With a deep hope of being proved wrong, I have to state what has been staring us at our faces over the last few months, Newcastle United is probably at its most crucial juncture.
A tipping point if you will.
Relegation now will result in a cascade of events, recovering from which would be improbable.
Survive, and we have a chance at much better things, and a very possible takeover.
When it comes to our general overall play, it has been simply uninspiring.
Swansea, West Ham, Bournemouth, Stoke and Everton have picked up wins over the last couple of rounds. We have managed to eke out draws, squander chances and generally have not looked like winning anything. Against the top six, it would be too much to expect us to do a Swansea at this moment at least.
The last time around in the top flight, over the last 10 games, Benitez had the services of Daryl Janmaat, Sissoko, Townsend and Wijnaldum, all of whom were playing for the shop windows. This time around the pedigree is far less convincing.
Up front, the attack is toothless. Joselu keeps on leading the line and keeps proving why he was not a first choice at Stoke, or anywhere else for that matter. Gayle is a good Championship striker; his Crystal Palace days far behind him. Matt Ritchie no longer has his magic hat. Atsu is inconsistent. Perez provides mediocrity in spades. Murphy is a prospect, little else.
The midfield is not much better. Shelvey pings around passes sideways and backwards before aimlessly hoofing one up and turning over possession. Merino has lost his initial mojo. Diame disappears for stretches at a time.
In defence, Lejuene has been a disappointment. For all their grit, Lascelles and Clark have too many mistakes in them. Darlow has given away points at a distressing clip.
Unless Islam Slimani produces the goods, it is looking very bad for us. Rafa Benitez’ teams simply have not shown the results expected of them. Defensive solidity and attacking intent have not meshed together. There is no coherent philosophy, the selections and a lack of number 10, confusing.
Crystal Palace have seen a commendable turnaround under Roy Hodgson. He provided them with defensive shape and fight. Despite their injuries, it would not be wrong of me to say that, come Sunday, they will be up for it and have a much better chance of getting three points than we do.
The importance of this fixture cannot be overstated. It is a six pointer. Picking up draws will not be enough. Suffice to say that this match will be a bellwether. Lose this and relegation is a distinct possibility, especially as we look incapable of scoring more than the odd goal or keeping clean sheets at the moment. The next few fixtures include a number facing teams in the top ten; teams against which we have looked remarkably pedestrian.
Mike Ashley is unlikely to sell unless he gets his money. There is no way he is investing in the club going forward. He wants to sell and wants out. The TV revenues are never going to be invested in the club. If relegation comes, he couldn’t care less. Rafa Benitez will surely leave; he should leave too, for he is too good to be undermined by the likes of Ashley. I wouldn’t grudge him that. He deserves it.
Without Rafa, an immediate return to the top flight is untenable. In short, if we are relegated, we can look forward to Championship purgatory for the foreseeable future. No one would want to buy the club, at least not for Ashley’s valuation.
The only scenario in which the club comes out on top is entirely dependent on Rafa Benitez pulling off a miracle and keeping us on 17th or above. A takeover looks promising after that, especially if another Ashley Out campaign gains momentum, like it did during the reign of Steve McClaren.
I can but hope.
“Don’t ever give up on your club, keep supporting it,
“It’s your club and trust me, one day you will get your club back and it will be everything you wanted it to be.
“Newcastle United is bigger than anyone.
“It hurts I know but just keep going.
“He is only one man. We are a city, a whole population. Trust me.”