Club Focus – Newcastle United – Big Sam makes St James’ Park return

Former manager Sam Allardyce returns to Tyneside for the first time on Wednesday night as his Blackburn Rovers side face high flying Newcastle United. Allardyce spent eight months with Newcastle from May 2007 until he was sacked by Mike Ashley in January 2008. Despite making an impressive start to his career in the North East few fans warmed to Allardyce due to his Sunderland connections and direct style of play. After making a solid start to the season results soon deteriorated too and the Magpies started to slip down the table. A poor run over the festive period increased the pressure further on Allardyce although it was still something of a surprise when Ashley terminated his contract in the New Year. Particular lowlights were a lame 3-0 home defeat to Liverpool and becoming the only team to lose to Derby County in the 2006/07 season. Another problem was a number of signings such as Geremi, David Rozenhal, Cacapa and Mark Viduka, who all failed to perform. Allardyce is unlikely to face the warmest of receptions on his return.

The current incumbent of the St James’ Park hot-seat, Chris Hughton, has few problems to contend with at the moment with his side sitting just outside the top four places. While it is unlikely they will stay there all season, two consecutive home games against Blackburn and Fulham offer a good opportunity to extend their winning run. However, Newcastle will need to be on guard against complacency as so far this season they have come unstuck in the games they have been favourites to win. Dropped points against Blackpool, Stoke and Wigan have been the few disappointments of an excellent start to the season. Newcastle have few injury problems to contend with and could well stick with an unchanged side for the third game in a row. If that is the case then only Jose Enrique and Joey Barton will face the man who brought them to Tyneside.

Andy Carroll has been making both the front and back page headlines in recent days with most of the hype claiming he is set for a maiden international call-up. England are in friendly action against France in a week’s time and Carroll’s name is very much in the frame. With the likes of Wayne Rooney and Jermain Defoe injured and a number of other contenders out of form the chances are very much in his favour. The striker is not the only player in England contention if Fabio Capello if looking for in-form English players with Scouse duo Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton both outstanding in recent games. One man not so keen to see Carroll in the squad is former Newcastle manager Glenn Roeder who feels calling up his former prot

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