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Were Newcastle United Saved in the Nick of Time?

Newcastle United were in 13th position when the English Premier League was suspended earlier this year. Effectively 12 spots from the top or seven from the bottom, they were stuck in an awkward middle ground.

Pundits and fans alike will debate whether their season was headed north or south. The club traded inconsistency for promise in some patches, but then slipped to disappointing play in some matches they really should have been better in.

At the time of the suspension, they were priced at 19/1 for relegation or 14/5 or a top-10 finish. For some of the UK betting sites, bettors could pick a top-six finish for Newcastle United at 13/10 with Betfair and others. Flanked by Southampton in 14th position and 12th-placed Everton, Newcastle United’s 35 points just need another five to get into that top 10.

Dubravka’s influence

With matches against Bournemouth and Brighton on the cards, wins against two teams lower than them on the log could well have boosted Newcastle United’s hopes. Then again, a tough fixture against Manchester City and later Liverpool were on the schedule, too.

Martin Dubravka

Martin Dubravka has impressed with a collection of clean sheets in goal, and it’s this sort of defence that might have taken the club higher in the standings. Yes, goals need to be scored – but as key to good attack is solid defence. They certainly would have had to improve on their goals for and goals against ratio. It stood at 25 to 41 when proceedings ended.

The club’s well-documented takeover, meanwhile, has raised eyebrows and brought smiles. It’ll yield much needed investment, indeed, but whether it will attract more foreign stars remains in the balance. Former French and Chelsea star Frank Leboeuf wonders if others will eventually follow countryman David Ginola’s example.

Listen to Leboeuf

“Newcastle United has been an attraction for foreign players because of the money and ambition they have had. Ginola played there and so did others. Of course foreign players are going to check what is on offer. When I signed for Chelsea back in the day, I checked out the geography of the club, which is important. Players want to know where they will be staying on the map in England, not just London,” Leboeuf told ESPN.

The ambition Leboeuf spoke about is evident across their premier league history, which has yielded plenty of mid-table finishes. They’ve done particularly badly on occasion, but never really suggested being among the worst teams in the history of the league. A look back at their past dozen seasons in the premier league, punctuated by a couple of Championship stints, reveals more.

Newcastle United over the years

  • 2005-6: 7th
  • 2006-7: 13th
  • 2007-8: 12th
  • 2008-9: 18th
  • 2009-10: 1st (Championship)
  • 2010-11: 12th
  • 2011-12: 5th
  • 2012-13: 16th
  • 2013-14: 10th
  • 2014-15: 15th
  • 2015-16: 18th
  • 2016-17: 1st (Championship)
  • 2017-18: 10th
  • 2018-19: 13th

Having spent plenty of time in division one and two through the second half of the 1900s, Newcastle United have done a really good job at bouncing back after relegation to the Championship. The table above shows that if relegated, they’re right back up again the very next season.

Hope amid doubt

Renowned football pundit Gabriele Marcotti, in the interim, is quite uneasy about the takeover and has all but implored the league itself to reflect on whether this is good for all involved.

“With new owners, hope always springs eternal – and these happen to be very wealthy owners. But there are political elements in play when governments, via sovereign wealth funds, owning clubs. The premier league needs to ask itself – does it effectively want a government, especially a foreign government, owning a football club? One day, the owner might decide to go in a different direction – is there security for the club and the league? I don’t think this is a healthy business model,” added Marcotti.

True, the last thing Newcastle United want is their on-field promise being jeopardised by off-field decisions.