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Quartet face relegation nail-biter

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Phil McNulty | 14:11 UK time, Friday, 22 May 2009

It was once claimed the art of good management was simply keeping the five people who hate you away from the four who have not made up their minds.

Nothing so complicated this weekend for Newcastle's Alan Shearer, his north-east counterparts Gareth Southgate at Middlesbrough and Sunderland boss Ricky Sbragia - plus Phil Brown at Hull City.

They enter the torture chamber of the Premier League's final day knowing their destiny may be shaped as much by the fates as by any management techniques they care to apply.

And however much they may wish to complain afterwards - and it is to be hoped they do not - it will be not be decided by Sir Alex Ferguson's team selection when Manchester United play Hull City.

It has simply come to this. Four poor teams fighting for two top-flight places with 90 minutes left to save a season.

brown595.jpgFerguson's presence as the fifth manager in the relegation equation is a red herring - a convenient safety net for a relegated club to fall into as an excuse for failure.

He will not condemn any club to relegation or secure survival for another when he hands in his team-sheet at the KC Stadium on Sunday. Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Hull have had 37 games to avoid having to blame someone else on the final day.

United's second or third string could yet prove too potent for Hull and, having won the title with a game to spare and with plans to be made for a Champions League final, Ferguson has earned the right to look after his own interests.

Shearer, Southgate, Sbragia and Brown will all have their own approaches to arguably the most pressurised day in the Premier League calendar. Sbragia had a day at York races, while Brown packed his Hull squad off to the Lakes last week - then cancelled a planned media day and gave his players time off.

The man arguably under the greatest pressure is Shearer, with his status as an icon of the Geordie nation not likely to be helped by the real possibility of being the man whose hand was on the body as Newcastle lost their Premier League life.

True, he came late after a season of flawed management, but make no mistake he will feel the responsibility and take a portion of the blame if they fail to get the result they need against Aston Villa.

I have seen Shearer's Newcastle at regular intervals since his arrival - and while he will not relish the situation he finds himself in at Villa Park he will not shy away from it.

He takes Tyneside's pain - revelled in by plenty it must be said - personally and will be well aware of the sense of mourning that will envelope the region if elite football is taken away from them on Sunday.

Shearer was aware of the size of the task from the moment he walked out to his dug-out against Chelsea on 4 April. He was questioned for not indulging in public rabble-rousing and fist-pumping in time to the cheers that greeted him, but this was a serious business and it gets no more serious than Sunday.

He inherited a desperately poor team after a campaign that has been dysfunctional even by Newcastle's own spectacular standards.

Shearer is also picking up the tab for poor decision-making from on high at St James' Park. Kevin Keegan was parachuted into a management structure that was, with Dennis Wise's presence, never going to suit him. Joe Kinnear was appointed from what was surely the longest short list in football history before succumbing to health problems.

And then, when decisive action and perhaps the presence of an experienced man in the shape of Terry Venables, was needed, Chris Hughton and Colin Calderwood were given the opportunity to allow Newcastle to meander along the Premier League's precipice.

In football terms, it is difficult to see what more Shearer could have done to revive the fortunes of a team that has looked almost beyond redemption from the time he arrived. All the ingredients for relegation were in place when he took over.


Newcastle lack pace, quality, defensive expertise and undermined by Michael Owen's struggle to find form and fitness, they have faltered badly.

Shearer must hope his presence, and fear of what awaits should they fail at Villa, somehow coaxes a performance from Newcastle. And yes - he must play Owen if he is fit.

He has been impressive off the pitch, giving the lie to his supposedly bland public image with brutal honesty under interrogation, only dealing in the harsh realities of Newcastle's plight.

Asked if Newcastle would finally learn their lesson if they survived, he raised an eyebrow in the manner of a man who knows his history only too well and simply said: "Ask me if and when we do survive."

I have seen enough of Shearer in his short tenure to believe he represents their best long-term hope of stability, an almost non-existent commodity at Newcastle, even if they go down on Sunday.

Owner Mike Ashley must make every endeavour to keep him.

Gareth Southgate's Middlesbrough may not quite require a miracle combination of results when they play West Ham - but it is not far off.

Middlesbrough are the antidote to the madness of Newcastle. Stability in the shape of chairman Steve Gibson, who gives managers a fair chance and has already indicated he will stick with Southgate even through relegation, is a sharp contrast to Newcastle's revolving door managerial policy.

The club has a thriving youth system that can be used to offset Gibson's understandable pulling in of the purse strings - but a combination of factors has led them to the gates of the Championship.

Afonso Alves has proved a waste of money on a colossal scale at £12m, contributing (or not in his case) to a lack of goals that has proved Middlesbrough's Achilles heel.

And after watching Middlesbrough at Newcastle earlier this month, it was tough to escape the impression that they are, for want of a better phrase, too soft.

While hardly expecting Southgate's players to re-enact scenes from the Charge of the Light Brigade, they were too nice, too lightweight. Pleasing on the eye but painful when it came to results.

And Southgate himself often cut a solitary figure on the touchline, encouraging his players simply with almost polite applause. Could it be that if Gibson sticks with Southgate, he could benefit from a more experienced, hands-on, right-hand man?

He was, like Shearer, a fine ambassador his club and had a sense of perspective on Middlesbrough's fortunes, but this may not cut much ice with supporters if they do make the drop and other clubs circle around home-produced talent such as David Wheater and Stewart Downing.

I saw Sunderland's Ricky Sbragia after the defeat at West Bromwich Albion, and he gave every impression of a man who will always do his best work away from the unforgiving spotlight that inevitably shines on the front man.

And he will surely return to ranks irrespective of Sunderland's status after Sunday. He has a creditable coaching pedigree at Manchester United and Bolton, but laying the law down to his players in public, as he had to after a shambles at The Hawthorns did not appear to sit easily with him.

Sbragia, it should also be stressed, is also having to combat the failed excesses of the latter days of Roy Keane's reign. Too many players not justifying exorbitant price tags, too many players not appearing to care where Sunderland end up.

I would never suggest Kenwyne Jones does not care, but it must have been galling for Sunderland fans to hear him suggesting he could be off if they are relegated.

Jones might have spared himself this awful dilemma had he threatened to break into something akin to a brisk trot when Sunderland could have saved themselves at West Brom.

Phil Brown's descent into the danger zone has been spectacular. And here is a manager who has become a divisive figure since those heady early days when victories at Arsenal and Spurs had the words "European football" being whispered at the KC Stadium.

He has never, at any point, been stripped of what appears to be cast-iron self-confidence while his detractors have taken to delivering jibes about his permatan and his touchline headset.

Of more serious concern is the question of whether Brown fatally holed Hull's season with his half-time berating of his players on the pitch at Manchester City on Boxing Day.

Did the players deserve such public humiliation? After all they had earned an outstanding draw at Anfield a fortnight earlier. It was hardly the culmination of a series of poor displays.

Was it more for Brown's benefit than the players? Was Brown so concerned with putting on a show of authority for Hull's travelling fans that he ignored the potential consequences for morale?

He will fight his corner vehemently, but one league victory since that public show of dissatisfaction suggests it was a serious error of judgement.

Brown still has a chance to keep Hull up on Sunday - and for all the words of his critics, every single Hull fan would surely have settled for that before a ball was kicked this season and congratulated their manager on a job well done.

And on Sunday, those four managers will not care whether their players love them, hate them or even cannot make up their minds about them - survival is everything.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Given the dreadful quality of the 4 teams, Hull's deceptive start excepted, and the general lack of quality in the lower half of the Premiershio, it really is a pity that we dont have a rule that any team not getting 40 points goes into a mini playoff with the other teams for the 3 relegation spots. We talk up how good the EPL is, come on there is that much dross its embarrassing.

