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Opinion

As it stands, we have these two scenarios that can happen at Newcastle United

4 weeks ago
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Due to me finding other things to do this season and having had enough of the way Newcastle United has been run by Mike Ashley, I (wisely) took a shift at work over sitting through the televised 90 minutes of Newcastle vs Brighton on Saturday evening.

Oh sure I could have swapped a shift and been home in time for the late kick-off but I said to myself at the end of last season ‘Why bother?’

For me, the writing was on the wall as early as January that former manager Rafa Benitez wasn’t going to stick around for more shabby treatment and lack of ambition from the owner and to be honest, his demeanour over the last few months of his contract showed this.

Only a massive climb down from Ashley was going to change that and (as Ashley stated in his summer mission statement to the press) Mike Ashley isn’t for turning.

We also got a Rafa character assassination and a bigging up of his replacement Steve Bruce in a shocking pre-prepared statement, along with some interesting quotes on the workings of the club in the transfer market, in particular the signing of £40m striker Joelinton.

Now that we are two months (six games plus a League Cup exit) into the new season, I think we can see roughly how the season will pan out. This side that the club (NOT BRUCE) has put together simply isn’t good enough to stay in the Premier League on merit. By that, I mean staying up on it’s own accord, as we are merely waiting to see if there are three worse teams than we are by May 2020.

Yesterday, I like many others raised an eyebrow at the Manchester City/Watford score, 8-0 to City (5-0 inside 20 minutes) is certainly a massive story but one that raises a worrying question. How come Newcastle couldn’t beat Watford at home three weeks ago?

The general consensus from our draw against Watford was that it was ponderous and lacklustre with the match being nigh on unwatchable at times. Fast forward to Brighton and the people I spoke to tell me similar stuff but that it was worse and with that stat of 29% possession you can’t help but be concerned.

We have an idea how good Manchester City are but how bad are Watford? Also, Brighton went to Watford and won 3-0 and we’ve served up awful displays at home against both and come away with two points.

I get the feeling that this is a team dead on it’s feet, that has run out of ideas and appears to be playing like it’s coming to the end of a long hard season, not at the start of one. I also feel that Bruce doesn’t know his best XI and his plan B (whatever that is) is no better than his plan A.

Under Rafa Benitez you kind of knew that as soon as former striker Salomon Rondon was back fit, enough points could be gained to achieve safety. Under Bruce I have no such faith, quite the opposite. Rondon wasn’t reintroduced until he was back to full fitness and when he was, we reaped the benefits. Under Bruce, Saint-Maximin was brought back too soon and broke down after 20 minutes against Spurs. Now it looks like he could be out again after a similar rush job to bring him back. Desperation, I think it’s called.

The same should be said of Andy Carroll. No sound mind would have brought ‘Big Andy’ back this summer. This is a player that has proved to be a crock over the intervening years since his last appearance for Newcastle in 2010 and to pin hopes on him to get our goals shows that trait I mentioned before – Desperation.

Then there’s Joelinton. We’re led to believe (from Mike Ashley’s statement) that Benitez only suggested paying £20m tops for Joelinton as that was all he valued him at. I’d be inclined to agree with the Spaniard as if we have actually paid £40m for him, we’ve massively overspent. What we should have done was buy a striker who is young, up and coming (like Joelinton) but still have signed Rondon for the quoted £16m as well.

For that scenario to have played out would have meant Benitez would have stayed, the whole summer’s transfer business would have been radically different (certainly Carroll wouldn’t have been considered) but above all else, we would have had someone competent in the dugout, something which we certainly don’t have at present.

The decision by Ashley not to fight tooth and nail for Benitez has had drastic knock-on effects already. As a consequence, Rondon wasn’t even considered, Ayoze Perez was allowed to leave with no protest and above all else, not replaced adequately enough. The former has been swapped for a misfiring striker with no Premier League experience and the latter has been replaced with another gamble in Saint-Maximin who now seems to be massively mismanaged by Bruce.

I’ve stated elsewhere that this set-up is merely Steve McClaren Mark II. Under Bruce we have a few players with potential and a few senior heads that unfortunately aren’t performing to the best of their ability. Benitez came in during the 2015/16 season when the game was as good as up but he nearly turned it round. He turned average players into decent players, decent players into good players and the dross was bombed out with everyone pulling in the same direction.

As it stands, we have two scenarios that can happen.

The first is the one that Mike Ashley has tried and failed with TWICE before, where we get so far down the road, waiting to the very last minute to the point where we are unsavable and a lost cause. He tried it with Alan Shearer in 2009 and then again when Benitez knocked on the door in 2016. Both plans turned into relegation.

The second scenario is the one I feel he will go down this time. Steve Bruce will stay on as manager beyond the predicted relegation with the view that he would be best suited to get us straight back up after the inevitable fire sale of players and restructuring of the first team and in turn the pocketing of the parachute payments.

Our course is set with Steve Bruce just as it was when we appointed Steve McClaren in 2015. Nobody predicted the McClaren folly ending well and nobody said last summer that the Bruce one was one worth taking.

Fans have started to vote with their feet, backing a motion of no confidence in the manager and his ideas. The disgust and apathy towards the owner was already there and deep set.

This is a Championship club in the making. The relegation course has been set and unfortunately we just have to let it play out.

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