The reaction of Big Sam Allardyce at the final whistle tonight at the Stadium of Light spoke volumes. Sunderland had survived for another season in the top flight, a turbulent season where the club courted controversy with the shameful events leading up to the Adam Johnson’s prosecution, accusations from the Sunderland fans that Ellis Short was not providing the funding to secure key purchases, a managerial exit leading to the arrival of relegation safety expert Big Sam Allardyce which was ultimately the difference why Sunderland are staying in the division. Hawkeye Sidekick looks at the relegation of Newcastle and Norwich City and reflects where it all went wrong for both teams.
Relegation from the top flight this season will hurt badly for anyone associated with Aston Villa, Newcastle United and Norwich City. The prospect of rolling up the sleeves in the championship next season to automatically bounce back is extremely difficult to do. Forty-six titanic battles loom large for the vanquished and to make matters worse, the loss in revenue from the new television rights deal will hurt the bank balance.
The demotion will lead to inevitable job losses to people who have put their heart and soul into the football club; job losses at the fan store, job losses in stewarding due to lack of support attendances, job losses in the administration side of the club; job losses in businesses which depend on the football club. It is a devastating blow for the regions where these football clubs reside.
Why did Newcastle United fall this season? The lack of planning in the off-season was a fatal flaw for the football club. The team had gaping defensive weak points and the club failed to act in the transfer market. Steve McClaren’s arrival at the football club in the summer was greeted with indifference by Newcastle fans (after his tenure with Middlesbrough) and he failed to assert his game plan or authority on the first team. The players on duty failing to execute the game plan; looking to attack rather than defend and the lack of clean sheets were compiling to the squad depth issues seen.
With Cisse struggling for form and goals, the team relied on Wynaldum for inspiration. The Dutch player at times showed in flashes goals but he could not do it on his own and with the wayward Mitrovic more miss than hit, today was inevitable. The arrival of Rafa Benitez was too little too late as McClaren continued to struggle with the defensive woes created by the season ending injury of Tim Krul and then Rob Elliott in goals and having to contend with Steve Taylor’s absence at the heart of the defense for long periods.
Outside of the playing side, the financial business model from Mike Ashley and associates must be called into question. There appeared to be no genuine long term financial plan for the football club. Ashley has admitted that the bank balance is low at the club and relegation will do very little to address this revenue concern.
The questionable appointment of McClaren to the football club and subsequent lack of transfer signings in midfield and defensive positions in the off-season indicated that Ashley was trying to do business on the cheap and this time it failed spectacularly.
Will Ashley stay on after this relegation? Several players and Rafa Benitez will be heading for pastures new. Newcastle again are in a financial and organizational mess and they have no-one but themselves to blame. When you could not beat Aston Villa last weekend, you do not deserve to stay up which is a shame considering the passionate fan base.
Norwich City’s woes were varied. Their woeful home loss to Liverpool was the turning point of their season. The loss exposed massive confidence and bottle issues in the side. Players went missing from that result onward and even experienced players such as Steven Naismith could not keep the newly promoted outfit up.
The lack of clean sheets was glaring but the distinct lack of a quality goal scorer upfront was detrimental to the club this season. Redmond and Mbokani showed glimpses but their goal haul of five goals each before tonight does not cut it at this level. It is baffling considering the midfield talent at Norwich’s disposal. Naismith, Hoolahan and Redmond are standout performers in the league this season. Chances were created but not taken.
Alex Neil as a manager has learned more in this season than he has in his whole managerial career. Neil felt confident in his squad in the early part of the season but players’ form dipped after a memorable victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford. Ruddy in goal was dropped for Declan Rudd and while the youngster performed well, a couple of lapses against Villa and Watford caused the back four to become even more unstable. The switch in goals did not work.
Norwich’s season could be summed up last weekend when Manchester United came to Carrow Road. Norwich dominated possession but lacked cutting edge in the final third and when Bassong misread a ball over the top, United scored. There was no way back for Norwich and despite the 4-2 win over a Watford side who let us face it were on holiday mode was only papering over the cracks.
The chief executive Twitter debacle over the weekend did little to inspire confidence from the outside that the administrative side of the football club was in synchronization. You could argue that the squad assembled was a very good Championship squad but was not good enough for the top flight. Norwich City out of the bottom three will look to retain as many of the squad to bounce straight back up but expect the likes of Redmond, Ruddy, Naismith and Hoolahan to seek pastures new in the off-season. Alex Neil could be a manager in demand as well despite the demotion.