Takeover talk, team news and insight into the ‘new norm’ - Newcastle United v Sheffield United Q&A with Liam Kennedy and James Shield

Newcastle United return to Premier League action on Sunday afternoon when Sheffield United head to St James’s Park.

Here, Liam Kennedy of the Shields Gazette and James Shield of The Star in Sheffield preview the 2pm fixture in a video Q&A, discuss the challenges faced during the coronavirus shutdown of football, playing behind-closed-doors, and the respect between managers Steve Bruce and Chris Wilder.

Plus we have team news from both clubs. Here’s a snippet of the discussion below and you can watch the full Q&A in the video.

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How has the build-up been for Newcastle United and how much of a distraction has takeover talk been?

Newcastle United boss Steve Bruce.

Liam Kennedy: “Steve Bruce has been positive regarding the build-up so far but there has been a constant throughout, which has been the takeover talk off the field.

“That has diverted the attention away from the football that is about to restart.

“It is a difficult thing to put to one side, it is distracting, for the fans, for people behind the scenes and those who think it doesn’t affect things on the field are kidding themselves too.

“The players will be talking about it.

“We are only now talking about certain players extending their deals, it has been challenging for everyone, for the players and the fans. Everyone thought this would be done in four weeks.

“Even those players with contracts beyond this season will be thinking their long-term futures will be uncertain too.”

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Liam, is relegation still a concern for Newcastle United?

Liam Kennedy: “Newcastle don’t start seasons well, that is how I am looking at it, it is starting a season again so it is a concern.

“It has proven in Germany that playing at home behind-closed-doors doesn’t give home sides much advantage.

“It wouldn’t surprise me to see some shock results in the Premier League. Sheffield United have had a fantastic first season.

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“Newcastle are still looking over their shoulders, there is a little barrier but I know how Newcastle can play and when they get in a rut they do struggle.

“It wouldn’t shock me if they left it to the last minute.”

James, how much of an advantage is playing at home now games are behind-closed-doors and do the Blades have an advantage having already played one game?

James Shield said: “We discussed that with Chris Wilder at the pre-match press conference and he downplayed that but from a personal perspective I suspect it will be an advantage.

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“Going through that experience will help.

“It is a bizarre experience, especially when clubs are going through all the usual pre-match build up too and there are no fans.

“Nothing can prepare you for it. It is a strange atmosphere inside the ground, speaking to the players too after the game, they found it quite weird too and disorientating at times.

“Going through that experience already could be an advantage.”

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What’s the relationship like between the two managers, Bruce and Wilder?

James Shield said: “They are quite close, not the best of friends or anything like that, but there is a huge professional respect between the two of them.

“When Sheff Utd were promoted, Steve Bruce was one of the managers Chris Wilder spoke to about some of the challenges a newly promoted club would face.

“This one will be a really interesting game because you have two managers from opposite ends of the spectrum, Newcastle had become a little bit more expansive before competition suspension but Steve Bruce is quite a conservative manager, whereas Wilder tries to grab the game by the scruff of the neck.”

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