Well, after the latest non-performance against Leicester City we can safely say that Newcastle United are firmly in a relegation fight this season.
If the odd result had gone in our favour, it could have been looking slightly more palatable, but if you don’t take your chances (Kenedy away at Cardiff being prime example) you won’t pull away from the dead men at the bottom. And we are sadly looking more like the dead men with each passing week.
There is one perfectly good reason for this mess we find ourselves in.
If you consistently buy Championship standard players, you’ll end up with a Championship standard squad. And we have just that, a Championship standard squad.
If you go through the squad, it’s a who’s who of lower Premier League players and decent to good Championship players.
Taking Dubravka out of the equation, we have Javier Manquillo who got relegated with the unwashed down the road.
We have Federico Fernandez who came in from relegated Swansea for £6m, Ciaran Clark was signed from freshly relegated Aston Villa for £5m.
Fabian Schar came in from Deportivo La Coruna after they suffered demotion from La Liga.
Moving through the team, Ki Sung-yeung came from the same relegated team as Federico Fernandez for free. Jacob Murphy arrived from Norwich, a middling Championship club, and Mo Diame from Premier League bound Hull City.
Up front it’s a similar story. Salomon Rondon was a relegated West Brom player and fellow striker Joselu was a Stoke City reserve player. Ayoze Perez was a second division player over in Spain. There is a theme developing.
That’s not to say that dipping into a lower league can’t yield a bargain or unearth a decent player. Club captain Jamaal Lascelles is a perfect example of a player signed from a Championship team who (albeit some years later) develops into a cracking player. Sadly, he’s the exception to the rule. If you rely on doing that sort of business time after time, it will catch up with you, you will end up with a Championship team and that unfortunately is what we have.
It’s important not to confuse honest professionals with people who simply don’t want to be at the club. In the past we’ve lacked the former and had too many of the latter. It’s all well and good buying talented individuals, but if they don’t want to be here, it doesn’t count for snuff. I’ve said in the past, I’d take hard grafters over talented mercenaries any day. Well, I’m having to retract that somewhat as we current have the wrong mixture of the two. They work hard, they try hard, they certainly fight for the manager and the club, but that will only get you so far.
Every now and again, genuine quality needs to be bought and that is where this club has fallen down over the last two seasons. We never built on that Championship winning day against Barnsley. Ashley and Charnley appeared with Rafa and to the wider world, it all probably looked to be a positive with the club ready to kick on the following year in the Premier league.
Sadly, we know Ashley through eleven years worth of experience. Whenever he can pull the plug on momentum or put the blockers on any sort of ambition, he can, will and take great pleasure out of it in the process.
If you go back six years, to the days of Alan Pardew, we had a few cracking players. Sadly, they all seemed to perform well for a while DESPITE the manager rather than BECAUSE of his input. We had a decent start in 2011/12, where we had a good mix of workmanlike players and talented stars. Look at the forward thinking players that finished that season- Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse, Hatem Ben Arfa, Jonas Gutierrez and Yohan Cabaye.
Compare that to what we have now and it’s actually scary the drop in quality. The players listed had their faults, but looking back, they were better than they will be remembered. Even the back up players in 2011 were arguably better than what we have now playing in the starting XI. Here’s a sobering thought- Leon Best, Shola Ameobi and Peter Lovenkrands are at least the equal of Joselu, Rondon and Perez. Look at their goals record that season if you’re in doubt. Let me remind you- those were BACK-UP players.
The one area we have improved on since then is the manager. Rafa Benitez can certainly organise a side, but when it comes to actually winning games, he hasn’t been given the tools financially. For example, Alan Pardew was afforded Papiss Cisse for £9m, Rafa Benitez certainly hasn’t been given the £20m equivalent in 2018.
Owner Mike Ashley has scaled the club/team back to the bare minimum it can get away with and that will lead to disaster in May next year, for the third time on his watch, unless results turn around and quick. It’s pointless waiting around for the January transfer window, the seeds for relegation were sown months ago when Benitez asked for a squad to be assembled in time to work with them in pre-season.
Rafa Benitez built a squad to get out of the Championship and he achieved it. Sadly, this season we’ve started games with at least five players that played for the club IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP. That’s probably as damning a summary of where we’re at at present. The side needed some serious money throwing at it over a few transfer windows and the summer just gone was an ideal chance to do so after a good 10th place finish. It wouldn’t be the first time the owner has allowed the club to stagnate after some progress.
Instead, the man upstairs thought it prudent to make a £25m profit instead of investing that sort of money on a quality striker, whilst chasing his dream of buying the ‘Harrods of the high street’. The £90m spent on House of Fraser will be the similar figure wiped off the value of Newcastle United thanks to this plonker’s attitude to all things black and white. Priorities Mike, priorities.
This time next year Rodney….We’ll be in the Championship.