Newcastle return to action from their enforced break with a tough away trip to fellow Championship high fliers Cardiff City. The Magpies will be hoping that the international break has not affected the momentum that has been gained from their impressive start to the new season. Cardiff, normally a difficult place to get a result, currently sit third in the Championship table and have immediately settled into their new home at the appropriately named Cardiff City Stadium. They are the top scorers in the division having scored 11 goals from their opening five games, with a familiar face leading the Bluebirds attack in the form of Geordie striker Michael Chopra. The former Newcastle man has enjoyed a devastating start to the new season, bagging eight goals in all competitions. He will no doubt have a point to prove against his boyhood club.
Chopra struggled to make a real impact at Newcastle scoring only one league goal in 21 appearances, albeit mainly featuring from the bench. He rarely got a look in as first Sir Bobby Robson and then Graeme Souness preferred other options in their squad. It was in his first spell at Cardiff that he made a real name for himself, scoring 22 league goals in one season. That saw him earn a £5m move to Sunderland, which divided opinion on Tyneside. Some felt he was going against his Geordie roots but others felt it was irrelevant as he had never made the grade with Newcastle. He struggled in two seasons at Premier League level and re-joined Cardiff permanently this summer. The Championship appears to be his level, similarly to fellow Geordie striker Shola Ameobi. Chopra will be hoping to make a telling contribution in Sunday’s televised game and prove his former employers wrong.
As if life couldn’t get worse for club owner Mike Ashley, it just has with the news that his Sports Direct business is being investigated for fraud. The Serious Fraud Office has launched an investigation into suspected price fixing and alleged fraud at Sports Direct and JJB. The investigation into Britain’s two largest sports retailers follows a referral from the Office of Fair Trading. A statement from the OFT said: “The OFT has today [Thursday] executed entry warrants at two addresses as part of an investigation into alleged anti-competitive conduct in the sports good retail sector.” Sports Direct announced later that it was assisting officials with their enquiries. It is yet another blow for Ashley who has seen his name dragged through the mud in the past year. Ashley still remains in talks with various groups trying to buy the club but no major break-through has been made yet.
On a more positive note, caretaker manager Chris Hughton has been named the Championship Manager of the Month. Hughton has done an excellent job under difficult circumstances and thoroughly deserves the award. He will be hoping to bring in one or two new players ahead of Sunday’s game against Cardiff. With strikers Ameobi and Andy Carroll still ruled out with injury there is a need to bring in another forward player on-loan. Teenager Nile Ranger, back from scoring for the England Under-19s in mid-week, remains their only fully fit striker. New signing Peter Lovenkrands is not yet match-fit and will probably be only named on the bench. Newcastle have been linked with a number of strikers, with Aston Villa’s Marlon Harewood the most plausible option. They have also been linked with Sunderland’s David Healy and Wolves’ youngster Sam Vokes.
Newcastle player Danny Guthrie, who is aiming to hit double figures from midfield this season, is looking to stay top of the league following the Cardiff game and continue the Magpies assault on an immediate return to the Premier League. He told the Newcastle Chronicle: “On day one we got together and decided we’d have a real good go at this, and the togetherness and camaraderie around the group has been there for everyone to see on the pitch. We want to win the league. Every game seems to be difficult in this league but you have to compete and show a lot of togetherness, which we are doing.”
Newcastle United Club Focus
Pre-season woe – July 29
Fans say goodbye to a hero – August 5
Bridge over troubled water? – August 12
Local boy steps up – August 18
Home-grown strike partnership takes effect – August 21
Geordie resurgence gains momentum – August 25
Takeover still talk of the Toon – August 28
St James’ Park Ranger keeps Magpies firing – September 1
Ex-Magpie returns just as window shuts – September 4
Want-away striker leaves already thin squad – September 8
Former striker aims to shoot down Magpies – September 11