It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on The Mag about Newcastle United and in part, I think that my absence has been an echo of the season for most of us. Content to coast along with a sense that everything will work out in the end. The season as a whole a mere blip, a pit-stop on the road to an immediate and inevitable return to the top flight where we can all start getting back into things at the “serious end” of the football league.
The phrase “she’ll be right mate” rang out from the inner Aussie in all of us and we were content to drift through the season. And why not… the media was all telling us all that promotion was assured. Now, after a series of ineffective displays and some even worse results seeing us fail in our title bid and our promotion bid as a whole having a wobble on, the knives are out.
Rafa himself has come in for some recent stick and probably some fair comments floating amongst the vitriol. To be honest, this article was actually borne out of a lengthy comment I was about to post.
No matter how well I personally think he has done, he isn’t above criticism. Of course not! There are times this season his tactics and rotation policy has been questioned and in all likelihood cost us points. But which manager doesn’t make a few mistakes?
I don’t feel the manager is the major problem. In fact I think we need to realise that despite Sky and other media outlets claiming we have the best squad in the Championship, we are in fact a million miles away from that luxury squad everyone talks about.
It would be fair to say that apart from perhaps 3 or 4 players (looking squarely at Gayle, Ritchie, Shelvey and Clark here), the rest are a mix of fairly average bordering on mediocre players, while others need to be moved on sooner rather than later. We don’t have the squad of a Premiership club that some have suggested and it is here where I firmly hold my hands up and say that I got it wrong in just how good I thought our squad was.
It turns out we are far too reliant on too few players to pull us through and without those we are struggling, is it any wonder that we seem to struggle when one of those top players has been unavailable?
To that end, despite some issues from the coach front, I wonder if we are actually higher in the table than we otherwise would be without Rafa at the helm…that maybe, just maybe, our manager is actually the REASON we are so high in the table with a distinctly average squad that flatters on paper due to so-called Premier League experience (although I’m not sure experience in being rubbish counts does it?).
This is where I think we need to acknowledge the Schrödinger’s Cat scenario that some fans have established…whereby the club is under the guidance of an inept manager while at the same time populated by awful players. Surely if we have bad players then to be in second shows the manager is getting the best out of what is available and demonstrates his class.
Maybe some of the players have taken their foot off the accelerator too soon, thinking it is job done (showing a poor attitude) or perhaps just that some know their time is probably up and so aren’t applying themselves as they should (go figure because surely they should be putting themselves in the shop window).
I’ve said before, we were in a terrible state when we went down, far worse than some acknowledged. The subsequent rebuild by the manager was, in short, brilliant. Much has been made of his spending but we turned a profit in the transfer dealings. There would be no shame to finish second to a far more settled squad given our wholesale changes in the summer but we do need to finish off the job at hand and ensure we do in fact finish second.
Yes, some added investment in January might have seen us push for the title, although just who we could have brought in at a sensible price that would have made a difference is anyone’s guess… But are we really that worried about not finishing top if we still get promotion and have more money to spend when we are in a stronger negotiating/attractive position come the summer window?
There is certainly a need to pick ourselves up and push for that line, get over and start to think about the much-needed rebuild.
Time will tell if we can do both but now is not the time to start finger-pointing and turning on each other.
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