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.

The Seventy Two
The Seventy Two published an outstanding series of articles about the Football League between 2010-12 and was the brainchild of Leicester City fan, David Bevan. As well as collaborating with The Two Unfortunates on the Football League Blog Network and a mammoth 2011-12 season preview, the site featured a host of leading bloggers and David was rewarded with a nomination in the 2011 Football Supporters’ Federation awards. Latterly, he was joined as co-editor by Joe Harrison and TTU is happy to present this archive of the site’s output.

1 Comment

  1. Ben
    August 8, 2010

    Still amazed it all came together for us as it did – talk about a phoenix from the flames… Everyone deserved credit: the players, for forgetting their egos and knuckling down to the business at hand with energy and determination; the manager, for exuding a quiet assurance and dignity even amidst the turmoil of the summer and subsequently ensuring focus and discipline; even the much (and rightly) maligned owner, for bankrolling January’s mini spending spree which freshened up and added extra quality and depth to the squad.

    Of the three relegated sides, Burnley are by far the best placed to go back up – but Hull are probably the most similar to us in terms of predicament, so it’ll be interesting to see how they fare. As for Pompey, even we weren’t in quite such dire straits when the Championship season kicked off…


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