On Saturday afternoon, Newcastle United will return to league action when they travel to the iPro stadium to face Derby County, with the in-form Magpies searching for their second successive away league victory.
Ahead of the tie, I caught up with lifelong Derby fan and season ticket holder Jordan to get the inside track on this weekend’s opponents.
Hi Jordan, thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. Who do you believe to be Derby County’s best players at the moment?
Well, I’m a major fan of Will Hughes, on his day he will dictate the game. He can pick a pass like none other, and he’s not afraid to go back and help defend. He’s far better up the pitch in a playmaking role, but he can play deep if necessary.
He really is our best midfielder, and with Jeff Hendrick moving to Burnley, it really makes me wonder how much Hughes is worth.
Scott Carson has been a revelation since joining us last season. He joined from Wigan and didn’t really seem like a major signing, but he’s proved us wrong. He’s become possibly the most reliable player in our team. He makes lots of match saving saves too.
Tom Ince, if he can stay motivated for 90 mins, is a match winner. He’s our “star player” if you will, a little lazy ,but he’s technically sound and a decent finisher. He’s a player that can really excite fans with his dribbling and has a great first touch.
I should mention Jason Shackell here, as we’ve seemed to tighten up defensively under Nigel Pearson this season. Though unfortunately, it’s been at the expense of the attack. He reads the game well, is willing to put his body on the line, and rarely puts a foot wrong. He works very well with Keogh and acts like a grounded centre half, who’s experienced enough to always know what to do.
Will your lack of goals affect how you will approach the game and are you confident you can score against Newcastle after we kept back-to-back clean sheets against Bristol City & Brighton?
We’ve opted for a few different systems so far this season. 4-4-2, 4-4-1-1 and 4-1-2-2-1 have all been applied so far, but none has helped us score much. But the idiom used by many Derby fans so far is “square pegs in round holes”.
Up until this season our squad has been relatively unchanged from the 2013/14 season. Under both Steve McClaren and Paul Clement we operated predominantly with the 4-1-2-2-1. Nigel Pearson however, is known to the favour the 4-4-2, but we don’t really have players who are familiar with it. However, with the signings of James Wilson, Matej Vydra
dra and Ikechi Anya, we’ve added three players who know the formation. With their arrival, we’ve have started to shift to a more direct 4-4-2.
And am I confident we can score? Not really, but that may be due to me being a pretty pessimistic Derby fan in the first place. I hope Pearson can rile up the players, so they can give the fans their first goal to celebrate at the iPro this season!
Are you happy to have Nigel Pearson on board?
I wasn’t at first. I’m a big fan of possession football and the attacking intent that Derby had adopted the three previous seasons. Nigel came in with the reputation of being someone who is defensively minded and prefers to counter-attack. But, over time, I realised that he’s a proven winner. It may have taken him some time during his spells with Leicester, but eventually he built a squad that was hard working and ultimately successful.
From a footballing philosophy point of view, I’m not easy to please. But as someone who obviously wants my team to do well, I’m happy with the appointment. Though only as long as owner, Mel Morris, gives Pearson the time to change our style of football. But I have faith that Morris will stand with Pearson through thick and thin. Mel stated last season promotion was not the primary target, when Clement was dismissed. And as such I assume, and hope, he has the same view this season, so that Pearson can firstly get his brand of football sorted, and then push for promotion.
Derby have been in and around the promotion picture for a few years now, do you think you can do it this season with Villa, Norwich and Newcastle dropping down from the Premier League?
I think we’ll be there or thereabouts. We do have an exceptionally talented squad and we’ve done some decent business in the transfer window. I think top two will be a out of reach though, the three relegated clubs have changed and readied themselves for life in the championship very well.
Newcastle have brought in what appears to be a whole new squad. Villa have thrown money around to bring in proven championship quality, with the likes of Elphick, McCormack and Adomah joining.
Norwich have done some astute business too, keeping hold of proven championship firepower in Cameron Jerome who I think will be big for them. There’ll also be the likes of Sheffield Wednesday and Brighton in and around there pushing for promotion. Top 6 for me would be a successful season, especially considering how much stronger the competition in the Championship is this year.
How do you think Newcastle United will fare this season?
I suspect you’ll do very well. Newcastle have made some fantastic signings for this division on paper, but there’s always the risk of a few players not gelling. Though I think Rafa Benitez is too good a manager to let that happen. Keeping Benitez was a massive coup, he’s helped build from a bit of a feel good factor at the club, and I think that’ll be maintained for most of the season. I reckon you’ll be able to mount a title challenge and a return to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
Who do you think you (Derby) should be looking out for in our team?
Matt Ritchie is a player of tremendous class, he has experience of winning the Championship with Bournemouth, and to see him leave the Cherries was a bit of a surprise. He’s a very tricky player and can deliver some pinpoint crosses. Plus, he has a fair amount of pace with him too. He’ll cause Cyrus Christie some problems, if he’s utilized at LW.
Jonjo Shelvey looked very good against Brighton and if he’s motivated, he could dominate the midfield and dictate the play. I doubt I’ll need to mention his set piece ability after his goal against Brighton, which I’m sure is still fresh in your minds.
The real danger man will of course be Dwight Gayle, he’s fast and could really cause someone like Jason Shackell problems with his pace and directness. He’s got a good eye for goal and seems to have hit the ground running, with four goals in four games.
A quick mention as well to new boy Daryl Murphy, who is someone well accustomed to the division and he’s proven to be a real danger with his aerial ability. If he plays, perhaps alongside Gayle, in a target man/poacher type combo, I’ll be terrified come 5:30pm on Saturday.
Can you explain to me how your team plays, i.e their playing style?
So far this season it’s been a real mixed bag. We’ve tried different systems with different players, so Nigel Pearson is still trying to find his best squad. But with Vydra and Anya’s arrivals towards the end of the window, I think Pearson will stick to 4-4-2.
We’ll be rigid at the back and tough to break down, so long as our fullbacks don’t get lost too far up the pitch. We’ve done well defensively this season, with three clean sheets in five Championship games. Meaning we’ve shown that we can dig in defensively when necessary.
We’ll play fairly direct in an attacking sense, trying to get in behind the CB’s with pace and power. I can see us being happy to surrender possession to favour a more counter-attacking style.
One of the things Nigel Pearson has repeated during his first few months, is that he wants us to be able to win in different ways. I expect us to show many different qualities over the course of the season. But to summarise, it’ll be a hard working, fast and direct style of play.
What’s Derby’s expected lineup and formation?
The formation will be a 4-4-2. Scott Carson, Cyrus Christie, Richard Keogh, Jason Shackell, Marcus Olsson, Tom Ince, Craig Bryson, Will Hughes, Johnny Russell, Matej Vydra and James Wilson are the ones who’ll start.
And finally, can you give us your score prediction with scorer’s as well.
I think the international break came at a good time for us, and we’ll have used the break effectively. With that in mind, I’m going for a 1-1 draw. Vydra for on the score sheet for us, Perez for Newcastle.
Once again, we’d like to say a big thank you to Jordan for allowing us to conduct this interview.
Do you think Newcastle can continue their four match winning streak at Derby this weekend? Get in touch with us via our Twitter account @NUFC360 and let us know!