Is The Cost Of A Newcastle Trophy Too High?
What price success?
I have found myself asking this question a lot this season as our league form has dipped, injuries have hit the squad and our progress in the Europa League goes on. Over the next week I will not be alone in asking it.
This question has haunted many a football club and they have paid twice over for it in several cases. The price I am talking about is not just one of straightforward investment in players. There is plenty of evidence to suggest if you continuously pump vast amounts of money into a club you can guarantee to at least be on the fringes of success every year – Chelsea and Manchester City are cases in point.
No, I am talking about a different sort of price; a sacrifice. So I put it to you: given the choice, would you be prepared to risk sacrificing Newcastle’s Premier League status to see Cabaye lift some silverware in May? Would that one, magical moment which would live in your heart and mind forever, sufficiently ease the pain of seeing Newcastle spend at least one season in the Championship? When you read the fixture list headlines in June, would you be content to see, ‘Europa League winners open league campaign at Huddersfield’?
On the face of it, this probably seems easy to answer. You can read much of what Portsmouth fans think of their cup win and subsequent rapid demise in the press. Many feel cheated. They realised at the time that the cup they won was bought on debt, way beyond the means of a small south coast club, and while they enjoyed the ride, they could rapidly see disaster on the horizon, sailing towards them. There are other, less apocalyptic examples: Birmingham, Middlesbrough, Blackburn Rovers, Leicester City, Leeds United, none of whom are presently in the top flight, all of whom have won trophies in recent memory. And the number of clubs that have won silverware since Newcastle last won anything continues to grow – Swansea recently added to that list, lifting their first major trophy. Still we wait.
It would seem that Alan Pardew is now faced with answering my initial question. On Thursday night he will select his team with the aim of progressing towards the Semi-Finals of the Europa League. He faces a clear decision, at least in my mind. He can pick his strongest team with the aim of getting a result, knowing that this will compromise the team for the game against Fulham on Sunday.
Or he can hedge and play a more conservative team, hoping to snatch a draw perhaps, and focus the team squarely on Fulham. Repeat for next week’s second leg and crucial game against the Mackems. A third strategy – namely of splitting his best team in two to ensure some fresh ‘purples’ in each line-up seems unfeasible, given injuries and the squad strength.
The ideal scenario is to win both of these games and this is the one we all pray for. It goes without saying, Pardew would not like to sacrifice anything if he didn’t have to. The disastrous scenario is to lose both of them and losing one or the other will still probably see him criticised for not taking the opportunity to end our 44 year wait for a trophy, or for not prioritising the league. Is it possible to do both?
So the question remains then, which does he target, assuming both Newcastle sides will not be of equal physical strength (injuries and ineligibility aside)? Many a club has paid a high price for getting these calls wrong.
What price would you pay for success? Is it better to have won and lost than never to have won at all?
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