Following a soul destroying defeat in the League Cup in midweek, things are not set to get much easier with a trip to Eastlands on the agenda for the evening kick-off on Saturday. Since the fixtures were released, we knew that this period was going to be a crunch time. With good performances against the big teams of Tottenham and Chelsea, I was made to believe that, should we play with the same fight and promise against smaller clubs, we would have no problem against the likes of Cardiff and Nottingham Forest. Why do we turn up and play well against the big teams and fail to play with the same vigour and mentality against the smaller clubs? This is a problem and a reason why we are not winning matches at present. The Forest match was a big chance for the players to say, "Look we can actually win matches" and grab a bit of confidence while we are in the midst of a very tough start to the season.
Let's be honest about Saturday's match. No one is surely going to envisage a win with Man City, showing last season, that they were (and still are) a class above the rest of the top six. As we cannot 'afford' to go and attack Man City, the aim for the match would be just to limit the damage on the goal difference and if we are within one goal of Man City in the 70th minute, we will then try and score an equaliser. Many teams visit the 'Emptihad' and get on the receiving end of a bloodbath so the question that fans might want to ask themselves is whether a narrow defeat be pleasing to them. With 1-0 and 3-1 defeats against the Citizens last season, the damage limitation to the goal difference proved to be a big factor in the bottom half of the table that had few points separating them as we went into the closing stages of the season.
We have only beaten Manchester City away from home in the Premier League on one occasion and that came in September 2000 when Alan Shearer headed in the winner - more details on that to follow. This means that we have only won one league game against Man City out of the previous twenty visits. To finish on a positive, I will look back at the time in January 1957 when we entertainingly beat Man City 5-4 at Maine Road in the FA Cup third round. This match is the highest scoring encounter between ourselves and Man City.
Facts and Figures
Newcastle wins: 71
Man City wins: 67
Man City wins: 22
Newcastle wins: 7
Premier League at Man City
Man City wins: 13
Newcastle wins: 1
Previous ten (all competitions)
Man City wins: 8 (26 goals)
Newcastle wins: 1 (5 goals)
Biggest win: Man City 1 - 4 Newcastle United (26/12/1905)
Biggest defeats: Man City 5 - 0 Newcastle United (21/02/2015)
Man City 6 - 1 Newcastle United (03/10/2015)
Biggest aggregate win: Newcastle United 8 - 2 Manchester City (4-2 and 4-0) (1928/29 season)
Biggest aggregate defeat: Newcastle United 0 - 8 Manchester City (0-4, 0-2 and 0-2 - includes one League Cup match) (2013/14 season)
Manchester City 0 - 1 Newcastle United - 30/09/2000 (Premier League)
Shay Given: With the Sir Bobby Robson era now in full swing on Tyneside, Given was now established as the number one choice for the goalkeeper position ahead of Steve Harper. The Irish international kept a clean sheet in this match at Maine Road. However Given, according to his recently released autobiography, said that he came close to leaving St. James' Park later that season. After getting injured shortly before Christmas, Harper appeared to then take Given's place on a permanent basis even after Shay came back from injury, leaving him frustrated and really wanting to play football. Luckily, Given remained on Tyneside and became a club legend.
Aaron Hughes: Hughes was a player who excelled during his youthful years under the helm of Sir Bobby. Hughes, in the 1999/2000 scored his first Newcastle goal which was also the first goal of the Sir Bobby era in the 8-0 thrashing of Sheffield Wednesday. The Nortern Ireland international came through the Newcastle academy and seemed to find home in the defensive back line while we played entertaining attacking football. It is quite an achievement for Hughes that, now at the age of 38, he is the only player from this starting XI against Man City that is still in his playing career, now playing for Hearts in Scotland. In recent years, Hughes played a key part in Northern Ireland's qualification and campaign in Euro 2016.
Kieron Dyer: Similarly to teammate Aaron Hughes, Dyer was already at the club prior to Robson's arrival and in the youthful stages of his senior playing career still. Also similar to Hughes, Dyer stayed at Newcastle throughout Bobby's time at St. James' Park and the former England manager arguably got the best out of Dyer. In his youth, Dyer was an exciting player and lived up to that potential whilst at Newcastle as he was part of an excellent midfield amongst the likes of Nobby Solano, Laurent Robert and Gary Speed to name a few.
Rob Lee: Club legend Rob Lee persevered through a very difficult stage of his career under Ruud Gullit. Lee was quite a leader in the squad and now entering the late stages of his senior career but was ignored by Gullit for unknown reasons and was not allocated a squad number (Kieron Dyer was given Lee's usual no.7 shirt). Lee, who had been at the club since 1992, was brought back into the fold by Robson and was given the no.37 in which he titled his autobiography as such, "Come in No.37".
Gary Speed: Speed is another key player for the club from the Bobby Robson era. Similarly to Lee, Speed added experience to the midfield and, quite importantly, act as a role model for the wave of young players coming through like Kieron Dyer and James Coppinger. Speed, along with a player like Ryan Giggs, is recognised as one of the greatest Premier League players and the Welshman continued to play at the top of his game as he went into the veteran years of a player's career.
Alan Shearer: Record goalscorer, Shearer came up with the goods to give Newcastle the all important helping hand in helping the team to victory against a Man City side who suffered relegation at the end of the season to immediately return to the second tier. On this occasion, Nobby Solano came off the bench and provided the assist for Shearer with a pinpoint cross to him at the far post to score the only goal of the game. This win away from home took Newcastle up to third in the table after eight games. The third place was retained after the following match with a win at Middlesbrough but then injuries to players like Shearer meant that we could not finish the season in the way we started it so we tailed off to mid-table and stayed there until the end of the season with wins coming on an occasional basis.