All season long, certain Newcastle United fans have been under some form of illusion that we’re capable of qualifying for Europe.
This week has brought Newcastle crashing back down to earth as they were put in their place by Everton and Southampton.
Everton have been absolutely outstanding this season and find themselves pushing Arsenal for a place in the top four, so it was always going to be a difficult game.
The performance was inexcusable and Newcastle showed that they are a million miles away from competing with Everton this season.
Maybe Newcastle would fare better against a team they’re ‘expected’ to be competing against. It was billed as the ‘race for eighth’, but once again there was only ever one team in it and it wasn’t Newcastle.
What unfolded at St Mary’s was absolutely embarrassing and the performance of all but Rob Elliot – who was outstanding despite conceding four – was gutless.
From the first whistle, Southampton were dominant. It was an onslaught. Newcastle were powerless to stop the Saints marauding forward.
Alan Pardew took his place in the stands following his three-game stadium ban. Any influence he was hoping to have by returning clearly wasn’t there.
Newcastle’s outfield players coasted throughout the 90 minutes and looked as though they were already on their holidays.
Southampton breached Newcastle’s defence time and time again and but for Elliot and some wayward shooting, the game could have been out of sight after 20 minutes.
They did eventually take the lead just before half time as Rickie Lambert rolled across for Jay Rodriguez to fire home.
Half-time brought about changes on Newcastle’s right flank. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa was replaced by Davide Santon at right-back and Hatem Ben Arfa made way for on-loan Luuk de Jong.
If those substitutions were supposed to shore-up the right-hand side, then they did the exact opposite and the floodgates opened. Southampton smashed in another three and Newcastle ended up with three left-backs on the pitch. It was a complete mess and proof that Newcastle aren’t fit to challenge for European football.
Now, instead of looking up the Premier League table, Newcastle will be looking over their shoulders with Stoke on the up.
Everton and Southampton are fine examples of what can be achieved with a bit of ambition and good management. Despite their limited resources, both are excelling in the Premier League this season.
Sadly, ambition and good management is something that has been missing on Tyneside for some time.
Huge changes are needed both on and off the pitch this summer – and that’s just if Newcastle are to avoid a relegation fight next season.
Consider this week a warning. If we stand still, we are in serious trouble.