As we edge closer to the final game of the season, Newcastle’s recent form has done them no favours in trying to secure their future in the Premier League. It’s coming down to the very last 90 minutes of the league, and it’s even more criminal that the team has managed to pick up just a single point in ten outings. That’s no wins since February, a time when our future in the top flight looked a lot safer, if not quite certain. It’s rock bottom in the form guides. Fans are lucky this didn’t kick in earlier otherwise they’d be staring relegation dead in the face.
Yes, the Mags will/should have the upper hand when Sunday comes, but to even be in this position at all tells a thousand different stories. They’ll meet 11th place West Ham at home and have a two point advantage (36) over 18th place Hull (34). Also at home on Sunday, the East Yorkshire side have a much more daunting task in Manchester United and the deficit to claw back. They need a victory, nothing else will do. Newcastle can stay afloat by the skin of their teeth even if they lose, depending on other results of course, but getting the three points to make it safe would feel much better.
Sunderland aren’t out of the water just yet with a just reachable 37 points but less attractive goal difference, although this could change if they get a decent result at Arsenal on Wednesday night. A scenario where Newcastle and Hull win and Sunderland lose to see them drop into the Championship could be possible but it’s one of the less likely outcomes. As it stands on Wednesday, betfair have Hull at 1/4 for the drop. Newcastle are 6/1 and Sunderland are 8/1. There is still a glimmer of hope but it’s faint and dying. The Mags can hold on to a slightly brighter beacon, yet it wouldn’t take much to extinguish it completely.
How has it got to this point, and who’s to blame? Ultimately the blame game doesn’t change the situation. It can, however, help us see just where the team went wrong and what can be done to help prevent a repeat performance in the fond hope we live to fight another day in the Premier League next time around.
It’s John Carver, says Mick Quinn
“My opinion hasn’t changed. He’s not good enough,” explains former Newcastle player turned Chronicle pundit Mick Quinn. From offering the players two days off in the run up to one of the club’s biggest games this weekend, to sheer tactical ineptitude, he hasn’t got too many fond words to say about Carver’s role. “He cares and he’s tried his best,” Quinn offers, but that’s about it. A lot of people can ‘try their best’ or ‘give it their all’, but that doesn’t mean it’s enough. It doesn’t make them right for the job. Your mate from the pub would likely put his heart and soul into the job if he was presented it tomorrow. That doesn’t go to say he should get a shot. Carver is a problem. The degree to which people think it’s the problem differs.
Our own John Williams shared the sentiment, calling Carver the ‘worst head coach in the world’. Moreover, he believes there is one even bigger issue…
As John put it, Mike Ashley has used the club for his own advertising ends. Everybody knows Newcastle is a great club and world renowned for having some of the greatest fans on the planet. Bit by bit, Ashley’s decisions have helped to chip away at the pride and faith that the loyal supporters have shown. There have been a lot of things wrong with the management of the club and the decisions made. The motivation for making them doesn’t seem to be the best interest of Newcastle United Football Club. Would we be better off without? Most fans seem to think so.
‘It’s money, money, money’ and all about the bottom line, suggest those interviewed above. What can be done? Enough disdain has been shown for Ashley to realise he’ll never be popular no matter how much he wants to ignore it. His Finance Director and ally John Irving quitting might be a precedent. He was close to Ashley and valued at the club. Discussions are obviously happening, backroom staff are unsettled and those in direct contact with Ashley are falling. Only the post-season furore will give us any clarity. However, Ashley seems immune to the desires of the fans when the bottom line is looking so good and revenues continue to rise. The precise reason why fans dislike him could be the same one that means they’re stuck with him.
The club is an ’embarrassment’…
Says it all really. What an absolute circus at NUFC. The club is an embarrassment.. pic.twitter.com/UyChlVjW0o
— Don Hutchison (@donhutch4) May 19, 2015
Former Sunderland man Don Hutchinson only had 140 characters to play with so he couldn’t give too much reasoning, but he wouldn’t be the only person thinking these thoughts given the last few months of football. I wouldn’t take his less than in-depth interpretation too seriously mind.
