Newcastle United; Perennial Underachievers?

Martin HillCorrespondent IMay 14, 2008

No silverware since 1969; no domestic honours since the 1955 FA cup and yet Newcastle currently boasts the 13th richest club in European football as ranked by Forbes magazine.

Manchester United, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, AC Milan, Juventus, Inter Milan, Chelsea, Barcelona, Schalke, Liverpool and Olympique Lyonnais are the 12 teams ranked above Newcastle and in the last 10 years all mentioned teams can lay claim to at least one piece of silverware whether it be domestic of European!

Even 14th placed Tottenham Hotspur can boast winning domestic honours after a League cup win over Chelsea this past season.

If Newcastle were ever going to win the title it was under Kevin Keegan during his first spell in charge. Taking Newcastle from mid-table second division obscurity to Premiership title challengers within four years.

Since the introduction of the 20 team Premier League in 1995 Newcastle's best finishes have been second in the 95/96 and 96/97 seasons. Arguably the beginning of the underachievements that continue to plague Newcastle to this day.

These seasons saw massive leads slip away to Manchester United when the league looked wrapped up. These were not underachievement's though, this was a team falling at the final hurdle, but two second place finishes is a great platform to build on for the future.

Then the unthinkable, King Kev quits!

Let the underachieving commence. Four years under Dalglish then Gullit saw dismal league performances with a highest league finish of 11th.

Two FA Cup finals, one for each manager shed some positive light on these bad seasons, but lifting the trophy would have written these managers into Geordie folklore, even as bad as both turned out to be!

After Ruud Gullit was sacked one year into the job with Newcastle languishing at the bottom of the table and Alan Shearer sitting on the bench along came Sir Bobby Robson.

From the depths of the Premiership to a this time respectable 11th place finish times were looking up for the Toon Army under the all Geordie regime of Freddie Shepherd, Bobby Robson and Alan Shearer.

Fourth, third and fifth over the next three season's saw Newcastle back in the Champions League, but at no point during this time were Newcastle ever in with a shout of winning the league with Arsenal in full swing.

Domestic trophies aside, the UEFA cup was the most likely silverware heading to St. James' Park, but a semi final defeat against a Didier Drogba inspired Marseille put an end to that claim.

Early into the 04/05 season amid claims he'd lost the dressing room and early performances looking very questionable Sir Bobby Robson "stepped down" as manager.

In steps Graeme Souness!

After his success with Liverpool it was fair to say Graeme Souness was due a crack at another big club, but his recent managerial form hadn't been anything other than average. He certainly wasn't the fans first choice but rather than get on his back it was time to let him give it a go.

Our worst finish in the Premiership of 14th was the outcome of Souness "giving it a go."

Again though a healthy run to the UEFA cup semi final this time saw Newcastle fall at the final hurdle to Sporting Lisbon, but gave Souness, albeit surrounded with great pressure from fans, had another season to prove his worth.

As expected this season didn't go to plan and in February 2006 Glenn Roeder was installed as caretaker manager until the end of the season. The first sensible thing the Newcastle board had done in a long time.

To Glenn Roeders credit he dragged Newcastle up to seventh place earning European football for the following season as well as a chance at managing the team without the "caretaker" tag.

Disappointment largely surrounded Newcastle's league form under Roeder as he couldn't repeat the events of the previous season and another bottom half (13th) finish was all Newcastle could muster.

Again the UEFA cup run was eventful if unimpressive as this time Newcastle fell to an inform AZ Alkmaar and the shrewd management of Louis Van Gaal clearly showed what Roeder and Newcastle were lacking to make the grade.

The loss in the UEFA cup and the 13th place in the league saw Roeders time come to an end in May 2007, in comes Big Sam!

Freddie Shepherd finally brings in the man the fans want. After success with Bolton Allardyce was due a chance at a club like Newcastle and all early signs looked good.

To everyone's disbelief Freddie Shepherd (who's time in charge was becoming tiresome) did two things the fans agreed with, brought in Big Sam then sold up to billionaire Mike Ashley.

Although originally kept on in some capacity Freddie Shepherd had soon completely parted company with the club after scandal surrounded him during the football transfer probes.

Thanks to the take over Allardyce never really had the chance to chase the targets he wanted that summer and with chairman's, assistant chairman's, directors and assistant directors of football being appointed left right and centre Big Sam was left with signing the players near the middle of his wish list.

Pre-season form saw Newcastle beat the likes of Juventus and Fiorentina and a 3-1 win away to Bolton on the first day of the season left Newcastle top of the Premier League and the whole place buzzing with the great things that were to come.

Big Sam was the man, until October anyway!

After 26 points from 21 games Sam Allardyce was the latest casualty of a Newcastle board insistent on giving every manager under the sun a chance rather than giving the man some time.

The Shepherd era appeared to be on us once more!

With Jose Mourinho obviously uninterested in a job in the north east, Harry Redknapp was the name being batted around, but 'Arry soon put an end to that stating he'd be staying with Portsmouth, now who on earth will end up Newcastle boss.

The messiah returns...

Kig Kev returns after three years away from football and understandably it took him a little time to find his feet and form, but a solid run of seven games undefeated through March and April saw Newcastle secure Premier League safety and finish a lowly 12th equalling the lowest points tally from the previous season of 43.

Just when everything looks on track for the first time since Bobby Robson was in charge, Keegan makes comments after the defeat to Chelsea claiming Newcastle will not break into the top four during his time in charge.

This appears to irritate Mike Ashley who summons Kev to London for a meeting with himself and "others." All indicators show this meeting to have been productive and should hopefully be the end of the misquotes being batted around by the like of Peter Scudamore. 

So the original question, are Newcastle perennial underachievers?

The simple answer is yes!

Although many players haven't hit their peaks while in the north east the constant revolving door of management in and outs only proves a manager needs time, not only to establish himself but to establish what his players and staff have to offer.

Lying fourth on the Premiership spenders list behind Man United, Chelsea and Liverpool, surely an established manager (Ferguson, Mourinho [at the time] and Benitez) with that money to spend given the time would have broken into the top four and would have brought silverware to the club.

Consistently in the top league and regular appearances in European competitions has cemented Newcastle into the top 20 richest clubs.

But rich clubs with trophy cabinets collecting dust for over 50 years really doesn't mean anything to a fan!


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