Date: 15th March 2017 at 3:56pm
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Ahead of Blues’ clash with Newcastle United at St. Andrews on Saturday, our co-editor Rob Wildey caught up with Mark Robson of Vital Newcastle.

Does Rafa Benitez still have the full backing of the Toon Army?

This question could really be answered with a one word answer of yes and it should be but that would take the emphasis away from some failings of football in the 21st century. The platform that social media has in the world now and it’s ability to sway the thoughts of many with the media no help either with their stories of expectations up here.

Rafa is a man that grabbed us by the scruff of our neck after the club had been allowed to be pillaged by Mike Ashley. Ashley had used and abused us in order to benefit him and his tat empire (Sports Direct), with it he created a club that had an ingrained losing mentality from top to bottom and was a club that was always going to end up in free fall. We were rotten to the core with many fans walking away after decades of loyalty with others just going to the cathedral on the hill (St James’ Park) to reminisce of the days where we dared to dream to be the best we could be to our ability.

A time that created the phrase that we dont demand a team that wins but one that tries due to the club admitting that we weren’t interested in the cups in case it affected our premier league status.

Rafa has the full backing of every true fan up here that knows the value of football and recognises the amount of work he has done in such a short period of time to turn many aspects of the club around. A job that we know there was no quick fix for and one where we know is still in it’s infancy. We also recognise when he gets things wrong but that he works hard to try to make sure the same mistake isn’t made again like some of his predecessors have but some of the social media brigade have meltdowns at every draw or defeat.

Will he be given a real chance to build if Newcastle return to the Premier League?

This is a question that us fans want answered also as many of us fear that we have all been conned by Mike Ashley to get a quick promotion back to the premier league using the best route in a world class manager.

There is no excuse not to build because there is so much trust in Rafa and he has already said that he wants to build a legacy. There is also the trust with him that big spends aren’t needed and we could use the academy in years to come but privately we are expecting there to be a big fall out in the Summer regardless of which league we are in due to some issues over the January window in which Rafa thought he had money to spend and made it massively clear that we needed to strengthen but the club couldn’t or wouldn’t.

Would finishing as runners-up be classed as a failure?

I dont think you’ll find many people complaining of automatic promotion and I wont see it as a failure based on where we’ve been over these past few years but some of our ‘fans’ believed the pre-season Sky hype about us going unbeaten all season, so they’ll be all thinking of what team they can follow next.
Will Newcastle be swapping places with Sunderland?

It looks that way at the minute but with plenty of points left to play for and history to go by, you just cant predict with any certainty, where either side will be but personally im not bothered where they end up and I certainly wont get any personal warm feelings inside if we go up and they go down…. well not much anyway.

Which Newcastle player should Birmingham be wary of?

The obvious answer is to mention Jonjo Shelvey, the fact that 21 goal striker Dwight Gayle has seen his place at the top of the scoring charts scuppered due to his 6 week lay off and he’ll be chomping at the bit to add. I could also mention the likes of Matt Ritchie with his all round game or the inconsistent Christian Atsu with his trickery. Ayoze Perez, Daryl Murphy or a return of Aleksandar Mitrovic to the side but im going to single out one player this week.

Mo Diame.

He’s been a poor man’s Moussa Sissoko for us and ive been critical of him as not been worthy of the shirt but this week he quit international football to concentrate on playing for us and if it focuses him to do better then it wouldn’t be before time to live up to the tag that we thought we were getting.

If you had to sign one Birmingham player for the Newcastle squad, who would it be and why?

With the word ‘had’ in the question, that sounds like a punishment rather than a good thing but seriously, I can honestly say that it isn’t like the days of old where it was a side full of household names and I could just reel off the names. That isn’t taking anything away from the side though and Rafa will make sure that we dont take them lightly either but I reckon Craig Gardner would fit into our first team where Jack Colback plays for us.

His leadership, experience and ability to grab a goal or 2 would improve us easily. Id also have Che Adams although im not sure what he’s been like this season

What is your prediction for the game?

We’ve been brilliant away from home this season and if we play in the way we have done then I expect a win. If it gets nervy or there’s some sort of incident that weakens us then I can see the crowd get behind Birmingham and see a positive result for them, regardless of their form.

Personally I think we’ll be at it and win by 2 goals.

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