Mathie has split loyalties

ALEX Mathie will have split loyalties this weekend, when two of his former clubs Ipswich Town and Newcastle United go head-to-head in a mouth-watering Championship clash at Portman Road.

Carl Marston

ALEX Mathie will have split loyalties this weekend, when two of his former clubs Ipswich Town and Newcastle United go head-to-head in a mouth-watering Championship clash at Portman Road.

The former marksman, who booked his place in Town folklore with his hat-trick against Norwich in a 5-0 drubbing in 1998, is hoping that Roy Keane's men can turn the corner and record their first win of the season.

But his head says that Newcastle will prove too strong on the day, in a game that is set to attract a crowd approaching 27,000 as both clubs continue to pay tribute to their former manager, Sir Bobby Robson.


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And Mathie's split loyalties don't end there, because his eldest son, Craig (15), is a big Newcastle fan, while his younger son Connor (13) is an ardent Town supporter! His one-year-old daughter, Isla, is as yet undecided!

“It's going to be a terrific atmosphere, and a great day. There will be so many ex-players at the game,” enthused Mathie.

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“Having played for both clubs, I know how terrific both sets of fans are. Newcastle fans are so passionate, but then so are Town fans.

“Sir Bobby Robson's family will be there, and I'm looking forward to a great spectacle.

“At this moment in time, though, I think that Newcastle are a little bit stronger than Ipswich will be. I think that Ipswich are still finding their feet, and Roy Keane will be the first to admit that.

“This game might come a bit too quick for Ipswich, because having seen them play, Newcastle have a lot of quality in their side. They might have too much for Ipswich.

“But I hope that I'm proved wrong,” added Mathie.

Town are still searching for their elusive first league win of the season, after four draws and four defeats in eight games, while the Magpies have already accumulated 19 points in second spot.

Goal-poacher Mathie, who began his professional career at Celtic, played 25 games for Newcastle between 1993 and '95, before his �285,000 switch to Ipswich.

The Scotsman chalked up more than 100 league games for Town, and scored an impressive 38 league goals, until returning north of the border to Dundee United (�700,000 in October, 1998).

Kevin Keegan's Newcastle were flying high in the top flight during his time with the Magpies - they finished third behind Blackburn and Manchester United in 1993-94 - and he expects them to return to the top flight at the end of this season.

“There's been a lot of turmoil off the pitch at Newcastle, but having got relegated might prove to be a blessing for them,” explained Mathie.

“They have had so many managers since Sir Bobby left (in 2004), and there's still no settled management yet. We'll have to wait and see what happens off the pitch as well, with regards a takeover, but this could be a good time for Newcastle.

“I certainly don't think they'll do what Leeds did, and drop down two divisions. I expect them to win automatic promotion, and in fact I don't see that much change at the top. All the teams that are up there will probably stay there.

“Some of Newcastle's younger boys, who didn't have a chance to play in the Premier League, because of all the other quality players, are now being given the chance.

“And I reckon that the gulf between the Premier League and the Championship is so vast that they can afford to play these younger lads,” added Mathie.

The 40-year-old will bring his family down for the game, and he will also be part of BBC Radio Suffolk's commentary team.

The game is also being screened live on Sky TV, and before kick-off (5.30pm) there will be a ceremony to mark the renaming of the North Stand in Sir Bobby's honour.

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