reunion and the rest of the weekend's outstanding matches

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The Independent Online
CLOSE your eyes, picture Bill Shankly and it is almost possible to hear a husky Ayrshire brogue warning that the championship is a marathon, not a sprint. But as the great man might have added, Newcastle are having a good stab at sprinting the marathon.

Today's meeting of the Premiership leaders and Liverpool at St James' Park pits two Shankly proteges, Kevin Keegan and Roy Evans, against each other. One was a lavishly honoured performer whose managerial success still surprises some, the other the eternal reserve who rose slowly from the Boot Room. Yet each adheres to the same, simple principle, the starting point for Anfield's golden years: pass and move.

It is the breakneck speed with which Newcastle apply the Shankly philosophy that sets them apart from the pack, with the exception of Manchester United. An Andy Cole goal is like a black-and-white blur, the ball seemingly being sucked in by a crowd with the fervour of the Kop in its pomp. With Peter Beardsley and Barry Venison (if fit) also facing employers who discarded them, Evans's re-vamped rearguard may be in for a hectic time.

For an hour at Old Trafford last week, before Jan Molby and John Barnes faded, Liverpool more than matched the champions. Against the champions-elect, as Tyneside already fondly imagines Keegan's men, only a sustained effort will suffice, even in the unlikely event of Neil Ruddock keeping pace with Cole.

Another win for Newcastle would equal Leeds' seven at the start of their title season of 1973-74. However, Manchester United's fourth place in '85-86, after a 100 per cent record from 10 games, stands as a reminder that the fat lady is not yet in the wings, let alone ready to sing.

Should Newcastle lose, Blackburn and Nottingham Forest could close to within a point by beating Aston Villa and Tottenham, respectively. While the Ewood Park tussle is also a warm-up for dual European ventures next week, White Hart Lane will imbibe a more Continental cocktail, laced with the dash of Klinsmann and Roy, and topped up by Dumitrescu, Popescu and Bohinen.

Ipswich Town, who receive Manchester United, introduce Adrian Paz, their pounds 1m striker from Penarol. John Lyall returned from Uruguay clutching a tape of Paz's greatest hits - on Montevideo, no doubt - and described some of his goals as 'spectacular'. A reciprocal cassette for the newcomer would have been unwise, Ipswich having last won at home in February.

In the same period, Everton have recorded just two victories at Goodison Park, and failure to defeat lowly Leicester would leave them superglued to the bottom, as it were. Meanwhile, West Ham, one of four top flight clubs humbled by Third Division opponents in the Coca-Cola Cup, host Arsenal tomorrow, the teams having mustered seven goals between them in 12 Premiership outings.

The visit of Wolverhampton Wanderers, the First Division pace-setters, to Portsmouth should be as exciting as it is evocative, while the Second Division derby between Bradford City (third) and Huddersfield (second) will test the capacity of the 'new' Valley Parade.

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