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Opinion

Mike Ashley counts down 10 step checklist on way to third Newcastle United relegation

4 weeks ago
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Lost your manager who made the team far more than the sum of its parts? Check.

Replaced him with a manager who is clearly not up to the job? Check.

Summer of discontent? Check.

Made a bunch of late-in-the-day signings of unproven players who have questionable attitudes at an inflated price? Check.

Signed more players who are of average ability but not really fancied by the selling club? Check.

Split (like never before) fanbase? Check.

Hated owner? Check.

Outclassed by a newly promoted side? Check.

Called in to training on a Sunday? Check.

Manager talked about going back to “basics”? Check.

Above are all the ingredients (barring the classic “being locked in the dressing room post-match” after a chastening defeat, although there was an inquest on the plane) which inevitably lead down one, long, well trodden and ultimately doomed path to relegation.

There is no hope – there shouldn’t be. If you have hope, it is blind, fake, bogus, false, misguided. Don’t believe it.

This squad is not good enough – and it’s not just not good enough, it falls so far short of what is needed it’s embarrassing. Things will not change under the current management. A message to all Newcastle fans out there: There is nothing that can prevent what will be a painful drop back to the Championship. Cut out the denial, anger, bargaining and depression – just go straight to acceptance and save yourself a lot of pain.

The PR which came out of the club, particularly from Matt Ritchie, following the defeat to Norwich was pathetic, even for the standards at NUFC; a club organised PR exercise as hollow as a chocolate Easter bunny. What Ritchie, and most others at this club I suspect are guilty of is taking their foot of the gas.

Benitez may have been almost universally loved by the fan base but behind the scenes he wasn’t so loved but respected by the players: a drill sergeant who would get every last atom of ability out of players. Training would not be enjoyable but hell, it sure was effective.

Bruce on the other hand is like the supply teacher you make rude gestures behind when his back is turned, before he gives up trying to teach and puts on a VHS of Grease.

So now the club has the man of a thousand resignations; trading off his roots and friendship to big Al’ Shearer (he also said, I assume with seriousness, that it was tough going to school in the north east – it’s tough up north innit??). However, there’s one thing he cannot forward as reasons why he might be good enough for the job – his ability (or lack thereof, lets face it) to keep a side in the Premier League.

But there’s a bigger problem – you won’t have had to look far to find someone who is willing to say “Brucey, yeah, great guy, lovely man, great man manager.”

Meanwhile Mike Ashley seems to be under the impression he’s a love-struck teenage girl in a coming-of-age American rom-com, saying he hopes Bruce is “the one” (maybe he didn’t finish his sentence, and meant to add “to take us down”).

And this is the issue – Bruce is seen as the polar opposite to Benitez.

After all, they have gone from the dictatorial style of his which bought results, yet they now see a soft touch, a person who is not going to call out any slacking, an easier ride. Crucially, people within the club may very well think they know better than him, and will simply do what they want – Muto suggests as much with his comments yesterday.

What would the result of this be? A lack of organisation and effort, and a split group of players along with a downturn in results. Oh! What do you know? Norwich 3-1 Newcastle.

It’s as plain as the nose on your face what will happen over the coming months.

Here’s the kicker – there’s absolutely no solution. That ship has sailed. Mike Ashley has attempted to undertake major surgery at the club like someone who throws a laptop in a bath in the hope it might fix it.

Quick note to Tony Cascarino – just because Benitez didn’t win a game until November last year, it does not mean you can apply this to Bruce this season to imply that this would be okay, acceptable or salvageable. It isn’t – look at the direction of traffic pal. The different between the two is chalk and cheese – last year, there was a chance it could be fixed; Newcastle after all go through the gears nicely as the season goes on.

But that doesn’t just happen by chance – it’s because of the tactical acumen, discipline and attention to detail of a man who is currently on the other side of the world. Not the man sitting in Benton.

So unfortunately by the time Easter comes around, this rag tag bunch of individuals will be as doomed as that chocolate bunny.

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