19 April 2009

Newcastle United FC - Silver Linings For the Black & White

Earlier today my beloved Newcastle United suffered a 1-0 loss to Spurs that will almost surely see them prepping for life outside the Premiership. For the past few weeks I had been holding out hope that points at Stoke and Spurs would get them out of the red zone, but after picking up just one point in these two crucial games, it's almost certain the Toon are going down.

It's tough to accept such an outcome, but the reality is that the team and organization are a shambles. For too long the club have clutched delusions that they are a "big club" who should be constantly challenging for European places. Refusal to rebuild and owners more interested in milking a religiously loyal fanbase have contributed to the current situation. In fact, Premier League survival could very well be more damaging to the club on the whole than relegation.

Why have I come to this conclusion? First of all, once the emotions cooled and supporters accepted their new position, they (we) could finally embrace that Newcastle United is not the big club so many think it is. We haven't won anything in 40 years and, despite the large fanbase and high-capacity stadium, don't pull much weight or much respect with casual fans. Players with high wage bills end up at St. James' because other, smarter clubs refuse to pay for overpriced vets in the twilight of their careers. Relegation would help shed a lot of this dead weight and make room for the lot of young academy kids who deserve more first team experience.

Of course the club would lose some key performers if they went down, but really, would we miss most of them? The only people who really impressed me this year were Bassong, Gutierrez, Guthrie and Carroll. The latter three would do well to stick around, though it's unclear if they would, while Bassong would almost definitely end up at Arsenal. (As an aside, I think a central partnership of Kolo Touré and Seb Bassong could be a massive step forward for Arsenal and I'd like to see that if Newcastle do go down.) Steven Taylor had a decent season and may stick around for a season just to fight for his home side and get them back to the Prem. Relegation would be a good test to see who sticks with the side and who wants to play mercenary and ship out.

Additionally, the challenge of the League Championship is one that would provide valuable managerial experience for Alan Shearer if he does, in fact, stick around. As opposed to some of the lofty, unreachable goals that the club has set for itself, winning the Championship (or at least securing promotion) is a more than reasonable goal for the club.

As a loyal supporter of the club it most definitely stings to think about relegation. That's for dysfunctional rivals like Mackems or the Smoggies. But that's where we Toon fans find ourselves and we should keep a positive attitude about the positives that relegation could bring. The past few seasons have been a continuous series of failures and a clean slate for some true rebuilding could be the boon this club needs.

No comments: