With just three games to go this season, Newcastle's chances of survival are slim.
Considering the way they have been playing - not to mention
the disruption our old friend Joey Barton has brought to the party - the club
looked condemned to relegation.
Middlesbrough and Fulham at
home, followed by Aston Villa away on the final day of the campaign, await Alan
Shearer's side, which really doesn't look like winning another game until next
Monday's clash with Boro is the big one - a real six-pointer
- but with so much at stake, both teams will be too scared stiff of getting
beaten to produce a winner.
Neither can afford to lose and there won't be a single
player out there who will want to make a name for themselves as the player who
commits a crucial mistake.
That plays on a player's mind and caution will reign on the
day. I just don't think Newcastle
- or Boro for that matter - have players who are willing to stand up and be
counted when it really matters, to take risks and put their reputations on the
John Terry did in last season's Champions League final. He stepped
up and missed a crucial spot kick and will always be remembered for that. But
at least the Chelsea
skipper did not shy away from it. He was man enough to risk everything for the
good of his team.
With the possible exception of Nicky Butt, players like
Terry are noticeably absent from Newcastle's
squad and that could well prove to be their undoing.
Anyway, even if I'm proved wrong and Newcastle win all three points on Monday,
they may still be doomed. More than a mere three points will be needed to stay
up and you have to ask whether Toon are capable of getting anything else from
the remaining two games following the Boro match.
To win games, you need to score. Yet Newcastle are struggling to do that at the
moment and surely now the Championship beckons for the Magpies.
And it gets worse: should they go down, they will find it
tough in the second tier.
are a so-called 'big club' but they stand to lose fans if they are relegated. I
just don't buy into the claim that they have the most loyal fans in the
country: like most other clubs, supporters will drift away after the first few
games next season.
I've seen it happen for myself, when I played for Fulham in
the 1980s. We used to go up to St James' Park and it was never a sell-out. The
vast majority of football fans are fickle, that's just the way it is.
And life in the Championship will be that little bit more
difficult because they will be the team everyone wants to beat. That's what
happens to big clubs - just ask Manchester United. It was the same in my days
at Fulham - we were always up for the fight at Newcastle and we often got something from our
trips to St James'.
And that's not to mention the loss of revenue from dropping
down a division and the quality of other teams they will face down there. It
will certainly be difficult to bounce back, should the unthinkable happen.
But while the club stands to suffer from relegation, one man
is set to benefit - Shearer.
The manager simply has to stay if the Magpies are relegated.
He has to stick it out until he achieves something and his chances of doing
that are far better in the Championship than in the Premier League.
There is no shame in learning the trade in a lower division
before moving up to the big time - it was always going to be tough for him to
come into a Premier League job without any prior experience and get instant
But in the Championship, despite its competitiveness,
Shearer will be able to broaden his horizons and gain more understanding of the
managerial game before moving back into the top flight, either with Newcastle or with another