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Five points on Newcastle - with Les Ferdinand

Posted on 11 August 2017  - 11:00

Les Ferdinand scored 50 goals in 84 games in two memorable seasons at Newcastle - helping fire them to second place in the Premier League in 1995-96 and 1996-97 - before spending five years at Spurs. Now Director of Football at QPR, where he watched at close quarters as Newcastle claimed the Championship title last term, 'Sir Les' took time out for our 'Five Points' feature as we prepare to open the Premier League campaign at St James' Park on Sunday.

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les_250x300Les Ferdinand

- 39 goals in 149 appearances for Spurs - 1997-2002
- 80 goals in 160 games for QPR - 1987-1995
- 50 goals in 84 games for Newcastle, 1995-1997
- 17 England caps, 1993-98
- Eighth in all-time Premier League goalscorers - 149
- Coach at Spurs - 2008-2014
- Now Director of Football at QPR

WHAT DID YOU MAKE OF NEWCASTLE’S TITLE-WINNING CAMPAIGN IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP LAST SEASON?
Les: "They were everyone’s favourites to go straight back up after relegation, made good signings – what I would call Premier League signings in the Championship, they were able to attract the right personel – and they were a well-organised, well-drilled side under Rafa Benitez."

Below: Rafa Benitez with the Championship trophy

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HOW KEY IS RAFA BENITEZ TO NEWCASTLE AND WHAT STYLE CAN WE EXPECT FROM HIS TEAM?
Les: "Rafa is the key. He wants to play on the front foot and always fields an attacking team. He wants to go forward. As I said, they are well-drilled, well-organised and they all know their roles in the team. There isn’t a single player in that 11 or 18 who will go out there no knowing what Rafa exactly requires from him."

WHAT ARE THE EXPECTATIONS FOR NEWCASTLE GOING BACK INTO THE PREMIER LEAGUE?
Les: "In today’s football, for any club promoted from the Championship into the Premier League, I think it has to be survival. That will be the be all and end all for all three promoted clubs, survival and then build from there. I don’t think they will think ‘let’s finish in the top 10’, they will be thinking survival."

Below: Les and Alan Shearer made a deadly partnership at Newcastle

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WHAT IS IT LIKE PLAYING FOR NEWCASTLE - A CITY WHERE THE FOOTBALL CLUB MEANS SO MUCH TO EVERYONE?
Les: "I was fortunate, I had two seasons at St James Park and in those two seasons, we finished second twice in the Premier League. So in my time, I only really knew good times up there. When I was there, it was a 36,000 capacity stadium, always sold out, every game. I would meet fans after games and say ‘did you enjoy that?’and they would say ‘yes, we loved it, but we weren’t inside the stadium, we were out here listening to the noise’. They couldn’t get in! Football is everything in Newcastle, the fans are so passionate. St James' Park is like a cathedral that everyone flocks to on a Saturday."

Below: Matt Ritchie

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LOOKING AT THE CURRENT SQUAD - AND PARTICULARLY THE PLAYERS YOU WOULD HAVE SEEN AT CLOSE QUARTERS LAST SEASON - WHO WOULD YOU PICK OUT?
Les: "I’d start at Matt Ritchie, plenty of quality, a player with Premier League experience at Bournemouth and now a Scotland international. It’s a massive season for striker Dwight Gayle because we’ve seen him score goals in the Championship, but he didn’t quite get that opportunity when he was in the Premier League at Palace, although when he did play, he was a danger. He will get the opportunity now to show his true credentials in the Premier League. Jacob Murphy is a very good player they’ve signed from Norwich, he’s got a real chance. He’ll relish it at Newcastle with the reception he’ll get – he’ll understand what football means up there."