The win that may well have sent Newcastle United down…
It was one of the Newcastle United highlights of the season, against limited opposition.
Going down to ten men with the majority of the second half remaining, the most optimistic of fans must have feared the worst.
Going down to nine with over ten minutes of normal time and only a one goal advantage, it appeared certain that the Saints would march their way to at least a draw, probably more.
Somehow, despite a red card, four injuries and seven minutes of added time at the end of the game, Newcastle United were resolute and determined enough to cling on to a vital three points on 6 February 2021. And maybe they will be vital points. Maybe when the season ends, we will be nestling a point above the relegation zone and thanking our lucky stars that we managed that most unlikely of victories.
I personally think the Southampton win may have been a double-edged sword. It was great to see us put everything on the line and somehow eke out a win from a seemingly impossible position, but I think long-term it has been detrimental.
Had Newcastle United collapsed to defeat in that game (and all other results remained unchanged) by match week 25 Fulham would have leapfrogged us. That was the weekend that Bruce chuckled and chortled his way off the pitch after losing to Man Utd, whilst Fulham beat Sheffield United. Our inferior goal difference would have seen Fulham leapfrog us with both teams on 22 points.
We would have been sat in the relegation zone before our meetings with the Midlands trio and maybe, just maybe, would have faced them with a new manager. Maybe even a semi-competent one.
We know from history that Mike Ashley won’t pull the trigger unless we’re in the relegation zone. In fact, he doesn’t even wave the gun around a little in the middle of a crisis.
He stuck by a John Carver that hurtled us towards the trapdoor, landing himself in the history books for the longest losing streak we’ve ever had. He stuck by Pardew each time he steered us dangerously close to falling out of the division. Kinnear had to fall critically ill to leave the post despite falling into the relegation zone.
The only time Ashley’s sacked a manager in the last decade, was Steve McClaren, who had made himself quite cosy in the bottom three. Maybe, had we dropped into disaster once again already this season and had a record of only one win in sixteen games, Ashley would have finally seen sense and made a change with thirteen games to go.
Even if he hadn’t made a decision then, had things continued to play out as they have done, we would have been two points adrift after the West Brom match. Seeing us two points from safety having drawn a blank against the team in 19th would surely have been enough to see Bruce out the door.
That would have given us a new manager with eleven games to go, with the first one up against Villa. A new manager bounce against a one man team without their one man could have seen us win that one and we’d be going to Brighton full of confidence and back out of the bottom three.
It probably sounds illogical that I would rather we had been in the relegation zone with a new manager before Villa than have Bruce now and be two points clear of danger. I only see Bruce taking us one way though.
Maybe we can scrape a couple more wins under his ‘tutelage’ and secure safety. But I think it is becoming less and less likely as we continue to plod along, happily scraping draws together whilst Fulham fight for their lives.
Instead of a team with a new manager and direction, we go to Brighton in turmoil. The players don’t seem to want to play for the manger or are just incapable of adjusting to the strange formations that sees most of the attackers playing in the wrong positions. Some players have been discarded altogether.
The fans are completely disconnected from the club and the head coach.
By Saturday morning we could be in the bottom three and, if we don’t win that evening, we will stay there. If Ashley finally calls time on the farce that has been Bruce’s reign we will be in familiar territory.
In the relegation zone with a new manager only having nine games to turn it around. It’s right in the middle of the eight that Shearer had and the ten of Benitez. It’s the perfect symmetry for our third relegation under the scourge that has been Mike Ashley’s ownership.
You can follow the author on Twitter @billymerlin
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