Relegations and Promotions

Saturday, May 2, 2009 7:20 | Filed in Local Interest, Newcastle United, Sport

Having been watching Newcastle for something more than 20 years now, I have seen them get relegated before, notably in the first season I actually started going to see them. It’s therefore easier for me — albeit still not exactly pleasant — to watch the club slide inexorably towards relegation than it is for those younger than me who have only seen the club in the Premier League.

Granted, Newcastle aren’t relegated yet, having won only six games of our first thirty-four, we need to win an absolute minimum of two from the last four (and it’s possible that may not be enough). This is a tricky enough task under most circumstances, but when you can’t beat your other relegation rivals at home, and you’ve got Liverpool and Aston Villa to come away, the task looks insurmountable.

So this is the point at which I think our relegation has been confirmed, even if mathematically we could still pick up another twelve points.

Where We Went Wrong

  1. Ashley and the cockney mafia — what Mike Ashley did wrong was to back Dennis Wise and his signings ahead of Kevin Keegan. Alternatively, if he didn’t trust Keegan’s judgement, then he shouldn’t have bloody appointed him in the first place.
  2. Lack of a proper manager — Joe Kinnear, for all the effort he has put in this season, is not the calibre of manager we need, although he’s still better at the role than Chris Hughton who seems like a nice bloke but out of his depth in the hot seat. Ashley made a mistake in not appointing someone else immediately Keegan left, and immediately Kinnear needed to drop out for health reasons.
  3. Lack of communication with the fans — this is not responsible for the club’s current predicament on the pitch, but certainly hasn’t helped. Derek Llambias needs to take a more vocal, active role in coming forwards to discuss things with the fans and the local press — or go.
  4. Financial Meltdown — there’s two things behind this. Firstly the policy operated under Shepherd which saw sponsorships and other incoming cash mostly paid up front, and outgoings mostly paid in instalments. This basically meant that in addition to the club’s accumulated debt, we were effectively always playing catch-up with additional debt. Ashley must also take the blame for not investing sufficiently in the club when he took over: the fact he says he wasn’t aware of the scale of debt shows him in a poor light — everyone else wanting a football club has generally wanted to look at the books.
  5. Bad Signings — money has been spent, some of it wisely, but much of it not. Michael Owen has cost Newcastle around £37 million, once you take into account salary. Would we not have been better off getting more than one player, with less of a big name? Secondly, there’s the policy of buying another club’s cast offs: in some cases this has worked (Nicky Butt, while he had a poor start, has been very solid over the last couple of years), but there’s also Geremi, Alan Smith, Damien Duff…
  6. No goalscorer and no creativity — since Shearer left, we’ve not had a target man. Well, there’s Viduka, but I’m really not counting someone who misses more games than he plays. And without a target man to fling crosses into, you need some creativity in the centre of midfield, and we’ve not had any of that since… well, the last genuinely creative player we had who wasn’t a liability in other respects was probably Peter Beardsley. And when you allow two wingers and a world-class goalkeeper to leave without replacing any of them, well…

What Next

  1. Keep Shearer — I don’t think Alan will stay unless he is given assurances that funding will be made available for him to take the club straight back up again, but I think Ashley either needs to provide those funds, or sell out, regardless of what loss he takes. Otherwise we’ll end up in administration, possibly going down further, and then Ashley will get bugger all return.
  2. Get Rid of Dead Wood — by which I mean all of those players who are on vastly inflated salaries that their ability does not deserve. Owen and Viduka will walk anyway, which will probably halve our wage bill, but we need to push out a lot of the higher earners, even if we raise little in transfer fees. I’m quite happy to hang onto a couple of them, as a bit of experience won’t come amiss, but Geremi, Smith, Viduka, Owen, Martins, Duff, Enrique, Xisco (remember him?) and Jonas all need to go. Along with Butt and Ameobi, despite them, for some obscure reason, being offered new contracts.
  3. Give youth a chance — Newcastle have got some decent youngsters, but who are lacking considerably in experience, making it difficult to throw them in at the deep end in a Premiership relegation battle. However, the likes of Tim Krul, Ben Tozer, Nile Ranger, David Edgar, Kazenga Lua Lua and Andy Carroll (who is breaking into the first team) won’t be out of place in the Championship, and a season there might well get them sufficient experience to be good enough for the Premiership if we were to go straight back up.
  4. Continue Investing in Youth — this is one of the few plus points of the Ashley regime: we’ve been willing to actually pay transfer fees for young players who show potential and some of these may be good enough to play in the Championship next year (I’m thinking Ben Tozer at left back, for example). But we need to keep signing these sorts of players because if only one in eight becomes good (e.g. Bassong), that will more than pay for the operation of this policy.

The Good News

Gateshead F.C. finished second in the Blue Square North and qualified for the play-offs. What makes this even more remarkable is that this was their first season in the Blue Square North, having beaten Buxton in last year’s Unibond Premier Play-off Final.

They even topped the table for a while, but those behind always had games in hand and it was inevitable we would lose top spot, but we did well to hang onto second place, which means that we are now playing Southport in the play-off semi finals, the first leg of which we won 1-0 at Southport on Wednesday night, and the second leg is tomorrow at Gateshead International Stadium at 5pm.

Should Gateshead progress to the play-off final, it will be held at Gateshead International Stadium on Friday 8th May (we would have home advantage for being the higher placed of the two finalists), and will also be televised on Setanta. If Gateshead don’t reach the final, it will still be on Friday and on Setanta, but obviously not at the Stadium, and I will presumably have a lot less interest in it…

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1 Comment to Relegations and Promotions

  1. TGRWorzel says:

    May 2nd, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Mixed feelings about Newcastle. If it wasn’t for a certain obnoxious Geordie at work, I’d quite like to think that Newcastle would stay in the Premiership as that’s where a big club with so much passionate support really belongs. The Premiership is also better for having those big clubs competing there, more or less as permanent fixtures…

    But as my workmate was also a Newcastle supporter…

    I suppose what will be will be and it’s all down to the players and how much they want to stay in the Premiership.

    Good luck to Newcastle in the remaining games, from somebody who is already relegated and also in administration…!

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