Written by Carl Walker
Too good to go down was and still is a phrase used by many regarding teams involved in a relegation battle, and in most cases it is true but it doesn’t always play out that way as Newcastle United have found out twice in the last eight seasons.
Newcastle is a vibrant city, the place and the inhabitants are passionate about the game, they live and breath football, every weekend thousands turn up in their drones to support the Toon army, and it recent seasons its fair to say they have been let down by the club.
In recent history the club has been a bit of a disaster, other clubs have laughed and lapped up the chaos that has surrounded the place. The circus was in town.
What has not helped is the owner, Mike Ashley after purchasing the club in 2007, there has been nothing but a succession of troubles and fall outs, from the loss of sponsorship with Northern Rock, who went bust to selling the naming rights of the ground, its been a rollercoaster ride for the Newcastle faithful.
In the 2008/2009 season Ashely, who was already hated by the clubs fans, decided to put the club up for sale, unfortunately there were no buyers. The manager had suffered a heart attack and the club was in a relegation scrap, so they turned to one of their all time heroes Alan Shearer to save them, but it was to no avail and the club was subsequently relegated.
credit Alvin Leong
This was the lowest of the low for the Newcastle faithful. They had seen enough. In truth a club of this size doesn’t belong in the lower leagues. It belongs back in the top half of the Premiership and crusading on European campaigns like in the days of Sir Bobby Robson. The club at this point were so far away, they didn’t know if those times would ever return.
Chris Hughton was brought in to steer the club back up and he did that at the first time of asking but off the field the club was still in turmoil. Mike Ashley forced to pay previous manager Kevin Keegan for constructive dismissal.
Now the club was back in the premiership, another manager change but things were looking up, some exciting signings in Tiote and Ben Arfa helped Newcastle to a 12th placed finish with Alan Pardew now in charge. The move to fire highly popular manager Chris Hughton had made Ashley’s relationship even more strained.
credit John Blenkinsopp
The following season a 5th placed finish in the league followed and with Ashley backing Pardew in the transfer market, it looked like Newcastle United had turned it around, the good times were on their way back.
A succession of middle to low table finishes saw Pardew leave and Mike Ashley again openly stating he wanted to sell the club, Enter Steve McClaren, who after an abysmal run lasted only 8 months and Even with Rafa Benitez brought in to once again keep them up, it was too little and too late as they were relegated once again.
So what’s gone wrong at Newcastle in recent seasons, some believe that the scouting and recruitment of players is partly to blame, Newcastle seem to only cast their nets as far as France and Holland to bring in players, some that they are unknown to the toon army faithful.
While this may be true, I don’t agree, they do sign players of an unknown quantity but they have also signed some top draw players, Cheick Tiote, Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye to name but a few, the problem is that Newcastle don’t seem to keep hold of these players for very long and when they are replaced, the recruitment has been shambolic.
credit Conseil departemental de
Many believe that the location of Newcastle itself has lost its appeal to some of Europe’s bigger players. If they had to chose between signing for Newcastle or signing for Tottenham or Everton they would chose the London or Manchester clubs due to the lifestyle.
This again is not something I totally agree with, Newcastle is one of the most vibrant cities in the UK and with a huge fan base of passionate and loyal supporters who create a fantastic atmosphere on match days this should be more than enough to persuade footballers to want to be there.
Newcastle’s biggest problem has been around since 2007, Mike Ashley. He shows total disregard for the club and its fans, and his inability to sell the club is in itself worrying.
While he currently has managed to bring Rafa Benitez in, a real coup considering the position of the club when he arrived, he has had to relinquish control and allow Benitez to do it his way. No more final say on players bought and sold, no more interfering with team selection and policy which was what he and the ‘Cockney Mafia’ did with past managers.
credit Ronnie Macdonald
If this was to happen, Rafa would be off and Newcastle would be back to square one. Rafa Benitez pedigree speaks for itself and he completely has the backing from the fans, who openly wanted him to stay after going down.
He has reshaped the club, Many of the ‘big name’ players form last season that wasn’t pulling their weight are gone and players that are willing to battle and want to be part of this new project have been brought in.
Newcastle travel to Wigan tonight knowing a win will put them back on top of the championship table and in a strong position to gain promotion automatically, again, at the first time of asking. However they know not to take anything for granted because Brighton are looking very impressive under the stewardship of former boss Chris Hughton and with a bad run of games and results can see you drop out of these places. The Championship can be very unforgiving, Derby County are testament to this. In 2014/2015 season Derby were flying and then a run of seven without a win saw them slide to 6th in the league, eventually they finished 8th.
Rafa Benitez certainly seems to be the best man to take Newcastle forward and guide them back through this turbulent time and the Newcastle fans will back him as long as they see the performances worthy of the shirt, which they are doing.
The only fear I have for Newcastle is that as long as Mike Ashely is in charge you always feel the club is close to some sort of debacle, or scandal and that it will be the fans, as always, that suffer the most.
Lets hope the circus has finally left town and wont return.
Do you agree Newcastle fans? Who has to take a lot of the blame? Is it all Mike Ashley’s fault? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Mari