    Phil Gartside wants to introduce an EPL2. Well, c

  • Comment number 2.

    At last, thank you Phil. A sensible perspective without all the circus that has been surrounding these clubs this past week.
    As a Hull fan (and football fan) I hope that people read this and forget the detracting stories about supposed weakened team sheets, the timing of leaked FA reports and going to court against whoever stays up.
    The facts are that each of these teams that could possibly go down have, for one reason or another, been very poor more often than not this season.
    Whoever does go down cannot have any complaints.

  • Comment number 3.

    I don't expect any of the teams facing Relegation to win on Sunday. Who ever goes down deserves to be playing Championship Football next year.

  • Comment number 4.

    Newcastle - like Liverpool - are a team who will always have a sense of nostaliga attached to them and their premier league pedigree means I hope they stay up.

    Shearer is the best thing to have happened to that club (again) this year and I agree that he will be vital to their fortunes over the next few years. The substitution of Owen for Martins against Boro was a spark that illustrated his promise as a manager and I believe has the ability to match the Bruce and Hughes.

    My predos? I think it'll be Boro and Newcastle who go down - all 4 will lose and I dont think that the table will change come the end of the weekend.

  • Comment number 5.

    on sentence: I like that picture of Phil Brown you had on the home page of th eblog... :)

  • Comment number 6.

    If I were a gambled, I would be putting my money on Sunderland & Hull to win and survive, and the other two to go down. Newcasle could not win at home against fulham so would that change this weekend ?
    Having said that, this is football we're talking about ..

  • Comment number 7.

    Good article, Phil.

    Newcastle will fight and if the game was at St. James Park, they might even scramble a result but away at Villa is a bridge too far for them. They're for the drop.

    I see Hull nicking a point off Man Utd's reserves and scraping out of it by the skin of their teeth. 'Boro are already down.

    Shearer has what it takes to be a good manager but Southgate is going to end up as somebody's assistant. He's too nice a guy and not the sort of manager who'll inspire his men to want to go out and die for him. And you're absolutely right about Brown. He lost the dressing room at Man City with those theatrics.

  • Comment number 8.

    And however much they may wish to complain afterwards - and it is to be hoped they do not - it will be not be decided by Sir Alex Ferguson's team selection when Manchester United play Hull City.
    Phil, this is a much used arguement, in fact I've only heard one journo with a different view. While I agree to a certain extent, 18 other teams have had to face in the main a full strength Utd side, so should Hull.

    We hear the arguement that Newcastle, Hull and Sunderland have had 37 other games to escape relegation. But, the season is '38' games long. When did Utd win the title last season? On the 38th game! Should the premier league have said your performance over the previous 37 games means you don't have to play the last game, here's the trophy.

  • Comment number 9.

    I'm A Hull City fan.

    I don't think we'll win on Sunday (We probably will because we play well against the better sides in the league), but as long as Newcastle lose and Boro don't swing the goal difference. I couldn't care one little bit.

    It's good for the country as a whole as well as the league for teams to keep swapping divisions, its what keeps it fresh and different. Newcastle/Middlesborough going down to be replaced by Burnley would be excellent, its just a shame Wolves and Birmingham are coming with them. It would have been good for football if it was Cardiff or someone else who hasn't tasted the top flight for a while.

    But why is everyone keep going on about the Man City HT teamtalk. It's a media spear that everyone in the media, is showing just how lazy they are by continuing to pick it up and throw it at us. I think everyone is becoming seriously tired of it.

    Here's a suggestion, get off your fat behinds and actually do some research for once, you maybe surprised by what you find out. Hard I know, but Hull does have electricity, and all the home comforts you soft media types are used to, but it has the amazing added bonus that its not full of Londoners and is surrounded by green open space.

  • Comment number 10.

    Good luck to all the 4 teams

    Hope there is a twist and I'll be watching here in Houston Texas, USA....

    Sad for WBA and I think Hull and Middlesborough are going down....???

    Really who the hell knows!!!

    Unlikely Sunderland will but stranger things have happened. I am nervous for Hull. I think Newcastle can get lucky at Villa Park and any Man Utd team can beat Hull.

    So glad I ain't a Hull suppporter. I feel your pain and nerves totally. Best of luck and hope to see you next year.


  • Comment number 11.

    Isn't this league supposed to be the strongest in the world??

    These four bottom teams prove that to be a lie.

  • Comment number 12.

    Great blog Phil, I have to say that Newcastle fans can be their own worst enemy and need to have more patience in their team and their managers. Had Alex Ferguson gone to Newcastle in 1986 they would have forced him out after two seasons! I have felt for a long time that the Geordies have placed too great an expectation on the team and the pressure has impacted on the players.

    The common theme between the North East trio has been a poor transfer policy, spending too much on the wrong players.

    Barton, Smith, Owen, Alves, Chimbonda, Ferdinand the list goes on...

    I feel most sorry for Hull who have imploded from a single managerial error of judgement and of the four they are the team I'd most like to stay up.

    I actually think a stint in the Championship would do Newcastle a world of good. They could sell off all of their over rated, over paid, unfit so called superstars and rebuild a side that understands and reflects the passion of their supporters. I also think that the Championship would be the best place for Shearer to learn his trade.

    I am a West Ham fan and the firesale of Cole, Carrick, Defoe and Johnson hurt, the Tevez affair hurt, the collapse of our Chairman's finances is worrying but things are starting to look up and if those things were necessary to get us where we are it was worth the pain and I reckon that if Newcastle are relegated, in a few years they will look back on this season as a necessary evil.

  • Comment number 13.

    Alan Shearer has done all he can to save Newcastle? If this is the case why didn't he join them earlier? Why did he leave it until there were only 24 points left to play for - effectively only 18 because of the Chelsea and Liverpool fixtures. He could have stepped in when it became obvious that Joe Kinnear wasn't going to return.
    He has left it as late as he can so that he can say it wasn't his fault and he tried his best. If he is black and white he should have stepped up to the mark much earlier.

  • Comment number 14.

    well i think its going to be very interesting this weekend first let me say im a football fan in general i dont love or hate any team i like to watch good football, so i have no bias to any team also im a betting man and i rule with my head not my heart.
    So here,s what i think first Newcastle i think shearer waited till the time was right to take over Newcastle i think he looked at the games left to play and thought they would get the points for him to be a hero and if they had beaten Fulam at home like you would have expected them to do they would have been safe now. Also you made a very good point about the Hull players and that half time talk mr brown gave them on the pitch i think they lost all respect for the guy after this and for this reason they could go down but i think all the teams will lose this weekend so its as you were thats going down. But i feel for all the fans because they are all great fans and deserve much better

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    All 4 teams have been pretty poor this season.
    Odd that Phil would earmark Newcastle's lack of pace and then infer that Owen should start - perhaps ahead of someone who actually does have pace - in Obe Martins...

  • Comment number 17.

    I'm with thesefeetdon'tdance (first comment) - none of the teams really deserve to stay up, the only club to show much fight in recent weeks has ironically been West Brom. A 40 point play-off rule would certainly keep the season interesting, you could even mix them up with championship play-off teams. I doubt the premier league would ever vote for it though!

    AS for this weekend, I hope Newcastle go down and wouldn't mind Boro staying up. And as a United fan I'm not too bothered about our result at Hull, as long as no-one important (i.e. any of the first team squad) gets injured...

  • Comment number 18.

    Ferguson's team selection will not be the single thing that sends any one team down, but it could still be a major contributing factor towards someone's relegation if Hull get points they would clearly not have obtained otherwise.

    As has already been stated, the season is 38 games long, not 37. If Hull beat Man Utd's youths / reserves and stay up by a point, then clearly Ferguson's team selection will have had a significant impact on their survival, and someone elses's relegation.

  • Comment number 19.

