When I think about where Newcastle United will be as a club come the end of this season and going into the next, there are plenty of potential scenarios and issues that need to be resolved.
However, if you break it down, when you think about the future of the club in the near term, there are three key outcomes that need to be determined:
Will Rafa still be manager?
Will Mike Ashley still own the club?
Will the club still be in the Premier League?
At first pass, my preference for a positive outcome for each of these (i.e. yes / no / yes) runs in the order I’ve set out above – i.e. I would rather the club were in the Championship again, and even under the ownership of Mike Ashley, if it was guaranteed that Rafa would still be managing the club.
This is on the basis that Rafa is the key to the longer term progression of the club, and the alternative is to stay in the Premier League under Ashley, but with one of the managers from usual suspects (Pulis, Moyes, Pardew et al!?).
Similarly, whilst we now understand the damage financially that relegation has caused, in my mind it would still be preferable to be in the Championship next season, as long as there were new forward looking owners in place, building for the future with Rafa still at the helm.
However, if you think through the logic, the you realise that the manner in which these outcomes all link together and impact each other is key, and that avoiding relegation this term underpins the future for a number of reasons:
Were Newcastle to be relegated this season it is hard to see Rafa staying to mastermind another return to the Premier League, as much as he loves the club and can see its potential. Furthermore, Rafa leaving has a knock-on impact on the saleability of the club as it has become clear that he is regarded as a key asset to Amanda Staveley & co.
Perhaps more importantly, while there will still be parties interested in taking ownership should the club be relegated, in my opinion the probability of a sale this summer reduces significantly. There will be increased risk to a prospective new owner, the potential will still be there, and the market value will undoubtedly decrease significantly.
This could make it an even brighter prospect from point of view of a buyer, but would give Ashley no chance of getting the minimum he wants back, plus I doubt that his ego will let this happen.
He is more likely to gamble on (yet again) returning to the top division at the first time of asking and attempt a sale once this has been achieved.
The knock on effect of this will be that Rafa is even more unlikely to want to stay for a Championship season if Ashley is still in charge.
Therefore, whilst talk of the long term management and ownership of the club might seem far more important than the potential for another (hopefully) short term stint in the Championship – it becomes obvious that the key to making the long term bright is to still be in the Premier League come August this year.
So the best thing we can be doing as fans is to get behind the team and positively support them over the line to get enough points to make that happen – although a little bit of love for Rafa and sending the appropriate signals to Ashley can’t hurt either!