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First Team

Media View: Expert insight on Newcastle


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth will be hoping to register their first Premier League double of the season when they face Newcastle United at St James’ Park on Saturday (3pm kick-off).

Dominic Solanke’s second-half goals earned the Cherries a 2-0 win when the teams met at Vitality Stadium in November, Andoni Iraola’s second victory in the top flight.

Since then, Newcastle have won five and drawn one of their 12 Premier League games, progressed to the fifth round of the FA Cup and exited the Champions League and Carabao Cup.

The five top-flight wins came against Chelsea (4-1), Manchester United (1-0), Fulham (3-0), Aston Villa (3-1) and Nottingham Forest (3-2), while the Magpies drew 4-4 with Luton Town in their last game at St James’ Park.

Having seen off arch-rivals Sunderland in the third round of the FA Cup, goals from Sean Longstaff and Dan Burn helped them triumph 2-0 at Fulham in the fourth round to set up a trip to Blackburn Rovers in the last 16.

Beaten finalists in last season’s Carabao Cup, Newcastle dumped out both Manchester clubs before losing on penalties to Chelsea in this season’s quarter-finals with Mykhailo Mudryk grabbing a dramatic late leveller for the Blues at Stamford Bridge.

Despite opening their first Champions League campaign for 20 years with a 0-0 draw against AC Milan and a 4-1 win over PSG, Newcastle finished fourth in Group F with two defeats by Borussia Dortmund proving costly.

Ahead of Saturday’s clash, afcb.co.uk caught up with Matthew Raisbeck who covers the fortunes of Newcastle in his capacity as commentator for BBC Radio Newcastle.  


Founded: 1892

Ground: St James’ Park

Nickname: Magpies, Toon Army

Record appearances: Jimmy Lawrence – 496 games (1904-22)

Record goalscorer: Alan Shearer – 206 goals in 404 games

Head coach: Eddie Howe (appointed November 2021)

Club captain: Jamaal Lascelles

League position: Seventh

Leading goalscorer: Alexander Isak (14 in all competitions)

Last game: Nottingham Forest 2 Newcastle United 3 (Premier League)

afcb.co.uk: How have things gone since the teams met in November?

MR: Mixed. Mixed results and performances. Since they last played, they’ve gone out of both the Champions League and the League Cup in pretty dramatic and painful fashion.

In the Champions League, a goal five minutes from the end against Milan sent them out of Europe in a game they had been winning and a draw would have taken them into the Europa League. They were really close and it hurt.

A week later, they were leading at Chelsea in added time in the League Cup and made a mistake. It went to penalties and they lost the shootout. Their league form hadn’t been great either in December, which was a really tough period.

They have just started to come out of the other side of that bad run. They won the derby in the FA Cup at Sunderland, which was crucial and it was really comfortable.

After losing to Liverpool and Manchester City, they have definitely picked up. Progressing in the FA Cup is really important to them because it’s their last chance of winning something and getting back to Wembley, which would mean an awful lot to the fans and to the club, especially after the experience of a cup final last season.

But the Premier League points and Premier League form are probably just as important. Despite the bad run, they haven’t actually lost that much ground. But the win at Aston Villa a couple of weeks ago was arguably one of the most important of the season.

They were disappointed to draw with Luton but to edge the match at Nottingham Forest has kept them really nicely placed in the race for Europe.

It’s been a mixed time. They’ve had a bad run, there have been a lot of contributing factors but I would say they’ve come out of the other side.

afcb.co.uk: What are supporters’ hopes for the rest of the season?

MR: If Newcastle could finish where they are now in seventh, I think the majority of fans would be absolutely ecstatic. People probably read and hear a lot about them being demanding and having high expectations, just like any fans.

They just want the best for their club and they want to enjoy watching their team and enjoy being on a journey with them. They’ve got that now. They’ve got a great team, one that’s been really hurt and affected by injuries this season, which is the real reason that they aren’t higher up the league.

Apart from that, it’s still been a season that’s been so exciting and it could still finish really strongly and on such a high if they can stay in seventh and secure one of the European spots.

The Champions League may well be beyond them and they would probably have to win nearly all of the remaining 14 matches in the league to have a chance of getting back into the top four or five.

But if they could get into the Europa League or the Europa Conference League, the fans would love it because the European experience this season is one of the most special times in recent memories.

For people who follow Newcastle, they got to go to Milan, Dortmund and Paris. They would be just as happy going to places on the outer edges of Europe to watch Newcastle play smaller European clubs next season because they love following their team around Europe.

If they could get back into Europe and reach either a semi-final or FA Cup final, it would still be Newcastle’s most successful season for a very long time.

afcb.co.uk: How do you find Eddie Howe away from the media glare?

MR: Fascinating. He is a fascinating man who is always very measured in front of the cameras.

The supporters hang on every word that he says and they analyse every syllable that he comes out with because their thirst for any Newcastle news and information is unquenchable.

He’s probably used to the attention and the glare. That would have been there at Bournemouth but, at Newcastle, it’s probably significantly more intense.

I think you can see that there’s someone there who, while he is a nice man and treats players very well, there’s edge and a tougher side that perhaps isn’t immediately obvious when he’s on camera or on tape.

But you can tell that it’s there and you can see someone who is also just incredibly impressive. He takes his work and his job very seriously and is a winner and is desperate to succeed.

