Everyone is looking and hoping for us to bounce back because of our under-achievement and what the club represents. I occasionally find time to scan the papers and realise that certain pundits like Jimmy Greaves, Gary Lineker and Alan Mullery may criticise but all have had a past love affair with this club and would be delighted if we could re-establish ourselves to that coveted position as the major club in London. We need some swagger and style.
To do this the quality of play must be second to none. It is not an overnight job but an accumulation of clever buying and 'fast-tracking' some of the younger players up through the ranks.
This opportunity can now be grasped by the new owners of our club. They will be well advised; we must have a proper structure, financial backing and a self belief.
Everyone will be on board, football is a tough arena and, unlike any business, the parameters move daily. We must be better at 'staying one step ahead of the game.'
All the football staff here know that they must use the change as an extra motivating factor and, if they do not perform, there are many examples as to how tough football can be.
Welcome to our visitors, particularly manager Bobby Robson and, among many other friends at St. James' Park, Charlie Woods who worked with us here.
In the last couple of seasons, Newcastle have outgunned us, knocking us out of the FA Cup in the semi-final at Old Trafford and hammering us by a 6-1 scoreline last season in the same competition.
Bobby Robson has steadied the ship although hampered by having taking over a club that has made massive spending over the last five years on many players from abroad who have faded to obscurity. I am sure that Bobby, being a Geordie from Langley Park, will now put equal emphasis on youth.
Middlesbrough bored us in our last match here when Terry Venables decided that 'needs must' and played a tight defensive game and we failed to show enough guile to break down their predetermined tactics, which they repeated last Tuesday. Those points have made the relegation issue more open and now only Bradford City look like they will get cast adrift.
The players have made their usual round of hospital visits over Christmas together with a lot of good work in 2000 for charitable causes. They receive very little credit for the time and energy that they devote to making personal appearances, visiting clubs, coaching and fund raising.
Recently there has been another disappointing medical diagnosis for Steffen Iversen who now needs surgery to have a cyst removed from behind his knee.
Sergei Rebrov now comes into the second half of a difficult season for him, with the different culture and training attitudes and ideas. It has taken his big friend Oleg Luzhny two years to settle at Arsenal but we hope Sergei gets back scoring in the New Year.
Before Christmas, we moved quickly to sign young striker Steven Ferguson from East Fife. He is only 18 but our chief scout was impressed enough to quickly bring him down and I made an immediate decision to sign him on a professional contract. This was only his first season in Scottish football but he was already scoring regularly. We wish him well for the future.
Two of our young players, Neale Fenn and Mark Gower, who have both had some senior experience, have contracts that expire at the end of the season, and it is possible that neither will be offered new terms. I hope that they find clubs that can better fulfil their careers. Both have got good footballing skills.
One other youngster from that same group - Stephen Clemence - has done well as an emergency left wing-back. He has grown in confidence and shown great determination and enthusiasm.
Our FA Youth Cup game with Stockport County on January 24 is an important target and, despite losing two midfield players recently, we will travel to Edgeley Park looking for a good performance.
I wish all our supporters a wonderful 2001. The best possible present would be for us to move up to challenge the present stranglehold, as predicted, of Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Leeds.
Enjoy this evening's game.
It is incredible the amount of publicity that this club generates. The attention is disproportionate to any success we have had over the years. It only proves that our club, more than any other London outfit, has the greatest opportunity and is being willed to regain past glories.