A year ago, Newcastle fans had been dreaming at the prospect of signing world-class names like Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi.
Instead, the Magpies once again find themselves in turmoil, edging ever closer to the relegation zone and without a win in 10 games. Manager Steve Bruce, not for the first time, has come under fire and it seems almost inevitable that he will become the Premier League’s next managerial casualty. How things can change.
A 2-1 loss to Leeds United on Tuesday night condemned Bruce and Newcastle to their fifth successive league defeat, a result which left them in 16th place and just seven points clear of the relegation zone.
The club has twice been relegated from the Premier League under their much-maligned owner Mike Ashley, and if their current form is anything to go by, Newcastle is in real danger of extending that unwanted record to three.
At least for the time being, there is still a relatively comfortable cushion between themselves and 18th-placed Fulham. However, Scott Parker’s side has shown more fight and desire of late than the Newcastle camp, and that’s a worrying sign.
Bottom of the table Sheffield United has also shown signs of gradual improvement as the weeks go by. West Brom’s Sam Allardyce, meanwhile, is a survival specialist. Newcastle needs to start looking over their shoulder.
Had Newcastle’s proposed £340 million takeover gone ahead last summer, things could well have been entirely different. There was all this talk of a Champions League push, attracting some of the world’s biggest names, and bringing in a world-class manager.
Of course with the proposed deal falling through, none of that came to fruition, and Newcastle have been stuck once again with an owner that the fanbase despises, and a manager that – let’s face it – isn’t held in particularly high standing either.
Take nothing away from Bruce’s talents as a manager. Anyone that operates under the Ashley brand is fighting a losing battle, and even if Bruce gets axed between now and the season, the job is far from the attractive proposition it should be. It’s bland and monotonous.
Until Newcastle can be rid of their Mike Ashley problem, it’s hard to envisage them making any substantial progress as a football club, and that’s a real shame.
Admittedly, Bruce has had problems. Key players have been missing, and the presence of winger Allan Saint-Maximin, in particular, has been missed. The Frenchman came on as a substitute against Leeds to earn only his first run out since November having been hit hard by the coronavirus, and that was a welcome sign.
He’s the kind of player that can make things happen and operating alongside summer recruits Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson, Newcastle will soon be able to call upon their strongest eleven again.
Even with their returning stars, Newcastle’s hopes of securing a top-ten finish have all but diminished. On paper, it’s still very much possible but it is much more apt to consider them as fighting a relegation battle.
A host of challenging fixtures are on the horizon, including a visit to seventh-placed Everton next time out, while March could prove a particularly crucial month in saving Newcastle’s season, with games against relegation rivals Brighton and West Brom – either side of a clash with Aston Villa.
For sure, it would have been refreshing to see Newcastle fighting a different corner this season rather than playing the same broken record.
Newcastle might be some way off attracting the biggest names in football to St. James’ Park but as a football club, they deserve to be in a much better place than they currently are.
A return to the Championship beckons and it’ll take everything they have to stop the rot. Can they pull it off?