Martin Jol admits the footballing landscape has changed greatly since our victory over Newcastle United in the second game of the campaign.
We, of course, had Jacques Santini in charge with Martin as his assistant, while Sir Bobby Robson was still at the St James Park helm. The fortunes of both sides have fluctuated throughout the season, we enjoyed a strong start before entering a less profitable points return over a six game Premiership period. Since that time, Martin has instilled a confidence in the team that has bought a consistency in performances that sees us well placed to challenge for a higher finish in the table and, we hope, continued progress in the FA Cup at the expense of Newcastle.
Newcastle endured a stuttering beginning to their season, recording one win in the first five games resulting in Graeme Souness taking over from Robson. Form immediately improved and - despite a sticky patch in December - Newcastle are climbing the Premiership ladder and are still competing in the FA and UEFA Cups.
"It is all about spells, it was a long time ago and they don't have the same team they have now," reasoned Martin on our August win in the North East. "Newcastle have a strong, physical side with new players bought in during the transfer window.
"They had a good result the other day against Liverpool and I think they are a better team now than in August. It was still a good win for us though, they should have been ahead at half-time, but after that we were pretty confident. Thimothee Atouba scored his first goal and hopefully we can do it again."
Martin remembers well the quality of Souness in his playing days and, now he is putting his stamp on things, suspects Newcastle will reap the benefit of his management.
"He certainly was a good passer of the ball, he was agressive and a really complete midfield player. He was one who suited Liverpool with his passing game but it doesn't mean anything now because he and I are on the bench and the players are in charge.
"It wasn't his team when he took over, he invested in the transfer window and they are now coming on with better results. We have quality too and are better placed in the league, but it is an away game and I am looking forward to our big travelling support helping us along."