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From delusions of grandeur to ruining the Championship – I present Newcastle United

5 years ago

I love the Championship, me.

I realise this is not a headline piece, as it’s been a well vocalised opinion during this recent table-topping winning streak, but I just had to say how terrific it’s been for the soul.

On home match days, wide-eyed beaming folk in unfamiliar colours make their way through the bar-strewn city centre, goggling incredulously at the theatre on the hill in anticipation of a great weekend unspoilt by a probable defeat.

Afterwards, The Mag’s collation of feedback from opposing team’s own fan sites is glowing with positivity about the city, the people, the team and the steady convenience of a Newcastle matchday.

Away from home is the same, as clubs achieve their biggest crowd for years, fare worse overall on the pitch and still operate with good grace afterwards as they feel a football experience has occurred on their patch. I like the bloody Championship and I like the people who live here.

Then, we came across Preston. Obviously there were selection and motivation inconsistencies on the visitors’ part as we thundered them to smithereens in the league cup, but I believe this game bore considerable relevance on the noise to come out of Deepdale since the events of the subsequent league game.

If you’re not big on social media, or have missed the coverage on this very site here, I can assure you that one would likely see less carping on Specimen Carp Lake’s Bumper Weekend of Carping for Carp, than has come out of Deepdale in the past week.

The irritation has had a couple of sources. First of all, they feel they should have won the game, based largely on an incident in the hundredth minute where Grant Hanley blootered some Preston player up the bottom in our own box. It was probably a penalty if we’re honest.

In our defence, I would offer two points.

Firstly, there should not be a hundred minutes in a match, but this was necessitated by some practitioner of cross-species pollination in the home stand chucking a coin at Yedlin, resulting in a lengthy delay and his eventual replacement by, er, Grant Hanley.

Secondly, having played the full 90 minutes of Tuesday night’s relentless spanking, Hanley could be forgiven for coming on still in the mindset of walloping their arses at every given opportunity. So the incident above is basically null and void.

The other source of Preston annoyance seems to be how very expensive some of our players are. They are not unique in this, it’s been mentioned before, but it has really been hammered home, with a reporter on the Lancashire Evening News adding up the cost of our squad (bench included) and then wrote an exclamation mark-riddled tweet to highlight the downright skulduggery and shameless capitalist bully-boy unfairness of it all.

I think this particular portion of chagrin has its roots in that EFL cup game.

As stated, Preston put out a much-changed side from the one that had been so impressive in the recent Championship games. However, so did Newcastle, and the outcome was a one-sided shellacking of such epic proportions that the cheek-burning embarrassment of it all was very much fresh in the mind.

North End coped with it by insisting that their first eleven would return a very different result in the serious business on their own ground, and instead collated an 8-1 aggregate defeat for the week.

With the initial response nullified, the go-to protestation of the unfeasible expense of our team was then loaded and ready to go.

The thing is, what are we supposed to have done here?

What can we do to put it right?

When we were relegated from the Premier League, we turned a £32 million profit in sales, which would suggest some toning down of the squad.

If this is still considered bad sport amongst some Championship peers, how can we correct it? Petition the Premier League to just let us back in because, let’s be honest, some of these lads feel they’re being made to look a bit stupid? I’m sure the FA would be fine with that and swiftly reinstate us, then slap on a permanent relegation amnesty as our ground is just too damn big.

The ironic thing here, is that these points betray exactly what we’ve all felt for years. On our way out of the Prem, spiteful vitriol was consistently floated about how we are not a big club, how relegation is our forte and we don’t deserve the cack off the Premier League’s boots, jumped up little northern upstarts.

Suddenly and unwittingly, hundreds of people across the country are bearing testimony to the fact that our fervent fanbase, constantly filled ground and established reputation in the European game is, in fact enough to distinguish the club as being of notable size. Worthy of complaint even, of the disparity in resources; a complaint I’m willing to bet would not be furnished against Crystal Palace or Watford were they to take the fall next year.

The fact we have a manager who also realises this vast potential is an unequivocal magnificence, as Rafa’s lofty status and ability to attract players is another thing that makes us look a bit out of place here. Again, would he have looked to continue a post-relegation restructure with any other of the less trophy-laden sides from the top flight?

So basically, what are we? A club with delusions of grandeur as to their standing, or an oversized colossus of a club who are ruining the sport of the Championship with our resource laden vastness? You can’t have your cake and eat it, although it seems Preston will settle for knocking another kid’s tray of cakes all over, possibly while violently elbowing his head open, then getting their parents to write to the headmaster.

If and when we return to the Premier, the title will doubtless be won by some squillion pound squad of cold-eyed hired guns well paid for by some carpet-bagging human rights infringer from whatever corner of the world.

Even with the momentum from now, we will be one of the middling opponents that may at times suffer an unfortunate one-nil defeat at home to the mercenaries, despite controlling the game for the most part. The media and pundits will squeal how that’s what champions are made of, they win ugly.

For a year, in our own little place, we must briefly wear that crown of the privileged and amass those ugly wins. It is all a means to an end as we strive to be back where many people have made it abundantly clear that we belong.

I still like them though.

Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf



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