Newcastle United a Championship Team? Championship Team my Ar..!
Let me take you on a little trip into the future. Not like Doctor Who – I’m not going too far. Just to this August.
As always, the talking heads of football punditry and journalism will be asked to give their predictions for the season ahead. They’ll come up with their selection of three teams for relegation and (as always) they will almost all include in their list at least one, usually two, and often all three of the teams who have just been promoted to the Premier League.
It happens every single year. And the so-called-experts are almost always wrong. Assuming it’s Wolves, Cardiff and one other coming up, you can expect almost everyone to pick Cardiff for relegation – just like they all picked Huddersfield this year. And you can expect most of them to pick whoever comes through the play-offs (though maybe not Fulham, as they are from the more fashionable parts of London).
They might be right – but I’ll be putting a few quid on all three promoted teams to stay up – again. I’ll get a decent price – again. And I’ll fancy my chances of winning – again.
The point is, that we are all sold a vision of the Premier League as something astonishing – all the best players, all the best teams, all the best football. And it just isn’t true. The people and organisations who spin that line have a lot of money and resources invested in the myth of the Premier League – so you can hardly blame them. But it is a myth.
Don’t get me wrong. The top six are really good. Maybe – after seeing Arsenal last week – I should say the top five are really good. But the rest? Nothing special.
Which brings me to my point. Something which has irked me all season is the repeated mantra that “Newcastle have still got a Championship team”, “they’ll struggle because it’s still a Championship team”, “Rafa is working wonders since he still only has a Championship team.” AAAARGH!
I wouldn’t wish to belittle Rafa’s achievements at all – I love him, and I think he’s a marvellous, marvellous man. But for God’s sake, can his players start getting some of the credit they deserve.
Just because the core of the team was put together for the Championship campaign, doesn’t mean that it’s rubbish. To listen to some pundits you’d think Rafa had recruited his players from the local pub teams. They were only in the Championship FOR ONE SEASON! And they finished that one season as CHAMPIONS!
So “Championship team?” Hadaway and s….
And even if they did start life together in the Championship, teams that win the Championship hardly ever go straight back down; and teams that win the Championship with loads of points just about never go straight back down.
The standard at the top half of the Championship isn’t that different to the bottom half of the Premiership. Maybe a little bit better – but not the sort of quantum leap that Sky and the BBC would have us believe.
There is a much bigger difference in quality between Liverpool/Spurs and West Ham/Bournemouth, than there is between West Ham/Bournemouth and Fulham/Villa.
And even if the core of our team was put together for the Championship, it is a young team, being coached by a great coach, and all of the players are getting better. They won the Championship because they were better than anyone else in the Championship – and they have continued to get better ever since.
The final straw for me came at the weekend against Arsenal. I heard some pundit or other marvelling at the fact that we could possibly have beaten them. I can’t quote exactly, but his words were to the effect that…
“It’s little short of a miracle that Newcastle have won when you look at the difference in the resources and the quality of the players available to the two teams. I mean, for example just look at the difference between the centre-backs. Noocarsel have got Lashelles and Lee June, and Arsenal have got Mustafi and Holding.”
And he was saying that Mustafi and Holding were better!!! – presumably because Noocarsel in his eyes are still a Championship team. What game was he watching?
A little mental experiment. Just go through our squad, and imagine that (for whatever reason) each of the players was put on the transfer list. For each player you can sort of imagine which sort of teams would be interested.
Our goalies – Dubravka would be sure to find a home in the Premiership. Darlow and Elliot maybe top half of the Championship.
Full backs – Yedlin and Dummett would both get bought by Premiership clubs without a shadow of a doubt.
Centre backs – Lascelles would go to the top six, Lejeune would be chased by plenty of Premiership teams. Even Clark and Mbemba would probably have Premiership teams interested.
Midfield – Shelvey and the new improved Diame would have Premiership teams clambering over each other to sign them if they could. So would Ritchie (Kenedy isn’t ours and we don’t have an option-to-buy so I won’t count him – but he’s obviously at home in the Premiership). Hayden, Atsu, Murphy – they might be looking at the Championship, maybe.
Forwards – Perez has always been a favourite of mine. He’s underestimated by a lot of people I think, because he’s always trying to do something creative with the ball – he doesn’t just pass it back or sideways. And I think he would have plenty of top-level teams happy to take him on. Gayle for me is the exception – he was more at home in the Championship (Mitrovic too, I think).
So most of that first team squad – even if they were put together outside the Premier League, are real Premier League quality. And the Manager, of course, is the best of the bunch.
So, to paraphrase Jim Royle “Championship team my Ar..!”