Well, despite results elsewhere going in our favour I guess it was bound to happen. As I downed several bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale, Newcastle United downed themselves. There’ll be countless dissections of our season, but it all comes down to the fact that we didn’t get the results required. Simple as that.
Over the last 16 years we’ve gone from being The Entertainers and everyone’s second club to a team which struggles to score goals or hold onto a manager for more than a few months at a shot. The blame is bound to be apportioned somewhere, but it doesn’t take a lot of effort to figureout where to point the finger.
It’s certainly not Shearer. True, he doesn’t have the managerial skills required. But to have taken the job on when he knew the state the club was in took some amount of guts. Talk about being dropped in at the deep end. At least he had passion and obviously wanted to win. He’s probably one of only a couple of people involved in the running of the team who wanted victory for more than purely financial reasons.
It’s tempting to blame some of the players, too. After all, they’re the ones who weren’t performing on the pitch – the one thing they’re paid vast amounts of money to do. Thing is, they don’t care what happens to the team to a large extent. It’s common knowledge that relegation simply wasn’t considered when the contracts were drawn up. As a result, their wages will be unaffected – the only way we can tighten the purse strings is to offload a bunch of them or renegotiate contracts (and that won’t happen).
We could point the finger at bad refereeing, but that’s just not the case. You find me a team in the Premier League that didn’t suffer at some point in the season due to poor decisions. The fact is, as always, this does balance out over the course of the season. It’s not an excuse. Results around us conspired to, on the whole, help our cause. We, however, didn’t take advantage.
No, if there is any one place to lay the blame it’s squarely on the doorstep of the man at the top of the management structure: the owner, Mike Ashley. Sure, he can claim to be passionate about the club but let’s be honest – he’s only ever cared about the financial end of things and in trying to oneupmanship Wigan Athletic‘s Dave Whelan.
There is no denying that Ashley is a successful (if documentedly dodgy) businessman, but it has become painfully obvious that he doesn’t have the first clue about running a football club. By far and away the biggest mistake he made was to bring in Dennis Wise and effectively refuse Kevin Keegan the control he needed (and demanded) to effectively manage his squad. If there was a bigger error, it was in being stubborn and refusing the ditch Wise thus forcing Keegan’s hand and giving him no choice other than to leave.
That was the turning point. The chances of getting the train back on the tracks with such a swift change in management were ridiculously low. It’s been bad enough over the last few years with managers barely getting a full season under their belt before being given the heave-ho, but we then went through four managers in one season. Admittedly, this was partially due to Joe Kinnear‘s ill health.
However, the fact remains that we should never have been in that position in the first place. Ashley jumped in with both feet, thought he could tinker with something he had no knowledge of and destroyed any chance he and we had of any success. By all accounts his actions were typically Ashley – pig-headed, bullying and arrogant. At least he did make some attempt to sell the club, but couldn’t find a “suitable buyer”. In other words, nobody was offering him enough money.
Well, look where that’s landed him. He should have taken what he was offered a couple of months ago as the club must surely be worth a hell of a lot less now. Which means, in all likelihood, he’s stuck with us and we’re stuck with him. We’re also stuck with a squad full of players we likely can’t afford due to the aforementioned lack of relegation wage deduction.
I’m glad to see, having done a quick Twitter search, that most people who’ve expressed a tweet are hoping we come right back up. Even a few Sunderland fans. For that, I thank them. I don’t think we will – I give us 2-3 seasons, maybe. Financially we need to completely restructure. Alan Shearer may work for free (I’d not put it past him), but nobody else will.
For those who were happy we dropped, screw you. The reasons I’ve heard are plentiful. I can understand the mackems being happy – it makes sense when your rival suffers. I’d have been glad to see them go down. It’s the southerners and the pundits and those with no real beef against us who annoy me the most. These are the self-same people who probably cheered us on as we nipped at the heels of ManU all those years ago. Fickle bandwagon-jumpers.
The most idiotic ones are those who say we deserve to go down as we’ve not achieved anything in 40 years. Yes we have. We rocketed out of the old third division into top flight in record time, winning titles on the way. We provided one of the best nights of Champion’s League football when we – against all odds – progressed from the first group stage after three losses. We beat Manchester United 5-0 and Sheffield Wednesday 8-0. We have one of the best stadia in the country – this I have heard from many visiting fans. We have some of the most passionate and loyal support. Under Keegan we earned and deserved that “Entertainers” badge. We gave people ninety minutes of great football.
Is that not an achievement? But for some reason we’re not allowed to class ourselves as a “big club”. If we weren’t, then why would there be so much media coverage? Why would so many people care about our survival or lack of it? Because we are a big club. Certainly not on the world stage any more, or even on the English one right now. But the simple fact that we’re constantly covered, even in a bad light, by the media says that we’re bigger than they care to admit.
But no club is too big to suffer defeat and bad times. “Bigness” is not measured in success, it’s measured in its effect on the footballing world. And the fact that our drop has caused so many people to have their say about it – positive or negative – proves we’re bigger than they want to pretend.
So am I upset about us dropping? Of course I am. But on the positive side, it’s a whole new challenge. Different teams, different financial issues, different problems trying to get coverage of the matches, different grounds to visit should I be able to afford the time and money.
Life goes on, those who are bouncing when we went down will grow up (eventually). With any luck, Ashley will palm is off onto someone with two ounces of common sense and a decent bank balance to help us rebuild.
In the meantime, I’m still wearing my Newcastle shirt; still have the tattoo; still use the crest as my avatar on just about every message board. That’s what it means to truly support your team. You don’t give up, even when they do. But those who’ve had a giggle over the last few weeks just wouldn’t understand that.