Former Spurs and Newcastle star gives his verdict on tomorrow’s opener on Tyneside
EXCLUSIVE: Former Spurs and Newcastle star Chris Waddle believes the Magpies will struggle to emulate last season’s fifth-placed finish, but is backing the home side to hold Tottenham to a draw tomorrow.
Alan Pardew’s Newcastle were the surprise package in the Premier League last season, only missing out on Champions League qualification on the final day of the season.
Waddle feels that the Magpies’ rivals will be more alive to their threat in the forthcoming campaign – but he says Pardew’s boys are fully capable of taking points off the Lilywhites this weekend.
“I think it will be very tight,” said Waddle. “Newcastle have come on leaps and bounds. I think the manager needs two or three to stop the complacency creeping in amongst the ones who are already playing, and they’ve obviously got a lot of options up front.
“With that home crowd, it’s a hard place to go to. They had a lot of confidence last year and they surprised everybody – even Newcastle fans were surprised how well they did.
“I think for them to follow that up is going to be difficult. Teams obviously know a lot more about them now, and what to expect from them.
“Tottenham are very dangerous with their pace and Newcastle will show them a lot of respect so it will be a very close game.
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“I’ll probably sit on the fence and say it’s going to be a draw up there – but with the way Tottenham play and with the players they’ve got it wouldn’t be a shock if either team won it on the day, because they are probably two quite open teams.”
Newcastle will be particularly wary of Gareth Bale’s pace, and Waddle believes the Welshman should play to his strengths and stay wide on the flanks, shunning the temptation to drift into central areas.
However, the ESPN analyst feels that Bale is correct to switch wings and try his luck on the right-hand side if he is struggling to influence the game.
“If you’re doing well in a certain position then, for me, you stay in that position,” said Waddle. “I think what happened last season is they were blocking his service off and doubling up on him.
“You rely on service all the time and if you’re not getting it then as a manager you think ‘I need this guy on the ball because he can make things happen – he can cross, he can shoot and he can score’.
“But I definitely think he’s a wide player, whether it’s at full-back, left wing or on the right wing – if he’s not getting any joy on the left then I think he should go on the right.
“I don’t think he should play down the middle. I know people are talking about him having a bit more license to go and do a bit more and go where he wants, but sometimes that disrupts the structure of the team.
“I definitely think he’s a left midfielder, and if he’s not getting any joy why not say ‘look, go over to the right and come inside on that left foot’? His right foot’s not bad.
“He can go inside, he’s got such pace and really Gareth should be working really hard on his right foot, and then he can play on either wing.”
ESPN will broadcast live coverage of Spurs’ Premier League opener at Newcastle tomorrow.
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs