Relegation to the Championship has never been a bigger deal. With the money the TV deal offers in England’s top flight now, relegation into the second tier has never been so devastating. And for the three clubs who were demoted this year, the race to get back into the Premier League at the first time of asking has never been more important, with Newcastle United, arguably, in the greatest need.
Newcastle are a club that quite simply cannot survive at Championship level for more than a season. Seeing a team of such scale to tumble into the second division was a shock, as ‘The Toon’ are one of those sides that are quite simply ‘too big’ to be there for too long. Whilst some may argue no team is too good to be relegated, a club of Newcastle’s stature and size can’t survive in the second division for too long.
In Rafa Benitez, however, the club have an idol and the best man available to lead them back into the Premier League at the first time of asking. Some people are so confident the Magpies will be back that bookmakers are offering odds as low as 4/5 to see them return at the first time of asking – which says a lot and also suggests that they believe they need to get promoted as soon as possible.
With a wage bill as high as they’ve got and the interest in games at Championship level far lower than those played in the top flight, the Spaniard needs to perform some quick fixes to get his side back into the top tier right away. And this starts with pre-season. Rafa has the whole summer to get his squad up to size, get them match fit and add wherever necessary.
Their squad, on paper, should be good enough to see them go up at the first time of asking, but the Championship is a notoriously tricky league to get stuck in. Ask the likes of Fulham, Birmingham City, Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday – all Premier League teams in the past decade or so, but sides that have been trapped in the division since their subsequent relegations.
Add teams like Swansea City and Blackpool into the mix – sides that have over-exceeded any expectations over the past few years – and you can see why the Championship is so tough. There are always those anomalies where teams prosper when you really can’t see how they’re doing it.
It’s a scrappy league where top quality football isn’t the only thing that will see you promoted. You need excellent squad depth and that ability to scrape 1-0 wins away from home on a long Tuesday night. With Newcastle being so far north, expect there to be some tough ties against London teams, or further south, in the middle of winter weeks, and this is where we will find out if they have what it takes to bounce back.
Rafa needs to get the Toon back as quick as he can – there will be financial and commercial troubles if he doesn’t. No pressure…