When the fixture list was released back in June 2008, no doubt the fans of both Newcastle and Middlesbrough hadn’t a thought that they’d be facing a six pointer to try and save their Premiership survival with today’s clash. Yet here they are, staring down the barrel of relegation with West Bromich coming up close behind and it would seem a choice between any three from 5 clubs.
Defeat tonight for either side could condemn them to relegation with the only hope of Sunderland and Hull City’s continual free fall to even give them a glimmer of hope for staying up. Hull City, West Brom and Sunderland will be hoping for a draw, both the Boro and the Magpies will be desperate for a win. The form book shows that between them, they’ve gathered 6 points between them in their last 6 games, 4 for Boro and 2 for Newcastle. In a nutshell, both sides are showing relegation form and a win for either side seems a bridge too far.
A draw would seem to be the obvious result, but wouldn’t benefit either side. Newcastle’s remaining games are against Fulham, chasing European competition, at home and then an away trip to another side in dreadful form, Aston Villa. Middlesbrough have Aston Villa at home, then travel to West Ham United who have hit a blip at the wrong time both on and off the field.
Honestly though, if I had to hang my hat on either side getting anything tonight, you’d have to fancy Middlesbrough. Sure they’ve been bad this season, but they’ve had a fair run of bad luck and haven’t really got the results that some of their performances deserved. Newcastle have been simply awful all season, a side bereft of fight, tactics and performances and don’t look like they’d be able to beat an egg at the moment. If Newcastle go down, they’ll not return to the Premiership for a long time, Boro at least have some assets that they can cash in on to try and regenerate the side for a promotion push. Let’s not forget that Newcastle United do not have any player on a contract reduction clause and their biggest playing assets are all out of contract in the Summer. Leeds United part two beckons for the Geordies if they fall through the trap door.
This is clearly the biggest Tyne-Tees derby in almost 20 years, but financially, this is the biggest derby in both clubs history. The pressure and the fear that the league table shows the players every time they see it will be playing on every single players nerves, making sick to the pit of their stomach. Those kind of nerves can destroy even the best of players. Newcastle United players will be hoping the club haven’t given them any free flags, after the curse of the flags in last weeks Champions League Semi-Finals.
The Geordie and Boro fans are both sounding downbeat about their chances of winning tonight, though thankfully certain Newcastle fans who keep claiming the Premier League needs Newcastle United in it seem to have got quieter and quieter as the realisation of reality has finally sunk in. Both sides are full of overpaid, under performing players, but maybe tonight someone can finally give their long suffering fans some value for money probably in a red shirt.