Newcastle United were relegated last night to the Championship despite spending nearly £80 million this season.
Newcastle’s relegation was confirmed in the worst possible circumstances last night, when arch-rivals Sunderland crushed a feeble Everton side 3-0 at the Stadium of Light, sending both the Toon and Norwich City tumbling through the relegation trap door.
For Newcastle, it’s a second relegation in seven years, with the last coming in 2009, as Alan Shearer, in similar circumstances to Rafa Benitez, simply didn’t have enough time to pull the Magpies away from the drop.
It is evident that Benitez was finally getting the measure of his new squad. Unbeaten in four games heading into their must-win fixture against Aston Villa, it looked like Newcastle would be able to cheat death under the former Real Madrid boss.
But that dreadful result last weekend, a 0-0 draw against a side who had lost their previous 11 consecutive games, all but secured their fate there and then, regardless of Sunderland’s fixture against Everton, a side who have steadily crumbled under the bleary-eyed reign of Roberto Martinez.
Relegation likely means that Rafa Benitize will hit the eject button – etched into his managerial suit courtesy of a contract clause, although he won’t be the last one to leave Tyneside.
Steve McClaren’s £80 million flops have ensured that Newcastle are the most expensively assembled side ever to drop out of the top flight, and they will not want to hang about and face a season in arguably the most competitive football division on the planet.
So, here is a list of five key players who you probably will not see in a Newcastle shirt next season:
1) Georginio Wijnaldum
‘Gigi’ Wijnaldum arrived at the club with much fanfare in July of last year as Newcastle managed to fend off other interests to land the highly rated Dutch international. The former PSV midfielder was signed for £14.5 million, making him the most expensive signing in Mike Ashley’s tenure. He quickly became a key pivot in an underachieving Newcastle side, scoring four goals on a memorable night for the midfielder against Norwich back in October.
But after a blistering start to the season he has since struggled to maintain such good form. His return for the season does certainly standout in a team of misfits, with 9 goals and 5 assists in 37 games, and it will be difficult to see how Newcastle could persuade the Dutchman to hang around on Tyneside for a season in the Second Tier.
2) Andros Townsend
Andros Townsend’s arrival in January for £12 million was met with ambivalence at first from the Geordie faithful, but it became quickly apparent that Townsend was going to play a leading role in their fight for survival. Undoubtedly their best player as the season came to a climax, his vital goal against Crystal Palace – a stunning free kick – has epitomised how important he had become to Benitez’s side. His form has rekindled talk of a spot on the ferry to France in the summer, and he will be boosted by the news of both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s and Danny Welbeck’s injury absence from the tournament.
Despite his recent arrival, Townsend will be well aware of his Premier League credentials, and a move away from the Toon – possibly on loan – looks a very real possibility.
3) Moussa Sissoko
Sissoko has always been a main stay in the Newcastle starting eleven, but under Benitez he took on a whole new level responsibility, taking on the captain’s armband in the Toon’s convincing against Newcastle a the backend of last month.
The Frenchman has started all but three games this season, and has made over 110 appearances for a club he has served with the utmost loyalty since arriving in 2013.
Sissoko was once linked with the likes of Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Tottenham Hotspur, the latter having a bid rejected by Toulose, his former club, back in 2010. In the end, he arrived on Tyneside, and has been a key figure ever since, underlined by his opening goal on the last day of last season, where Newcastle secured their survival with a 2-0 win over West Ham.
It wasn’t to be this time around, and you can expect to see the powerhouse midfielder having his head turned this summer.
4) Jonjo Shelvey
It has seemed like Shelvey knew he made a mistake the day he arrived on Tyneside. Ignoring the local press, enjoying his £80,000 a week salary, you may be forgiven for saying Toon fans won’t be too concerned about his departure.
But he hasn’t been any worse than anyone else in this Newcastle team. Shelvey signed for Toon from Swansea for £12 million, a move that seemed at the time one of shrewd thinking, with Swansea in a long term malaise following the ailing stewardship of Garry Monk. Handed the captain’s armband, Shelvey’s job was to lead the Toon up the table.
Whilst he occasionaly showed his quality with a fantastic range of passing, ultimately he failed to provide the bite and motivation that would have motivated his side back up to safety. On his huge wage, Newcastle will be desperate to shift him on, even if only temporarily.
5) Papiss Cissé
His wonder goal away at Stamford Bridge seems like an eternity ago these days. Having lit up the Premier League in 2011-2012 season, Cissé has looked a shadow of that clinical goalscorer ever since.
Rumoured to have been close to a move away in January, it may well finally be the end for the 30 year old forward, who joined the club from Freiburg for £12 million in 2012.
Having made 111 appearances for the Toon, and scoring 44 goals, he has certainly been a loyal servant, but with only 13 starts this campaign, the nail is in the coffin for Cissé’s time on Tyneside.