IF they need it, Danny Simpson will be hoping to do his Manchester United mates a favour at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, and Newcastle United’s last trip there has given him the belief it can happen.
While most pundits were rushing to crown the Red Devils as Premier League champions last week, it is in the next few days it is likely to become official.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men travel to another of Simpson’s former clubs, Blackburn Rovers, on Saturday morning, knowing that a point will seal the deal.
Lose, and Newcastle can clinch it for them by denying Chelsea a home victory a little over 24 hours later.
Although Mancunian Simpson is not wishing an Ewood Park defeat on his boyhood team, he would relish the chance to do them a favour in west London.
“I want Manchester United to win the league,” said the right-back, whose successful loan move from Old Trafford to Tyneside was made permanent in January 2009.
“I want to beat Chelsea and everybody at the club wants to beat Chelsea, but on Sunday it will mean a little bit more (if United lose at Blackburn) because of the lads I know at Manchester United if we can get something there.
“We know it could be a massive game and, if it is, I’ll probably get a phone call from Sir Alex. One or two players might give us a text as well.”
Newcastle have enjoyed their matches with Chelsea this season. In November Andy Carroll terrorised them in a 1-1 draw which flattered the Blues.
But an early-season win at Stamford Bridge had an even more significant effect on Magpie morale, which Simpson says endures today. The Magpies recorded their first win at the ground for 24 years in the September clash, triumphing 4-3.
Carlo Ancelotti fielded a number of fringe players, but then so did Chris Hughton, who made nine changes from the team which had won at Everton days earlier.
“Some of the lads that have not been regular players played against Chelsea in the Carling Cup this season,” Simpson said.
“It was good for them that lads like Fergie (Shane Ferguson), Sol (Campbell) and Nile (Ranger, who scored) came into the side and were able to beat Chelsea. I could tell from them that they got a lot of confidence from that game and they kicked on from there.
“Any team that goes to Chelsea and beats them 4-3, you’re going to be absolutely buzzing and that helped us for the home game. It probably made the first-team players think there’s some good young players coming through.
“We knew we’d got some good young players if we needed them and it probably does give you that little boost, even for the players playing week in, week out, because you know if something does go wrong, you’ve got lads on the bench who can come in – they did it at Chelsea.”
Alan Pardew is likely to rest Cheik Tioté (pictured right), who will collect a three-match suspension if he is booked against either Chelsea or West Bromwich Albion, the final visitors to St James’ Park this season.
Given that the combative Ivory Coast midfielder has been cautioned in his last five matches, stretching back to early March, trusting him to rein himself in for 180 minutes would seem a tall order. A suspension would not be wiped clean at the end of the campaign.
Tioté has already been banned three times this season – for reaching five and ten yellow cards, and for his sending-off at Stevenage in the FA Cup.
Meanwhile, as the planning for next season continues, Pardew has been linked with a move for Gateshead-born former Middlesbrough striker Danny Graham, scorer of 24 goals for Watford this term.