Spread the love

With Newcastle coming down in number down to Griffin Park, Billy Grant caught up with @NUFC_Index to get the low down on Rafa … Jonjo Shelvey and switching the date of the match at 7 days notice and we list – at the bottom of the article – the raft of pubs available to visit in Brentford.

It’s not been a great Christmas for Newcastle.  You haven’t been as effective since the man who ran the show in our match up at St James Park – Jonjo Shelvey – was banned with the Toon winning one (Forest), drawing one (Birmingham) and losing two (Wednesday, Blackburn) matches. Is it squeaky pants time for you?

I think it’s easy to feel that way as an NUFC fan considering our recent history, and there’s no mistake that Shelvey’s absence has hit us hard; but I still remain optimistic. The Forest game is one to completely wipe from our history books, for obvious reasons – Blackburn ‘sucker-punched’ us twice – there’s only really Sheff Wed who have deserved all the points in my opinion in those games. Concerning? Yes, I think so. Squeaky pants? Not yet!

You had a pretty solid start to the season. Every Newcastle fan I spoke to – including you guys in our pre-season bloggers prediction article – expected an immediate return to The Premier League for the Toon. Everything going to plan?

I think we’ll be promoted, yes. The ‘sensible’ NUFC fans knew that this wouldn’t be a season of steam-rolling every team, despite the squad we behold and the manager we have. We’ve played every team now and I’m yet to see a team better than us. If I’m honest. I’ve seen teams manage games better than we have and completely deserve the points they have taken (as above), but I’ve never felt we’ve been out-done by a superior outfit. I think with a few additions in this window and the return of Jonjo, we’ll get back on track soon enough. Will we win it? I think it depends on Brighton more than us. If they continue in their rich vein of form, we may have to settle for 2nd!

You’ve played every team in the league so far. Are there any teams you are impressed with?

Definitely Brighton. But we always knew that  as they have the guy who did so well for us in this league last time we were down – Chris Hughton! There’s a few teams that have been impressive against us (namely those have took all the points!) and it has been their experience, their game management and their resilience to pressure and not having the ball which has been the highlight. I still feel we lack some of these qualities in our side simply because if you look at our squad, there aren’t a vast amount of players who have been in this position before in their careers!

Who is a threat to Newcastle getting automatic promotion?

 Nobody but Brighton, I think.

And what sides have been poor this season?

I think Rotherham will be relegated, despite putting up a fairly decent fight against us and the same for Burton. There’s 3 or 4 teams after that but I have to say the worst teams we’ve come up against are QPR and Birmingham – despite holding us to a draw in the FA Cup.

So how has your Championship experience been? There are some great places to go out in this league. What has been your best awayday?

I haven’t done too many this season, if I’m honest. Made the Barnsley match early doors – which was a good, professional performance from our lot – and although I wasn’t out afterwards, it was refreshing to hear some really positive thoughts from the opposition on our lot as opposed to constant excuse-making drivel you get from fans on social media etc. I wasn’t at the game away to Leeds but I was out around town on the night – not great as an NUFC fan and it was best keeping that one to myself that night! Despite all the away graft this season, I don’t think anything will compare to absolutely shafting QPR 0-6 back in September (and we tip our hats to you for that – Ed)!

We discussed this with Toon fan Kevin Miles who appears on this week’s podcast (below) – Newcastle fans seem anethesised to matches being switched due to it happening week in and week out in the Premier League. We think it’s absolutely disgraceful that TV was able to switch our match from a Saturday to a Monday … then back to a Saturday at 7 days notice because Toon drew their cup match last week. How many fans do you know are out of pocket? 

It definitely happens in the Premier League, but I don’t recall this ‘hokey-cokeyness’ happening to us too often. I think a lot of fans will have been prepared and been a little more cautious about booking – knowing there was a possibility of rearrangement – but there are definitely some who have had their ‘hands burned’. It’s just the way it is now, isn’t it. Broadcasters and the ‘money-men’ rule the game, unfortunately. There’s nothing you can do about it. We’re just hoping we haven’t gone through it all, for the match to be postponed with the weather!