    I hope Newcastle stay up and I hope Hull go down and don't mind out of the other 2. I think when we talk about the PL being the best league in the world we are thinking more of the big four than the other 16. Out of those 16 at least 10 have 'staying up' as their overriding aim at the start of each season and this just goes to show the fear everyone has of being outside the top flight. The money needs to filter down so there is not so much disparity but the majority of viewers are only interested in the big 4 plus a few others and so the gap will just keep widening. The best league in the world where 75% of games are relegation games!

  • Comment number 20.

    As a Liverpool fan i can still easily say that Manchester United have earned the right to put out whatever team they like. Look after number one before the biggest one off game of their season; makes sense to me.

    That said, the same reason they won the league title will be the same reason that they probably beat Hull on sunday and that is, of course, the sheer depth of quality they possess. Do you think the Anderson's and Nani's a such will go out and show even a hint that they will want to lose.
    For me Newcastle playing away from home is the reason they will stay up, being away from 50000 (admittedly passionate and very good) fans may help them just get their head down and play the football that will beat an already on holiday Aston Villa side.
    Sunderland and Newcastle to stay up in my opinion.

  • Comment number 21.

    To ScottishScouser...I take your point but I say this with absolute 100% certainty. Sir Alex Ferguson will believe, with total conviction, that the team he puts out at Hull will be one he feels is capable of winning that game.

    He was criticised for his FA Cup semi-final line-up against Everton, but don't forget they gave a more than respectable account of themselves and only lost on penalties to a good side.

    And to babyTeenwolf...not quite sure why you have chosen to attack the media (and Londoners) for focusing on Brown's half-time talk at Manchester City.

    I have explained exactly why I felt it was wrong - the players did not deserve that public humiliation after the season they had delivered up to that point.

    If it was designed to inspire Hull's players, then result since suggest it has not worked.

    On the plus side, Brown can still keep Hull up and that in itself would have been regarded as a fine achievement at the start of the season.

  • Comment number 22.

    Personally I don't see them changing positions at all. I'd like Newcastle to stay up but I just don't see them getting a win at Villa. But then again I thought they'd beat Fulham last week so what do I know!!

    On the subject of the article though I have to agree, the teams that are down there deserve to be. Yes Hull started the season incredibly well but they've been nothing short of abysmal this calendar year. Newcastle have no creativity, no spark and no-one who seems to want the ball and wants to make something happen. Boro have a couple of decent players like Tuncay and Downing but they're too inconsistent and the rest of the team have barely contributed anything. It isn't that they're not giving their all, its just that they're not good enough. And Sunderland, well they shouldn't really be as close to it all as they have been. I think if Jones had been fit all season they wouldn't be as close as they are to the drop but they aren't in any real danger of going down. They just aren't mathematically safe yet. For them to go the others would all have to win and I think you'd struggle to find a Premiership weekend so far this season when those 3 have all done that!

    Whoever goes down can have no complaints, its a hard life and its not nice for whoever it happens to but that's football.

  • Comment number 23.

    Re ScottishScouser

    Phil, this is a much used arguement, in fact I've only heard one journo with a different view. While I agree to a certain extent, 18 other teams have had to face in the main a full strength Utd side, so should Hull.

    This may be a much used argument, but it is a deeply flawed one. Check out the team Man Utd used at Boro at the start of the month for proof. And I also wouldn't suggest that at this stage Macheda, who scored the winner at Sunderland, would be in their first XI (though admittedly he did come off the bench).

    The others have had their chances and not taken them. Simple as that.

  • Comment number 24.

    18 other teams have had to face in the main a full strength Utd side, so should Hull.

    Not really. Utd have rested players numerous times throughout the season. Just because it is the last game of the season should make no difference. Im sure Utd will not be the only team playing reserves this weekend.

    If Liverpool rest some players and tottenham get a win and a european place at Fulham's expense, will Fulham sue?

    Similarly If Everton rest players for the cup final and loose to Fulham, will Tottenham sue?

    Its ridiculous to pinpoint Man Utd, Most teams will rest players as they have nothing to play for. In my opinion young inexperienced players will be more up for a meaningless game than the experienced heads. In a way I hope Utd play full strength and loose just to shut em all up!

  • Comment number 25.

    To ScottishScouser...I take your point but I say this with absolute 100% certainty. Sir Alex Ferguson will believe, with total conviction, that the team he puts out at Hull will be one he feels is capable of winning that game.
    Cheers phil, I'm not doubting that SAF thinks his team can and will win, he's bound to isn't he? And any player that steps on to a football field is looking to win. I'm not doubting SAF's integrity here, I can see why he's doing it. I'm just saying the league is 38 games long, it doesn't matter if you survive with 40 points at Christmas and lose every subsequent game or survive on the last day. Therefore, Hull should face the same strength side that Newcastle and Sunderland and every other side faced.

    Saying that, I reckon Villa will win anyway and Boro will draw so it won't matter.

  • Comment number 26.

    Ferguson will play a weaker team against Hull, but I think that might actually be to the benefit of the other relegation threatened teams. Let's face it, with the possible exception of Ferdinand who needs to prove his fitness, most of the Manchester United big guns would be fundamentally motivated to...avoid injury. They'll run around and show the odd moment of skill, but there won't be 100% committment. On the other hand, someone who's an unlikely selection for the CL Final is going to give it everything in the hope of convincing Ferguson that they deserve a place in the team or on the bench.

    Someone who has NO chance of selection for the final is going to give it everything too, because this is their chance of showing the manager that they can cut it in the Premiership and deserve to be considered next season.

    A few years ago a team needed to win their last game of the season to stay up, I think it was a Brian Clough team, but my memory might be failing me. They had to beat Everton, who were the champions. They won and stayed up - apparently you could smell the booze coming off the Everton players who'd been celebrating their championship win all's not quite the same thing, but the principle is the same - you can pick the 'best' team, but if they go out there and don't care about winning then there's every chance of a giant killing. And frankly, the big stars at Old Trafford don't care about Hull, they care about Rome.

  • Comment number 27.

    to babyteenwolf

    why have a go at the two best teams in the championship?
    surely they both deserve to be promoted as they won more points than the rest. Yes I am a Wolves supporter, but look at our record this season. We deserved to win that league and deserve promotion.Cardiff in the premier league? Why ? They didn't even make the play offs. GET REAL!!

  • Comment number 28.

    babyTeenwolf "its just a shame Wolves and Birmingham are coming with them."

    Wolves are well overdue a place in the top flight, what's so wrong about them going up?

  • Comment number 29.

    Four very poor could make that eight in what has been a very lack-lustre PL this year. 'Boro are goners and my hunch is that Sunderland are in most jeopardy for the final place. Should that happen I just hope the BBC don't publish another paean to Mr Shearer as you did Phil, after there victory against a toothless 'Boro.

  • Comment number 30.

    I hope Hull go down - sorry for the fans and the fantastic way the players were playing - but Phil Brown - lost all respect when he did that team talk on the pitch, and the cesc the spitting thing - he is a too full of himself, and a he lies through his teath. For that (again, sorry hull fans) I want them to go.

  • Comment number 31.

    A good point about Phil Orange indeed. If his players have effectively said 'up yours tango' after that Eastlands circus he put on, then its no more than he deserved.

    Its just a pity that all four can't go down.Whichever survives will go next yr anyway with Brum and A N Other. I suspect that maybe we wont see any of the four again. We can hope not anyway. The only one with any dignity is Boro via Southgate and Gibson, but they are seriously rubbish too.

  • Comment number 32.

    Does anyone really think the United first team would try that hard at Hull? They'd be focussed on avoiding injury, at least if Fergie plays the kids they'll have a proper go. And Hull could just as easily have been unlucky - if United had needed 3 points from this game they'd be very unlikely to get a result.

