Fan's Eye View: Newcastle

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The Independent Online

Your team's best performance last season?

No game springs immediately to mind unfortunately. Probably the 4-0 win over Olympiakos in the UEFA Cup. It was the only time we really looked like a very good side, and as the eighth straight win in a fantastic late season run, it was a game where it felt like anything was possible.

And the worst?

There's a good few to choose from on that score, but it also has to come from the UEFA Cup. The 20 minute capitulation in Lisbon was a stunning and devastating end to a competition we had every chance of winning.

Who was your best player last season?

By his standards, it wasn't a particularly good one, as he made a couple more costly errors than he usually does, but once again Shay Given was there to drag us out of the mire in so many games.

Who was the most under-rated?

His name is still associated nationwide with the words "donkey" and "cart-horse" but Titus Bramble is finally beginning to look like the player Sir Bobby Robson saw in him. In many games towards the end of the season, he was an absolute rock alongside [Jean-Alain] Boumsong and his suffering with injuries late on contributed to our eventual demise.

And the worst player?

There's a long list of candidates here too but Nicky Butt takes the prize for me. Most fans were delighted to finally see a natural defensive midfielder come in and protect the shaky back four but he was a little disappointing at first and suffered with injuries mid-season. He then came back into the side against Villa, Spurs and Man Utd in Cardiff. By the end of those 270 minutes, he was lucky not to be run out of Newcastle by a mob carrying pitchforks. At least most of the other players who underperformed bothered to look like they cared once in a while.

What was the most memorable moment?

The Millennium Stadium for the FA Cup semi final. A miserable result but a fantastic day out.

Funniest moment, if any?

Steven Taylor's acting against Aston Villa. Not only was his attempt to claim the ball had not hit his hand laughable, but his "bullet in the ribs" reaction at being struck by Vassell's tame shot was superb.

Whose was the best individual performance against you?

Shaun Wright-Phillips in the 4-3 win over Man City at home. We were coasting it, and he dragged City back into it single-handedly. We just couldn't handle him and he really didnt deserve to come away with nothing.

Best set of fans, besides your own?

The atmosphere everywhere has died a death and there are absolutely no fans that stand out, home or away. I include ourselves in that most of the time, by the way.

Best chant?

"We're Geordies, we're mental and so is Delia Smith!"

Which ground is your favourite to visit and why?

I particularly enjoy trips to Old Trafford. It's a superb ground and there's always a terrific atmosphere in the away end, not least because the Mancs manage to constantly provide glorious wind-up material.

What improvements need to be made this season?

Where do I start? The problems lie a lot deeper than the players and the management. From the top down, the club is a shambles and until the lovely Mr Shepherd either slings his hook or miraculously learns to run a football club properly, we're destined to never achieve what a club of our size should be. In the short term though, some effort from the players and some tactics from the manager would be nice.

Individual with most to prove?

Alan Shearer. Many people, including myself, believe he's finished and his 4 league goals from open play last year are testament to that. This is his last year (honestly this time) and he'll want to go out with a bang, rather than the damp squib some are predicting. Here's hoping he does what he's done before and proves his critics wrong.

Which game are you most looking forward to?

The return of the great unwashed from down the road promises to be a good laugh. They're not going to be around long so we'll be sure to make the most of it.

Which of your young players has impressed you?

Steven Taylor has the potential to be an absolutely immense and classy centre back. He's not quite there yet, but if we finally get the youth development thing right for once, he could be our new Woodgate, this time with the ability to stay fit for longer than a week or two. An honourable mention goes to Charles N'Zogbia, not only for being a cracking player but also being the person who's had cynical, grumpy Geordies shouting 'Go on Charles!' at football matches. Never thought I'd see the day.

If money was no object which player or manager would like to see at your club?

We've had great players at this club before and we'll have them again in the future but without the right man to put it all together, it doesn't do much good. I'd love nothing more than to see Ottmar Hitzfeld in charge of Newcastle United. A brilliant manager to shake up the club and put a winning system in place would be a far greater coup than any player.

What would you consider to be a good season?

Top four would be a good season and top 6 is the minimum requirement. Anything else is failure. A cup would be beyond brilliant if it were to happen, but the league form needs to seriously pick up for it to be anything other than papering over the cracks.

How would you sum up your manager?

I'm not exactly a fan. Without going into specifics, the vast majority of what I've seen so far, here and elsewhere, says that he's going to fail. Poor man-management and tactical ineptitude were probably the two things which stood out most from last season but while many would not have given him his second term, there are just as many who always wanted him given the time and money he says he needs, regardless of what they saw last season. In my current pessimistic state, the best thing I can hope for with the manager is that when he goes, he doesn't leave us with too much lasting damage.

If you had to put a £1m bet on where your team finishes, where would you say?

I couldn't even begin to start trying to work that one out. Even if we disregard the manager's ability and the amount of time he'll last, with

the pitiful amount of goals left in the current squad we could go down, but with three or four quality additions here and there and some luck with injuries, we could easily be pushing top four again. I'll sit on the fence and say 11th.

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