The Daydream Believer brings his 6th team as manager for his 11th fixture at St James’ Park. His record so far includes 3 wins, one each in the league and cup with Birmingham, the other in a tactical masterpiece that saw him negate Ben Arfa.

Perhaps the most fun for Newcastle supporters was to serenade Hughton’s side to a 5-1 victory when Bruce was with the Mackems. 

Joining the new Villa manager is the new Villa pantomime villain, Henri Lansbury. His only previous senior visit to St James was on loan from Arsenal with Watford in 2010. Few will forget that on that occasion, Lansbury outperformed Tom Daly, even our greatest Olympic diver, Jack Laugher in inducing a red card from the referee on the day.

A more recent memory of Lansbury was this season, away at Forest. The skills are more honed, the effect more dramatic. This time, it was not just one but two Newcastle players that Lansbury conned the referee into awarding. He will be looking back at Monday’s referee for more of the same. 

Bring on Merseyside’s Peter Bankes, now in his 5th season as a Football League referee. 

Lansbury would be impressed at Bankes’ record this season, from some perspectives at least. With 10 reds in 27 games to go with 101 yellows, Bankes would seem to be the sort of referee that Lansbury will love to con. 

Some other stats will resonate. Bankes gave 4 reds in his first 56 Championship games this season, one of them witnessed first hand in Forest’s 2-2 draw at Rotherham. Lansbury even picked up a card himself under Bankes at Ipswich

In a 3 match run, Norwich at St James’, Villa at Preston and then Rochdale v Bury, Bankes recorded no fewer than 28 cards. Following that run, however, it seems that the assessors may have had a word in his ear. 

After 7 reds in 9 games, the rate has dropped to 3 in the last 15. Coincidentally, Bankes has been rewarded with exclusively Championship and FA Cup games since the turn of the year. Does that mean we can expect more free flowing football? 

The biggest league score was his 10 yellow game, at St James’ against Norwich at 4-3. The only bigger score was in the Football League trophy when Bankes sent off Newcastle’s loanee at Carlisle, Gillesphey when they beat Oldham away 5-4. 

As for results, in the Championship, Bankes’ 18 games have yielded 3 away wins, 7 draws and 8 home wins. Only one of those was by a margin of more than 2 goals, way back in September. His other lower league and cup games produce more balance with 3 home wins, 4 away wins and 3 draws. 

If the Ref Watch is anything to go by, we can expect a stuttering game with the trend being towards a low card count of 3-4 unless either side manage to unsettle him. Combined with recent results, smart money is likely to shift to a 2-0 or 3-0 home win, Villa having only scored once in 4 away games this year and with 1 point out of 21. However, with the return of Gayle, it might be time to cut loose and a Steve Bruce side has only failed to score in 3 out of 10 at St James’ Park.

Stats this season

Games refereed (Championship) 27 (18)

Home wins 11 (8)

Draws 9 (7)

Away wins 7 (3)

Yellows 101 (75)

Reds 10 (6)

Home goals 41 (24)

Away goals 35 (21)