This isn’t supposed to be what relegation feels like. A relegation season starts like any other, picking up points but more importantly dropping just more than we need. The drift into the bottom places, pressure on the manager, excitement, fear and nerves.
At some point, there’s supposed to be a turning point. The losing streak becomes a battle. The players start to put in a shift. The points start to come in dribs and drabs.
The gap from safety remains tantalising and the players keep battling. The sick feeling in the pit of the stomach at December becomes replaced with a sense of excitement that we might just make it.
We might even make it to the last way of the season still needing the results to go our way. But in the last game or two, the gulf is just too great. Thrashing around desperately, we go down despite the valiant rallying.
And then it hits, the sadness, the grief, and the desperation for the new season to start so we can start rebuilding and fighting our way back to where we belong. There’s scapegoats who just weren’t good enough or up for it, your Damien Duffs or Mark Vidukas, and they’re quickly away.
But the players who have been caught by the St. James fever steel their resolve and pull together for the hard journey ahead. There’s light at the end of the tunnel because we know that we’ve slipped but can scramble back.
That’s the way Newcastle United get relegated. Not like this.
A calendar year of defeat after defeat. Sliding from 4th to 15th and getting dragged into relegation. A bizarre managerial appointment.
Continuing a transfer policy focused on value and resale profits rather than getting us the fire power up front where we need it most. A panic-driven spree in January then failing to use the new players to force the results our way.
Bilking the fans at every turn and treating them as brand consumers. Making our passion something that happens despite what NUFC do to us, rather than because of it.
The numbness started to set in over the summer and the first half of the season failed to bring the old passions back. Everything was so rotten at the club at every level that there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
The club love to show the great Sir Bobby quotation about what a football club is: the passion, the people, the city, the love. But the current regime have hollowed out Newcastle United to a pale husk. Once today’s crop of players move on, there’s nothing much more than a 52,000 seater advertisement for a zero-hours contract sports shop.
There’s never been the glimmer of hope to set up the disappointment. We’ve slid away from the top flight with a whimper not a bang. That’s a fate normally reserved for the likes of Derby County or Reading, not a club with the pretentions to be a leading European light.
There’s an arithmetic chance we can make it, there’s still 21 points to play for. But we also know the reality that of the eleven players Rafa sends out, half of them will leave their football heads in the dressing room.
We deserve to go down, and we know it. And safe in that knowledge for the first time in my life I am experiencing relegation with a zen-like calm.
The last year has just been postponing the inevitable. Now the day of reckoning is approaching. And for us, that will leave us in the Championship where we’ve come to belong.
You can follow Paul on Twitter @heravalue