The relegation, or not, of Newcastle United at this moment in time, rests on the flip of a coin.
On paper, the squad has more than enough ability and experience to pull away from danger quite comfortably, in reality we have seen precious little to suggest that this will happen and time is running out.
Something I’d like us all to think about today is the unthinkable, exactly how would relegation affect the football club and what would the chances be of re-emergence at the first time of asking?
What players would we be left with and how would they fare on a cold Tuesday night in January in Doncaster?
What would be the financial implication in terms of adding to the debt to the owner? Would it, as many of us hope, finally push the owner to admit that his plan has been wrong all along, and it’s high time to get out of Dodge?
So let’s project ourselves just over three months into the future, Newcastle United have just been relegated (again) and we must consider what comes next.
Firstly the players, it’s probably fair to assume the relegation would mean that all the out of contract players would not be offered new deals, or if they were it would come with severely reduced pay to reflect the new league status of the club.
The media has reported that the January signings, certainly Shelvey and Townsend, have no relegation clause in their contracts and as such would either stay to help the push back into the Premier League or be loaned out to top flight clubs. Of the summer signings it would surely mean the end of Wijnaldum and Thauvin’s brief stay on Tyneside but we may hang on to Mbemba and Mitrovic for the first year after relegation.
The longer serving playing staff would undoubtedly be trimmed down, I cannot see Sissoko wanting to dirty his boots on the turf of Huddersfield and the MK Dons, same goes for Janmaat possibly, and the club would actively seek to move out some of the older higher earners such as Cisse, Colocinni and Tiote.
In terms of building a squad for promotion I think it would be fair to say that the lavish spending would be curtailed to a more appropriate level for the Championship.
The sensible way forward would be to recruit some of the best players at that level, the likes of Andre Gray for example, along with some proven quality sat on benches in the top flight, but we don’t do sensible at Newcastle United.
Obviously the biggest worry concerning players would be that we don’t have the character in the dressing room that we had last time, that is abundantly obvious when you see the team perform as it is currently, and that would be the biggest hindrance to promotion.
Failure to significantly trim the wage bill and bring in players good enough for immediate return would have a financial implication. Fortunately the club is, allegedly, in a good position in terms of money in the bank, much better than the last time we were relegated, so it would come as a surprise if the club had to dip its fingers into the owner’s pockets again. The caveat here is obviously that all the eggs would be in the ‘first time promotion’ basket, failure to achieve this would be disastrous for all aspects of the clubs. Just ask fans of Nottingham Forest, Leeds or Sheffield Wednesday about their wilderness years.
What it would mean for the continued tenure of Mike Ashley is unclear, he could certainly ride out one season of lower league football but after that, who knows?
The certainty is that the Championship receives nowhere near as much attention from the media, sponsors or international television as the Premier League. To cite the example of Rangers and their demotion to the Scottish third division, they received a huge amount of attention in their first season, but after that the football world forgot about them and moved on, same goes for Forest and Leeds.
If the prevailing theory, given credence by Sir John Hall, that Ashley only bought the club as an advertising tool, then surely if it no longer serves this purpose it becomes an infinitely less attractive investment.
The fear of relegation is now very, very real. To draw parallels between the last drop and this season – we appear to be lacking character, fight and a willingness to battle, set that against a backdrop of inept tactics and a couple of key injuries and we are not looking very healthy at all. To come back, character and fight is something we would need in buckets. Replacing the manager and bringing back Armstrong would be a start, trimming the fat and bringing in players with hunger and desire would be a requirement.
At the beginning of the season I recall having an ongoing war of words with the ‘wait and see’ brigade, who were happy to give the owner and McClaren a chance to prove their words would come with actions.
Now I find myself in the wait and see camp myself…
Wait and see if we will be relegated, wait and see what the knock on effect of that would be and how the buffoons who caused this would rectify it.
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