‘I won’t be selling the club until we win something’. Those were the now infamous words from Newcastle owner Mike Ashley this time last year.
Keep calm, Magpies fans. You’re only one relegation away from a crack at the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Maybe that’ll count as ‘something’ for Ashley.
So, where did it start to go wrong? The sad truth is that this has been on the cards for the last few years.
Managerial changes, wild transfers and several off-the-pitch incidents have all played a part in this eventual relegation.
But what’s even worse is that the fans expected it. The somewhat strange appointment of Steve McClaren – following his unsuccessful attempt at getting Derby County into the Premier League – in a season where the club’s hierachy was targeting a European spot seemed to set the tone for the campaign.
Let’s start with the appointment of Rafa Benitez.
Without even talking about just how little time he was given to turn things around at St James’ Park, why did Ashley consider a man with no experience in a relegation battle in the first place?
When you consider the potential short-term replacements available at the time (Nigel Pearson, Harry Redknapp and Brendan Rodgers to name but three), the arrival of the former Real Madrid boss seemed like the owner merely flexing his financial muscles.
Following their demotion, the chances of Benitez hanging round appear slim, meaning Newcastle must act quickly if they are to approach next season fully prepared.
High-profile departures are forthcoming
It’s inevitable we’ll be seeing several key players from this Newcastle side moving swiftly on just as soon as the last ball has been kicked this Sunday, with clubs in the Premier League already eyeing up a bargain or two.
Andros Townsend and Jonjo Shelvey are no exceptions to this. The England men have arguably been the stand-out players of an otherwise miserable campaign, despite the fact they only signed in January.
And given that both are already somewhere in the back of Roy Hodgson’s thoughts, it’s unlikely he’ll be travelling to the likes of Burton Albion and Rotherham on a Tuesday night to monitor their future progress.
The same can be said for a whole host of players who will undoubtedly be hand-picked by teams from the top tier.
Truth, truth and damning statistics
Goals win games. Games win points. Points keep you in the Premier League. Newcastle have scored 39 and conceded 64, giving the Magpies the second worst defence in the league, shared with Norwich.
I’ll let you guess who’s first on that damning list (no prizes). But it’s a simple statistic that defines their campaign – they just haven’t done enough.
Brittle backbone has been cruelly exposed
And finally there has to be examination of the team’s spirit, or lack thereof.
What’s happened to it? An embarrassing display against their local rivals at the Stadium of Light in October resulted in Sunderland comfortably winning 3-0 and they looked set to complete the double over their local rivals for the third year running but for a goal from Aleksandar Mitrovic in the final ten minutes.
In fact, Newcastle haven’t beaten Sunderland in the Premier League since 2011. To put that into perspective, when Ryan Taylor scored in a 1-0 victory for the Magpies against their neighbours, Leicester City were looking to establish themselves as a mid-table Championship team.
It really does speak volumes, and if nothing changes, it looks like we could be waiting a while for the Toon Army to get their revenge.
Newcastle are odds-against to gain promotion from the Championship next season with our traders rating them a 6/4 shot to make a quickfire return to the top flight.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing