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..!”

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  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    I love football, i have Sky, BT & a Box but over 50% of premiership games are
    the standard is not what it was even 2 years ago,
    to many rich kids going through the motions then returning to their Mansions in their Ferrari`s to watch MOTD on the old 85 in Oled TV

    • Peaky

      You’re bang on Moose the soul has gone… is ultimately going to ruin the game…’ll take one rich owner to spit his dummy out and move onto something else and bubbles will seriously start to burst….

      • Tony Mann

        Players on £350k a week…over a third of a million quid…£50k a day …to kick a ball on grass.
        It will implode one day.
        Murdoch, BT or whoever will overstep the mark and punters will eventually say enough.
        The shyte hit the fan when the banks bugger*d it up 10 years ago.
        Footy clubs will do the same, maybe not toxic loans, but toxic contracts.
        The Premiership is only in name. Go non league, or even further down for some proper sport.

        • GToon

          The championship is the best league I reckon. The premier league is just decided by who has the most money. Leicester were the exception but I don’t see that happening again any time soon.

          • Tony Mann

            Vanarama North – Alfreton Town – they’re [email protected] but what you get is goals (scored or conceded), entertainment, and players giving 110%.

          • Oldgit

            Try supporting Spennymoor, pitch waterlogged so have to play home matches in Harrogate, cub has lost thousands.

          • Leazes.

            It’ll be interesting to compare the squad values with the final league positions to see who has over performed and who has under performed.

        • Peaky

          Great analogy Tony…

    • Jamie Smith

      Doubt they even bother with MOTD, why would that interest them? MTV bass all night

    • Leazes.

      How and in what way did it get worse?

  • csh

    I have been saying this for some time. Last season we had a premiership team in the championship and yet this season we have a championship team in the prem.
    Based on that premise Rafa actually weakened us before this season started!

    • Leazes.

      No it was a relegation level team at the yo-yo position.

  • Simon Ritter

    Excellent article, Travis. A gulf has opened up between the top four/five of the Premier League and the rest of football. Unless there is some churn, with a different team doing a Leicester each season, much of the excitement will disappear.

    • Leazes.

      The gulf ….. Its been there since Sky money and resulting advertising created a duopoly….. Manure harnessed mega sponsorship which has only been toppled by Chelsea’s Roman Abramovich and Manchester City’s Sheikh Mansour.

    • Virsino

      Agreed. Very good read.

  • Alreet

    I cant agree with this. I would say we had a championship team capable of winning that league which we did but rafa wasnt allowed to build the team for the new term.

    Anyone can say anything now we are all but safe and the fact that weve beat arsenal leicester and manu in recent weeks. Not that any of us would have gambled on any of them results.

    Rafa has done amazing with the squad he put together. Given to anyone else of lower standard we might still be battling for 30 odd points now.

    Fact remains that players have improved under him. Who knew about kenedy before he was raiding our wings or had anyone really heard of dubravka before the manu game. The mecurial merino has been pushed down the pecking order by no less than diame. Remember SloMo as we used to refer to him and shelvey the yellow/red waiting to happen.

    We were a good championship side that has been melded. Shaped. Coached and formed into a team that cant be beat by anyone besides those in the top 3 in the last 4 months.

    Guadiola can blitz the league with 500 mill. Rafa can survive on a 40 mill surplus.

  • Leazes.

    It matters not a jot what your definition of our squad is Travis!… it is part of the second tier of the division, what I call the ‘Cannon Fodder’.

    This was a Championship level squad with Lascelles and Shelvey and it struggled to the extent that even Shearer was moved to call it a Championship squad!

    Benitez can do no wrong in some people’s eyes and is as untouchable as Shearer was, but even he knew the limitations of this squad and that is why we have played ‘hit and run’ all season, with the defence boosted by a second line deep set it has reinforced the tennet ‘play not to lose’…. well suited to the squad we have which did require a boost of loan players to help us push away from the relegation positions!

    Without the snatched win over Manure where would be be you bloody dunderhead.

    Are you so stupid as to call for a ‘no spend policy’ that Ashley would love? Have you reached the pinnacle of your pathetic aspirations then?

    It is largely a Championship level squad playing ‘anti-football’…. the great leveller, you know how teams used to do it in the olden days…. they’d turn the pitch into a quagmire that you couldn’t run a ball on…. like Hereford, apparently Wolves were great exponents of the ruse.

    If it picks up points great but don’t herald it as anything more than a Championship squad playing dirty, muddy, clarty tactics!

    • TheNutJob

      Uncle Bob`s back on the chron leazes

      • Leazes.

        Chronic isn’t appearing on newsnow….

  • gallowgate26

    To be fair I didn’t read many comments from their actual fans, with anything good to say about Mustafi or Holding. Is that pundit seriously suggesting that Wenger wouldn’t swap those two for Lascelles and Lejeune? Lejeune!! (he’s even French)

  • Down Under Mag

    The problem with football in the Premiership…in fact the world of football, is that it has been allowed to, actually encouraged, to become an elitist dictatorship driven by greed. Those at the top have made sure that they cream off all the money they can and have put measures in place so that no-one can break into their ivory towers. The rest are just there to make up the numbers as ever increasing amounts of money come into and as quickly out of the game to pad the accounts of offshore investment tax havens.

    • Leazes.

      It is a joke…. the clubs achieving a champions league place warrant money from sponsors which will pay for world class players for the next season guaranteeing a champions league place!…..