‘Do they have the fight in them?’ asks Solano
With 240 games and 45 goals for Newcastle, Nolberto Solano has always been a fan favourite and often displayed the kind of qualities he is suggesting might be lacking at St James Park at the moment; passion and a desire to dig deep for the fans. There’ll be a few of you agreeing with that sentiment given lacklustre performances of late. When legions of fans spend their hard earned money to pay your wages, the least they expect is for you to give it your all. We haven’t always seen that but it can be the difference between staying in the top flight and resigning ourselves to defeat.
Even Carver has twisted the knife on his own players, something which isn’t typically a sign of a harmonious changing room. He’s openly said that his team are a soft touch and accused Mike Williamson of getting deliberately sent off. He was also damning in saying that he couldn’t refute suggestions his players were “gutless and spineless”, a common theme coming from many different sides.
Back to Solano and the message he wanted to promote was that they should aim to achieve for the fans. It’s hard not to agree wholeheartedly. Narrowly staying up won’t please everybody. It could be enough to kickstart a resurgence though, and it could win the backing of the Toon Army if every man on the field puts their all into that 90 minutes. The absolute worst case scenario would be going down without a fight and with no resistance. It would even be more palatable if the worst did happen but bodies were put on the line.
Carragher: Newcastle are the worst team in the league
As we mentioned earlier, current form does back this up. Newcastle United are the worst team in the league. Not for the course of the season, luckily, and that’s why we’ll have a head start this weekend, but certainly in the last 10 games. Carragher noted that no team would be a good matchup for the first team at the moment and West Ham would likely come up trumps on the final day. The saving grace there is obviously Hull’s difficult fixture and the necessity for three points. We’ll take any method of staying up, although doing it with a bit of flair and some semblance of skill would be nice.
Carragher’s sky colleague Gary Neville was equally as brutal in his depiction, saying that commitment to the cause was a huge issue. Echoing Nobby Solano above, they need to show some passion for the fans and finally stand up and be counted.
A ‘selling club’ with no ambition, says Shearer
If there’s one player beloved by the Newcastle fans it’s all-time leading goalscorer Alan Shearer. Though he was at the helm the last time Newcastle were relegated, he wasn’t the root cause. He’s been there and he knows just how the torment feels. Being a local lad himself, he also knows the nature and commitment of the fans and has a genuine interest in the success of the city’s football club.
Commenting on the exit of certain key players, Shearer explained that it was synonymous with a lack of ambition. “You can’t sell all your best players and hope to achieve something,” he said, deriding the mediocre, mid-table aspirations of the current management, something the fans can feel a huge affinity with. Though there have been demonstrations and boycotts, that’s not because we’ve become apathetic. It’s not because we don’t care. It’s the opposite. There are people in key roles at the club who don’t care and that grates the person who has spent years on the terraces supporting the lads.
The upper tier of management bears the brunt of the anger, but again Shearer comes back to the issue of wanting it – how far the players are willing to go for their jerseys. He slammed the men on the field as “an embarrassment” following the Swansea defeat and things have only gone downhill from there. There is nothing, there has been nothing. Thousands will still be there and make a noise regardless which shows the strength of the fans. It’ll fade and get dimmer if the current situation continues.
In the end we can look at all the reasons and make up any amount of excuses, but the only thing that matters now is a result at the weekend. In what’s being dubbed Survival Sunday with three teams all potentially susceptible, there’ll be drama, delight, tears, tantrums and everything in between. To reiterate, all we can ask of the players is to go out there and play like their lives depend on it. It’s one game of football but it means much more than that match in isolation. It shouldn’t be so difficult to muster up some courage for 90 minutes, less than one twelfth of their day.
Shearer said it, Solano said it, even the manager has said it – there is no spark or desire. Even if you can’t feel it, try and show it. Things could become a whole lot worse than they currently are with a shift to the second tier of English football. An immediate rebound seems much less likely should it come to that this time round. Don’t rely on somebody else – three points will make us the owners of our own destiny and then we can try and be cup half full going into the summer with a view to a better term in 2015/16. We just need to make sure we’re in the running.