It has been a while since I used to write regularly on The Mag under the name Notts Toon, maybe some of you will remember that I was quite a vocal critic of Mike Ashley in the last relegation season and now it seems, we may be coming around to that unenviable fate once more, I felt the need to write about the issues facing our club again.
To begin with, nothing new is happening here. We have been here before a number of times in the last 11 years, the only difference between then and now is that in days gone by we had a higher calibre of footballer and a lower calibre of manager.
Our previous relegation seasons have seen us dropping to the lower leagues despite a first team squad packed with recognised international footballers of some renown: Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins, Fabricio Coloccini, Andros Townsend and Moussa Sissoko to name but a few.
Our current crop has less household names and more lower league journeymen and misfits making up the numbers: Mo Diame, Javier Manquillo and Joselu for example. On the other side of things, we undoubtedly have a manager of somewhat higher standing in the game than JFK or Geordie John, or even our own inexperienced Alan Shearer.
Recently I have read a lot from fans on The Mag and elsewhere questioning the decisions of our manager, mainly regarding his team selection and omission of certain players, whose importance to the team has skyrocketed according to some in their absence from the playing field. Obviously the biggest topic of debate has been Mitrovic, a man described by most in our last relegation season as slow, immobile and simply not good enough, he appears to have become regarded by some as the second coming of Shearer since he last had a run in the team.
It seems easily forgotten that the sad truth is he really isn’t very good and only really scores regularly against very poor opposition, his career to this point is evidence of this. In short he is not the massive upgrade on Joselu that many are making him out to be, and his work rate is nowhere near that of his less lauded replacement.
Not that I would want people to think I am singing the praises of the man affectionately known as “Hoss”, he is also not a very good footballer at Premier League level. Actually, in the case of Hoss and Mitro I will be slightly more fair, neither of them, nor Gayle or Perez, are the man to get the goals which will save a newly promoted side from a relegation scrap, and therein lies the real issue.
The actual problem we have is not Mitro’s absence or Hoss’s continued selection. It isn’t that Gayle lacks confidence or that Perez poses no threat. It isn’t that Shelvey is a disciplinary liability or that Diame is as mobile as Donald Trump’s hair, it isn’t the mistakes that the keepers make or the lack of genuine quality from the wings either. It is the fact that all of these things are happening at the same time which is the crux of the issue.
The home truths are that our squad is Championship standard at best, nowhere near enough investment was made, Mitrovic is nowhere near as good as some are making him out to be (seemingly just because he says the right things), and the manager was once again shafted by the owner.
Trust me, the only reason Rafa is still here is because, like most of us, he is hoping that the takeover goes through and he can finally have a real club to work with, rather than this penny pinching shadow of what used to be Newcastle United.
How many times did Rafa say when we were in the Championship that he had bought players to get us out of that league? I remember him saying it at least six or seven times.
How many times did he say that he knew changes would have to be made in terms of quality once promotion was secured?
Does anyone remember the end of last season when there was more speculation about Rafa’s future?
About how he sought personal assurances from Mike Ashley that his vision for the club would be supported?
That what happened the previous January would not be allowed to happen in the summer, how he wanted to know that his plans for squad development would be financed? In all honesty, do any of the fans criticising the manager remember the summer transfer window at all? I am not talking about the players we signed, I am talking about the promises made that were not followed through on again.
Does this not smack of the owner planting a divide once again? Do any of you not feel in the least bit that this situation has been engineered by the owner through lack of investment and well-timed words about putting the club on the market?
Last week Rafa spoke about the squad using the Spanish phrase about the short blanket, not long enough to keep both your toes and your head warm, as Newcastle fans this is something we should be very familiar with. For years now we have seen strutting peacock big name players put in the bare minimum of effort and collect their wages, whilst on the touchline and the dressing room we have had individuals who struggled to gain the respect of these falsely lauded athletes. Now the situation is reversed, and Picasso is being asked to paint with a set of dry watercolours from the pound shop, whilst people blame him for not coming up with anything close to a masterpiece.
For those of you still intent on blaming Rafa, calling for a change or hoping that a saviour can be found amongst players left out by Benitez, I would say this. Sit tight and wait, because by the end of next month you will have your wish one way or another.
By the end of January either better players will have been brought in to improve the first team and get us away from relegation, or they won’t. Either the takeover will have moved on and we will be looking forward to the remainder of the season with some excitement or we won’t, and if these things don’t happen then Rafa won’t be here anyway and you will have your wish of seeing Mike Ashley’s next bargain basement manager put in charge, Tony Pulis anyone?