Newcastle Woes Suggest Further Troubles

Newcastle Woes Suggest Further Troubles

Certain clubs seem particularly susceptible to crisis, lurching from one pitfall to another and often spurning stability for bouts of footballing insanity. Newcastle are such a side. On paper, the Magpies could be a goldmine. They are one of the few old-fashioned teams still based in the heart of a football-mad city and with no local competition.

However, their last major honour came when lifting the 1969 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup when they defeated Hungary’s Ujpesti Dozsa. Some may scoff at the now-defunct competition being described as a ‘major’ trophy but even then you have to go back to the 1955 FA Cup to find their last Wembley win.

There was a time in the 1990s when the Newcastle team played with a swagger their city could be proud of, Kevin Keegan’s side earning the moniker of the ‘Entertainers’ due to their perceived tactic of always aiming to outscore the opposition.

Big-spending Sir John Hall bankrolled most of their rise but with other club’s catching up in the financial stakes, Newcastle failed to claim the silverware their chairman’s devotion deserved.

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Fast-forward to 2007 and Mike Ashley took over and it has been relative chaos ever since. The 55-year-old is a fantastic businessman but unfortunately for the fans, has tried to translate the buy cheap and sell high policy so successful from his Sports Direct empire into football.

However, anyone who knows the sport will be aware it is policy that does not work. Two relegations, a fifth place finish in 2011-12 and little else have been what the club have been left to show for the Ashley-era.

The 2019-20 campaign began with mutiny, a large section of supporters choosing to stay away while the owner continued to reject takeover bids they felt were worth greater consideration.

The fans were also still reeling from Rafael Benitez’s departure, the Spaniard having worked wonders on a shoestring budget before finally deciding enough was enough.

Typically, Ashley went for an easy option, reckoning that another old head could mimic Rafa’s revelations and keep the club in the Premier League.

Enter Steve Bruce. Born up the road in Corbridge, the 58-year-old flirted with the Newcastle hot-seat in the past but was always overlooked. However, after resigning from his post at Sheffield Wednesday, the job was his on July 17.

Being viewed as a cheap alternative is hardly a good start for a man looking to win favour with a dissident crowd but when you’ve also previously managed Sunderland, you better be good.

Eight matches in and Newcastle are out of the EFL Cup, have won just once and were crushed 5-0 at Leicester on Friday.

Captain Jamaal Lascelles questioned his side’s attitude after the game but it has to be asked, are the players good enough?

Like his predecessor, Bruce was left scraping around looking for bargains after coming in. Give Ashley his dues, he did splash out a club record fee on Brazilian striker Joelinton, six months after doing the same for Miguel Almiron but the truth is, the squad has been neglected for far too long.

Allan Saint-Maximin looks a decent buy but is always injured and does not seem to have a natural role in Bruce’s 5-3-2 shape, while wing-back Emil Krafth’s arrival from Amiens and Jetro Willems loan switch from Eintracht Frankfurt both whiffed of deals done in a panic.

Even worse, they signed Andy Carroll on a free transfer. When fit, Carroll could play for England but he has not been fully fit for the last five or so seasons and the reason he was available was because West Ham let him leave after growing tired of his injury woes. Despite his ties to the club, having come through the academy, even those most loyal to the team know Carroll is not the answer.

Inevitably things have not gone well and while fans will hope Sunday’s thrashing by the Foxes is the nadir, it could get a lot worse for the Toon Army.

A Premier League low of just 37.6% possession shows they lack confidence when trying to dictate the play, while a pass success rate of 75.6% suggests they are short of the required competence when they have the ball.
Those two add up to just four goals scored this season, leaving Newcastle 19th.

Everyone at St James Park will now be rallying around looking for a positive response ahead of Sunday’s visit of Manchester United. They then have time to regroup before a trip to Chelsea after the international break.
Looking ahead, it is hard to see Newcastle emerging from their current predicament. Bruce lacks Benitez’s acumen and despite his best efforts, very few fans would back him to keep the club up.

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