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Opinion

Newcastle United last man standing as North East football has become a wasteland – 8 divisions down

2 months ago
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Newcastle United are the biggest club in North East football.

They always will be, though not much of a claim to fame at the moment.

They are the best supported and most successful on the pitch, despite 65 years of domestic hurt and 51 years since European success.

When Newcastle United won the FA Cup in 1955, they were at that point the second most successful English club in history in terms of trophies won.

Whilst ahead of the 1974 FA Cup final, Newcastle United had won as many trophies as Liverpool.

However, North East football is not just about Newcastle United.

There has been a vibrant (at times!) history in both league and non-league football in the region, with talk of being the ‘hotbed’ etc etc.

It is not all ancient history either, when we talk about a relatively buoyant North East in terms of football.

I will take you back to the summer of 2008…

Looking ahead to the 2008/09 season, this is where the biggest six North East clubs would be playing their football:

Premier League – Newcastle United

Premier League – Sunderland

Premier League – Middlesbrough

League One – Hartlepool

League Two – Darlington

Conference – Gateshead

Moving ahead to the 2020/21 season, this is where the biggest six North East clubs will be playing their football:

Premier League – Newcastle United

League One – Sunderland

Championship  РMiddlesbrough

National League (Conference) – Hartlepool

National League North – Darlington

National League North  РGateshead

Compared to 12 years ago, North East football has gone down eight divisions – Sunderland (two), Middlesbrough (one), Hartlepool (two), Darlington (two), Gateshead (one).

It has been brutal and it could have been even worse, as Middlesbrough battled relegation last season and Steve Bruce carried incredible luck in so many games, picking up points in matches where the stats pointed to defeat.

Gateshead reached the play-offs but apart from that it is a pretty bleak picture, no signs of upward movement elsewhere, with Sunderland now looking set to establish themselves as a third tier club unless something dramatic happens.

Newcastle United are the one big hope and indeed for North East football to be buoyant overall, I think it is essential that NUFC are fulfilling their potential.

To break into the group of clubs at the top ingredients such as a massive fanbase, big stadium that can help generate revenue, ambitious owners and willingness to invest, are the kind of ingredients you need. The first two are already in place and the Saudi PIF consortium could / would have supplied the other two.

A vibrant Newcastle United could only be good for North East football overall.

If NUFC under new owners were competing at the top end, I think it would be sure to boost the region’s clubs overall.

A successful Newcastle United with a bigger and better squad, an ambitious Academy set-up at last, would see the need for many players to need temporary moves elsewhere for first team football to progress their development. The other clubs in the region able to benefit.

I also think it would be a no-brainer for new ambitious NUFC owners to create strong relationships elsewhere in the region, maybe with the likes of Gateshead and Wallsend Boys Club for starters.

I won’t expect the likes of Sunderland and Middlesbrough fans to accept it BUT it would be a really big negative for them as well, if Mike Ashley keeps control of Newcastle United and very likely relegates the club for a third time in his reign.

In the North East we have to battle for every scrap of success and recognition (and help) outside of football, a Newcastle United ran without ambition is not good either for anybody in the region.

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