Newcastle’s defeat at the weekend would have left a bitter taste in the mouths of Magpies fans. Not just because of the loss, but the manner in which it occurred.
Last month, Newcastle announced an annual profit of £18.9m for 2013-14. This is a record for the club, and one which looks set to rise given the new Premier League TV rights deal. Yet the club spent nothing in January, and sold plenty of their best players over the course of the last few seasons – Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba to name just two.
On the back of all of this, supporters’ groups organised a boycott of the Spurs game at the weekend, hoping that 15,000 fans would stay away in protest.
Whilst there definitely weren’t 15,000 empty seats, there were more empty spots than normal at St James’ Park on Sunday, and the fans who stayed were given scant reward for their loyalty. The players didn’t play for each other, they didn’t play for their shirt and they didn’t play for their manager. In fact, they didn’t even play. Not properly, anyway. Apart from a 15 second spell at the start of the second half, Newcastle didn’t look interested.
But it’s not really the players’ fault. The team have been in midtable all season, they haven’t bothered those above them, nor have they had to look over their shoulders in worry. They’ve been slap bang in the middle without a care in the world. Until now.
And that’s the truly worrying part. Because the fans are unhappy. The owner is the target of their anger once again, now that Alan Pardew has left and taken his new, relegation-threatened Crystal Palace above his old stagnating Toon Army in the table. And the fans are now seeing the team sucked closer to the relegation battle.
It’s especially worrying for Newcastle to be down near the bottom at this stage. Given that they’ve been in mid table for so long, the players have lost all motivation and it’s hard to see where the next win will come from. And with five games to go, Newcastle sit only seven points above the relegation zone – but ominously, Leicester, Hull and Sunderland all have a game in hand over the Magpies. To be only four points off the drop would be unthinkable,
And a look at Newcastle’s fixtures shows just how much trouble they are in,
They face Swansea, Leicester, West Brom, QPR and West Ham. And on paper, you’d expect Newcastle to win most if not all of these games. But on current form, it’s a very different story. The major concern, however, is that even though Newcastle will look at the fixture list and think they can win enough of these games to stay above the real dogfight below, the teams they are playing will look at Newcastle in the same way – as a team they can take points from.
It’s not that Newcastle have hard games – and certainly they are not in Hull’s position of having to play Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal and Man United in their closing matches – but it’s an indicator of their decline when teams like Leicester and QPR are looking at the Newcastle game as a good chance of three crucial points.
Newcastle will surely survive, but their form is worrying. In the short term, they need the players to pull together for one final push for survival otherwise there will be a nervous final few games, and long term they need a manager who will bring the players back up to their performance levels under Pardew.
Times are tough for Newcastle fans, they have a board, a coaching staff and a playing squad who are all underperforming, and it’s putting the club at risk. If they continue to play like they did last weekend it’s hard to see where the next win is coming from. The trouble is, if they don’t get that win Newcastle may be facing another season in the Championship next time around. And that really would be unthinkable.