NORTHERN EXPOSURE: It's saying something when Sunderland are the side with most to look forward to -
19 May 2009 09:57
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Northern Exposure - The Daily Mail's North-East football reporter, Colin Young (right), provides expert analysis and behind-the-scenes insight into the affairs of a footballing heartland - at the moment the area is temporarily known as 'the relegation region'. Don't miss it , every week on Tuesdays.
I do not own a trumpet. And in fact sadly, to my shame, I cannot and do not play any musical instrument.
I can follow with a pretty neat drum-beat on the dashboard to The Clash and Wedding Present in particular, and have long considered myself the new Cosy Powell of County Durham.
That fantasy aside, if I could play a real instrument for one week only, for the purposes of the aforementioned column, it would indeed be a brand spanking new trumpet. It'd be mine and I'd blow it
When I was first asked to provide The Northern Exposure column on March 25, 2009, I decided, as a gentle opener, to reflect on the state of the top three in the big top. Not that it made pleasant writing.
'Only West Brom's inevitable demise will prevent all three North East 'sleeping giants' from the ignominy of Championship football for at least next season. Don't believe me? Check the league table, check their run-ins.' Click here to read more.
Successfully predicting the demise of top flight football on my patch is nothing to be proud of, but those of us with the (current) misfortune of covering the region's teams regularly could see it coming. Things is, they are all not very good.
(Although if Liverpool supporters want to know why they are not going in to the final weekend with their title dream still alive they might want to recall February 28 at the Riverside. They lost 2-0 to Middlesbrough).
That was the day Liverpool may have been dreadful - Torres was absent, Gerrard and Carragher might as well have been - but Boro proved they could play with the big boys. And to prove it, they have won one in 10 since.
So here we, go, one week left and if they beat them and they avoid defeat with them, they draw with them and he doesn't put out his weakest team against them, one, rather two of the North-East three will survive on Sunday.
Sadly, Boro, as I have said all along, looked doomed. They need to win by two or three at West Ham - and they have scored more than two in just five league games all season - and then hope that Hull lose by the same amount and Newcastle lose at Aston Villa. Not easy, but you never know.
Championship football looks inevitable for Middlesbrough, which could actually prove the making of Southgate and his young squad.
But a terse and difficult stand-off with supporters also lies ahead and a half empty Riverside will be a much more attractive proposition from some of the up-starts who will identify Boro as one of the big guns there to be shoot-down in such an unforgivable league.
The Boro squad will be trimmed, big names like Downing, Tuncay, Huth and Alves already have moves in motion, and those with the higher wage can look forward to a life away from such local concerns. And if the players abandon the cause, why should fans not do the same?
Southgate does need experienced and resilient characters and his selections over the coming weeks will decide his and Middlesbrough's destiny.
The very thought of Championship football has not been contemplated at St James's Park for aeons. They may have made catastrophic through successive boardrooms, but it was always in the chase of glory.
Kevin Keegan predicted troubles ahead when his job description changed, Dennis Wise took any power from under his nose, and a host of Spanish-based players were signed and more than £20 million spent.
No one should forget how hard it was for Keegan to walk away from the mess, but he knew it was a mess. Consequently, everyone else in football could see the potential damage being inflicted by the current regime's course handling of this proud club.
And yet, despite all that, Newcastle were supposed to get out of trouble, especially with Alan Shearer in charge. But he should have been appointed much earlier. Enough said.