"It hurts me to say this, but Newcastle United are a club going nowhere"
Undoubtedly the thoughts and feelings of every Newcastle fan right about now, but it’s a particularly stinging assessment when it comes from Kevin Keegan. Alan Shearer branded United "pathetic"; two of Newcastle's three most important figures of the modern age despairing at current events on Tyneside. I wouldn't want to know what Sir Bobby would think.
|Pathetic: Newcastle have been lambasted for their recent defeat at Manchester City|
For as Newcastle once again rolled over for a Premier League opposition, it was further evidence that indeed the club is indeed going nowhere. Neither up nor down, Saturday's "showing" alarmingly indicated that the coaching and playing staff may actually share Mike Ashley's non-ambition.
It would take a monumental shift for Newcastle to go down this season, and probably a monumental shift to finish any higher than 11th. Safe in the warm arms of the Premier League, with its mega TV packages, advertising exposure and sponsorship deals. The 19th richest club in the world off the field, but on it a million miles away from their Top 20 counterparts.
The owner's indifference to on-field success is seeping onto the pitch like poison. Fans and local press are often accused of being too nostalgic, harking back to days of Keegan, Shearer, and Robson. But what else is there to hold onto? We had the ambition of champions, the passion of the fans was replicated on the pitch and in the dugout. Now our heroes are despairing alongside us.
I don't think I've written an article that hasn't referenced the Magpies 5th place finish in 2012. But that is my most recent nostalgia, the last ounce of ambition shown - that flickering hope of competing once again in the higher echelons of England. Newcastle's failure to even attempt to capitalise on that impressive campaign is scandalous. The 19th richest club in the world with the Premier League's third biggest stadium shouldn't be finishing any lower than 8th in any season.
Newcastle's unexpected rise only served to tighten Mike Ashley's grip on their league stability, and fast-tracked the commercial success the owner now enjoys. The club was winning admirers for recruiting Graham Carr's spotted talent in a thrifty manner, but the insistence in only operating in this manner has begun to prove as problematic as it was positive.
Players being bought young to be sold for profit later on is a well-documented problem in itself, but too often since the "French Revolution" in January 2013 have Newcastle United players succumbed to embarrassing hammering's both home and away. Since the rude awakening of that 6-0 defeat at home to Liverpool, Newcastle have lost by three goals or more to Sunderland, Man City (twice), Swansea, Chelsea, Spurs (twice), Everton, Manchester United, Southampton (twice) and Arsenal (twice).
None of those defeats have been valiant efforts, all carrying the gutless undertones that were so blatantly on show at the Etihad last time out. All carried the negative, care-free body language that followed every Man City goal. All riddled with individual errors like that of Vurnon Anita, all performed by players lacking passion and desire. Most crucially, all managed by the same management and coaching team
Alan Pardew's departure has only allowed John Carver to carry on over-seeing a wretched 12 months at St James Park. Players continue to lie down when they don't fancy it, offer nothing when falling behind. The only difference is that United would have probably held on to beat Burnley and Stoke under Pardew. Already a miserable situation, Newcastle are now being led by a less suitable Head Coach who's post-match interviews are even more frustrating than his predecessor.
King Kev reckons that Carver won't be in charge going into next season, and fans can only hope so. For fortunes to change on the field, the club needs an overhaul of management and coaching. While they're at it they should hire a new physio team too. United have lost their identity, and only a fresh approach to tactics and team selection can change the prospects on match-day. We all pray for De Boer or Garde, but who would be surprised if Ashley opted for his most cost-effective option?
What has been really telling in recent times is the squad's lack of leadership; compounded as two of Newcastle's substitutes were sent out to apologise for the latest drubbing. Our Club Captain, whose voice I've never heard interviewed, was once again part of a lacklustre defeat, once again absent from the inquest. The side have nobody to galvanise them; Colback was stupid, Sissoko tried to force the initiative but was quick to sulk. How long before Krul gets sick of picking the ball out of the net?
Coloccini, Gouffran, Williamson, Anita, Sissoko. All part of the sides turned over too often. Cisse is starved of quality service. The Newcastle coaching set up has for too long preferred to continue with these players, continue with the same hapless tactical approach. The win over Liverpool in November was Newcastle's best display this season. Now the likes of Abeid and Obertan can't get a look in despite being fit for a good few weeks; Carver happy to stick with the frustrating Gouffran and Anita.
The season is not over until that final day. There are league positions to fight for, a derby to win, impressions to make. If Newcastle are looking to bring in a fresh Head Coach then these players should be fighting for their futures. Krul, Sissoko, and Perez are by far the club's prized assets; but how long before these assets are cashed in? Abeid, Aarons, Ameobi, and Obertan should be given the opportunity to flourish between now and May; Ryan Taylor too.
If the owner opts to ignore the blatant need for new Management structure next season, I dread to think of the direction Newcastle United might head. A continual orbit around mid-table mediocrity, an occasional flirtation with the trap-door. Moments of promise forever dashed, that nagging reminder of the suffering of this great football club. Sleeping giants.
A fresh impetus in the dugout is needed to awaken Newcastle on the field. If Charnley and Ashley have the ambition we all doubt, they will give the club what it needs. What is really needed of course is a fresh impetus from top to bottom, but that's not going to happen any time soon. The least the owner can do is give the fans something to be proud of on the pitch while he continues to cash in.
But hey John Carver is cheap and available, so what do I know?