    Ironically if Sunderland or Boro had held or beaten United recently (both at their own grounds), the chances are United would be going to Hull needing at least a point.

    Basically Hull are lucky but if they get a result, thats the way it goes. I'd have more sympathy for Sunderland, Newcastle or Boro if they'd managed to help themselves a bit more...

  • Comment number 33.

    Terry Veneables? He was rubbish during his stint at Leeds Utd, and as assistant manager for England. He was never the answer.

  • Comment number 34.

    I dont think its fair to blame that half time team talk by Phil Brown - like you stated they have had other games to blame their misfortune on (when talking about United's Team sheet). Hull have had quite a few poor performances after, what can only be described as, phenomenal start.

  • Comment number 35.

    Posts 23 and 24,

    Yes SAF made changes against Boro but not the majority of the side

    Foster, O'Shea, Vidic, Evans, Evra Park, Scholes, Giggs, Rooney, Berbatov, Macheda (Tevez 55).

    Ronaldo, Da Silva, Nani Anderson and Tevez were on the bench. And I doubt Evans would have played had Rio been fit.

    8 regulars started the game, 2 more came on as subs, thats a strong side. It's not the squad/side the BBC reckon is playing on Sunday. That squad looks more like a Carling cup 3rd round squad.

    And no where have I said anyone would be entitled to sue ot that SAF doesn't have the right to chose a team he thinks can win, IMO he does, that doesn't make it fair though.

  • Comment number 36.


    Very true fella. The BEEB and all of its servants will be gushing about Shearer until August as if his record has usurped Fergie's if he keeps his rabble in the Premiership. Lets hope they go down just to save us from it.If not, make sure you avoid MOTD as the dated old drivel and its presenters all have an orgasmic celebration at the next great english hope for managerial stardom. Shearer to succeed Capello to be the next cry? Just you wait and see!

  • Comment number 37.

    You're right about Manchester United's team selection coming into it - our kids/reserves showed in the FA Cup semi-final that they're a capable bunch, we're likely to play Ferdinand and Fletcher as well, and as you point out, the teams down there will only have themselves to blame.

    As for Shearer, I don't think his status as a Geordie deity would be in trouble even if he dismantled the Tyne road bridge, pulled down the Monument and put on a Sunderland shirt. Relegation for Newcastle probably wouldn't change anything in their eyes - it's ALL Ashley's fault, after all...

  • Comment number 38.

    Very good article Phil.

    I live in Newcastle and, not being a fan, it's amazing to hear supporters who, when not so long ago were claiming to have an underachieving side destined to bring glory days to NUFC, now freely admit next to no hope.

    For me, the only debatable thing is whether it's Newcastle or Hull who go down - I can't see Middlesbrough getting out of it (though I'd like to be proven wrong).

    Sunderland, I feel, are practically safe. I disagree about Sbragia though: if given the keys to Sunderland's power permanently (with a possible experienced manager to lean on for support) I think he could be a good manager. He showed, until the seventeenth minute of added time at Old Trafford, that he can very quickly organise a team, and has a good knowledge of tactics. If given the sort of support you cite for Southgate he could too prove a talented manager.

  • Comment number 39.

    I really hope Newcastle go down. I would laugh my ass off. They call themselves a 'big' club, they spend millions and millions of poundsm they've had massive name international managers and they still haven't won anything for 50 years. Good riddance if you ask me

  • Comment number 40.

    I don't necessarily agree that all four are poor teams, only WBA has been consistently below form although still not as bad as Derby last year. But Hull have been a great addition to the league, and the last game against Bolton, although disappointing for them, showed that apart from some sloppy finishing especially from Manucho, they are very good at creating chances and an exciting team to watch.

    Boro are still a strong side, maybe Alves is a disappointment but on the other hand Tuncay has over achieved at times especially when you consider his age. Their problem is they lost a great strike partnership and it looks like its going to take more time to replace them (and ditch Alves) than they have. Still a great team, always capable of upsetting a top four team on their day and if they go down they'll be missed- I hope they bounce right back up.

    Newcastle are clearly the most disappointing, on paper they should be a mid table team pushing for Europe. I worry the most about them being relegated- will it be the beginning of a slide like Charlton and others? Their good players like Martins will leave just based on economics alone and Newcastle would certainly take relegation the hardest of the four. I think the lesson for Newcastle is, too much stock is placed on who the manager is (and they should have stuck with Big Sam)- I doubt one man can do it, even if he is Shearer.

  • Comment number 41.

    There are only a few teams who have been in this position and survived to stay in the Premiership, Everton are one of those, I completely understand last day survival!

    Best of luck to all that feature on Sunday but the pragmastist in me tells me if this set of fixtrue were played any other weekend your expect all four team in the mire to lose. The only side I can see getting anything is Middlesboro, only because West Ham are done for the season, any should be over powered if Middles show any back bone.

    The game at Villa Park will be too open for Newcastle to keep what will be a mandatory clean sheet if they are to win at Villa Park. Can anyone see Newcastle scoring twice?

    The romantic in me see's Boro winning 2-0 at WHam and Utd thumping Hull 3-0, with the Toon and Sunderland ending pointless, Boro amazingly will stay up on goal difference

    But I'm sure

  • Comment number 42.

    #29 *their* victory.

  • Comment number 43.

    i cant understand everyone harping on about fielding weakend teams, if a player is not good enough then why is he allowed to be signed a premier league club?? who states what someones best team is. I hope United field a so called second team and still beat hull to shut everyone up. in the words off one over rated geordie idol: 'i would love it if newcastle still go down, love it absolutely love it, love it, love it' and to another rated geordie idol : ' cheer up alan shearer oh what can it mean..... ' Bunch of MUGS!!

  • Comment number 44.

    re scottish scouser
    Cheers phil, I'm not doubting that SAF thinks his team can and will win, he's bound to isn't he? And any player that steps on to a football field is looking to win. I'm not doubting SAF's integrity here, I can see why he's doing it. I'm just saying the league is 38 games long, it doesn't matter if you survive with 40 points at Christmas and lose every subsequent game or survive on the last day. Therefore, Hull should face the same strength side that Newcastle and Sunderland and every other side faced.

    Saying that, I reckon Villa will win anyway and Boro will draw so it won't matter

    But there you go again losing the point. We don't field the same side every week do we so how can your flawed logic possibly work out? We have played weakened teams quite a few times already this season so should Fergie work out who he played agains other relegation threatened teams and work out a team from there? You contradict yourself in your point quite a bit if you think about it.
    Not having a go, just pointing out the truth, you must be having a hard enough time just now after your season anyways!

  • Comment number 45.

    Re. Wulfran

    why have a go at the two best teams in the championship?
    surely they both deserve to be promoted as they won more points than the rest. Yes I am a Wolves supporter, but look at our record this season. We deserved to win that league and deserve promotion.Cardiff in the premier league? Why ? They didn't even make the play offs. GET REAL!!


    babyTeenwolf "its just a shame Wolves and Birmingham are coming with them."

    Wolves are well overdue a place in the top flight, what's so wrong about them going up?

    The league needs fresh teams, which is why it was so good when we went up last season. Wolves and Birmingham have both been in the Premier League over the years. It's nothing against either club, but it needs teams that haven't been up to keep it fresh and stop it going stale.

    The only way you succeed in the Premier League is if you are one of the Big Four, the rest are just cannon fodder.

    Re. Phil McNulty

    Isn't it all a bit tired how the media have after writing the likes of Stoke, West Brom and Hull City off at the start of the season and then the amazing start we had, then all comment stopped regarding Hull's relegation and it turned to top half finish then onto Europe, then with about 8 games to go it all started again, every single media person crawled from under the rocks where they'd been sleeping to jump back on the Hull relegation bandwagon, saying that they'd been saying all along that Hull would be relegated, when so many of you had gone to the other end of the spectrum and were praising our performances. It's typical bandwagon coverage.

