The relegation end game is here for Newcastle United
We’re agonisingly close to Premier League safety. It’s tantalising. It’s torture. It’s time we knew our fate.
And yet we seem so far away from achieving it, given that the task in hand is one of both winning and of relying on others to fall over the final few fences.
We’re not quite at the snookers needed stage, though the Palace result will dictate that. We need moon and stars to align perfectly for the miracle to happen.
That’s one way of saying we need sizeable dollops of luck to remain a top flight football club come the end of May. It can happen though.
Who can forget last year when Carver needed a win on the final day. It was that simple. He got it. This mess is tougher. It’s out of our hands until Norwich or that lot down the road slip on the banana skin.
The tribal nature of the footballing rivalry between Tyneside and Wearside makes the situation tougher to take. Relegation battles are no fun, but it’s ten times worse when it’s between us and the Mackems for that dreaded drop. One of us will have to go. The bookmakers are not in NUFC’s favour and they will have to be proven wrong.
Into the twilight zone
The last few weeks with Benitez at the helm have been surreal. With the club hanging over a precipice we find a top class manager in the dugout, exuding a sense of calm and bringing a semblance of order to the team’s style of play.
Rafa is getting a tune from a clutch of so-called flops. The change in our tactical approach has not gone unnoticed. It’s way better than what went before. Not an overnight transformation but there is now a clear impact to be seen.
With such a brilliant manager it feels like we’re in the twilight zone, given the terrifying proximity to second tier football. What a tragedy if we succumb to relegation with Rafa Benitez of all people. We needed him in February. The delay may have proved very costly indeed. We’re about to find out.
What lies ahead
Option 1: Survival
This is the one we all want, crave, and hope for. Newcastle wriggling clear of the relegation zone thanks to a slightly more favourable run in, bolstered by the Benitez effect.
That will surely prompt a clear out and the manager afforded a chance to truly make his mark. One word: exciting.
Option 2: Down with Rafa
The next best thing we can hope for. Benitez opts to commit to the club as a project and is allowed to rebuild without any hindrance from above, though I am sure there would be financial constraints due to drops in TV, gate and commercial revenue.
The club would need to sell more players and recruit appropriately for the Championship challenge. Benitez would give me belief and hope of a swift turn around. The positions of Lee Charnley and Graham Carr would still need to be reviewed.
Option 3: Down and with another direction
This is the one where Rafa exercises the break clause (ED: Or Mike Ashley exercises his) in his contact post relegation. Another Premier league job or Spain could come calling. The post-mortem can then get underway, but it will feel very rudderless if he walks. The clear out will still need to happen, including at boardroom level.
The club will then need to look for a manager who can lead us into that Championship season. Someone will have to do it!
Despite all of the fallout I still believe that NUFC is an attractive club for good quality managers to test their mettle.
If Brendan Rodgers isn’t going back to Swansea City then I’d offer him the job in June. Sell it to him as a long-term project. We could do a lot worse.
The other name in the frame would have to be David Moyes. Fears over playing style would linger there, but he’s capable, and would offer leadership in tough times.
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