Football FanCast columnist Johnny Smithers looks on at the decline of football in the North East and wonders where it all went wrong and what needs to be done to rectify it.
As a region of England, it was once considered the hot bed of English football and a place where all top players both in England and Europe wanted to play. The North East public was treated to new stadia, cup finals, playing in Europe and with the likes of Ginola, Juninho, Asprilla and Ravanelli on the pay rolls; it certainly was exciting times in the mid to late 90s.
However it seems those days have somewhat dried up and where teams had shown so much promise and ambition have slowly drifted down the English game’s pyramid. So where did it all go wrong for these clubs and how can it be resolved?
I was reliably informed by a Middlesbrough fan the other day that they were the most successful side in the North East in the last 35 years. While I found that hard to fathom, on closer inspection she was spot on. When Gareth Southgate went and lifted the Carling Cup in 2005, which was the first bit of silverware to hit the region since the late Ian Porterfield secured Sunderland’s FA Cup triumph in 1973. It is an appalling return from three huge football clubs and the North East public have certainly deserved better. So where has it gone wrong?
It certainly doesn’t seem for the want of trying or investment as all clubs have splashed the cash. Newcastle are indeed the perennial big spenders and therefore the finger of accusation must surely point at a succession of poor managerial appointments. It is a problem that in fairness has hit both sides since the mid 90s and you could say that neither club has been able to find the right formulae since the days of Peter Reid, Bryan Robson and of course Kevin Keegan.
All three managers came in at the football club when the Premier League was at its most buoyant. Sky money had meant that there was plenty of money flying about and with Serie A going into financial meltdown; the English League was the place to be. Keegan took Newcastle to the brink of the title, Reid took Sunderland out of the old Division One and brought European football to Wear side. Robson took Boro to the Premier League after years in the wilderness, made them competitive and took them to cup finals. It was a great time and all sides seemed to be on the up and playing some wonderfully attacking football, which was a joy to watch. There seemed a vibrancy about the region’s football clubs.
This is me as a neutral looking in and I’m sure you have a far greater insight into what has one wrong at your football clubs over the last few years. It is a fall from grace and I for one would love to see the teams in the North East challenging for domestic and European honours. A decline has clearly set in and I just wonder how it happened and what is needed to turn it back around.