    From my personal view if we stay up it's good money wise for the club, if we go down then I'd be happy to stay in the Championship (at least in that league the football is better and the refereeing averages out over a season) Not to discount that you actually feel like the footballers are the working class supporters and your not paying for some merceneires 5 figure weekly salary

  • Comment number 46.

    What Newcastle need is a relegation that will allow them to start again without their European history hanging over them like a falling boulder. Newcastle fans always point out that they were once challenging for the Premier League and they were in the Champions League, still believing that they should be. This has put too much pressure on the board which has meant that they think that success has to come straight away, hence the ever changing managerial face.
    Once in the championship Newcastle fans can look to the future, under Shearer (who will only stay if relegated), rather than their past.

  • Comment number 47.

    Everybody is happy to claim that Hull City have been 'abysmal' this year, and the points total would seem to support that. However most of their defeats have been by the odd goal; and they have been extremely unlucky both with injuries and with referees' decisions. An alternative league table correcting those dodgy decisions has them in 13th place. We had lucky decisions in just two games (Boro [h] and Chelsea [a]) but so many offsides and unseen fouls have gone against us that you'd think there had been a conspiracy. I don't - I just think it's been official incompetence - but it's galling none the less.

  • Comment number 48.

    I don't really understand the point trying to be made here:

    there's no evidence that the half-time mauling turned Hull's season round, maybe they were just found out for being the poor team they always were,

    there's no evidence that Alan Shearer is any good at his job, particularly as he has picked up virtually no points. (In his defense, the circumstances at the club have undermined him. Perhaps he will bring something positive next season.)

    Michael Owen never plays very well nowadays. Martins came off the bench and scored. When are people gonna start saying he's too injury-prone to be any good anymore? Maybe he will come back, but right now, he is not match fit.

    Come on, back up what you're saying.

  • Comment number 49.

    No way could any relegated club complain about Fergie feilding a so called weakened side on sunday.
    Any attempt to do so would bring into question the whole integrity of sport. All the talk of legal action was the bluster of failed clubs who know that over 37 games, they so far haven't been good enough. I am a Hull fan & I include us in that. We flattered to decieve early in the season, and now with one game to go, the table does not lie.
    If we stay up, it will be a miracle.

  • Comment number 50.

    Having watched these sides play many times this season, I wouldn't shed a tear for any one of them. They've been alternately uninspiring, overly-cautious, extravagant and often unsporting.

  • Comment number 51.

    "Did the players deserve such public humiliation? After all they had earned an outstanding draw at Anfield a fortnight earlier. It was hardly the culmination of a series of poor displays."

    Hmm. It's a convienient shorthand this. Shame it isn't true.
    That halftime teamtalk came about precisely because his team standards, that had slipped badly already, were heading even stteper downhill, veering into Derby County territory. For the record, after Hull's good start to the season, their form had started to slid to the tune of 7 points gained from the previous 9 matches (i.e relegation form) prior to the game at Eastlands. But even that wasn't as really desperate as the football immediately prior to the teamtalk, conceding 3 goals in the last ten minutes to lose 4-1 at home against Sunderland (a result that was poor at the time, and sounds shockingly bad now) and then being 4-0 down at half-time at Man City.

    In reality the problem was already there before Brown said anything at Eastlands. It was a desperate throw of the dice to try and turn things around. It very clearly wasn't the catalyst for where Hull are now, whatever you journalists might type.

  • Comment number 52.

    Phil Orange - Lol!!! :D

  • Comment number 53.

    United fan biased I know but get over it but i think the 2 in the relegation places will and should go down worse performers over the year hull and sunderland have had their moments and i think the people moaning over fergie fielding a weakended side when the team hasd nothing left to play for in the premier i would like anyone to defy any manager doing that he doesnt want to risk his players for a big final for a nothing match against hull its simple your team would of done it its just they dont have the luxury and its jealousy also theres 38 games in a season not 1 dont put it down to 1 selection

  • Comment number 54.

    Why do people keep saying that UTD should put out the "first XI" I believe they have played at least 20 different starters this season due to injury etc so who would this "first XI" be exactly.

    SAF will field a great team which will give Hull the whacking they deserve and that will be that. Having said that good luck to Hull as they deserve to be in the top flight much more than Newcastle or Boro who have been incredibly poor.

    I guess the fans calling for Big Sam's head are sorry now, look what he did for Blackburn, Newcastle fans need to stop thinking that they are still in the same vane as Man UTD and start thinking that they are a mid-table team for the moment anyway; that way they will give managers a chance to grow and mold a good team. They had 3 managers in one season.......can you say madness!!!!

  • Comment number 55.

    For me personally, I would be happy to see either Hull or 'Boro stay up.

    I would be really surprised if Sunderland go down but stranger things have happened.

    I do though, think the Newcastle fans deserve relegation. A club is more than just a manager who picks the team and the players themselves. This weekend the fans of all respective teams will play a big part too. For almost everyone, even those that don't particularly follow football, the Newcastle fans have behaved, as a group, pretty poorly and have a lot of collective soul searching to remedy the situation.

    It can come as no surprise that just as fans and atmosphere generated can spur thier team to earn results, the opposite effect is also possible when passionate fans behave in the way they have. I often get the impression from Newcastle fans that while they are passionate about thier club they often forget that the team on the pitch need a little love too.

  • Comment number 56.

    I agree funnily enough with all that you say up to the the part of " Of more serious concern is the question of whether Brown fatally holed Hull's season with his half-time berating of his players on the pitch at Manchester City on Boxing Day."

    Boxing day, 5 months ago. Why did Brown have to take a team and humilate them? The rot was already there, they were playing terribly and it's a pity more managers didn't do what he does. I am Man Utd fan but I cant stand Ferguson defending that clown Ronaldo all the time. I think the bottom 3 as they are now will go.
    Sbragia did well for a while but then lost it somewhere, so you can't really blame Keano for their demise much as you would like to.
    Newcastle deserve it and yes Middelsborough are too nice, but you missed out on their injury list IF I am not mistaken

  • Comment number 57.

    What's the point in having a squad if you're not allowed to use it? If Newcastle and Boro wanted to stay in the PL they should have done better. Simple as.

  • Comment number 58.

    If as Phil says that they are " four poor teams " then maybe the FA should take a lead from the FIA and bring in a last minute rule change for next season and just relegate them all. It would be a way to help relieve the inevitable complaints of fixture congestion or allow the time for a winter break afterall.

  • Comment number 59.

    I like many other so hope that the barcodes go down, that would be just right.

    Nothing against the area, the people even the club but when I see a clip of the fans shouting at 'Big Sam' I just chuckle as he and his team will be in the place where you think you deserve to be.

    Nobody 'deserves' their place, it's earnt and NUFC haven't earnt it.

  • Comment number 60.

    I just really hope that Newcastle go down - it might force their "we're a big team" fans to finally face reality.

  • Comment number 61.

    It wasn't the brown team talk at all, thats rediculous to suggest. it was a fine berating to peoplpe that are paid large amounts of money to perform a task... they should man up and take responsibility themselves.

    one of hulls main problems is with their lack of goal scorers as with most teams that struggle coming up to this level.. in jan we got rid of windass and king, to get what? a totally unproven player in manucho, hull were playign some pretty good dirsct football, the rot set in and they haven't ever stepped otu of it, and as has been stated, they like other teams suffered form some apporling decisions, alot more could be done to make the game virtually mistake free from an officials poitn of view but it isn't and for soem team it could break them.

  • Comment number 62.

    As a Newcastle fan, I am of course desperate for us to survive, however the fact is we don't deserve to.
    Mistake after mistake has been made this season by Mike Ashley in particular. Appointing Kevin Keegan was nostalgic but flawed, allowing the patently incapable Chris Hughton to lead a Premiership side was naive to say the least. And Joe Kinnear was never going to do anything better than give out a few rollockings, he is not a Premiership-class manager. Shearer has done the best with what he has.
    Much as it pains me to say it, we deserve to be relegated. With all due respect to Hull, they will probably struggle to establish themselves as a mainstay in the Premier League yet on an enormously smaller budget than ours, will most likely stay up. Middlesbrough are a humble, community-friendly club who have played some attractive football but lack a cutting edge like West Brom. Whereas we have blown fee after fee on mediocre, lazy players who were good two or three years ago, but by a combination of injury, arrogance and all the uncertainty at the club, have become sub-standard players.
    I still cling to the hope we can scrap a draw at Villa, and if so Shearer takes credit for engineering a turn-around of sorts, even if it's hardly been as spectacular as people think. However, what I think will happen is we will all lose, and so we will spend at least a year in the Championship - probably two or three, while we try and build a new team - taking punishment for our numerous self-inflicted blows.

  • Comment number 63.

    I hope Newcastle Utd stay up but I doubt it cause Villa will not wanna sign off the season with a defeat @ home. I think they and Boro will join The Baggies in the Championship.

  • Comment number 64.

    Owen has not lost it, I think his form has not been helped by playing in a poor Newcastle team that has no creativity, leading him to feed off scraps at best. Ronaldo coulld play in the current Newcastle team and peform poorly.

    If Owen leaves and goes to a team in the summer where he has a decent striker to work with and support from midfield then he will score goals for fun. Form is temporary class is permanent.

  • Comment number 65.

    wow over 60 comments and not one referred to a mod

  • Comment number 66.

    I think that even if you put people's general feelings about Newcastle to one side they are a club that deserves to go down. Bad management off the field (Ashley, Wise) bad management on the field (Keegan, Allardyce, Hughton, Calderwood, Shearer) and a team of players who have not even close to pulled their weight mean Newcastle need to go down to start to rebuild from scratch. I feel sorry for Toon Army as Ashley will come out of this saying he's given the fans both Keegan and Shearer in the same season and they couldn't keep them up, Shearer will go back to MOTD saying he didn't have long enough to make a difference and the fans will be the ones to suffer.

    I still think Newcastle can stay up however as Villa aren't playing good football at the minute and the draw they need is easily within their capability.

    For the Wolves fans who were criticising babyTeenWolf I don't think you've necessarily picked up on his point. I don't feel that Wolves or Birmingham don't deserve to be in the Premiership at all but it's always nice to see teams who've never played in the league (or at least not for a while) make it as it adds variety to the league. I've nothing against Wolves, Birmingham, West Brom, Sunderland or Sheffield Utd (the usual teams) but i'd like to see the likes of Preston, Burnley, Cardiff and Swansea make it as they play good football and i'm sure their time is coming.

  • Comment number 67.

    All four teams have been useless this season and I strongly suspect that the teams that do survive the drop will probably go down next year unless they improve drastically.

  • Comment number 68.

    The last thing the N.E. Troika need is for SAF to field his "strongest" team - they'd all be scared of getting injured and missing out on the CL final. I just find it unbelievable how much money these players are making in return for less than mediocre performances. For our last game of the season I wish we could just round up 11 local lads and let them have a go. At least we could sympathise with them. I've got no sympathy for any of these mercenaries.

  • Comment number 69.

    In reality the problem was already there before Brown said anything at Eastlands. It was a desperate throw of the dice to try and turn things around. It very clearly wasn't the catalyst for where Hull are now, whatever you journalists might type.


    Absolutely spot on, Janik17.

  • Comment number 70.

    babyTeenwolf: so why don't we all agree that the top four teams are a permanent fixture in the premier league and the other 16 places are drawn from a hat to have 'fresh teams' every year? Or perhaps TV viewers of "Premier League Club Talent" could vote for their favourite teams in each year...

    Both Wolves and the glorious Birmingham City deserve their places in top flight due to being the best two teams in the championship this year - as simple as that.

    And Phil is 100% right that the relegation is not decided just on the final day; whoever goes down had plenty of time and opportunities to pck up points to survive but didn't

  • Comment number 71.

    I used to have a huge amount of affection for Newcastle United with them being my (and many others) "second team" but that has disappeared over recent years.

    I deplored their behaviour towards Sam Allardyce. He is clearly a decent manager and they would never be in the position that they are now, if the Geordie fans had not turned on him. Apparently, his style of football wasn't good enough. Well, how's Newcastle's style of football been since he left?

    Then onto Keegan. I can understand their affection for Kevin Keegan as a person but as a manager? He is clearly a wonderful motivator, but tactically inept and was so far out of touch with the game it was ridiculous.

    Joe Kinnear. Staggered when I saw his appointment. A competent manager 10 years ago. But now? Unbelievable.

    Finally, Alan Shearer. To be fair, he has made improvements but then they were so bad before, he could hardly have made it worse.

    I think Middlesborough are down and I hope that Newcastle join them. I think the whole place needs a massive clear out - owners, managers and players. It should also be the reality check that Newcastle fans need.

    There is no divine right to be in the Premier League and there are plenty of clubs in lower leagues whose fans thought exactly the same thing.

    Football is all about results. Nothing else matters. Perhaps this season, whether they survive or not, will mean that this lesson is taken on board in Newcastle.

  • Comment number 72.

    8. At 3:06pm on 22 May 2009, ScottishScouser wrote:
    And however much they may wish to complain afterwards - and it is to be hoped they do not - it will be not be decided by Sir Alex Ferguson's team selection when Manchester United play Hull City.
    Phil, this is a much used arguement, in fact I've only heard one journo with a different view. While I agree to a certain extent, 18 other teams have had to face in the main a full strength Utd side, so should Hull.

    We hear the arguement that Newcastle, Hull and Sunderland have had 37 other games to escape relegation. But, the season is '38' games long. When did Utd win the title last season? On the 38th game! Should the premier league have said your performance over the previous 37 games means you don't have to play the last game, here's the trophy.
    I have to say I agree with Phil on this one, Man Utd have won the league and can play whatever team they like, that is a benefit of winning the league early, you can save players for more important games such as the champions league final. If we (Liverpool) were in the same position I would be expecting Rafa to save our big guns for the Champions League final which is something he has done before when a top 4 finish was alread assured and we had important champions league games coming up, remember in 2007 when we played a few games with squad players because we were going to Athens for the Cahmpions League final. Managers with struggling teams were't happy about it but Rafa made that choice which he was entitled to make.

  • Comment number 73.

    Come on Newcastle (Y)

  • Comment number 74.

    Interesting that these 4 teams all facing relegation ( along with West Brom) are all from the North-East of England. What is it up there that makes success unlikely?

  • Comment number 75.

    All 4 teams still involved in the relegation scrap should be gald that only 3 teams going down from the EPL. Sad truth is that all 4 should go down. If there is one club in the bottom 5 which deserve to stay up it is WBA. Unfortunately they are already doomed...

  • Comment number 76.

    Re. ppl752

    Both Wolves and the glorious Birmingham City deserve their places in top flight due to being the best two teams in the championship this year - as simple as that.

    Can't argue with that. Over the season the league doesn't lie. You both deserve to be promoted. It's nothing personal against either club. (My other half is a Wolves fan, so our household is funny at the moment) I think Wolves and Birmingham fans, are missing what I'm trying to say though. The more teams that get a taste of the Premier League the better chance there is of the teams returning if they get relegated based on the parachute payments. So the sooner the likes of Cardiff, Preston, Swansea, the Sheffield sides, or any other team in the Championship gets promoted, the better chance of the 16 other sides in the Premier League being relegated.

