Monday, May 25, 2009

Shear Agony

Newcastle are down. Perhaps not since the relegation of Leeds in 2003/4, has a team's demise seemingly been so welcomed by an overwhelming majority of so-called 'neutrals'.

Both of their fates offer a sense of footballing 'fairness' to those who support clubs that can merely dream of their abundant support and resources.

The integrity of the Premiership meanwhile could not be questioned today with all four of the clubs threatened by relegation, losing to teams with nothing to play for. Kudos to all of them.

At least Alan Shearer was suitably honest to acknowledge that the players had simply not been good enough. With a points total of just 34 points (the same that a dire Charlton side were relegated with in 2006/7), they could hardly claim otherwise.

I've never been a big fan of Shearer, although he has handled the limelight well since his appointment.

Presumably aware that he had nothing to lose, and with the full weight of the Toon Army fully behind him, he could take the plaudits without ever worrying about taking blame, hardly a great foundation for likely success.

To borrow a topical joke, the difference between Shearer and Newcastle United, is that only Shearer will be on Match of the Day next season.

What does irk me about Shearer (and plenty of others like him) is the implicit arrogance that merely being a successful former player, is sufficient to form the foundation of a career in top flight management.

This is particularly the case with Shearer, who had been involved solely with media work for a couple of years before his appointment.

Others like Gareth Southgate moved straight from the playing side, whilst Paul Ince toiled away in the lower divisions before learning he wasn't good enough.

It's surely something of an insult to the likes of Arsene Wenger or Martin O'Neill, who presumably view their ability as having evolved through decades of hard graft, and not something to be acquired from two years on a television gantry.

Shearer was however supposed to be the 'Messiah' (after the last failed one presumably), although instead an interesting statistic caught my eye about one of his predecessors.

When the former Newcastle manager (and decidedly non-Messianic) Sam Allardyce took over at Blackburn in December, they only had 13 points whilst the Geordies had 19.

In a typically unheralded way meanwhile, helped perhaps by the lack of media attention in that corner of Lancashire, Allardyce guided a considerably less talented squad to safety and 41 points.

Allardyce was of course jettisoned ridiculously prematurely by new owner Mike Ashley, unimpressed by methods that might in due course have led to uncomfortable outcomes like regular victories. The decision instead set in train the comedy series that followed.

Rumours suggest Ashley's pre-purchase due diligence was cursory at best, and if true it serves as a valuable lesson that if you want an expensive plaything without worry or risk, then you're better off buying a yacht.

Unlike Spurs or Chelsea for example, I don't think disliking Newcastle is necessarily a natural default reaction for most fans of other clubs. Indeed under Kevin Keegan in the 1990s, they were many people's second club with their cavalier attacking style.

Moreover, whilst the support of the locals borders on the primeval, Newcastle remains one of the best away days in football, something the fans of 23 Championship clubs can now look forward to.

As a one-club city, the inhabitants are completely loyal, whilst unlike other major one-club cities like Leeds, its stadium is based handily bang in the centre of town, giving matchday a uniquely dynamic atmosphere.

However as a team still proudly displaying the name of Northern Rock fully eighteen months after it failed, perhaps their fate was already effectively sealed. As twin tales of gross mismanagement, they'd be extremely hard to beat.


At 10:20 AM, Blogger Kings Hill Addick said...

Shearer's arrogance was never more obvious than agreeing to comeback to save his club.

I can only think of a handful of managers that could genuinly claim to be coming in to 'save' a club.

I had seen nothing to believe that Shearer could save Newcastle when so many before him had failed.

To be fair to me, I still haven't as he didn't. It would probably be an emotional and irresponsible decision to ask the player with just eight games in management (and just one win) to rebuild the club now.

With Newcastle, however, I have learned to expect the decisions to be as sensible as those made by my five year old son. It's no surprise that they are where they are.

At 6:41 PM, Anonymous sillav nitram said...

what irks me, is that shearer made a comment, something along the lines of "newcastle deserve to be in the premiership" as if their, somewhat above the idea, that if you accumulate less points than all but two other clubs, then quite rightly, you do deserve to go down. i think it's an attitude that all the so called elite have, as if relegation is only for the oiks of the footballing world. as curbs once said the table doesn't lie.


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