At the end of a season for Newcastle United that can only be described as a turbulent one to say the least, once again the owner of the club, Mike Ashley placed himself in the spotlight by embarrassing the whole foundation by deciding to place the football club up for sale for a price of £100 million which, for those who are interested in purchasing it, is to be done via email.
Over the years there has been the "we are a big club" tag that has had a tendency to haunt Newcastle, as fifty thousand supporters come and see their local team week in week out with a backing that is second to none; however, there is no secret that the fans desire the success they feel they deserve.
Bouncing back from relegation is Newcastle’s priority, but the nightmare scenario is that they keep on sinking. Many Premiership clubs have been relegated over the years with no return—i.e. Leeds United. In my opinion Newcastle made similar mistakes to Sheffield Wednesday but on a far greater scale.
Throughout the season they got it wrong big time and they deserve what's happened because of the way they've been run although I take pitty on the real sufferers, the fans, who've dished out their hard earned money in these struggling economic times. Now, if they don't spend £50million to buy an entirely new squad, there's every chance they'll get relegated again.
There's no way those players want to play in the Championship. Even with a whole new squad it's a risk. They'll have players they won't be able to move on, and it creates disharmony inside the dressing room.
They're also about to discover something they might remember from when they were young. It's called contact. The Championship is a very different game to the Premier League. It's much more physical.
If Newcastle think things can get no worse after relegation, they should think again and perhaps hope history won't repeat itself when another of northern football's fallen giants, Sheffield Wednesday were sent tumbling out of the Barclays Premier League and are only just daring to dream of a return. It's a long and painful process and Newcastle are feeling distinctly queasy about it.
With word that Michael Owen & Co. are itching to jump on the next bandwagon that rolls through, you'd be forgiven in wondering where 80+ goals needed for automatic qualification will come from next season. Even Geordie, Steven Taylor will make a decision on his future only after a manager is appointed which fans hope is Alan Shearer.
Turmoil at the club has seen almost every player put up for sale but Taylor is on a list of players along with goalkeeper Steve Harper, midfielder Nicky Butt, and fellow defender Habib Beye, which Shearer wants to remain as the Toon attempt to retain a spine for their Championship campaign.
Three previous owners, injury prone, seen better days, available for nothing but needs a good home—any takers for Michael Owen? After listening to him during an interview this week I believed he still has that familiar chip on his shoulder, which suggests to me that he thinks the world owes him a living on the basis of that wonder goal against Argentina at France '98.
He complained about journalists writing him off, but if you demand so much on your payday, then people are entitled to some criticism; there's not too much wrong with that.
There is no way on Earth that his form for Newcastle last season warrants an England place, and if Owen's previous record for England entitles him to a call-up, then maybe Fabio Capello should look at calling up Sir Bobby Charlton or Gary Lineker, both having scored more goals for England than Owen has to date. Capello has done a wonderful thing—he's picked players not on reputations but on form. And that's why Owen has been left out in the cold.
Sorry, Michael, but you should be apologising to Newcastle for your expensive years of under-achievement. It's time Owen forgot the past and concentrated on re-inventing himself. Of all the footballers on the planet, I would have least expected him to release a brochure this week to sell himself; it's all very bizarre. I can’t imagine what’s in it...but I’m going to hedge my bets and say that having signed youth contracts at 15-16, not many professional footballers have ever written a CV.
The old rumour dictates that people who write CVs are liars. Statistics wise, Michael Owen doesn’t really need to lie. There’s a cliché somewhere about CVs being able to communicate independently, and I suppose Owen’s would be top of many recruiting piles on this basis alone. Sadly for Owen over the last many years, there is a "but."
The list, if it can be called that, of clubs interested in securing the services of a player whose name was synonymous with goal scoring during his teens and early 20s, in the same vein as Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler, is not extensive or glamorous. The club he supported as a boy, Everton, have been tentatively linked with the player but have not been making too many enthusiastic noises about securing him on a contract at Goodison Park either.
Simply put, there does not seem to be an abundance of interest from Premier League clubs in a man once cherished as England's No. 1 goal poacher, and after a glance at the suitors casting admiring looks in his direction this summer substantiates the view that the aura surrounding the one-time golden boy of football has long since evaporated.
Such a notion would have been unthinkable five years ago, before Owen took the decision to move to Real Madrid. This failure does not rest on his shoulders alone, but one thing is for certain: Michael Owen did not pay Newcastle United back for their trust and investment.
As saddened as they were by Michael's goal tally this season, more importantly there is the small matter of relegation, and as stunned as they are by what has—or has not—happened since, the fans main emotion right now is fear. Fear that the worst is yet to come. Fear of another, even heavier fall come next May.
The bookies, twisting the logic that what goes up must come down, make the Magpies favourites to return to the Premier League next season. And considering people foretold so much of the current strife when looking ahead to the 2008-09 season, Newcastle’s absent landlords might do well to take notice. No new owner in his right mind would not appoint Alan Shearer as manager, so why is he not already in the job and cracking on with what has to be done this summer?
There is a crucial period in the close season when you can pull off transfers early and inject new life into the dressing room. They have to get rid of 12 or 13 people on £50,000 plus a week and get in some hungry, up-and-coming players in their place. It needs to happen—or rather, it needed to happen. To basically ignore the summer because nobody is in charge is sheer madness.
But let's face it, it's not that much of a surprise for a club that's been punching above their head for years and a huge fan base doesn't equal a great football team.
If ever there was a story about how not to run a football club, then the main protagonists in the novel would be Newcastle. It's a bad setup that starts from the bottom and extends all the way up to the boardroom with complete and hopeless mismanagement.
First and foremost, the team is a group of aging has-beens, let's be honest, and it's not helped by those bogus underachieving signings of the last few years. There's nobody in the ranks they could rely on in getting 15 goals a season. I know Martins was out for most of the campaign, but he's ready for someone else to pick him up for buttons now.
For the majority of the season, most players on the pitch looked like they didn't even want to be there. When Shay Given left, many people criticised his loyalty, but I ask those people, who has been the club's most loyal player of the last 12 years? The team is, essentially, a group of average players making money off of past glories, thrown together by six or seven managers.
Mike Ashley has admitted that his love for the game, more than having footballing management knowledge has not paid dividends the way that he intended; the set up of the youth system and trying to blood youngsters into a team that requires a constant flow of talent was all of a good nature, but it seemed having a director of football that controlled this had been the initial hurdle for a club.
Director of Football, Dennis Wise was pulling the strings from...wait for it...London no less, and should he had only played a part in scouring the world for youthful talent in order to enhance the future prospects of Newcastle United, leaving first team affairs to the manager, then this could have been a different story altogether.
The season could have ended with Newcastle either finishing in typical style of mid table or pushing the likes of Tottenham and Manchester City for a place in the Europa League instead a teetering on the brink of relegation all season long.
In fact, it is quite remarkable how the crowds held up.
It's not the end of the world, and even though the Premiership revenue will be missed, players who got Newcastle into this will most likely leave—and good riddance—no other football club is going to pay their huge wages for their level of talent like Newcastle was robbed each week doing. I think Newcastle have motivated youth. Ranger and the like, while in the Premier League, would never get a look in as well as other up and comers with huge ability.
There has been the talk that Freddie Shepherd's consortium wants to take charge of the club and I feel it is vital that he, or whoever takes over, is given the time required to re-shape a club that has lost all of its stability. I personally believe Newcastle United will bounce back, but the real question is when. In the Championship, Newcastle will have more time for intrapreneurship and organisation of the football club as a whole.
Sometimes you just have to take one step back, before taking two steps forward.