  • Comment number 77.


    Firstly, thank you for a truly excellent article. It sums up the season very accurately for these clubs. So right to highlight the fact that Hull could go down, and then blame SAF for putting out a "lesser" team. Let's be honest. Whatever team SAF pus out will ooze class and proven internationals, so don't point the finger.

    They say a league never lies at the end of the season. It's so true. Poor defending. Lack of firepower. Lack of leadership. Lack of direction. Gotta say, the team I am slightly surprised about is Middlesborough. Good chairman, decent manager, decent talent, great stadium and loyal support. Where did it go wrong?

    Anyway, best of luck to all'll need it.

  • Comment number 78.

    Am I the only Newcastle fan who actually wont mind too much if they go down? Recent seasons have been generally dismal, and they need to re-group and build a new team, ideally with Shearer at the helm. I would certainly much prefer to see Newcastle at the top of the Championship next year, than endure another season watching them struggle at the bottom of the Prem.

  • Comment number 79.

    to blaim fergeson and utd for any of the four teams going down is stupid and i can see him fielding a simular team to the one that nearly beat everton in the FA cup semi final.
    Even if he does put players like Ben Amos in goal or maybe tosic and the like. I watch the reserves and these and many other from the acadamy are great players and this is a great oportunity from them to show how good they are.
    Also i'm not surprized it's was a liverpool fan who meantioned this and i like to see what team they would of put out if the shoe was on the other foot. I seem to remember a few season ago when they didn't have a chance of winning the premier league and where still in other trophies putting out weakened sides (i could be wrong ).
    If SAF did put his first team out there hearts probably wouldn't be in it 100% because they where thinking of the final. The point i'm tring to make is a weakened Man U side could probably beat any of the four side with out breaking a sweat. I work in the gambling industry and i put money on all four losing so it won't make a blind bit of differnce who starts for Man U.
    p.s. as you can guess i'm a man U fan. Rome here we come for Hopfully the FORTH TROPHIE of this year.

  • Comment number 80.

    People seem to forget that Ferguson has rested players against plenty of other teams, as have Benitez, Scolari and others. Everyone always makes out that the last game is more important. Actually, each game is just as important as the next in the league. They're all worth three points.

  • Comment number 81.

    There will be no drama on the last day. The league table will remain unchanged after Sunday's round of matches. I hope Phil Brown - if not axed afterwards - learns to treat his players with respect as the boxing day half-time humiliation was uncalled for. You do not treat adults (married men responsible for families) as though they were school boys playing community football. Newcastle and Boro will go down because they deserve to. There just isn't enough quality in these teams - players and management combined.

  • Comment number 82.

    I- Man Utds team selection won't affect the relegation battle. In fact, a reserve team is more likley to do Hull in, as they will be fighting to impress SAF with an eye on next season and maybe even sneaking into the CL Final squad.

    However, can you see Rooney or Ronaldo really diving into a 50/50 ball with the full competitive fire that they usually would, with the game of their lives just four days away - I think not.

    Hull will have their hands full, even if Man Utd line up with half a team of kids - remember, Man Utds kids win League Titles.

    II- I don't see how this years bottom 4 shows the EPL is not the best league in the world. Four teams who regularly pull 20'000 fans (50'000 if you look at Newcastle) are your four worst? Sheesh, that must be terrible. Sure, the football has been lacking, but Middlesborough are trying to go with home-grown youth, Hull are a small team with ambition who punched well above their weight at the start of the year, and Newcastle have been an ongoing saga of mismanagement.

    Indeed, it's not Man Utd, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea that make the Prem the best, it's the teams striving to be them - Germany, France, Italu and even Spain lack a truly competitive undercard, and England has that in Villa and Everton - not to forget the unexpected and awesome seasons by Fulham and West Ham, and we have Tottenham and Man City looking good for next year. With a top TEN like that - that is what makes you a great league.

    Even more is the competition to come back up, with Wolves and Birmingham hopefully being more ready for the premiership this time, and I really hope Burnley come up, 'cause that would be a great thing for everyone.

    There is DEPTH in the English game, and teams who are striving to achieve more than they are meant to - and that is a wonderful thing.

    Ideally, I'd see Hull stay up, 'cause I always root for the underdog - Middlesborough have been a team of no ambition for too long, and need waking up, and I think the Championship would benefit from a team of Newcastle's stature, and going down could be a watershed moment in the history of the club.

    Straighten the sails, look to what makes you tick as a club and look to where you want to be - and GO for it. Man Utd did the same thing more than 20 years ago (although they didnt have to go down to learn the lesson.)

    I'd love Hull to stay up, and I'd love a leaner, hungrier Newcastle to come straight back up, aiming for the European slots, and a title challenge in the next ten years. Now wouldn't THAT be interesting?

  • Comment number 83.

    can't see any change and it will be boro and newcastle who go down

    i agree though that newcastle poor over-rated "super-stars" will be gone by monday morning allowing them to re-build a side from their youth. This is neccessary evil for them.

    Hull deserve to stay purely because they have done marginally better than the rest of the team's down there and they atually are on the few premier league 'grass-roots' clubs that haven't got an international fan-base. Only a fre years ago, they were playing league 2 football. A club like this in the premier league is surely only a step forward giving other teams in lower divisions something to aspire to

  • Comment number 84.

    78. At 8:16pm on 22 May 2009, louismegatalent wrote:
    Am I the only Newcastle fan who actually wont mind too much if they go down? Recent seasons have been generally dismal, and they need to re-group and build a new team, ideally with Shearer at the helm. I would certainly much prefer to see Newcastle at the top of the Championship next year, than endure another season watching them struggle at the bottom of the Prem.


    Gotta agree with you, in a way. Gives everyone associated with Newcastle a season in the Championship to reflect on past mistakes, and hopefully, once promotion is in the bag, they can build for security in the EPL the season after.

    Newcastle ARE a big club. The fans deserve better...

  • Comment number 85.

    There has always been the unpredictability about the game of football. I suppose that's what makes it such a great game. If it were not for that fact we could work it all out on paper. It's possible for the weak to overcome the strong on the odd occasion. Maybe with a little luck...rub of the green... one of these four teams could scrape a draw...a point!
    The reality is someone has to come bottom, even if every club were as good as Man United. The losers can take heart in that a good showing in the Championship next season could see those relegated, return the following season.

  • Comment number 86.

    Hull should face the same strength side that Newcastle and Sunderland and every other side faced.


    I wish I had known about this rule earlier. All those games Liverpool had to play this season with-out Torres or Gerrard could have been postponed.

    Everyone always points out how weakened a Liverpool side is with-out one or both of them. So is it fair that some teams got to play Liverpool with-out them in the squad? Everton lost their best player this season, should their games be postponed until Arteta is back?

    Of course not. This is why teams have SQUADS instead of 11 players.

    I keep hearing "the premier league is 38 games long not 37" well that's all well and good but by that same token the Premier League is 38 games long, NOT ONE GAME LONG.

    If the teams in the relegation fight would have played better in the previous 37 matches, this one game would be meaningless.

    I hope United play their under 11's on Sunday and lose; because at that point you will see the real character of the clubs that get relegated. The honest ones will admit they got relegated because they simply weren't good enough over the course of the season. The deluded will blame United's team selection, and completely forget their consistantly terrible performances since August!!!!

  • Comment number 87.

    chriscrowing , great post.

  • Comment number 88.

