By Andrew Warshaw
May 12 – They spent a whopping £80 million on new players since last summer and, when that didn’t bear fruit, brought in one of Europe’s most accomplished and respected managers late on to try and save them.
But the fate of Newcastle United, a virtual institution in English football and one of the country’s best supported clubs, was sealed on Wednesday night when they were relegated to the second tier without even playing.
By the most painful of ironies, the north-east club were condemned to relegation by their bitter local rivals Sunderland whose 3-0 win over Everton preserved their own top-flight status after a fourth straight annual last-ditch battle for survival.
To make matters worse for Newcastle, Sunderland’s achievement was masterminded by manager Sam Allardyce, sacked by Newcastle after just eight months in charge back in January, 2008, when the club were 11th in the league. What they would give to be in the same position now.
Sunderland’s survival, with one series of fixtures remaining on Sunday, also sent down Norwich City who, like Newcastle and already demoted Aston Villa, will miss out on a lucrative new television deal for Premier League clubs. The cost of dropping out the Premier League is an estimate £100-115 million from commercial deals next season.
This was regarded as the most important season to stay up and much speculation now focuses on whether Newcastle will be able to hang on to Rafa Benitez, the former Liverpool, Chelsea, Napoli and Real Madrid boss who was brought in with 10 games left but, despite using all his nous to bring about an improvement in form, ran out of time.
The Spaniard, who clearly took over too late in the day, is unlikely to want to manage in the Championship. One more month and he would most likely have saved Newcastle. Instead, after hiring 11 managers in as many years, the club’s future has been thrown into uncertainty.
What a contrast with Sunderland who, unlike Newcastle, bought shrewdly in the transfer market, acquired a natural goalscorer in the shape of former England striker Jermain Defoe and have now extended their Premier League stay to 10 consecutive seasons, a personal triumph for the battle-hardened Allardyce who maintained his record of never having been relegated from the top flight.
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