Newcastle United have finished in the Premier League’s top four on five occasions since its inception in 1992. In 1995 they sat 10 points clear at the top of the league at Christmas, only to throw it away after Kevin Keegan’s infamous “I will love it” rant. Now though, the Magpies look to be heading to the Championship after a series of woeful performances have left them six points from safety in the Premier League, and they need to take on a huge squad clear out this summer.
Some of Newcastle’s showings in recent week have been nothing short of atrocious. They haven’t won in the league since February 6, and have claimed just one point from the last 21 available. On Saturday they were totally outclassed in a 3-1 defeat to Southampton, in a match that perfectly summed up their problems this season.
It seems almost inevitable that Rafa Benitez, who has been at the club for just four games, will leave St. James’ Park in the summer if they are relegated. Owner Mike Ashley and managing director Lee Charnley will be left to regret the appointment of Steve McClaren just under a year ago, a man who simply failed to meet the standards that the Magpies demand.
The players however must shoulder a vast majority of the blame for Newcastle’s impending relegation. They have constantly underperformed, and their commitment to the cause has often been called into question.
In matches such as the 5-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge in February, as well as a similar 5-1 hammering by Crystal Palace in November and the loss to Southampton at the weekend, the players have simply downed tools. It’s not that they don’t have the ability to stay up; it’s that they simply don’t seem to care about the future of the club.
You wouldn’t think that too many of the players will still be at the club next season. Foreign players such as Moussa Sissoko, Papiss Cisse and Ayoze Perez have been nowhere near their best this season, and it is hard to imagine any of them will want to play in the competitive environment of the Championship.
Defensively, they have been hopeless at times this season, and with Fabricio Coloccini approaching the end of his career, it is time for Newcastle to move on. Daryl Janmaat has been one of the Magpies’ more consistent performers this season, but he will want to try and reignite his international with the Netherlands, so will be desperate to play top flight football.
The real problem that will face whoever the next manager is the amount of average players at the club. Players like Steven Taylor and Cheick Tiote are well past their best, but are on big salaries at Newcastle, so they could struggle to shift the dead wood.
It cannot be denied that Newcastle is still a huge club, so they will still have the attraction to bring players to the club. But for whoever is in charge of the club next season, they have a massive rebuilding job to do.