Until around 9.15 last night (3rd February 2016), I didn’t think Newcastle United were likely to be relegated. Not really.
I know we grumble a lot, and I know some people will say “I knew from day one we were going down.” I may have even said something along those lines myself. But deep down I thought a team with Wijnaldum, Sissoko, Janmaat, Perez and Mitrovic would be good enough to stay up. When they were joined by Shelvey, Townsend and Saivet, I probably allowed the fatal words “we are too good to go down” to cross my mind.
Then it hit me. After around 75 minutes against Everton last night, I came to the realisation that we are plenty bad enough to go down. Indeed, I’d now be prepared to put money on it if I was the gambling type.
Villa have gone for me, I think the mackems will join them, and I think we’ll make up the party of 3 that are booked into the Championship. Realistically – on current form – I would identify Norwich as the only other team with relegation potential. I think Swansea, Bournemouth and West Brom are better than us, and I’ll still think that if we beat the Baggies on Saturday.
Another season supporting NUFC will end with me hoping we can finish in 17th place, above Norwich City this time. And they say Newcastle fans have unreasonable expectations…
And this season of all seasons, we don’t want to get relegated. The riches on offer into Premier League sides from this summer will ensure that the gap between them and the rest becomes a gulf.
From 2017 onwards, a team being promoted from the Championship will start 20 points behind the 17 teams that survived the drop. I know there is a school of thought that believes relegation could be good for us. Sorry, but I’m not having that. Not this team. Not this coach. Not this season.
For once, I’m finding it hard to blame Mike Ashley. He has spent good money on decent players, and we’ve kept the ones we didn’t want to lose. It’s not his fault we didn’t get Berahino, nor it is his fault that we didn’t buy a defender or two. For all his shortcomings, I believe Ashley when he says he leaves those decisions to Messrs McClaren, Charnley and Carr.
Mind you, given that Mbemba looks injured, Lascelles is banned and Taylor hasn’t kicked a ball for a whole year, he may be regretting offloading Willo, but overall, he’s followed up on his vow to invest.
I maintain my view that the players we have, possess enough quality to keep us in the league. On a few occasions this season, we have looked like a very good team, but there is something that seems to prevent the players doing what others (Leicester, for example) do, and operate at full power for every minute of every game.
At Everton last night, no one seemed to be operating at more than 20% of the levels they can, apart from Elliot, who was exceptional again. To repeat what I said in an article from a couple of months back, when the bloke who started the season as our third choice goalkeeper is repeatedly the best player on our team, he must have some garbage in front of him.
So if it’s not the owner, and it’s not the quality of the players, it must be their motivation. And that is down to the manager. Now I’m not one for slagging managers, or anyone else for that matter. I wasn’t particularly thrilled to see Pardew go, and a long time ago, I was in a tiny minority that would have given Dalglish more time. If I am of the view that McClaren has to go, I’m surprising myself.
When he joined, all the positive comments I heard from those who had worked with McClaren before referred to his football knowledge and coaching. I don’t recall one solitary remark about leadership and motivational skills, and that is what we need. Today, if we can get them.
As I said, this season – above any other – we do not want to get relegated. If we did, it would be a financial catastrophe, which would get worse with every season we played outside of the Premier League.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. My ‘hail Mary’? Give Jose Mourinho a call. See if he fancies taking us on until the end of the season. Tell him that if he keeps us in the PL, he will leave for a Champions League side with our best wishes and a big chunk of cash.
Why not? He can only say yes or no. He is out of work, he wants work, and he will paint it as the biggest challenge of his career. You know what he is like. To be honest, I’m not that big a fan of Jose, but I reckon he’d get us 8 more points than McClaren, and that might just make the difference.
A bloke I worked with years ago enjoyed the gee gees (bear with me – I do have a point). He and his friends clubbed together and bought a nag which they entered for a race. The horse was no good, but they didn’t really care. It was an ambition realised.
When they got to the race meeting, they noticed the great John Francome was without a ride for the race they’d entered their horse in. They asked him if he’d be prepared to do the honours for a suitable fee, and to their delight he agreed. So they sent the original jockey home and put Francome aboard instead (apparently you can/could do this).
Albert (my mate) described the next few minutes of his life as some of his happiest, as the National Hunt Champion Jockey beat, kicked, screamed and finally dragged the nag over the line in first place. When it was all over, Francome walked over to Albert and his mates, handed them the reins and said in a disgusted tone “I don’t think much of your horse.”
My point is, the horse had it in him to win the race. He didn’t know it, Albert and his mates didn’t know it, and judging by the odds Albert said he got, the bookies didn’t know it. But with an exceptional talent in charge, the horse’s potential was gloriously realised.
Now apply that story to NUFC’s current plight. The team is the nag. McClaren is the jockey that hasn’t a hope in hell of getting it into the winner’s enclosure (which for me, is 17th place in May).
We need to find a John Francome for our next race. Get on the phone, Ashley…
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