Yesterday afternoon saw the end of an era for the Premier League and, in particular, Newcastle United.
After 16 years as a top flight club, in which they had challenged for the title, Newcastle's fate was sealed with a 1-0 loss to Aston Villa, condemning them to Championship football next season.
Newcastle's Premier League era began with a legend, or rather, a "Messiah" and finished in the same vain.
Kevin Keegan's first reign as manager brought with it the golden age of the modern era, as they came within touching distance of a first piece of silverware since the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup of 1969.
The thought that Alan Shearer could have repeated those heroics by achieving safety was wishful thinking by those still clinging to the days when Shearer was their goalscoring hero.
A few weeks ago, B/R's David Gore coined the phrase "Messiahs before managers" and I can't sum it up better.
Since Mike Ashley lost the fans' support, that has been the philosophy he has stuck by.
When Sam Allardyce was leading Newcastle to a now enviable 11th place in the league, the confusingly spoilt fans chanted "You don't know what you're doing" to him.
I say confusingly spoilt because they have no reason to be so. Yes, they have a rich history with players like Jackie Milburn, Paul Gascoigne, and Alan Shearer himself, and a great stadium, but, when it comes to a bragging contest, they haven't had any ammo for 40 years now.
In fact, before Allardyce they had Glenn Roeder and Graeme Souness in charge, neither of whom excelled Allardyce's achievements.
Why, then, did those brainless fans berate Allardyce so readily?
Simple. Newcastle fans are among the worst in England.
Let me explain that statement before I cause uproar amongst any reading Geordies.
Newcastle fans are often considered among the best fans in the country, along with those of Liverpool and Portsmouth. And, at times, this is more than justified.
However, it all depends on whether or not they take a liking to the man in charge. If they do, then they will be the most loyal fans you come across. This has been seen in recent times with the second coming of Keegan and currently with the management of Shearer.
If they don't like the man in charge, see Allardyce, Souness, and to a certain extent Joe Kinnear, although I think he won them over a bit, they can be hugely detrimental.
During his tenure at Newcastle, Allardyce won 34 points in 24 games, an average of 1.4 per game. This would have given them a total of 54 points this season, a tally that would have been enough to secure them European football.
Sam Allardyce did know what he was doing.
In comparison, Keegan won 24 points in his 21 games, an average of 1.1 point per game (enough for a 13th place finish), while Shearer won just five points from his eight games in charge, an average of 0.63 points per game, which would have secured them just 24 points over a whole season, a bottom place finish.
Alan Shearer is the man who doesn't know what he is doing.
So why don't the Newcastle faithful get on his back?
Messiahs before managers.
I truly believe Mike Ashley only hired Alan Shearer to get the fans off his back following Keegan's departure. The fans can be Newcastle's biggest help, but also their biggest hindrance.
So does the blame lie with the fans?
No, for the most part they have been superb. You cannot blame them for backing their manager, but you can criticise them for not backing a better manager.
The board could have resisted the supporter's pressure and stuck with Allardyce, but they gave in. Mike Ashley in particular seemed hell bent on getting rid of Allardyce from the moment he bought the club.
Is it Mike Ashley's fault then? Well, a large portion of the blame can be attributed to him, but I think his naivety is as much to blame as his decisions.
I have already discussed his hiring policy, but the most glaring mistake wouldn't be sacking Allardyce, it would be hiring Shearer.
What made Ashley think that Shearer, a complete novice in the world of management, would be able to halt a decline five years in the making in just eight games when Keegan and Kinnear, both established managers, had failed before him?
A lot of chairmen want too much to do with the manager's job in football nowadays, but I think Ashley wanted too little. I think he saw his naivety in this instance and let the managers, the men who knew football better than him, get on with it.
That is fair enough, but he put his trust in managers who made the wrong decisions, bought the wrong players, and ultimately he has paid the price of hiring the wrong managers.
In this continuing installment of the blame game, the next to have the finger pointed at him is Alan Shearer himself.
There has been some debate as to whether Shearer took the Newcastle job with selfish intentions. Personally, I think it was the complete opposite.
In hindsight, he probably knows he wasn't the right man to lead Newcastle out of the relegation mire. At the time he was offered the job, however, all he saw was his beloved Newcastle, and the supporters who had adored and idolised him for years, in deep trouble.
He wanted to help and tried to.
However, I do think he made some bad decisions in his time at St. James' Park.
The most notable one, for me, was the suspension of Joey Barton. It only seemed to attract more negative attention to the club, and piled even more pressure on the team to get results.
Joey Barton is one of the few Newcastle players to actually show passion, which brings me to the point of this article.
Why, when all they needed was a goal anytime in the second-half, did Newcastle, and Shearer in particular, leave the kitchen sink in the kitchen? Why didn't he throw everything at it.
Yes, you could say he finished the game with four up-front, but what good is that when no-one is chasing the ball, no-one is putting any effort in, and no-one is showing any desire to keep Newcastle in the Premier League?
Barton could have been that player.
After the match, Jamie Redknapp said that it wasn't a matter of "lack of effort", a message re-inforced by Shearer who stated that he "can't fault them for their effort."
Was I watching a different match? In fact, was I watching a different season?
From start to finish, Newcastle players didn't put enough effort in. Even when their impending doom started to turn from a nightmare into reality during the last few months and weeks of the season, they didn't seem to up their effort level.
And, most worryingly of all, even when one goal would be enough to save their Premier League status, the effort was still lacking. They didn't throw the kitchen sink at it.
They seemed content to go down, almost like they had accepted the inevitable weeks before.
There was no fight in them, particularly in the last ten minutes or so.
This must make you question the commitment of the players. Do they play for the shirt? If you look around the Newcastle dressing room, I think most of the answers would be a resounding "no".
Paolo Maldini is about to hang up his boots after a glorious career at AC Milan. In each of his 901 appearances in the red and black of Milan, he has given unparalleled commitment and dedication.
He would do anything to help his team.
There was none of that on Sunday. To be fair, however, almost every player on the planet would pale into insignificance when compared to Maldini in that way.
So what about some other players who have recently said their farewells?
Sami Hyypia at Liverpool gave his all in every match, and has been a fantastic servant. Even Tugay at Blackburn did his utmost for his team's cause despite his advancing years.
Very few Newcastle players could be classed in the same category, with Steven Taylor and perhaps Steve Harper being the only ones who immediately spring to mind.
It is this lack of ambition, lack of determination, and lack of passion which has played a massive part in Newcastle's decline, a point particularly surprisingly considering Alan Shearer is their manager, and he possessed the above qualities in abundance during his playing days.
You can blame a lot of factors for Newcastle's demise. From their refusal to put everything on the line to win to the appointment of Alan Shearer, or from the sale of Shay Given to the suspension of Joey Barton.
You could even go back a few years and blame the dismissals of Bobby Robson and Sam Allardyce.
Whatever, or whoever you blame, the fact remains that Newcastle will be playing in the Championship next season.
And you know what? They deserve it.
Quiz Question No. 4:
Four of the top ten all-time Premier League goal-scorers have played for Newcastle—who are they?
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