Newcastle United and everyone connected with the club is on Cloud Nine after a 2-1 win against Southampton at St. James' Park on Tuesday night to book The Magpies a place in their first Wembley Cup Final since 1999 thanks to a first club brace from Geordie midfielder Sean Longstaff, who hails from North Shields like rock star Sam Fender:
The race for Cup tickets among Newcastle fans begins next week but before then a Premier League tie against West Ham looms on the horizon on Saturday night in the 5.30pm KO, a task made more difficult without suspended midfield talisman Bruno Guimaraes, who was sent off for this challenge against Saints' attacker Samuel Edozie:
No complaints about the tackle and referee Paul Tierney made the correct decision to upgrade his initial yellow card after consulting VAR Darren England and send the Brazilian off yet it has led to cries of consistency among Newcastle supporters who can point to several recent similar tackles by players from other teams - notably from the former 'Big Six' clubs - that have been deemed not worthy of a red card so the players have escaped both a sending off and a three-match suspension a la Guimaraes.
Most recently and most gallingly, this happened during Sunday's FA Cup clash between Brighton and Liverpool when The Reds were lucky to leave the pitch after the game with 8 men never mind 9 or 10 due to several controversial challenges and calls but neither Fabinho, Konate or Andy Robertson were sent off and all will be eligible to play against Newcastle at St James' Park on Saturday 18th of February which Bruno G will miss:
Unusually yet positively, The Professional Game Match Officials Limited company (PGMOL) who run the referees came out and admitted they made an error in not sending off Brazilian Fabinho:
but he cannot face retrospective action so it is scant consolation to Newcastle United.
Interestingly, Saturday's game sees the same VAR official - The Premier League's Head of VAR Neil Swarbrick who had a catastrophic game failing to send off up to 3 Liverpool players including the PGMOL admitted mistake - in the VAR room while the referee is Peter Bankes, who also has previous of dodgy decisions against Newcastle including against West Ham, for whom he failed to overturn a non-penalty is last season's clash at St James' Park on the opening day of the campaign:
Swarbrick's failure to intervene according to the football rules and dismiss Liverpool players last week meant it didn't come as a surprise to anybody when The Reds were declared runaway League leaders of the Premier League Without VAR table for the 2022/23 season so far with the Merseyside club benefitting from the most crucial VAR interventions & Jurgen Klopp's men would be just 6 points above the relegation zone without it fully living up to their nickname on social media 'LiVARpool':
In the same table Newcastle still maintain 4th spot and a Champions League spot even without VAR interventions although in reality have lost at least two points for the VAR 'error' by Lee Mason in the Newcastle - Crystal Palace game (and the rest):
In the real world Premier League table, Newcastle are 3rd top still three points and a game in hand over Spurs in 5th in the race for The Champions League while West Ham arrive on Tyneside in 16th place just one point above the relegation zone after a season of struggle for David Moyes' men in which they have had to juggle European football in the Europa Conference League where The Hammers have flourished and booked their place in The Last 16 draw with the demands of the domestic game.
Despite their Premier League form, Moyes has remained bullish about his side, who are also through to the Fifth Round of The FA Cup, where they will play Man United at Old Trafford and go into the St James' Park clash in good 2023 form with two wins, two draws and a single defeat on the back of a 1-0 win against fellow strugglers Everton:
One time Newcastle target under Steve Bruce, Jarrod Bowen is West Ham's top scorer this season with eight goals including three in his last two games and he will be looking to show the Geordies what they could have won had Bruce managed to persuade Mike Ashley to stump up for his signature while he waited in an M1 layby for the green light that never came before being forced to sign for The Hammers instead:
How times have changed for Newcastle, who were among the biggest spenders in The Premier League in the January window stumping up £40M + £5M add-ons for Everton's fast forward Anthony Gordon, who could make his debut against West Ham after being unveiled to the St James' Park crowd on Tuesday night along with Harrison Ashby, a promising right-back whom The Magpies prised from the West Ham Academy for £3M:
'Flash' Gordon as he has already been nicknamed on Tyneside will wear the no. 20 shirt & be on the Newcastle bench on Saturday and will be itching to show his new fans what he can do but Eddie Howe usually integrates new signings cautiously into his team yet Gordon could certainly feature as a second-half impact substitute following his arrival.
Bruno Guimaraes' suspension means Howe will be forced to shuffle his pack which will almost certainly mean Joelinton switching from his recent left-wing role in which he has thrived scoring three goals since the post-World Cup restart back into central midfield to cover his fellow Brazilian's absence into the role he shone as a powerhouse last season including away to West Ham when he nullified Declan Rice:
That leaves the left-wing role free and surely it has to be Allan Saint-Maximin's return for the first team down his favoured left-side after being limited to substitute appearances in the last few games and while he is now in direct competition with Anthony Gordon for the left-side slot in Howe's attacking trident, the two-footed versatile England U21 international can play on the right side and centrally.
As the stats show, Saint-Maximin offers a greater attacking threat in terms of chance creation and take-ons than Gordon although the Merseyside can boast three goals in 18 games this season for Everton compared to Maxi's one goal in 17 matches yet the Frenchman leads The Premier League in successfully taking on his man and can be the game-changer Howe needs against The Hammers without the influential Bruno G:
In his pre-match presser, Howe spoke of 'refocussing' his men for the West Ham game after the Cup high of Tuesday night...
before admitting Newcastle will miss their Brazilian talisman Bruno Guimaraes:
News that Joelinton is in line for his first ever Brazil international call-up will soften the blow and provide extra fire if any were needed for the big Brazilian to step into his countryman's shoes and boss the Newcastle midfield again and his first job will be nullifying Brazil international Lucas Paqueta in West Ham's midfield:
Prediction - Newcastle 3 West Ham 1