Another season, another crisis for Newcastle United.
Ever since Alan Pardew signed a huge seven-year contract extension, stability is one word that cannot be associated with the club. Fast forward to the summer of 2015, former-England manager Steve McClaren takes over, with a generous transfer budget and the expectation to reassociate the words 'stability' and 'Newcastle United.'
Unfortunately, McClaren was unable to gel the new signings in, with the side looking bereft of any quality and team spirit for a large proportion of the season.
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Arguably, the only three key consistent players this year have been Georginio Wijnaldum, keeper Rob Elliot and January signing Andros Townsend. Dutch international Wijnaldum is the only one of these to be ever-present, scoring nine goals in the process. Other big names with relatively expensive transfer fees have failed to live up to the hype.
In a desperate attempt to avoid relegation, the Magpies splashed the cash in January, signing Englishmen Townsend and Jonjo Shelvey, as well as Bordeaux flop Henri Saivet and Roma loanee Seydou Doumbia. The combined fees of these signings in addition to the expensive outlay in the summer transfer window have reportedly cost the club in excess of £80 million, with the net spend estimated at around £77million.
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Townsend and Shelvey have made an impact in their brief spells so far, but will this prove enough?
The team certainly has the quality to stay up, as indicated by their recent form, including draws against Manchester City and Liverpool and victories over Swansea City and Crystal Palace under new manager Rafa Benitez.
This ability alone shows that they should never have put themselves in such a precarious position, and offers a lifeline that a few weeks previous would have been unforeseen.
FA Cup finalists Crystal Palace were seen as a stern test, with Eagles boss Alan Pardew having masterminded a 5-1 demolition job earlier in the season, but thanks to yet another Townsend wondergoal and a Karl Darlow penalty save, Pardew lost on his first return to the club he almost took to the Champions League in 2011/12.
Despite his fairly successful time at St James' Park, he was infamously slaughtered by the fans when results took a downward turn, with incredible protests during games that had the supporters holding up 'sackpardew.com' posters.
Eventually, the Newcastle fans got their wish and Pardew was sacked and replaced by John Carver for the remainder of the season. Granted, the fans would not have expected the team to capitulate under Carver, the self-proclaimed 'best coach in the league,' but their methods of forcing Pardew through the door could easily be seen as short-sighted.
Since the owner sold star midfielder Yohan Cabaye to PSG, the team never recovered under Pardew and has certainly not recovered since he was effectively forced out by the supporters.
The current epidemic in a long line of troubles is another relegation battle for the Magpies. The club were last relegated in 2008/09, but with Chris Hughton in charge, they managed to bounce straight back up. However, the bleak reality is that back then things were different. Going down provided the wake-up call Newcastle needed, as Andy Carroll broke through from the academy to fire 17 goals on the way to the Championship title.
Many clubs relegated aren't so fortunate. Ask any Leeds United, Bolton Wanderers, Fulham, Portsmouth, Wolves or Queens Park Rangers fan. These clubs all have one major problem in common - Premier League wages for a Championship team.
The net spend from the board on transfers and wages offers the club an ultimatum if relegation occurs. Do they risk keeping the players on the high wages for one shot at an instant return? Bearing in mind that some of the employees will have transfer clauses, which reportedly includes manager Rafa Benitez. Also considering that without promotion, the club could end up riddled with debt.
Or do they sell these players to recoup the losses that the Premier League TV deal would have covered? With this option, it could take years to rebuild a successful side again.
The remaining days of the 2015/16 season could be one that defines the next generation of the club's rich history. To put it simply, it's crunch time.
What should Newcastle United do over the summer should they be relegated? Have YOUR say in the comment section below!