Newcastle poised for tense finale to relegation soap opera
England’s most popular soap operas thrive on a weekly recipe of misery, doom and gloom that is gobbled up by television viewers seeking some relief from their own trials and tribulations.
In that sense, the final weekend of the Premier League season is quite similar.
With Manchester United already polishing the trophy again after sealing a third consecutive title last week, neutral television viewers are salivating at the prospect of watching the suffering of fans of Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, Hull City and Sunderland as their clubs desperately scarp for top flight survival.
Like the inevitable rubber-neckers at road traffic accidents, there is something cruelly compulsive about the raw emotions of relegation D-Day.
For those poor fans at Villa Park, the KC Stadium, Upton Park and The Stadium of Light, fingernails will be whittled down to nothing as their sides hover between survival and exile from Planet Premier League and all its hype and glamour.
Sadly, there is usually one club that the majority of neutral voyeurs want to see fall off the cliff — and this year they play in black and white stripes.
Newcastle are seen as a club suffering delusions from grandeur, a trigger-happy approach to hiring and firing managers and for many, the epitomy of all that is rotten with the Premier League.
Massive salaries for sub-standard overseas players, big debts, big egos. Big fat nothing in the trophy cabinet. It sounds very much like Leeds United of a few seasons ago and look where they are now.
West Bromwich Albion gained tremendous respect this season for their football and their dignity despite already being relegated. They are bound to come back sooner rather than later.
Middlesbrough too have shown admirable loyalty to manager Gareth Southgate, a young English coach who trusts young home-grown players.
Hull have also contributed fully to an interesting Premier League season, their first in the top flight, playing exciting football in the early months and at one stage mixing it with the big boys in the top six.
Newcastle have also added plenty of colour. Kevin Keegan’s shock exit, the fans bitterness to owner Mike Ashley which involved threats to his safety, the recruitment of a manager with a heart condition and a nice touch in Anglo-Saxon expletives, plenty of player strops and finally the recruitment of TV pundit Alan Shearer as coach, yet another Geordie Messiah.
Add in the antics of wildman Joey Barton and the sulking Charles N’Zogbia (named Insomnia by recovering manager Joe Kinnear) and it really is a heady brew.
So thanks Newcastle….it’s been great fun watching you this season and we will all be tuning in for another 90 minutes of black (and white) comedy on Sunday.
PHOTO: Newcastle United’s manager Alan Shearer (R) and his assistant coach Ian Dowie gesture to their players during their English Premier League soccer match against Fulham in Newcastle, northeast England May 16, 2009. REUTERS/David Moir