DANNY Guthrie is adamant Newcastle United’s makeshift midfield can drive the Premier League high-fliers to a noteworthy White Hart Lane scalp this weekend.
United’s engine room has been weakened by the loss of Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tioté for the last two weeks, but the response of previously fringe men like Guthrie and James Perch has been immaculate as Alan Pardew’s men returned to winning ways.
With respect to Blackburn and out-of-sorts Aston Villa, the trip to third-placed Tottenham on Saturday evening will be a much sterner examination of the credentials of the team’s new-look midfield. Perch looks certain to continue alongside in-form Guthrie, while Gabriel Obertan is in line to replace Ryan Taylor, who is unlikely to recover from heavy ankle bruising in time for the North London contest.
They will battle with PFA player of the year Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and potential England captain Scott Parker for midfield supremacy in the Premier League’s game of the day – but Guthrie is certain his colleagues will rise to the challenge in the same way they did on Sunday.
“The midfield is a bit unfamiliar at the moment but I think on Sunday it was so much better in the second half,” he said. “We had Perchy sitting in there and I think it allowed me a little bit more freedom to go ahead and try to create for the team.
“The Tottenham game is a great game for us regardless of who is out, who isn’t available or whatever.
“It’s a tough game because we know how good they are at home, but we’ve set it up nicely with two really important wins.
“We have got a lot of grit and resolve about us.
“We aren’t going to Tottenham scared or worried about them. We’re a much more solid unit than we have been before and we’ve got a manager who isn’t afraid to change things at half-time if its not going quite right.
“He did that on Sunday and I think it had a big effect – it is little things, positional advice or just changing the shape of the team slightly.”
It helps that Pardew has always backed Guthrie, who has made the most of the absence of United’s two blue chip midfielders to press his own claims to a starting role.
Now the senior man in an unfamiliar line-up, Newcastle are looking to him to set the tone. “I don’t mind having a bit of extra responsibility,” he said. “I worked hard to get fit and got thrown straight back in. I feel in great shape. My mentality hasn’t changed. I know I’m in possession of the shirt now but I’ve always taken the same view of things.
“I was out of the team, got back in and got injured, but now I’m back in the team and I think things are going all right. Obviously Cheick is away, but Yohan is suspended too so I have to take on the mantle.”
Victory on Saturday would add weight to talk that United can make the Champions League but, like his colleagues, Guthrie is staying coy on that subject.
“Confidence-wise, we couldn’t be any higher at the moment,” he said. “The Fulham defeat was a big disappointment, as was (the FA Cup elimination) at Brighton. We took a bit of stick but we’ve now got back-to-back wins.
“We feel like we’re on the verge of something special, like the manager said. (But) I think we feel we don’t like to talk about it too much.
“We don’t want to curse it or jinx it by mentioning it all the time. We just want to get to those last five games and see where we are.”