Newcastle has been in a rudderless malaise for most of the season. Kevin Keegan resigned and nearly every potential replacement rejected the offer. The club pulled backdated Joe Kinnear out of retirement, gave him the full time job and then watched him succumb to heart trouble. Chris Hughton took over as a caretaker, and the club has finally asked Alan Shearer to replace him for the final eight matches.
Along with the managerial mess, owner Mike Ashley, after being lambasted by the supporters, tried and failed to sell the team, while simultaneously watching his fortune come tumbling down in the economic crisis.
The traumatic season seems to warrant a dramatic ending, one way or another.
Form: Newcastle’s form has been atrocious. They have one win in their last 12 matches, and that was an unimpressive 3-2 affair against the worst team in the league, West Brom. Perhaps a moderate bright point is that their losses at home during the stretch, were to big four sides, suggesting that, at least at home, they can play for points.
Schedule: Newcastle need to get back on track. Their schedule may not allow that to happen. The Alan Shearer bounce will receive a rude welcome, hosting Chelsea on Saturday. They then travel away to Stoke City and Tottenham, play Portsmouth at home and then visit Anfield. Conceivably, Newcastle could be relegated before they hit the soft patch of home ties against Middlesbrough and Fulham, followed by a probable dead rubber away to Aston Villa. They may be sunk if they do not get at least four points from the next three matches.
Injuries: Injuries have and possibly will continue to hurt Newcastle. Both Bassong and Steven Taylor are suffering at the back, and Barton and Duff in midfield. The two things you want in the midst of a relegation battle, or at any time, are experience and quality, so this will hinder them.
Prognosis: Shearer is an unknown quantity, so it’s difficult to assess how effective he will be in this eight-game stint. A lot may rest on this weekend’s match against Chelsea. If Newcastle pull off a result at home, they could ride the wave from Alan Shearer’s mystical presence. If they play like they have the rest of the season, retiring like a doused candle, it’s hard to see them mustering the strength to fight their way out.