    Im not sure if its the optimist inside me but im SURE newcastle will stay up. Aston Villa will have little or nothing to play for and if anything Man Utd have more to play for than any of the other opponents, professionalism. Although a frequently banded about cliche, relegation will undoubtedly be the own undoing of those relegated, but id have to say that i hadnt noticed at all our (newcastle's) descent. Whilst other fans seem to revel in our doom, i ask you were we actually that much worse than the likes of Blackburn, Portsmouth, Hull and Sunderland. As much as i think it would be a shame if Hull went down id ask whether they add much to the premiership? A premiership without Newcastle is a Chelsea team with out a diver, and will undoubtedly leave a huge hole. Whilst many would revel on seeing Newcastle pitting its wits up against the likes of Peterborough, Blackpool, Plymouth etc, i'd order you to think of a premiership without the Toon, and get behind the lads. Does anyone actually care about Sunderland or Hull?

  • Comment number 89.

    ScottishScouser wrote: "While I agree to a certain extent, 18 other teams have had to face in the main a full strength Utd side, so should Hull."
    I think any manager in Ferguson's position is entitled to field any team he chooses. It may not be fair, it may not be ethical, but it's not against the rules and that's the way it is. I couldn't care less what team Ferguson picks - I'm a Fulham fan and we're on the brink of qualifying for the Europa League! Of course, if we lose and the Spuds win and take our place, I think we should sue 'Arry.

    The bottom line is that any team that finds themselves in the bottom three at this point in the season only has themselves to blame. Of course, my opinion would have been the polar opposite this time last season when Fulham faced the very real possibility of relegation only to save themselves by the skin of their collective teeth.

  • Comment number 90.

    2 years ago Man Utd lost at home to a seemingly doomed West ham side on the last day of the season. With an FA cup final to play and the title already won they played a slightly weakened side.
    Van der Sar, O'Shea, Brown, Heinze, Evra (Giggs 57), Solskjaer, Carrick (Scholes 58), Fletcher, Richardson, Smith (Ronaldo 58), Rooney
    West Ham stayed up, and i dont recall anyone talking about fergies selection at the time, so why now???

  • Comment number 91.

    I'm a magpie but anyone could see this day has been coming.
    The rot had set in when Keegans champagne boom or bust fizzled out and Shepherd wanted success faster than he could sink a pint and eat an overpriced pie.
    Even when he got it right with Sir Bobby, his patience, and it has to be said that of the 'fans' who jumped on the keegan bandwagon ran out. DON'T FORGET, UNDER BOBBY WE FINISHED 3rd.
    Since then one disaster has followed another, with the biggest being Keegans re-appointment cum re-incarnation, and all the time the fans kept shouting for the next saviour.
    Now it's up to Alan and no one can doubt his hearts in the right place but if he stays, how long before they turn on him.
    It's a sad fact that the best and worse thing about us is the fans themselves.
    If we go down, I only hope were not the next Leeds.

  • Comment number 92.

    anyone fancy a cup of tea?

  • Comment number 93.

    i think that hull will stay up and newcastale and middrousrough will go down

  • Comment number 94.

    I completely agree that it is down to the 4 teams (unlike Sheff Utd 2 years ago when without Tevez West Ham would have finished bottom) not Fergie.
    Phil - Shearer is not under the greatest pressure. He will not be blamed in any way if they lose to my team. He will be under pressure if he stays regardless of outcome next season, especially if Newcastle get relegated.
    Please no hard luck/didn't he do his best on your Beeb's mate.
    Course you are right they should have got in Terry Venables - I mean the rescue job he did at Leeds in 2002/3 under similar difficult circumstances (no money/huge debt/team that doen't own their ground/inept leadership) qualifies him. Maybe not. He was so good that Peter Reid was brought in to resuce Leeds from certain releagtion. Funny Terry like Alan is another 'media' darling.

  • Comment number 95.

    #1 I support Liverpool.
    #2 I am not Alex Ferguson so will not second guess his motives
    #3 I do not expect Manchester United to lose against Hull
    I think United will rest Ronaldo, Giggs, Rooney, Van Der Saar and Vidic. However, Ferdinand needs to play. Jonny Evans is a fine defender who was present for much of Utd's run of clean sheets. At full-back united have a good depth. In midfield, Fletcher will get a game, and players like Nani and Anderson will be playing for their United futures... or the prospect of a lucrative move. There's also the possibility of run-outs for berbatov and Tevez. Marcheda may well play, as well as some unfamiliar names on the bench.
    I expect a draw or United to win by 1 goal

    This means Middlesbrough are down. Unless they can win by 3 goals (assuming a 1-goal Hull defeat). It also means that Sunderland can lose and stay up.

    Newcastle are playing a Villa side who look demoralised. O'Neill screwed up the UEFA Cup for a longshot of overhauling Arsenal. Whereas European success may have enticed the 1-2 players his squad needs to be genuinely very good. I would not be surprised if Newcastle escaped relegation (a draw may do).

  • Comment number 96.

    If Newcastle were to do down i believe it would not be the best thing to happen to the club like some people have been saying. Unlike a lot of teams the players do not have a clause in their contract meaning they can leave for any price if the team go down. Therefore, they are going to struggle to offload all those players on mega contracts.
    Also, there is not going to be any interest in the majority of the players as they lack any quality. No championship team can afford to pay 6-7 players on £60,000 a week contracts and would not fill the stadium like recent years.
    I bet Mike Ashley will experience major squeeky bum time come sunday afternoon, i know i will.

  • Comment number 97.

    Just for fun if somebody did sue who would they sue?
    If they won their case would it be for financial considerations only or the right to stay in the Premiership?
    How would the issue be resolved? Would you automatically award a loss to Hull or a draw?
    How many non first team starters have to play for it to be a weakened side?
    How many premiership teams could Fergies fledglings beat? [quite a few I would guess]
    This is not a discussion about for example Arsenal letting Man U win the title by intentionally playing a weak team just so Liverpool could not win the title.At the top of the table a title can change hands as a result of a few decisions throughout the year.
    We are talking about the bottom of the table where countless mistakes and poor football has brought the teams to where they are.
    Man U should be allowed to make the best decision for Man U

  • Comment number 98.

    People reckon it will do Newcastle the World of good to get relegated - as i Leeds fan, i can assure you IT WONT!!! Everyone always says that the relegated teams will bounce back up - its not that simple. Look at Southampton, Norwich, Charlton, Leeds, all in the 1st div. In the Championship teams like Forest, Derby, Wednesday have gone from mid table Prem teams in the last 15 years, to that. Poor old Luton will be in the conference next year, It was only 21 years ago they won the Littlewoods Cup and were in the old division 1.

    No one knows what effects relegation can have, more often than not they are negative, rather than positive. I sure as hell wish Leeds had stayed up by the skin of their teeth in 2003/4, maybe we would be playing Champions League again, you just never know.

    "its a funny old game" after all.

    Good luck to Newcastle by the way, who have by far the best supporters in the Premier League. Boro fans are totally fairweather and im delighted they will go down.

  • Comment number 99.

    I actually posted this elsewhere but its just as relevant here.

    His only responsibility is to his Club nobody else.

    The league is played over a season who is to say that earlier on other teams were beneficiaries of teams leaving out players as they prepared for important Champions League ties.

    You get the rough wi the smooth teams were looking forward to Chelsea under Scolari then Guus appears so Nobody wants them now.

    Should Abramovich be up on a FA charge because he employed Big Phil???

    Swings, Roundabouts & the Rough w/ the Smooth. A league table doesn't lie.

  • Comment number 100.

    Deats80 - I agree, you can never tell how it will affect a team. You can make an educated guess, but nothing more.

    I would suggest that Middlesbrough and Sunderland would have the best chance of bouncing straight back up should they go down. Newcastle have been in decline for a few years now, which as you say could easily continue in the Championship. Hull will need a serious reboot whether they survive or not (personally, I hope they do), and, although I think he gets a lot more criticism than he deserves, I think Phil Brown should probably step down one way or another.


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