Nine games played and just two points on the board. Newcastle United already look a side hopelessly adrift. Early doors as it may be in the season, the Geordies are looking dangerously flat.
They are fourth from bottom on the goals scored and shots taken charts. While their defence is far from shambolic, it’s also proving to be more porous than they’d like with fourteen conceded already. A lack of goals and a below average defence; a recipe for disaster if ever there was one.
Even the Rafa factor is starting to ebb away. Never famous for being a motivator, the Spaniard looks unable to lift his troops on the pitch. Anchored to the bottom and watching their rivals claw away at points, relegation looks a very real prospect for the Magpies.
If they are ultimately unable to avoid a third relegation in ten years, then it may well prove to be the costliest of failures. If Mike Ashley is banking on another automatic promotion at the first time of asking, then he may be in for an unpleasant surprise. He has clearly underestimated the cost of failure.
As Newcastle fans know all too well, The Championship is one hell of a slog. Forty-six games and some pretty plucky opponents can see any side get bogged down in the second tier.
A club of Newcastle’s size are always a prized scalp for the divisions smaller sides who up their games for a big occasion. Yes, Newcastle have twice got back to the Premier League at the first time of asking, but there would be no guarantees there would be lucky a third time.
Just look at how Leeds, Wolves and Sheffield Wednesday have all managed to get stuck in the mud down there. Aston Villa look set to follow suit as their hopes for a quick return, gradually fade.
Yes they’ve bounced back twice before, but given the chronic under-funding and decline, they’d arguably be in a much worse state on and off the field, than in their previous two seasons outside the Premier League.
Some pundits have pointed out Mike Ashley’s position as a prudent business man as a possible ray of light for the beleaguered Geordies. Their argument goes along the lines that he will finally step in with big money to protect his investment.
Its a fair point. You wouldn’t bet against Ashley giving Rafa some money to spend in January. This will surely be the case if they are still moored in the bottom three after the last of the Christmas Turkey is consumed.
The issue Ashley has made for himself though, is that he will be not be strengthening an already solid base. This Newcastle squad looks as though it needs £100 million spent on it. An overhaul is needed and it may come to be the only thing to save them from another humiliating relegation.
You also have to consider that January is a horrible window when you’re desperate. The market picks up on a club’s plight and prices rocket up. It would be difficult for the club to spend efficiently, but it’s a bullet they will have to bite.
Sell sell sell
The above argument for Ashley’s business acumen, is slightly undone by his odd, and for Newcastle fans, infuriating, decision to hold out for more money, when a good offer came his way for the club.
He could have almost doubled his money in January this year. Amanda Staveley’s bid was said to be £250 million with no clauses. Ashley is said to have wanted £350 million and the deal failed.
Of course it’s his right to reject any offer he likes. However, for a man with a net worth of £2 billion, it does smack a little, more than a little to be honest, of outright greed.
Worse still, his business acumen failed to point out the obvious back in January. He was selling Newcastle from a strong position. They didn’t really look in serious danger of the drop last season and had a head turning coach at the helm. They are two very attractive factors to investors and punters like Staveley.
Ashley will find it even harder to find a buyer willing to meet his asking price with the club heading for the drop. Or worse still, if they are languishing in The Championship.
Ashley now must decide what his next steps are. It’s already gone beyond critical at the club.
His hopes now rest on Rafa being able to squeeze some points out of his next few games and battle up the table. They’ve already played five of the top six clubs, so the hope will now be that they can get a few results.
Ashley surely needs to give Rafa something in January. A goal scorer would help. It may even keep them up. However, it would only be a life support option going forward, the club is in serious need of rescue and investment. Both of which would be a whole lot harder if the club’s owner oversees a third relegation on his watch.