After yesterday's shocking performance at Anfield, Newcastle United, so long thought of as one of the game's "big boys", are staring down at a desolate future in the Championship.
I have read many articles and comments that seem to suggest that the Georgie nation are too big, or too good to go down.
I have seen sympathy and distress at their plight from many neutrals.
In this article I would like to put down 10 reasons why I think this sympathy is undeserved.
1. The "Successful club" tag
It does make me laugh somewhat when I read about how a club as successful as Newcastle can not go down. What exactly is it that makes Newcastle so successful? The lack of trophies? The lack of recent European football?
When you look at the plight of two time European champions Nottingham Forest, or even Leeds United, you begin to see that Newcastle aren't even going to be that big a fish in their new smaller pond.
2. Their ownership
Mike Ashley is an idiot. An absolute oaf of a man. For a more specific reason, please see below.
For me this starts at the very top of the pile, Dennis Wise, who had some non-specific, irrelevant job title similar to a director of football role. What exactly qualified Mr Wise for such an important role at a Premier League club?
Aside from one decent FA Cup run—five years ago—this man has had a managerial career that can be best described as non-descript.
Let's now look at the numerous managers that have sat on the St James' bench this season.
Kevin Keegan—Keegan, despite showing all the passion in the world, was found wanting when managing Newcastle in his previous spell. Despite a huge lead, and a fantastic side. Keegan lost his edge. His team followed.
Now fast forward 10 years. 10 years which have included an unsuccessful England role and five years not even watching football, and Keegan is expected to be successful with a team not even half as talented as his previous reign?
The fact he was undermined by Ashley and Wise at every turn didn't help, but Keegan was never going to be the "Messiah"
Joe Kinnear—Another shocking decision. Another man who had been out of football for so long, that people tend to have forgotten his last spell as a manager at Nottingham Forest, was absolutely awful.
Throw in the fact that Kinnear has long standing heart problems and was always going to be risking further health issues, and you feel even more perplexed about this decision.
Alan Shearer—For me, this is the most puzzling, and desperate appointment of the lot. Shearer is a man with zero coaching experience, and was often criticised for tactical naivety whilst sat on a sofa...Talking.
This was no doubt another desperate attempt by Ashley to pacify the Toon Army, but giving the reigns over to a novice when facing relegation is the act of a man who knows nothing about football.
Trevor Brooking was appointed West Ham manager under very similar circumstances a few years back, but at least Sir Trevor had a history of understanding coaching and tactics...West Ham were still relegated.
There is a place for sentiment and ex heros in football. A Premier league relegation dogfight is not that place.
Looking beyond the numerous managers, various high profile coaches have sat on the bench. Again this reads as a list of failed managers and coaches.
What exact benefit do Newcastle see in bringing in names like Colin Calderwood and Iain Dowie on short term contracts? Haven't their previous records not shown they are maybe not the right person in a big job situation?
5. The fans
This is somewhat controversial I admit, but the fact is, the Toon Army have grown an almighty chip on their shoulder. I will ignore the drastically reduced attendances, when they were previously in the old Division 2, and talk about the last few seasons in particular.
Newcastle fans, in my humble opinion, have a huge illusion of grandeur problem. They have been told too many times that they have a given right to be successful. Buying 50 quid replica shirts does not give you the right to scream, "You don't know what your doing" at a man like Sam Allardyce, when 7th in the table.
This is a man who is by the way, easily guiding Blackburn to safety.
I am now half way through my article, and I haven't even touched upon the playing staff...So here goes.
6. Living in the past
Nicky Butt, Alan Smith, Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan and Michael Owen. All full England internationals. Regular and important members of the England set up, or on the fringes, chomping at the bit for their place.
This last statement is very very true.... Or at least it was six years ago. Add to this players like Mark Viduka, Geremi, and Damien Duff, and you have a Premier league dream team...from 2002.
The fact is, all of the above players have seen their careers go down the pan in recent years, due to loss of form or injury. A club can afford to have on or two of these type players, as a calculated gamble. But building your team around them is ridiculous.
The choice of playing and managerial staff in general, to me sounds like Mike Ashley is basing his football master plan based around a 2001 copy of Match magazine he read at the airport on the way to ruin this club.
7. Lack of spirit
When trying to survive a relegation fight, you need a few things. Luck is one, and Newcastle are not getting close enough to opponents' goals to get any of this.
Another thing you need is the quality to scrap. The ability to fight, sweat, and bleed for your badge, your club, your fans, and your place at the top table. Yesterday's performance against Liverpool showed absolutely none of this.
A teams fighting spirit must come from the top, and yet in Viduka, Martins, and Owen, Newcastle have a trio of strikers who couldn't give a damn about Newcastle United.
Martins in particular does not look bothered when he has to chase a game. and I honestly believe Owen only ever used Newcastle as a way into the England team. Now that Fabio Cappello has closed the door on Owen's England career, Owen's effort has plummeted.
The midfield looks full of players you would expect to relish a scrap. Nicky Butt, Joey Barton, Alan Smith, and Kevin Nolan all have reputations as "battlers" and "grafters".
The problem with this is that Smith and Nolan have never had the qualities to match this reputation, Barton seems to prefer channeling his aggression into stupid challenges, and Butt unfortunately does not look the same player without Roy Keane next to him.
Nearly the whole side yesterday looked devoid on any character or fight. In fact, only Steve Harper and Damien Duff can be given any form of credit.
8. The Defence
Absolutely shocking. As a Liverpool fan I have watched my team score eight goals against Newcastle this season. In both games, the Newcastle keeper had a fantastic game, and Liverpool hit the bar at least three times.
It is not only against Liverpool that Newcastle have looked shoddy. Numerous defensive errors, more often than not, basic individual errors, have left Newcastle in the position they are in.
9. The Midfield
I have already listed the defensive midfielders Newcastle have. Other than Damien Duff, there is very little else. There is a distinct lack of creativity in the Newcastle squad.
10. The Attack
Aside from the lack of effort from the front men, there seems to be a lack of confidence and match fitness. The strikers are not gambling. They are not pressuring the opponents back four and making things happen. If you combine this with a lack of creativity from the midfield, it is no surprise Newcastle aren't troubling the scorecards recently.
So there you have it. A Sunday league board, third division management, and a Championship team. Not the ingredients you would think would equal a successful recipe for survival.
Of course they could still do it. St James' Park is still a difficult place to go to, and the Toon Army will do all they can to lift there team. This may be enough to ensure survival.
The fact will remain though. Newcastle are not too good to go down. They are not too big, or too successful. Newcastle are a poor team in a big stadium.
To me, unfortunately, that much is black and white.
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