Many of you may have already said to yourselves, ‘that can’t happen to us, Newcastle are a big club’ or ‘there is too much quality in the side to go down’. Yes, you would hope that we have learnt our lessons from last time and that this is pure speculation but I remember comforting myself with similar words this time 4 years ago. As we slide further towards the relegation zone, and on the evidence of current form and performances, perhaps Newcastle United fans should be fearing the apocalypse.
Who Were we Left With?
Once we had offloaded the likes of Owen and Viduka following relegation in 2009, we were left with a squad full of players who had either yet to prove themselves in English football, or who simply had nowhere better to go. It is hard to believe, if any teams had offered the likes of Nolan, Barton, Coloccini better football or wages, that they would have stayed.
The reason we dominated the Championship at walking pace is because we had a squad that, despite underperforming during a period of poor leadership and off-the-field turmoil, were essentially too good for the division and desperate to rescue their careers. Those surviving players from our recent dark days have been busy rewriting their CVs in the seasons since relegation; and if we fast forward to May 19th 2013, how many current United players can you imagine staying with us to fight in the Championship if the unthinkable happens…again?
Demba Ba and Danny Simpson may have already jumped ship by then; Cisse, Ben Arfa, Cabaye, Tiote, Gutierrez, Krul are all established International players. Colocini no longer looks lost and behind the pace in English football, now a highly prized Premiership defender. Davide Santon has improved immeasurably this season and is no doubt getting the interest of several heavyweight managers in Europe. Even those of still unknown ability, and worth to the club, (messrs Marveaux and Obertan) would be difficult to hold on to. To make matters worse, the potential profit of all of the above would be severely diminished without our Premiership status as leverage.
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Who Does It Leave?
Which leaves? The Taylors, Perch, the Ameobi brothers, Elliot, Williamson maybe, and whichever other fringe players decide to stay/are unable to leave. None of whom I have great confidence in to provide the backbone of a Championship winning team. Even if they did bring us back up, would that merely condemn us to being another yo-yo team for the next decade, perilously clinging to life in the top flight each time we manage to scramble back up there? If they failed, Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday are enough evidence to remind everyone how disastrous spending several seasons in the Football League would be for Newcastle United.
Using promising youngsters as a reason to be optimistic of our chances of surviving another relegation is perilous too. We ALWAYS have young players that excite our imaginations and lead us to believe the future is bright at NUFC, yet the majority are never seen beyond reserve team or league cup outings. If a player really is the next best thing, we would already know about them, or they would have been snapped up by one of the bigger clubs. When did it become apparent that Michael Chopra wasn’t, in fact, the new Alan Shearer?
Another ominous difference, between now and 2008/9, is the state of proceedings surrounding the playing eleven. In the wake of the Keegan/JFK/Ashley/Shearer pantomime of that season, relegation was unsurprising and somewhat, in hindsight, a blessing in disguise. It gave us the opportunity to chop off some dead limbs and have a clean start with a young manager under little pressure to succeed.
In contrast, we have recently awarded Pardew an 8 year contract and our owner’s popularity rating is possibly at its highest ever level. Would both their positions be untenable if fate sees us into the football league again, and who then would dare take the reins of our volatile little club? Our current sense of relative security may mean that another relegation would shake the club and its fans even harder than the last, and may prove to be a knockout blow that could take years to recover from.
So, instead of breathing easy when the world wakes up on December 22nd to find the universe hasn’t imploded, let us all pray that business in January is prudent, and that between now and 19.05.2013, enough is done to appease the footballing gods. Or else, I fear, we may be dealing with an End of Days of Newcastle United.
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