You can see that he’s got all those aspects to his character and personality and you can understand why players want to achieve for him and with him and why he’s being successful.

You can see that it's all there and I think he’s the perfect man for Newcastle. He can cope when things are getting a bit too excitable, he can calm it down but he also understands the place and he understands why it’s like that.

They’ve just been through a bad spell and he’s been very consistent, outwardly. But you know inside the club, he will be possibly working even harder to find solutions and that’s something I guess he’s done throughout his career.

He seems to like a challenge and he is taking Newcastle to new heights. He’s absolutely adored. There has been some criticism of him recently but the vast majority of supporters completely back him.

afcb.co.uk: Give us a quick word on Callum Wilson and Matt Ritchie? 

MR: Matt Ritchie has been a big voice in the dressing room over the past eight years. He’s very respected within the club and by the supporters, even if his playing time has been reduced in the past season or two.

He is still someone that Eddie Howe values very highly and that’s why he got a new contract. He tends to appear mainly as a late substitute but his contribution to Newcastle in recent years will not be forgotten.

It’s been a struggle with injuries again for Callum Wilson this season. He was incredible last season in helping Newcastle get into fourth and get to Wembley and he deserved his call-up to the World Cup.

You do wonder if he’s going to have a future at Newcastle longer term because of his age and the injury situation. But when he’s fit, he is an elite striker.

They’ve got Alexander Isak who is a different type of player but, in terms of an out-and-out striker, there’s a strong argument that Wilson is the best they’ve had since Alan Shearer.

I think that just shows how highly thought of he is at Newcastle. He’s very close to becoming their second highest scorer in the Premier League era and just needs two more goals for that now.

He won't be available for a while though after damaging his pectoral tendon against Nottingham Forest.

afcb.co.uk: Who is their rising star?

MR: Lewis Miley is someone people have seen and heard more and more about this season. He’s 17, he’s from Tyneside and he’s come through the academy where some of his brothers are.

They are a footballing family and there could be more Mileys on the way into Newcastle’s first team set up in years to come. He broke through last season and played in some friendlies.

He came off the bench on the final day of last season at Chelsea and almost scored. He didn’t look out of place and then, in pre-season, he was outstanding. He didn’t really get into the first team until the injury crisis began around November.

His start at Bournemouth in November was his first in the Premier League. From then on, he hasn’t been out of the team. The only game he hasn’t started since then was the derby against Sunderland and he came on halfway through that one.

He is going to be a superstar. Newcastle have needed him and thank goodness he’s been there because they’ve had such a shortage of midfielders. He hasn’t not just filled a gap, he’s excelled.

He’s been incredible. He’s tall, elegant and he can get around the pitch. His touch is superb, he sets up goals for other players and he has scored once himself. There’s so much he can do, he’s just got so much ability on the ball and a really calm and composed way of playing, which belies his young age.

It’s been a real success story and he’s the best player that’s come through Newcastle’s academy for a very long time. Eddie Howe has urged a bit of caution when it comes to Lewis Miley because he doesn’t want to expose him to too much football.

He’s still having to play 90 minutes every week at 17 because Newcastle have only got three fit central midfielders and they play with a midfield three.

He will be taken out of the team at some point but he’s a rising star and the supporters are very excited about him.

afcb.co.uk: Are any other key players either injured or suspended?

MR: It may well be easier to tell you who isn’t injured because they could have as many as nine or ten players unavailable again.

Going back to November, December when they were still in the Champions League and the League Cup, there was one game where they had around 15 players unavailable.

They’ve got some of them back like Harvey Barnes, Sven Botman and Dan Burn but they’ve since lost others like Nick Pope, Joelinton and Alexander Isak, who might return this weekend from a slight groin problem.

Joe Willock and Elliot Anderson, both central midfielders, are close to being available in the words of Eddie Howe. But there are still a few more beyond that who won’t feature.

Probably between five and ten players won’t be available, including Sandro Tonali, who is suspended until the end of August. They have issues and don’t have the options on the bench to change things. Callum Wilson suffered a muscular injury at the end of the Nottingham Forest match so he won't feature.

If Isak is out as well then they won’t have a centre-forward and this has been a problem all season. Whenever they get players back, they lose others through injury. It won’t be a full-strength Newcastle team and there are still several players Eddie Howe can’t pick.

afcb.co.uk: How do you see this one panning out and what’s your score prediction? 

MR: Newcastle have had big problems against Bournemouth in the past couple of years. They won the League Cup tie at St James’ Park last season but the two Premier League games were both draws. Newcastle were well beaten Bournemouth in November and could have no complaints about the result.

I don’t think Bournemouth are Newcastle’s favourite opponents but they have improved and picked up recently. They have got some players back in attacking positions like Harvey Barnes and Jacob Murphy and are stronger than they were five or six weeks ago.

If this match had been played mid-to-late December or early this year, I would have been more worried for Newcastle. But because they’re doing a little bit better and are at home, I will back them to win, probably by the odd goal.

There is a clear appreciation of just what a good team Bournemouth are and just how much Newcastle have struggled to play their best football against them in the past couple of seasons.

The fans will not be turning up expecting an easy afternoon and, as we saw with the Luton game a couple of weeks ago, anything can happen. 

You can follow Matthew on X (formerly Twitter) – @raisbeck10

Officials: Michael Salisbury (referee), Richard West (assistant), Akil Howson (assistant), Oliver Langford (fourth official), Robert Jones (VAR).

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