It’s a mess isn’t it?
It’s messier than Coloccini’s hair on a breezy day.
To misquote Haircut 100, as I often do in these situations…
‘Where do we go from here? Is it down to the Championship I fear?’
However, after staring at the Sunderland score on Saturday in disbelief for twenty minutes, I started to think some happy thoughts.
Firstly, games like Villa happen. When you’re top of the league and beating everyone, games like Villa happen. I remember in Keegan’s pomp, we were winning games four and five nil for fun until Manchester City turned up at St. James Park in the League Cup and we couldn’t muster a shot on target and lost 2-0. In the situation we’re in, yes, we should have gone out and won comfortably and there’s no comfort at all in saying ‘these things happen’ in the context of our situation, but, they do.
It’s not the players’ or the manager’s fault sometimes. However, the previous 20-odd games under McClaren were not ‘one of those games’ and were mostly the manager’s fault.
I think some lessons might have finally been learned by those in power however. You don’t appoint a luminary such as Benitez unless you’ve got a stupid amount of money to give away in bonuses or you finally understand that a football manager is what is needed here, not a glorified coach or people person. A manager who understands that Shelvey is a luxury player and can’t be relied upon to get stuck in and do a specific job like Tiote has for the last few games. Having to rely on Cisse instead of someone who can play centre forward has been the biggest handicap for our talented manager.
I sat in silence through the embarrassment that was defeat by Sheffield Wednesday at home in the cup and relegation actually swept through my head as I watched nothing in particular happen on the pitch. Questions should have been asked after that game. It was abysmal. Apart from a few bright moments from Mbabu and the industry of the likeable Perez.
Anyway, here’s my happy thought.
When we were in the second tier under Jim Smith, we had Mick Quinn whose god-like presence gave us hope and we worshipped his feet (not underplaying the immense talent of his partner in crime, Mark McGhee, who was mesmerising at times).
He was then replaced by Andy Cole who looked like he was going to earn his statue outside the ground before the age of 23.
A few happy and sad Ferdinand, Shearer, Lee, Boumsong and Bramble filled years later we’re in the second tier again and who should emerge from the juniors? Andy Carroll; a player who (a bit like Gazza did) showed a lot of potential, did some very good things and was then sold because the people behind the scenes had no idea about football matters (see Peter Beardsley, Chris Waddle et al).
The point I’m trying to make is that whatever tier of football you’re in, there’ll be a hero – more so in a division where you’re competitive. We haven’t had a hero for so many years because we haven’t been competitive. The good things that Tim Krul, Janmaat and Colback do will never be considered legendary because they’re not ever going to lead to a fifth goal against Manchester United to put the club top of the league at Christmas. There’s nobody in the current squad you feel genuinely excited about when their name is read out over the tannoy before the game.
Demba Ba was probably the closest, Ben Arfa on his day along with Yohan Cabaye but in true Gordon McKeag tradition, money made the boardroom go round so Pardew (as much as I have a morbid dislike of the man, feel a few per cent sorry for him having to put up with the sometimes ridiculous transfer decisions made above him) was starved of any technically gifted players to help win a few matches, head-butts aside.
You never know, Rafa might be the next Jim Smith. Adam Armstrong might be the new David Kelly. Andros Townsend might stick around and be the new Scott Sellars. Yes, I’m being a little facetious, but those three ex-toon people I mentioned were well liked by the fans and gave all they could for the cause. We need more of those type of players because we either can’t afford or attract another Shearer and Ferdinand partnership, let alone a Mark Viduka/Michael Owen one – and we all know how that panned out.
Without sounding all ‘big club arrogant’, Newcastle United should have a long list of capable managers who could comfortably guide us back up, applying for the job in the summer should our Spanish incumbent decide to step off the leaking black and white boat.
So why is relegation such a bad thing for the fans? We’ve never looked like winning anything since 2004, we’ve had countless battles with relegation, umpteen embarrassing defeats to the bigger clubs, countless ejections from the FA cup at the hands of lower league opposition, a plethora of awful signings (some of which never ever kicked a football in a competitive match) and a feeling of emptiness most Saturday evenings.
I could go on but in the Championship we might get to see some heroes again. We might start to see the beginnings of some future club legends. What better way than to let a manager take the club up with his own signings and establish the team in the Premier League, be it Rafa or Joe Bloggs?
We’ll never see the Kevin Keegan phenomenon again but why can’t we go the way of say, Southampton? Building the club from the bottom. Trusting the young players? Bringing in some experience? Buying a capable striker? Winning some games of football for a change?
I know there’s a financial aspect to all of this but we’re football fans and all we care about is watching our team play football, winning some games and going home with a smile on our faces, whether it’s because we beat Barnsley 4-0 or grabbed a last minute equaliser against Arsenal after being outplayed for the entire game. Watching us lose every week and stressing about relegation for the last three years, can’t be as good as watching us winning most weeks and pushing for promotion can it?
I know it would have been nice to stay up and have a couple of seasons under Rafa (doesn’t it feel good knowing there’s an actual football manager in charge for a change?) with an actual striker on the pitch.
However, that would have probably seen more dark days than light under the current regime and to be honest, we’ve just been pressing the snooze button on relegation for the last few years – sometimes you just have to bite the bullet, get out of bed and start doing something proactive.