What a ridiculous situation.
There is no way on this earth that a club like Newcastle should be staring at the Championship next season and, with all due respect, be playing Burton Albion.
The fans have seen it coming all season, but that doesn’t make Wednesday night’s conclusion to their campaign any easier to swallow, and the buck can only stop in one place.
When you’re the boss, the buck stops with you. It’s you that went on TV last season and said that you’d invest in the team and management and that you wanted silverware. It’s you that employed those that run the club and it’s you that appointed the manager. There is nothing else to blame, aside from the ineptitude of the players, perhaps.
18 internationals with over 300 caps between them and they can’t play better than they have. Nearly £80m splashed out over two transfer windows and the club spent the vast majority of the season in the bottom three fighting (well, not quite) off relegation.
McClaren’s tenure was an unmitigated disaster and questions are being asked as to why he wasn’t replaced earlier. Mid-March would have been too late for even Houdini himself to get Newcastle out of their troubles.
Rafa Benitez is a top manager and was a perfect fit for the aspiring Magpies, but it was too little, too late. Despite a run of games that were more positive and with improving performances, it was all too late. By the time Rafa joined, seven defeats in 10 Premier League games had left Newcastle stuck in the relegation zone and Benitez was given just 10 fixtures to save their top-flight status.
Newcastle have seemingly learnt nothing from their 2008/09 season, when the club drafted in Alan Shearer to save them. “They have made exactly the same mistake as seven years ago by not giving the new man enough time,” Shearer told The Sun. “In 2009, I was made manager with just eight games to go. I knew straight away it was not long enough. It took Rafa four of his 10 games to work his team out.”
A top eight finish was the target at the start of the season and with exciting new additions, it seemed not entirely impossible, but the players never took to McClaren or his style, and look what’s happened.
Some of the players will elect to go, with everyone’s wages cut back because of the relegation. Midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, the club’s top scorer, will depart, as might Jonjo Shelvey, Andros Townsend and the likes of striker Aleksandar Mitrovic. New signing and French midfielder Florian Thauvin returned to Marseille on loan in January without even registering a Premier League goal or assist
The strikers have largely disappointed for a club renowned for its forwards. Newcastle managed just 28 goals in 28 games under McClaren and, while their shooting has improved under Benitez, they have scored 11 goals in nine of late and have failed to score in just two of those matches.
At the back, life has been just as miserable with 64 goals conceded.
Ashley hasn’t learnt. Two stints with Joe Kinnear, the sacking of Chris Hughton, the wrong people in the wrong jobs and when the right people do come in, the inevitable is already far beyond their control.
Next season, the Magpies will probably be looking for another manager. Will Rafa want to manage in the Championship? He might fancy a project, but with bigger teams across Europe on the look-out for new managers, it is more than likely that he will leave the North East using the get-out clause in his contract.
Like Aston Villa, Newcastle will need a strong, British manager who understands the Championship to re-build, almost from scratch. Managers of the calibre of Sean Dyche could do an excellent job at St James’ Park, but coaches like him are in the Premier League.
Mike Ashley won’t be going anywhere, but he should take a look at those working for him and run the club in the way that this famous old club deserves.