Trio clinging to black and white blueprint
This time last year, turmoil surrounded Newcastle United Football Club. Owner Mike Ashley was reportedly desperate to sell up, living legend Alan Shearer had failed to prevent relegation from the Premiership and pre-season preparation for life in the Championship was patchy at best.
Fast forward a few months and the Magpies are back in the big time along with West Bromwich Albion, another club relegated last summer, while Middlesbrough have spent well in an attempt to rejoin their North-East neighbours.
Three new clubs tumbled out of the top flight in May and, while there may be differing targets for Burnley, Hull City and Portsmouth this season, all would do well to consider Newcastle’s route to success.
Put pre-season behind you
It is not just Harry Redknapp who has endured a miserable pre-season tour in the United States this summer. His former employers Portsmouth have not had the best of times either. Pompey players are certainly accustomed to misery, but even they would have been hard-pushed to foresee a 28-hour journey to a game.
Last year, infamously, Newcastle’s pampered post-Premiership professionals plunged to defeat in the East End of London with a 6-1 defeat at the hands of humble Leyton Orient. The obituaries were written there and then, but the Magpies had far more grand designs.
Portsmouth’s obvious instability may be a factor but Steve Cotterill will hope that Pompey can make Fratton Park a fortress in the same way that Newcastle’s excellence was built on their unbeaten home record.
And Pompey do have Premiership-quality players in key positions, many of whom were central to their outstanding FA Cup run last season. For now, anyway. Cotterill’s ambitions depend on how many of Marc Wilson, Michael Brown, David Nugent and the like stay on the south coast for the challenge ahead. Newcastle kept their spine and reaped the rewards.
Steady the ship
With Chris Hughton’s reliable hand on the tiller, Newcastle navigated their way to the title when many expected them merely to be steering away from the rocks. If new Hull City manager Nigel Pearson can replicate Hughton’s feat, it will be viewed as an even bigger achievement – and also, arguably, more impressive than the top six place Pearson managed at Leicester last season.
Pearson, like Hughton a former caretaker manager at St James’ Park, is a no-nonsense man who gets results. A popular figure in a brief spell at Southampton before joining Milan Mandaric in the East Midlands, his record at Leicester was outstanding and Hull’s current situation is tenuously comparable to the one he walked into at the Walkers Stadium in 2008 as well as that of Hughton twelve months ago.
Much relies on heavy usage of the exit door. Kamel Ghilas has joined AC Arles-Avignon of the French Ligue 1 on loan where, curiously, he will be partnered in attack by Yann Kermorgant, the man whose infamous penalty miss is part of the reason Pearson is not currently a Premiership manager. George Boateng is gone, Boaz Myhill last week joined West Bromwich Albion and more, Jimmy Bullard among them, must follow before Pearson can strengthen his squad for a possible title tilt.
Look to the future up front
Probably the strongest of the relegated Premiership clubs, Burnley look to have more potential to launch themselves back in with the big boys at the first attempt. Losing Steven Fletcher to Wolves was a blow but the Clarets received a large fee and may look to youngster Jay Rodriguez, who has impressed on an inconsistent basis, to replace the departed Scot.
Last year, of course, Newcastle lost Obafemi Martins to the Bundesliga and ended up relying on the largely unproven youngster Andy Carroll for goals. Carroll was joint top scorer for the champions and established himself as the leading candidate to spearhead Newcastle’s attack in the Premiership this season. Can Rodriguez do the same?
Burnley have an excellent Championship squad, but Brian Laws will have to prove himself this season. Laws was a surprise choice as manager and few were shocked when he was unable to save the Turf Moor side from the drop but he must now make sure his appointment is justified.
Burnley should finish comfortably inside the top six this season. Maybe they could even do a Newcastle. 23 other teams will have studied the Magpies’ methods in the hope they can do the same.