John Carver’s final ever…’Cup Final’?
Relegation made easy
After yet another poor performance, Newcastle failed to escape the clutches of the relegation battle once again, providing QPR with their first home win for 4 days short of 5 months. Some would say that we deserve to be relegated if we can’t get anything down there.
John Carver recently referred to the end of the season as a series of cup finals. What a shame that his superiors decided not to prioritise the cups. No wins in 10 games, 1 point out of 30, the club is clearly out of cup practice.
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In the match, Riviere scored his first league goal, rather fortuitously, in his 22nd league appearance. At that time, protecting the win would have meant safety, given results elsewhere.
Carver has used a few excuses. Recently he talked about the players not being good enough, Today it was a ‘mad 10 minutes’. The malaise has been deeper.
This is the John Carver who accepted the job whilst, publicly at least, accepting the squad that he inherited. Back then he told us he was aiming for top 8. This is the John Carver who accepted the transfer of Mbiwa who has helped Roma to a Champions League position, Santon who has helped Inter maintain a challenge for Europe and who accepted writing off the creative talent of Ben Arfa.
In this match Carver was happy to highlight that two wide players did not support his 3 midfielders. He did not mention that as coach, he failed to deploy his assets to counteract attacking substitutions from QPR.
It is Carver who selected the players.
It is Carver who later put on two fresh wingers, one of who is soon out of contract, the other whose contract negotiations have stalled, as well as the top scorer who has been touted around in the last couple of transfer windows when he has been fit.
If Carver is not happy with the players, perhaps he should be blaming himself for picking them. Perhaps he should be pointing the finger at those who are responsible for funding and assembling the squad.
Perhaps he should be highlighting those responsible for appointing an interim coach of poor managerial pedigree, Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley.
As we expected, Leicester and Villa made themselves safe this weekend.
Just as the last relegation in 2009, Newcastle United’s immediate future will be decided on the last day of the season with similar clubs involved as then:
2008/09 Premier League table with one game to go, points on left and goal difference on right:
36 Sunderland -19
35 Hull -24
34 Newcastle -18
32 Middlesbrough -28
31 West Brom -31
Then, as now, Sunderland faced Chelsea in the last game, the result being a home defeat. With both the Champions and a game in hand against Champions League qualifiers Arsenal to finish the season, it is conceivable that they will still not be safe on the last day. Indeed, a total of a 6 goal margin against them means that Newcastle might be safe with a draw, retaining the North East top dogs title on the way.
It is a crumb of comfort that the Mackems have a dire record in end of season games in the Premier League since it was formed, particularly against top half opposition. The thought may be mildly entertaining that if Hull win and Sunderland lose both, Steve Bruce could relegate his former club on goal difference.
Ultimately, back in 2009, a final match win against another side in claret and blue, that time Aston Villa, would have been enough to secure safety. Even a draw, given Hull’s goal difference, would have proved enough.
This time around, it is Hull who have the better goal difference, so a draw against West Ham may not be good enough for the Toon if the Tigers can win at home against Manchester United.
Looking back, at Ashley’s tenure, apart from the Championship year, Newcastle have an unfortunate record in end of season matches. The solitary point gained was against West Brom back in 2011 to accompany defeats against Villa, Everton (twice) Arsenal and Liverpool.
There is also a sense of irony that Allardyce, in his last match in charge of West Ham, could do a big favour for both the North East club which he played for and one of his best friends in football (Bruce) by masterminding a valedictory victory for the Hammers.
It would also be a way of sending a message to the man who sacked him at St James’ Park, whilst funding his Spanish holiday retreat, Casa St James.
Newcastle’ best hope however, probably remains on Humberside. Like Arsenal, who play Sunderland, Manchester United will be Hull’s visitors, sadly though after yesterday’s draw between Man Utd and Arsenal, the Gunners only need a point against Sunderland to render the game at Hull meaningless for the visitors.
Steve Bruce though highlighted in his post-match comments on Saturday:
“We’ve got to beat Man U now and I haven’t managed that in 17 years as a manager.”
The last day record at his current club is also dreadful. Since beating Newcastle on the final day in 1991, Hull have not won on the final day in the top 2 flights.
The odds appear to be on Newcastle’s side, despite wretched performances since the turn of the year. Ultimately, where Hull’s escape in 2009 can be tracked back to a disallowed Nolan goal that gave Hull a point and denied Newcastle 2 (at Hull), the Humbersiders can blame their own performance which gave Carver his only away win. Without that win, we would already be down.
A freak result can change things. It is sobering to think that a man of Ashley’s wealth can cut so many corners and invest so little in building a club with such heritage, support and potential. He has effectively gambled on and neglected a £250m+ asset.
It is equally sobering to realise the hopes of a region can be tossed onto the wheel of fortune by a man with so little respect for people, through zero hours contracts and making Tyneside’s youth billboards for loan sharks.
Ultimately, Hull have to get a result. If they do, a collection of players towards the end of their Tyneside careers, whether out of contract or seeking to progress to a club with ambition, will have to reverse the 10 game habit to make things safe. Has Ashley created the right environment for our own wishes to come true? It could be Carver’s final cup final.
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