Football: Reasons to Be Cheerful as Big Sam's United Take Their Bow at St James' Park; THE FRIDAY FILE Newcastle V Aston Villa St James' Park Saturday, August 18, 2007. Kick-Off: 5.15pm

Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England), August 17, 2007 | Go to article overview

Football: Reasons to Be Cheerful as Big Sam's United Take Their Bow at St James' Park; THE FRIDAY FILE Newcastle V Aston Villa St James' Park Saturday, August 18, 2007. Kick-Off: 5.15pm


Byline: JOHN GIBSON

SO after such a short space of time but much change in complexion, St James' Park ushers in its new Premier League season tomorrow.

Significantly we are served a match between two giants more comatose than merely dozing over the last few years.

Newcastle United and Aston Villa used to win everything. Lately it has been nothing. Yet both retain loyal fans in great number.

Both, in a desperate effort to wake up and clean up, have new owners and new managers of considerable reputation. Sam Allardyce in black and white, Martin O'Neill in claret and blue; yo-yo's in the dug out whose antics only lend to the atmosphere in the heat of battle.

United march forth at home for the first time in a spanking new season with much optimism beating in Geordie breasts.

Watching the victory at Bolton live via South African television on a far-flung shore gave me great heart, especially in the first half when the football flowed through passes of unerring accuracy and creativity.

And if there was a warning in the goal conceded - direct from a Newcastle corner when defenders were either switched off or badly positioned - then I still prefer to remain positive.

I know that Little Sam, of the ill-fitting suit, has confused a Bolton side who were resolute and knowledgeable about their individual jobs under Big Sam, and consequently it was a vastly different challenge to the usual one at the Reebok - admittedly much easier-but nevertheless United were excellent in the main.

Here we are a point ahead of champions Manchester United with a game in hand. Oh, the fevered brow. Only another 37 games to go!

Steady on, lads, but there is even more evidence for us to look ahead with a certain amount of optimism. Big-hitters Celtic, Juventus and Sampdoria were all beaten at St James' Park and that also augurs well, even if they were meaningless friendlies in terms of tangible reward.

Geremi is a natural driving leader, Alan Smith and Nicky Butt snapping enforcers, and Mark Viduka has the undoubted finesse to seduce lovers of the beautiful game. …

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Football: Reasons to Be Cheerful as Big Sam's United Take Their Bow at St James' Park; THE FRIDAY FILE Newcastle V Aston Villa St James' Park Saturday, August 18, 2007. Kick-Off: 5.15pm
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