Friday 29 May ~
As an Evertonian living in Northumberland for the past few years, I have got used to being given advice by Newcastle fans about what my club should be doing to improve their chances of success. We need a big new stadium, a new owner prepared to spend big on star players and we should really try to be more entertaining. This last point is usually made politely but the perception seems to be that we are a dull bunch, with our austere Scottish manager and his preference for energetic but limited scurriers. This response has modified slightly over the past year to the extent that I've even been told by some that they "wouldn't mind" seeing David Moyes take charge at St James' Park – followed by the rueful conclusion that "he'd be mad to come here, of course".
So, while hopefully stopping short of a full-on gloat, I did bask a little in the outpouring of despair that Newcastle's relegation triggered in the two main local papers, the Journal and the Evening Chronicle, on Monday. "Nobody died but it sure as hell feels like they have" was the headline on the Chronicle’s editorial comment, while there were seven separate references elsewhere to "the likes of Scunthorpe" being one of the team's destinations next season. Amid the hand-wringing, an observation by Journal reporter leapt out: "The model clubs are Everton and Villa. There's no reason why, in the long term, we can’t get up to that sort of level – finishing in the top six or seven and challenging for cups if we find the right man."
Of course, Newcastle had been doing both those things when Sir Bobby Robson was dismissed only four years ago. Indeed, at that point, even up to the third coming of Kevin Keegan 18 months ago, some Everton supporters might have been envious of Newcastle. The fact is that Everton have got to where they are principally because they haven't had a lot of money behind them. It's a happy by-product of not being an attractive enough proposition to potential buyers – new owners expecting a quick return on their outlay would have dismissed David Moyes at some point during his two sub-par seasons, in 2003-04 or two years later. There has been a harmonious atmosphere around Everton for a while, notwithstanding some message board sniping at Bill Kenwright, but I have no doubt that would dissipate quickly in the event of a corporate takeover.
Clever stewardship in the boardroom is often cited as an explanation for a club's success over a long period of time, but that's rarely the case; it's nearly always down to the manager. Charlton, once seen as a model of stability, collapsed after Alan Curbishley left because their board were forced to do something that hadn't need to think about for a while – appointing new managers. For reasons that don't bear up to scrutiny, the local press in Newcastle continues to insist that Alan Shearer is the right man to remain in charge of the team while the hapless owner scrambles around in search of someone to relieve him of his burden. Instead, Newcastle should think small for a change – appoint someone with experience of Championship football and working on a tight budget. It won't be glamorous or especially entertaining for a while but if that in itself deters interest from the world's fifth richest steel magnate and the like, then all the better in the long term. Carl Mountford