Long gone are the days when United and Newcastle were rivals, with Alan Shearer snubbing us with hopes of titles in the North-East, Kevin Keegan’s very public break down on Sky Sports and nabbing Andy Cole from under their noses. Ah yes, those were the days.

Much to everyone’s surprise, Newcastle weren’t ‘too big to go down’ the season before last, and were relegated on the final day of the 08/09 season. We even did our bit to help, with our Reserves beating Hull away, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Still, they came straight back up, finishing as champions of the Championship on 102 points. Lee Smith-Bryan from Newcastle blog Howay The Toon has taken the time to talk to me about their hopes for next season.

Scott the Red: Were you happy with your team’s performance last season?

Lee Smith-Bryan: Absolutely. The squad pulled together as one and achieved the main aim – promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of calling.

STR: And what are your aspirations for this season now you’re back in the Premiership?

L S-B: Premier League survival should be our only aspiration. The majority of the Newcastle United fans are realistic and understand it’s going to be a long hard slog, but there are lots of winnable games this season so we should be okay.

STR: Which player do you expect to have the biggest say in you staying up?

L S-B: Andy Carroll. Although, Jonas and Routledge come pretty close. Hopefully Carroll can make the step up in class and get some vital goals for us.

STR: Obviously there’s a difference between being successful in the Championship and doing the business in the top flight. How do you rate Chris Hughton’s ability to take your club forward?

L S-B: Hughton’s done a sterling job in the face of adversity. He’s got the players motivated, and pulling in the same direction – something which hasn’t been done at this club in a long time. How long Chris Hughton will be given though is another question.

STR: What’s your favourite chant you’ve heard sung at your ground?

“We don’t care about Ashley,
He don’t care about me,
All we care about, is NUFC”

STR: FC fans have been singing that one about Rio for years! Where do you think United will finish this season?

L S-B: The strength in depth of Man United’s squad is unparalleled and I think Ferguson will have your players fired up after missing out on the title last season. I’d say first or second.

STR: If you could have any two players from United’s current squad playing for you, who would they be?

L S-B: Rooney and Evra. Despite Rooney’s World Cup shocker, he’s still a world class striker who would get in anyone’s team. Evra is a solid defender and great going forward. To say we could do with both players is an understatement.

STR: I don’t think Rooney’s reputation has been tarnished too much given that pretty much all the big players underperfomed in the summer. Anyway, what are your thoughts on United’s debt?

L S-B: It’s a disgrace. In any other industry it simply wouldn’t happen. I think the Man United fans have the backing of the rest of the Premier League in wanting Glazer out.

STR: What is your favourite game your club have played against United?

L S-B: Mine has to be the 5-0 drubbing we gave your lot at St. James’s Park. Everything went right on that day. However, the 3-0 victory at St. James’s in 2000 comes close – Silvestre and Stam never got close to Shearer and Ferguson that day.

STR: That 5-0 was a bad day. We lost the battle, but we won the war! How about your worst game against us?

L S-B: The defeat when challenging for the title really hurt us. I don’t think we ever really recovered from that.

STR: Eric dragged us through the second half of that season and that goal is surely one of the most important he’s scored for us. Although I’m surprised you didn’t mention either of your results against us in 2008, the 5-1 and 6-0. Anyway, you’re back in the Premiership now and Alan Shearer was the boss when you went down. How do you rate his time in charge of the club?

L S-B: Shearer was on to a losing battle, there wasn’t much he could do with the players he had. The appointment galvanised the fans, but didn’t really have much of an impact elsewhere. I think he’s going to make a decent manager given half the chance, but where he’s going to get his start is anyone’s guess.

STR: And your opinions on Mike Ashley?

L S-B: Mike has to put his money where his mouth is. The club is in a decent position, now he needs to spend.

STR: Nicky Butt has had a mixed time since leaving United for Newcastle in 2004. He was desperately unpopular to begin with and then became your captain. He’s finally hanging up his boots aged 35. Are you sad to see him go?

L S-B: Not at all. Nicky’s best years were behind him. His passing was woeful at times, even in the Championship. I think most Newcastle fans were happy when Butt was let go. An exemplary professional, but a footballer on the decline.

STR: Finally, I saw that Andy Carroll and Steven Taylor had a punch up over a woman last year. How is that going to work this season?

L S-B: It’s a non-issue. Both players seem to have put the incident behind them and want to do well for the club.

STR: So we shouldn’t expect Geordies to show up wearing t-shirts with ‘Team Carroll’ then? Cheers and best of luck for the season.