Are Newcastle's Premier League rivals readying themselves for a shopping spree at St James' Park?
At the end of last season, with a fifth-place finish, a Europa League place and two Manager of the Year awards in the bag, Alan Pardew could do no wrong.
Now it seems he is struggling to do anything right.
Wigan’s 3-2 defeat to Swansea on Tuesday night may have put some breathing space between the Magpies and the final relegation place. But the Latics won’t have given up hope of pulling off the miracle of miracles.
If Newcastle continue their free-fall, Roberto Martinez’s side may just do it.
Which led me to wonder: are some of their Premier League rivals secretly hoping that Pardew’s side slip into the Championship?
Not through any sense of malice, more the greed we all feel when someone has what we desperately want.
A year ago, the likes of Cheick Tiote, Yohan Cabaye, Tim Krul and Papiss Cisse were out of all but the richest clubs’ price range.
Despite being linked with some of England’s top clubs, that was all it was, a link, unsubstantiated gossip.
Pardew was adamant no one was going anywhere. Well, except Demba Ba, but that is the trouble with contract-clauses.
But should Newcastle suffer the unthinkable and drop into the second tier, those same players will move; perhaps not all of them, but certainly some.
It is the inevitable nature of relegation. You rarely start the new campaign with the side that finished the last.
Tiote and Cabaye have both previously been linked with Manchester United, the Frenchman again this season.
While clubs seeking a new goalkeeper – most notably Arsenal – could do far worse than bring in Krul, who has also reportedly attracted interest from both Roma and Milan.
If Newcastle do survive, which looks far more likely in lieu of the Wigan loss on Tuesday night, it may be more as a result of other sides’ limitations than any steel of their own.
But safety may also prevent them from being stripped clean of their most talented and valuable assets.
Although there is also another viewpoint: why would other sides want players who have underperformed so dramatically this season. Perhaps not Cisse and Krul, but Tiote for one is far from the player he was last season.
In salvage operations, treasure can be found.
But these players are too good to ultimately be salvaged from a mess of their own making.
Perhaps others are taking notice, just in case. Readying offers for players desperate to escape the unpredictable waters of the Championship.
Then again, surely the players should start performing for the club at which they made their name, to ensure that never happens.
Will those players return to the form that elevated the club to a top-five finish? Or will some of them be sold even if Premier League safety is secured?
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