Football

Drop's good for Newcastle, says Magpies fan Sazali Abdul Aziz

My Magpies showed little heart and were set for the drop as early as November

So that's that, then.

After Sunderland's easy victory over Everton, Newcastle United will spend next season battling it out in the Championship.

It's not even tough for a Magpie fan to say relegation was no less than Newcastle United deserved.

I knew my Magpies were in danger as far back as November.

That was when the team lost 3-0 to eventual English Premier League kings Leicester City at St James' Park.

Sure, a lot of teams were given the runaround by the fantastic Foxes this season. But on that Nov 21 day, Newcastle were shambolic.

Blunt in attack, butter in defence, and, the home side lacked any fight against Claudio Ranieri's warriors and it suggested there was little heart in the Newcastle team.

They were fourth from bottom in the standings at the time and the match convinced me this sorry lot didn't have enough to stay up.

At that point, even if owner Mike Ashley uncharacteristically decided to hand then-manager Steve McClaren a blank cheque, there still would not have been enough time to cobble together a side good enough to avoid the drop.

Surprisingly, the former England manager did have money to spend in the January transfer window.

McClaren signed central midfielders Jonjo Shelvey and Henri Saivet, winger Andros Townsend and took striker Seydou Doumbia on loan.

It is baffling how the former England manager could not see he needed to bring in at least two competent defenders to beef up such a weak defence.

To add insult to injury, Doumbia and Saivet have proven to be out of their depth in England - they have been on the pitch for just 177 minutes in the last five months.

No one was surprised when the club decided to sack McClaren in March.

THE GREAT ESCAPE

Bringing in former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager Rafa Benitez was an unexpected move, and one that lifted the hopes of many Toon fans.

I wasn't one of them.

The change came too late and a draw with Sunderland followed by a loss to Norwich - crucially both relegation rivals - proved it.

But then came a run of remarkable results that even had me dreaming of the Great Escape.

A solid win over Swansea, two draws with Manchester City and Liverpool followed by a 1-0 triumph over Crystal Palace suggested a fightback was on.

Reality struck when Newcastle went to Villa Park and left the home of the bottom side with one point.

The inability to beat a poor Aston Villa side was critical and surely helped fuel Sunderland.

My Magpies went down without a fight.

Now, instead of visiting Manchester United's Theatre of Dreams next season, we go to Burton Albion's Pirelli Stadium.

Instead of trying to silence the Kop at Anfield, we'll be playing in front of Rotherham's faithful at Griffin Park.

Of course, there is a silver lining.

Newcastle have been through relegation before and emerged stronger.

After going down in 2009, the club had to slash the wage bill and expensive underperformers like Geremi, Habib Beye, Obafemi Martins and Damien Duff were offloaded.

The squad were leaner and hungrier and won the Championship in 2009/10 with 102 points - the second-highest tally in history.

By 2012, the team finished fifth in the Premier League and earned a spot in the Europa League.

If Benitez decides not to invoke a clause in his contract allowing him to leave in case of relegation, Newcastle can bounce back next season.

The club were in need of a shake-up for a few years and now's the time to do just that, and prepare for a promotion battle.

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