Do you think the clubs – both Brentford and Newcastle – have some blame here as they could have refused to accept the game on the TV date due to the potential disruption to fans? A couple of seasons ago they moved our Boro game from 3pm to midday at fairly short notice after Boro fans had already bought train tickets. They would have got in after kick off. We (Beesotted) actually took it upon ourselves speak to East Coast Rail (as it was at the time) with the FSF and got them to formally agree to change Boro tickets to an earlier train. Should the clubs not be responsible for this though? 

I think there would have been consultation with the clubs, prior to the FA Cup game and I’d like to think they’d work in fans’ favour if they thought it would be too damaging. But with it being a 48 hour turnaround and with a few days in the run-in, they obviously didn’t think it would be too much a hindrance. I’m not sure how much power they really have (the clubs could have both refused the switch to the Monday for the Sky TV match from what we have been told – Ed)!

Rafa Benitez has been credited with turning around a Newcastle club both behind the scenes and on the pitch. Still happy with Rafa?

Undoubtedly. Does he make mistakes? Absolutely; all managers do. But his arrival has seen a revolutionising of how the club works both on and off the field. Ashley seems to have finally seen the light – letting the manager actually ‘manage’, and Rafa’s relationship with Lee Charnley appears to be working very well. His involvement in signing players is a breath of fresh air, and he has taken an interest in the youth set ups and the signing of players to help future-proof the club. The way he is handling the squad is different, but the players seem to be responding well, and he is giving the younger players a chance by allowing them to go out on loan. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to the Saviets and Rivieres of this world on their returns from loan.

I think Rafa’s decision to stay on at this club – in the 2nd tier of English football – demonstrates the affiliation he built up over a very short time and he is constantly mentioning the worth and the importance of us fans. That’s infectious, and we are beginning to see it in the players and collectively as a team. That’s what we’ve been crying out for!

It’s the silly season. West Ham have been haggling with us over £15m rated striker Scott Hogan which may be pennies to you guys but shows how far Brentford have come in a few years. Are you expecting any activity in the transfer window?

I do, but I think it’ll be later rather than sooner. I don’t think we’ll rush in to anything and if the men Rafa wants aren’t available, he’s always said how content he is with the current squad. I don’t think we’ll splash big money, but I can see a player or two coming on loan, probably from the Premier League and the signing of a strong Championship player who has the potential to do well in the top division.

Brentford didn’t give a good account for themselves when we came to St James’ Park earlier in the season – losing the match 3-1. Are you expecting a tougher match at Griffin Park.  

Every team seems to raise their game against us. But we tend to play our best football away from SJP this season. You lot haven’t done too bad after your Norwich hammering and you’ll be looking to make it very difficult for us.; so yes, it’ll be tougher. Scott Hogan is always a threat and our defence does lapse in concentration at times!

But we have a lot to prove after recent results and some of our boys have had a bit of rest, so they should be refreshed for the game.

Score prediction 

 2-1 to the Mags!

Thanks for taking time out to give the lowdown on Newcastle and safe journey down for Newcastle fans. You can follow @NUFC_Index on twitter

Billy Grant


For Newcastle fans coming down, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming.

There are now only three pubs around the ground, following the closure of the Royal Oak.

The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal is the other option.

Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is the Beesotted pre-match pub. This boozer & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other .. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.

The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields (it’s a much better pub crawl route getting off at Northfields than South Ealing) before making your way down to the ground (normally stopping off at The Globe and Lord Nelson en route).

There is also a pub right by Brentford station always referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.

For ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman can probably hold 15 of you at a push. The Brewery Tap is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait right on the river – beside the bridge and also The Express Tavern for an classic classy old skool ale boozer. There are loads more too.

A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many many more too if you have a look around.

Parking is pretty easy away from the ground going up towards and over the A4 Great West Rd (ie. North) via Ealing Road or Windmill Road.

You can check out Transport for London’s guide for travel this weekend here.