Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Geordie Requiem

Allow me to interrupt the CL festivities for a tardy farewell to the Fog on the Tyne

So, the EPL loses one of the institutions, one of its loudest, most colorful teams from the North of England. Do I feel bad or sorry for them? Not especially. If I'm honest, I'm rather non-plussed. For Newcastle, the writing's been on the wall for quite some time.

I watched their fish-out-of-water performance on Sunday, in disbelief that their limp effort was that of a team fighting and clawing for its survival in the world's best and most lucrative soccer league.

After the first 20-25 minutes that yielded a handful of gilt-edged chances (wasted time and again by Martins and Viduka), Newcastle retreated within themselves like an old crab. Once Villa took the lead on a freakish deflected goal (incidentally, it came off the heel of their most hard-working player in 2008/09), I felt compelled to pull a trick from the Tuesday Morning Quarterback School of Exposition and thus, I wrote "game over" in my notebook.

They were painfully bereft of invention, sustenance or spirit for a team so well supported and seemingly willed across the finish line by Alan Shearer and Iain Dowie, the pair of highly-touted guidance counselors who managed 1 win their 8 games in charge.

Before that clueless duo, it was Joe Kinnear, a man whose managerial nous was forged in the fires of the 1980s, and yet, the task of keeping Newcastle afloat was literally too much for his heart. Caretakers came and went, but a good deal of blame must be laid at the feet of Kevin Keegan, a man so well-known for his toughness on the pitch and now equally well-known for his timidity and fragility off it.

And the team? 15 players making more than 50,000 pounds a week, and none of them worth it. This list tells the tale, and I don't disagree; just look at some of the names and wages!

Michael Owen hasn't been worth 105,000 pounds since his single season at Real Madrid, while the rest of 'em are somehow still trading on good form from many seasons ago to get a good contract: Viduka, Alan Smith, Geremi, and Kevin Nolan.

And then you look at the riskier buys that all failed -- Coloccini, Cacapa, Xisco, Jose Enrique -- and you're not left with much worth keeping. The Magpies will need to completely overhaul their squad if they're to have any chance of competing.

Who ultimately gets the blame? Not the players, nor the procession of managers, but tubby Southern softie Mark Ashley, the man who bought a valued cultural commodity and turned it into a circus. His public apology was unexpected, but also way too late.

Like we saw with Leeds, it has to get a lot worse before it gets better, and though it's been a while since one of the venerable institutions of top-flight football has tasted the sour mash of the lower leagues, it doesn't mean they are immune.

RIP, Newcastle 08/09. Your fans, cartoonish as they may seem, deserved better. Their club was poorly operated, badly mismanaged, and utterly hopeless on the pitch. Even their former owner agrees.

So what say you, folks? How long until the Magpies get back to the top flight?

My Bold Prediction in Bold:
Middlesbrough will return to the EPL before Newcastle, simply because the one thing 'Boro have going for them is a cohesive, coherent squad. Top to bottom, they're full of youngster blooded and bred through the Academy, and while their expensive imports have largely failed (here's looking at you, Afonso Alves), they have a core of players that are tied to the club for the long haul and with minor tinkering, they should be able to get right back up.

After all, that's what gets you success in the Colaship: a squad full of hungry, younger players that are well-drilled in playing as a unit. Add a couple of experienced vets to the mix, and they should be fine, unless they all start playing diva in the summer and demand transfers to Bolton, Wigan and Birmingham.

1 comment:

Mosher said...

As a Geordie (and I have the NUFC tattoo to prove it) I would like to cross swords with you over some of the points you've made.

Only I can't as I agree with absolutely everything.

I ranted somewhat on my own blog about it, but you're utterly right as to who's culpable - that muppet Spurs supporter who bought us, who seemed think that running a few dodgy clothes shops qualified him to mess around with the management structure of a football club.

What a dick.

The only way we'll make it back up next season (though we are down as favourites for some mad reason) is if we ditch a HUGE amount of our squad to save cash and replace them with hard-working bargains.

Or get bought out by someone with billions who's happy to start in the colaship and progress from there rather than just chuck their cash into a Prem club.

Both are pretty unlikely so I'm just happy the BBC are covering the second tier from next season. At least I might catch some highlights.