It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on The Mag about Newcastle United and in part, I think that my absence has been an echo of the season for most of us. Content to coast along with a sense that everything will work out in the end.  The season as a whole a mere blip, a pit-stop on the road to an immediate and inevitable return to the top flight where we can all start getting back into things at the “serious end” of the football league.

The phrase “she’ll be right mate” rang out from the inner Aussie in all of us and we were content to drift through the season.  And why not… the media was all telling us all that promotion was assured.  Now, after a series of ineffective displays and some even worse results seeing us fail in our title bid and our promotion bid as a whole having a wobble on, the knives are out.

Rafa himself has come in for some recent stick and probably some fair comments floating amongst the vitriol. To be honest, this article was actually borne out of a lengthy comment I was about to post.

No matter how well I personally think he has done, he isn’t above criticism.  Of course not!  There are times this season his tactics and rotation policy has been questioned and in all likelihood cost us points.  But which manager doesn’t make a few mistakes?

I don’t feel the manager is the major problem.  In fact I think we need to realise that despite Sky and other media outlets claiming we have the best squad in the Championship, we are in fact a million miles away from that luxury squad everyone talks about.

It would be fair to say that apart from perhaps 3 or 4 players (looking squarely at Gayle, Ritchie, Shelvey and Clark here), the rest are a mix of fairly average bordering on mediocre players, while others need to be moved on sooner rather than later. We don’t have the squad of a Premiership club that some have suggested and it is here where I firmly hold my hands up and say that I got it wrong in just how good I thought our squad was.

It turns out we are far too reliant on too few players to pull us through and without those we are struggling, is it any wonder that we seem to struggle when one of those top players has been unavailable?

To that end, despite some issues from the coach front, I wonder if we are actually higher in the table than we otherwise would be without Rafa at the helm…that maybe, just maybe, our manager is actually the REASON we are so high in the table with a distinctly average squad that flatters on paper due to so-called Premier League experience (although I’m not sure experience in being rubbish counts does it?).

This is where I think we need to acknowledge the Schrödinger’s Cat scenario that some fans have established…whereby the club is under the guidance of an inept manager while at the same time populated by awful players.   Surely if we have bad players then to be in second shows the manager is getting the best out of what is available and demonstrates his class.

Maybe some of the players have taken their foot off the accelerator too soon, thinking it is job done (showing a poor attitude) or perhaps just that some know their time is probably up and so aren’t applying themselves as they should (go figure because surely they should be putting themselves in the shop window).

I’ve said before, we were in a terrible state when we went down, far worse than some acknowledged.  The subsequent rebuild by the manager was, in short, brilliant.  Much has been made of his spending but we turned a profit in the transfer dealings.  There would be no shame to finish second to a far more settled squad given our wholesale changes in the summer but we do need to finish off the job at hand and ensure we do in fact finish second.

Yes, some added investment in January might have seen us push for the title, although just who we could have brought in at a sensible price that would have made a difference is anyone’s guess…  But are we really that worried about not finishing top if we still get promotion and have more money to spend when we are in a stronger negotiating/attractive position come the summer window?

There is certainly a need to pick ourselves up and push for that line, get over and start to think about the much-needed rebuild.

Time will tell if we can do both but now is not the time to start finger-pointing and turning on each other.

You can follow the author on Twitter @DownUnderMag

(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])

  • Polarboy

    No doubt we need major reinforcements, but have you looked at some of the squads in the premier. Most of them are held together by 3 to 4 good to very good players, with a fair amount of tat making up the rest of the squad. What we need is to buy 6,7 players who are better than our current group of above average players. I would also include Hayden and Yedlin in our group of good players, they at least have the potential to get better.

  • Leign H Schubert

    Couldn’t agree more with your take on Newcastles situation. I’m a Rafa fan and without him our beloved Magpies would be floundering down the table. Rafa has said for sometime that there are several key positions that need to be filled by top flight players.
    Maybe now he will be listened to. No he is not perfect but certainly is the best coach Newcastle has had for many seasons.
    The sharp end of the season is upon us so now is the time for the players to focus, get the job done and then reap the rewards.
    Come on Newcatle, you can do it!
    Aussie Toon Fan

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    Fatso`s [email protected]@ked the club for the 2nd time, it`ll take 4 to 5 yrs to recover from relegation & that`s if Rafa stays. if he leaves we are done in for another decade

  • GToon

    And you can add into the equation that the team can hardly win a game without Shelvey in the team – remember his 5 game ban. P 5 L 3, W 1, D 1.

  • Leicester Mag

    Good article. Like the Shrodinger’s cat analogy. The cat of course was alive and dead at the same time, much like it feels Newcastle are at times!

    Assuming we don’t pagger this up in the last 3 games and go up unless Mr Biscuits lashes out money on his Greggs card we will struggle big time. Trust him? Personally I feel more comfortable with King Herod running a Kindergarten.

  • Mal

    The squad he put together was to get us out of the Championship. Nothing else. If we succeed he’ll have to build another one for the PL – no one knows that better than him. I can’t see the point of endless thoughts about how many of our team will be ok for the PL – they weren’t all bought with that in mind. The main worry is, if we make it, whether he’ll be given the resources to continue the rebuild.

  • SH.ER

    Good read
    Agree with everything, especially when you said how disappointed you are when you realized our squad is not as good as the media said & what we hoped at the start of the season …
    we all believed that everything will be okay, we have a good squad
    might add 2 or 3 top quality class players & that’s it
    but my god how wrong we were????

  • Andy Mac

    Five things

    1. This squad was good enough to be 1st from mid Oct to Dec and we’ve stayed in the top two for the rest of the season
    2. Our signings this season were better than any other clubs with the possible exception of Villa ?
    3. All players have had bad patches during this campaign and the calibre of the player determines how much it affects the team.
    4. A lot of players on the periphery have suffered from a lack of regular game time, Mitro being the obvious one but others who have failed to get into the first XI on a regular basis would be severely PO’d at being left out. For example do we really know what Elliot, Haidara, Lazaar, Mbemba or Atsu can offer over and above the chosen players ?
    5. We’re struggling now because the first XI has been analysed to death by opposing teams and most of them now know how to stop us playing.

    So are the players good enough ? Who knows how many of them are at the moment ? However I genuinely believe we have more than four players suitable to take on the PL but maybe they need some quality players around them and more importantly Rafa needs to utilise that quality in a variety of gameplans without the usual sterile, predictable formation ? If we go up and play the same way all season we’ll be found out.

    • Taz

      Can’t really agree with Darlow being better than Elliot and although Mbemba has had a couple of bad games I would have liked to see him introduced when our defence were losing the plot. As for mitro, he runs for a bit, snot blows every 5 mins and his finishing has been shocking when the chances ( and there have been some on a plate) have come his way, so unsure of why he should be included. Maybe he is just a premier league player that can’t play in the championship, but I’m not convinced.