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Opinion

Never before has a Newcastle United regime being happy to do nothing when faced with relegation

4 months ago
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Things have been bad at Newcastle United before.

We’ve heard and read it from all the usual sources lately, perhaps in preparation for the inevitable whilst removing any blame or scrutiny for the regime. The message is we have either always been rubbish, or have been rubbish before and should thus remain rubbish uncomplainingly.

Of course this doesn’t apply to another set of fans, nor did it apply to us until recently. This would defeat the whole point of being a fan or watching football. Something many of us can vouch for.

It is true we’ve had bad times. Statistically even worse than this.

The late 70s and early 80s. Post Supermac, relegation, dwindling crowds, controversial management and little hope, gave way to a false dawn led by Kevin Keegan that eventually resulted in even worse times. Dashed by the board.

With Gordon McKeag as chairman and having sold Waddle and Beardsley, the club would boast in a letter of their achievements in response to growing dissent amongst the fanbase, of such achievements as reaching the prestigious Mercantile Credit centenary finals at Wembley and of having a team of good young players. All of two months before several of them were sold (most notably Paul Gascoigne) and barely a year from being miserably relegated. Sound familiar?.

With Gascoigne sold and Beasant signed, the club started the 1988/89 season poorly and looked relegation material from the start (a 4-0 defeat at Everton on the opening day and a goal down just over 30 seconds into the match).

Despite finishing 8th with a good late run the previous season and the small matter of being a club legend, Willie McFaul was sacked. Though it wasn’t palatable, few could disagree. The threat of relegation was bigger for the club than any one man. McFaul’s final game was a 3-0 home defeat by Coventry.

McFaul’s final run: Sacked after a run of one win in seven (two in nine to include the league cup)

Narrowly failing to bounce straight back in 89/90 in the play-offs, the pressure was on to go one better in 90/91, we never truly looked likely to achieve this.

In the end the fans who weren’t boycotting became disgruntled, ire raised by 0-0 home draws with Brighton, Wolves, Barnsley and Bristol City in quick succession and every glimmer of hope – Steve Watson, Dave Mitchell’s debut winner, playing Derby off the park in the cup, 2-0 up against Forest– swiftly crushed. Smith was pressed into resigning though there was little doubt he was about to be sacked as a result of changes at board level.

Smith’s final run: Five wins in twelve games (including both FA Cup ties against Forest)

By the time Ossie Ardiles was begrudgingly sacked by Sir John Hall, the point becomes redundant. The Magpie Group has wrestled control of the club and injected vision and ambition. Venom to its predecessors. In the end a collapse at home to Charlton that the England cricket team of the day would have envied, disorganised chaos at Oxford and going out of the cup, did for Ossie.

Ardiles final run: One win in eleven league games.

Through all of this the club was in debt largely due to, in a rare case of investment, the building of the Milburn Stand. As now, only genuinely the case, money was too tight to mention for all those managers. Something the current manager has never had to worry about here (or indeed at Aston Villa or Sunderland).

These were the dark days – 1991/92 was the club’s lowest ever finish, 1990/91 saw the club’s lowest average attendance over a season.

Yet never before has this club, however unambitious the owner(s), to whatever massive degree the lack of vision, however tight the purse strings, or grim the overall economic climate, whatever the crowds, or perceived glass ceilings, never before has this club been owned by people that were happy to do nothing when faced with a completely needless and very damaging relegation on the back of a run as bad as two wins in twenty, playing the most consistently atrocious football the club has ever been tarred by, amidst training ground bust ups.

However little the previous Newcastle United regimes cared, however absolutely flat-lined in ambition and vision they were. If this club, small to some, average to others who would detract from it and defend this regime. However dark those previous times were.

What does it say of this current regime, from their own damning by feint praise defenders, that in those previous dark days, those previous terrible owners would never have even considered doing nothing in this same situation.

(First ever contribution to The Mag, please gan canny)

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