Monday, September 29, 2008

What's best for Newcastle?

What more can be said about Newcastle United? Probably quite a lot! While they are struggling and have become something of a joke, the situation at St James' Park is no laughing matter, as they will not be the last team to suffer.

Newcastle, for too many years, overspent in order to try and compete with the so-called "big boys". They have a massive, rabid fanbase of truly knowledgeable football lovers (which is a good thing, no doubt about) but have seemingly lacked restraint in terms of spending money.

It's understandable, football is in a boom period and has been for some time. So why not throw cash around in order to try and please your fans - they do, after all, deserve some sort of success. Sadly, though, the boom in football appears to be skewed and now the divide between sections of the Premier League is more pronounced than ever.

But what does the future hold for Newcastle? Can they recover and go on to actually achieve something in the modern game (not a dig, it's proven by the trophy cabinet!)? I honestly think they can - but it won't be in a way I could approve of.

When the Middle Eastern billionaires, or trillionaires, took over Manchester City, they did so after reportedly considering a move for Newcastle or Arsenal.The story goes that Arsenal didn't want to sell and the super-rich group opted for Man City. That Newcastle were mentioned is not surprising - and logic suggests there will be other interested parties out there.

Now, a takeover of Newcastle by a group with mega-money would turn the club into a true footballing force far easier than the Man City "project". Newcastle, as mentioned, have the fanbase, the stadium and - crucially - a proven track record in attracting decent players to the club.

Man City have the stadium, decent fans (full credit to the tens fo thousands who turned out to back them in the third-tier not too long ago) but they lack the proven track record in signing top players. Hence having to throw silly money around in the summer, a pattern that will surely increase until enough mercenaries improve their reputation.

Newcastle, may I be so bold as to suggest, would be genuine top-four challengers very soon after such a takeover (a hypothetical one, of course) and could go all the way. When Liverpool are taken over by Sheikh Mohammed, or a consortium, they will be poised to go all the way. Man City, when things settle, will potentially be able to go all the way.

So, as things stand, it's feasibly that within two or three years, Newcastle, Man City, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea (Arsenal are a puzzler) could all be challenging for the title. It would be wide open, albeit a fake version of football driven by billions and billions.

The only question is whether an owner would want to buy into Newcastle when four other teams are already challenging. For once a group of five mega-money teams start competing, there will be no way back for football. A sporting and spending Cold War will have begun.

So what is really best for Newcastle? Their fans would surely disagree, but I would suggest relegation. Spend a few years in the Championship while the money in the Premier League causes an explosion - then Newcastle will be perfectly placed, with their deserving fanbase - to stroll back and dominate, unaffected by the top-flight fiasco.