It’s unusually harsh on Newcastle supporters, who are one of the more tortured fanbases in any sport you can find. Imagine if Pirates owner Bob Nutting owned a soccer club, that’s what Newcastle fans just went through. Mike Ashley was not only a raging asshole, but incredibly cheap when it came to the club, and did his best to kill what is one of the most fervent fans anywhere. Much like the Pirates in Pittsburgh, Newcastle should be so much more than they are, not just locally, but in the league as a whole. It’s basically a crime that neither are.
You can understand the fans’ feeling of salvation when a Saudi Arabian consortium bought the club from Ashley, but it was also impossible to ignore the odious nature of that ownership group. The definition of “sportswashing,” Saudi PIF have billions earned on the back of human rights atrocities, backward laws, and whatever else you might throw in, and their ownership of Newcastle is meant to make everyone forget that. Just like Manchester City and the UAE, and PSG and Qatar. Their unlimited cash reserves, their ways around whatever flimsy rules the Premier League and UEFA might try and pathetically stand in their way, not only warp the football landscape but only muddy the waters of the world at large even more.
A majority of Newcastle fans may not worry about balancing the salivating prospect of their team becoming one of the biggest in the world, as it’s arguably something they should have always been, with the image and reality of their ownership. The rest of us do, and our relief that Newcastle fans will never have to deal with an undeserving toad like Ashley anymore is constantly tussling with the discomfort of the PIF.
So maybe it’s best for everyone if Newcastle serve some time in the penalty box of the Championship, starting next year.
The Magpies tossed away another winnable game at home yesterday, giving away an equalizing goal in the dying minutes to Watford (themselves relegation fodder) to end 1-1. When you’re fighting against the drop, home wins against your fellow strugglers are paramount. Newcastle very well may rue those two points they puked up. Newcastle have dropped 22 points this season from winning positions. They find themselves in 19th, but just two points from safety, which just so happens to be Watford in 17th.
Can it get better? Curious, as was the decision to hire Eddie Howe as manager to pull them out of their Steve Bruce Ashley-inspired muck. Howe did great things with Bournemouth to make them a Premier League outfit, but he was never known as a manager who could organize a defense to anything above “wayward.” And Newcastle are a collective goofus in defense, giving up the second-most goals in the league, behind only Norwich who don’t even really try to stay in the Premier League. You can’t score your way out of relegation.
And even if that’s what Newcastle were going to attempt, they didn’t provide Howe with too many players who can do it. Allan Saint-Maximin is a bundle of joy, and Callum Wilson can net consistently… for the 12 minutes he’s healthy per month. Other than that, there isn’t much.
That could change by the end of the month and the closing of the transfer window, if and when PIF starts throwing their money around to try and transform the team. Newcastle have already brought in Kieran Trippier, with the idea of him just lacing in crosses from the right wing. Chris Wood was bought from Burnley to head those crosses in, at least while Wilson is on the shelf. It’s not the most elegant plan, but elegance stops being an option when you’re in the bottom three.
And unless you’re a black-and-white shirted yobbo, forcing yourself to throw up on Northumberland Street before hitting the next pub (I’ve seen it, believe me), you can’t help but feel Newcastle getting relegated is just about the most justice we can ask for. There will be a day not too far in the future when Newcastle bankroll their owners’ billions to be among the top four in the Premier League, Maybe even more than that. But it’s too easy for the PIF to just stroll in and immediately change the landscape. The answers shouldn’t come so simply or so brutally.
And while Newcastle supporters will dread yet another season in the second division, they can be comfortable in the knowledge that it would be the last time for a long time, and that their best days would be soon arriving.
Could Newcastle avoid the drop? Oh for sure. There’s every chance that Watford, Norwich, Burnley could be worse. Maybe it’s not Wood’s goals that will get them there, but the ones he won’t be scoring for Burnley now. Maybe Leeds’s own defensive chaos could see them slip out. What if Everton don’t actually pull out of this tailspin?
Still, as callous as it may be, the best answer is Newcastle to have to wait before their revolution. For their fans who welcomed in a tyrannical regime so openly, for the Premier League that couldn’t bring themselves to do anything about it, and for the rest of us. Everyone will get their cookies eventually. But we all know you gotta eat your vegetables first.