      …..Perpetuating an elite and sponsored by the advertising and media industry, they pay because they are buying airspace advertising, and the ambitious clubs must vie for the four big handouts but they must convince the sponsors that they are genuine.

      We are a ‘cannon fodder’ club as the owner said he didn’t want to get higher than eighth….. and that is the problem!

      Ashley was operating at a level which only suited his business programme, it didn’t matter about the football at all the club wasn’t there to challenge for anything….

      …. so why is Benitez here apart from the £6m per annum?

      • thewildchimp

        Yet people wonder why football in England, Spain, Germany, etc. is better than in the rest of Europe. Auto-CL/EL spots and TV money.
        But can we challenge for the 5th spot without serious investments? Perhaps an odd bravado of Rafa and the lads, but regularly, not.

        • Leazes.

          Its a better game because its more watchable than the continental game….. its about running with the ball and not the passing game and its presented by our television companies in a different way as well…. it is ‘dramatised’ deliberately like a soap opera rather than presented as a sport….

          • thewildchimp

            It has always been like that, since the very foundations were laid for the sport in the 19th century. But the catch is that (some) PL clubs have the money to attract the likes of Salah, De Bruyne and Pogba but the clubs from Slovakia, Ukraine, Switzerland, etc. will never have. Even if they’d get a rich owner, their leagues will remain generally poor and thus the good players won’t be attracted until they are way past their prime, and even then there are more lucrative destinations like the USA or China.
            I’m no socialist but the CL is invented to make the rich clubs richer and with so many automatic spots, the leagues will also rise in wealth and stature.

        • Down Under Mag

          Football in the Premiership is all about pace and covering up lack of skills with said pace. The football in Europe has much better skill on show, just here teams know they can set up defensively and play counter attack with fast, powerful players. The Premiership are still raking in publicity because of the Keegan years and from Arsenal with Henry in their side. It’s a shadow of it’s former self…

      • GlasgowMag

        He is here because he genuinely feels a connection to the fans/club/area. He also sees the potental not to win the league but with investment to build a team to progress up the league and also have real go at the cups. You are correct the fat boys business model is to pomote his sports brand on a world stage with the minimum investment possible. So I think this is now crunch time either Ashley sells up otherwise I think Rafa will leave as I dont see him working under a shoestring budget forever!!

        • Leazes.

          He has a connection with Liverpool where he lives and he has a huge mansion on the Wirral… who told you he’s connected here…was it Ryder the little tinker or many of the Mag writers who have pumped out the notion?

          • Down Under Mag

            In fairness I think after the job he’s done here if he wanted to be off I think he would be. I’m sure the likes of Arsenal, Everton, Spurs if Poch goes to Real etc would all be willing to stump up the cash. I’m sure if we offered 2mill a year he would have scoffed, however I think he wants to do wewll here… I think he knows he can write his name in the record books if he wins something lol

          • Leazes.

            He’s getting elite wages to manage a ‘cannon-fodder’ club…. no pressure to succeed just to void the drop.

          • GlasgowMag

            Nope I can see it for my own eyes I don’t need to follow the crowd it has never been my way. So mystic Meg what is your opinion why he is here?

  • thewildchimp

    Still! Howay!
    We are currently at the 10th spot in the PL. That’s 10 above the Wolves, who are winning the Championship. How on Earth are we a Championship team? What, half of the Prem is Championship?

    • Leazes.

      That’s five places above the position the owner placed us…. put it down to getting a decent goalie and a loanee and of course parking a bus, I don’t think another manager other than Rafa could do that with this squad.

  • 1ewis

    Leicester had a team that battled relegation in one season and won the premier league the next season. Burnley, on paper, has a team of discards but is sitting comfortably at 7th spot.

    I understand that I’m being overly-optimistic and not every teams can do a Leicester. At least we can look at Burnley and take heart.

    • Leazes.

      Well the United way for the last fifty years has been to get a decent centre forward and a bunch of ‘honest triers’…. and it hasn’t worked, it never worked in the league even with the Milburn team of the fifties all it was was ‘fur coat and no pants’ affair which kept the press satisfied and later kept the club satisfied because it was an easy way to do things which didn’t require ambition. Even the chronicle loved the one star teams…. John Gibson to this day sits out games in the Milburn Stand with his chum SuperMac dreaming of the next Shearer!

      Other clubs moved on but United didn’t, they were still stuck in a mindset until our grorious new owner arrived with all of the dignity of Joie de vivre of Shrek vomiting his good will.

  • 1957

    What takes a squad of players from Championship standard to PL standard? Is it PL or top European league experience if so a good proportion of our players have that. Is it the manager, ours has loads of experience at the top level so we tick that box.

    We do lack the real quality players who can perform every week, but so do the Burnley’s etc of this world.

    We don’t have a Championship squad, that’s just a convenient excuse to hide for under performing players

  • Jamie Smith

    I got a bit of stick early in the season when I wrote the match report for the home game against Stoke and said they were a thoroughly uninspiring opponent who hardly conjured up ideas of sky’s bright shiny “best league in the world”. The biggest gap is between the top 6 and the rest, not the Prem and the Championship.

    • Leazes.

      Yes it is a gulf Jamie perpetuated by the champions league money…. that’s why Ashley didn’t want to go beyond eighth position, it would have overstretched the resources and put us into peril in the league…. so he removed the goal of the football club and put us into a position where we underperformed to the extent that it became a constant struggle at the wrong end. The promised £20m investment never happened and he denied the club its own revenue streams resulting in perpetual struggle.