In the mid 1990s Kevin Keegan performed something of a revolution at St James Park and against the odds turned Newcastle United into title contenders. Not only that, but during the 1995-1996 season he led Newcastle unto a 12 point lead, so convincing that many bookmakers paid out on them lifting the trophy. They went onto to several 2nd place finishes and had a good run…but then it all went wrong! The nights at the Nou Camp and the consecutive Cup Finals seem oh so long ago now for the toon army faithful and seemingly for the last decade a spiral of decline has been in place. Many blame Mike Ashley….but have the fans got a role to play in this?
The issue can be dated back to that 1995-1996 season when Newcastle thought they had the title won. The 12 point lead was broken down, the title was lost and in my eyes the club never recovered. It was at this stage that fans began to view the club as bigger and more important that it actually was on a national scale. Other than Alan Shearer, Newcastle failed to capture big name players, those players to take them to the next level, and the fans couldn’t understand why and turned on the manager, the club and the director. The simple fact is, that without a winning history, without those trophies and without that special appeal Newcastle were not able to attract who they needed to stay in place….they joined a long list of the teams who have had 2-3 seasons of wonder and faded away.
This “big club” mentality feeds down and the fans got impatient with managers, proven guys like Sam Allardyce were pushed out when in all fairness, better jobs could have been done with time. Newcastle couldn’t understand why two relegations occurred and, more of an issue perhaps, the 6 back to back defeats to local rivals Sunderland.
It all foes down to what I call the Newcastle Problem…..that the club and the fans see them as bigger than they are. Yes they have a loyal fanbase with a huge stadium that is sold out whoever the opposition is…but this doesn’t put them on a par with the top 6 teams in the Premier League.
If Newcastle can just get to grips with the fact they are a middling Premier League team, expect the odd relegation battle and perhaps a drop in division and build from there, they can function much better than they now do. Rafa Benetiez has crafted a team for the Championship which they won, but then wasn’t given the support to make them a Premier League team. And what has this been hampered by? All the sale talks…..which hinge on the factor I have mentioned before, Newcastle are not the club they believe they are and that is why they are not getting the right buyer with the right price.
A whole new mentality is needed at St James, more akin to local rivals Sunderland, or selling clubs like Southampton, if they are to turn themselves into Premier League mainstays once again. Until then, I pity the Toon Army as they will continue to be just a footnote….