Newcastle United’s Fall From Grace


A legendary club with a legendary fan base, Newcastle United has a history of being winners and losers. The club was one of the most dominant clubs in England more than 60 years ago when it was a constant competitor for Football Association Cups, First Division titles, and even playing throughout Europe at the Fairs Cup.

Oh yes, those great days. I wasn’t even alive then, and all I know is suffering in this day and age of Newcastle United’s mediocrity. But it wasn’t always that way. And while Newcastle United may be in a rough patch, we still see a glimmer of hope in the club’s future. Even though that future could be more than a decade away. One may think of Preston Northend, and their dominance way back. They’ve never competed in the Premier League, and they are currently still struggling in the lower tiers of English football. Is that in Newcastle United’s future?

The history of Newcastle United is already one of ups and downs. Relegation has been a consistent part of the club’s culture, however, quick returns and high finishes always seem to be right around the corner following their promotion back to the Premier League. Perhaps the success of one coach is too much for his successor to handle. But where did Newcastle United go so wrong that they have failed to be considered competitive for nearly fifteen years?

The club was relegated from the Premier League for the first time since joining the league in 1993. The relegation came after a number of managerial disagreements with club ownership and maneuvering. The fall from grace came around Sir Bobby Robson’s sacking in 2004 even though the club had qualified for the Champions League and made a slightly earlier exit than usual.

Despite a 14th place finish in the 2004-2005 season, the club managed to go all the way to the semi-finals of the FA Cup only losing at the feet of Manchester United. Graeme Souness was the manager during this time and broke the club’s signing record by signing Michael Owen. However, he was also sacked in 2006 for a poor start to the season. This brought in Glenn Roeder who only lasted until 2007 when numerous injuries had plagued the squad. You now can see where we’re headed with this. 2009 is only a couple of years away.

But back then, the managers were truly responsible for the way that the teams played. The sacking of Bobby Robson set off a cycle of managers who were unable to do what he did, and the club’s overall management was less patient with the new managers. Manager after manager came in and left the club. One failure after another. There was no room for growth for either the managers or the players.

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In 2007, the club was sold to current owner Mike Ashley. Former owner Freddy Shepherd said that he would be a “great custodian” providing the club with “the opportunity to flourish in the future”. Yeah, laugh it off.

Despite having a billionaire as the owner of the club, Newcastle United still struggled to find success. The club finished 12th in 2007-2008 with manager Kevin Keegan stating that he was not given enough financial support to lead the team to any great success on the pitch. But Keegan’s frustration didn’t stop there. He actually resigned in 2008 stating that he wasn’t given any ability to actually manage the club.

"“It’s my opinion that a manager must have the right to manage and that clubs should not impose upon any manager any player that he does not want”. – Kevin Keegan"

The micromanaging nature of Mike Ashley shows in the above quote. Despite less than stellar finishes, at least the club maintained a tight spot in the Premier League. Any fan would be happy to see the club at least win games and take 12th place over the club’s current 20th.

Mike Ashley’s approach to managing the club hasn’t changed since. Managers still have little to no power over the players coming in or leaving the club. Managers are unable to manage, and since that approach, the club has had worse finishes, leading to relegation in 2009. When it seemed that the club was back to competitiveness in 2012, they quickly fell down the table to where they are right now. Alan Pardew was the longest serving manager since the sacking of Sir Bobby Robson. One must wonder how long Steve McClaren will last.

Most managers have cited differences with Mike Ashley as the reason for their departure of the club. And perhaps the club will never win another trophy while Ashley still runs the club.

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