NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Newcastle pride restored as the title party begins
It's not a phrase which has made the Oxford Dictionary yet, but Wikipedia has its own page dedicated to `doing a Leeds'. It says: '"Doing a Leeds" is an English football phrase which has become synonymous with the potential dire consequences for domestic clubs of financial mismanagement, following the rapid demise in the 2000s of Leeds United A.F.C, a Premier League club that invested heavily to reach the semi-finals of the lucrative Champions League European competition, but in the process built up large debts. Delight: Newcastle fans celebrate winning the title at Plymouth More from Colin Young... 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Newcastle!04/03/10 COLIN YOUNG: Adam Johnson story a shining example to youngsters23/02/10 VIEW FULL ARCHIVE'The club suffered a "financial meltdown" after failing to continue to qualify for the competition, and subsequently dropped down two levels ofthe football pyramid, into the third tier, Football League One, for thefirst time in its history.' And later in the entry, Newcastle United get a mention. It continues: 'The phrase was notably used during the relegation of Newcastle United in 2009, the largest club to be relegated from the Premier League since Leeds. 'Having bought the club, new owner Mike Ashley stated that his investment had in fact saved the club from "doing a Leeds". Newcastle were relegated anyway, sparking fears both before and after that the club could "do a Leeds" and drop further, into League One, without restructuring.' So it is not beyond the bounds that back in August even the most loyal fan who made the eight-hour, 408-mile to Home Park on Monday may have feared that Newcastle could have been heading to Devon seeking to avoid relegation. Nine months on and thanks to the brilliant management of Chris Hughton, and the unity of his vastly superior squad, the dreaded Queen anthem 'We are the Champions' blasted out after Monday night's 2-0 win. And although they may have been persuaded to do so by the league and its sponsors, it is to Plymouth's credit that they hosted the champions televised party. Not that their supporters can have enjoyed it. It was Plymouth Argyle who were relegated to League One. The Coca-Cola trophy will be at St James' Park on Saturday, and it promises to be quite a party for Hughton, his players and the supporters. Ashley too will be in toon, and his presence at the Youth Cup exit in the week, indicates that may well be the case for some time to come as they prepare for the return to the Barclays Premier League. He certainly won't want to miss Saturday's celebrations. At stake this weekend is the unbeaten home record, and the chance to equal the feat set by the team of 103 years ago. It seems inconceivable the team which has been unbeaten since October, and has overpowered so many sides on home turf, will surrender the record to the Championship's draw experts. On the up: Andy Carroll is mobbed by fans at Home Park And who better to have as an invited guest to the Geordie party than RoyKeane? He has had mixed fortunes on Tyneside. Part of the side which was drubbed by Kevin Keegan's team, but also the among those who clawed back that 12-point gap with Sir Alex Ferguson, Keane was famously dismissed at St James' for trying, and failing, to lamp Alan Shearer - not the sort of behaviour to endear himself to a black-and-white public. He then took over up the road and when he was last at St James' two years ago this week, his Sunderland team were fortunate to escape with just a 2-0 drubbing. He did not enjoy his team surrendering at any time, and certainly not in the supporters' biggest game of the season. He is guaranteed a warm welcome to the North East on Saturday, and the Ipswich boss and his dog will be serenaded throughout the afternoon, no doubt. The derby is back and the banter between the two sets of fans has already started. Every time a radio interviewer sticks a microphone nearSteve Bruce he is asked for his thoughts on the big game. And like everyone else he cannot wait although like Keane, he may not find St James' so welcoming now. Leader: Chris Hughton With an additional, well-funded year under their belts, Sunderland should be favourites for the two games, and should be seriously looking at a top ten finish which is somehow still in their grasp with three games to go. Just how much ground Newcastle have lost in the Premier League can be determined from their internal competition with Sunderland. But it must be galling for even the most optimistic Newcastle supporters that their budget for the whole of their summer recruitment programme was the amount Sunderland spent on landing Darren Bent and Michael Turner alone last season - with double that needed for Lorik Cana, Paulo Da Silva and one-time Newcastle target Matt Kilgallon. And look where that left Sunderland. It was fitting Andy Carroll and Wayne Routledge scored the decisive goals at Home Park. Both will be Premier League players with Newcastle last season and both, admittedly over different timescale, have played their part in the club's immediate return to the top flight. Carroll looks a Premier League centre forward and a player who, if he can curb his off-the-field troubles, should one day earn the right to wear Newcastle's coveted No 9 shirt. He has the ability, but does he have the temperament? And can he cut it in his first full season with the big boys? Routledge has been here before, and proved too inconsistent, which is why he is at Newcastle at all. But the glimpses of talent seen in a black and white shirt give cause for some optimism. The big test comes in August. But enough of that for now. Hughton and Ashley have already started planning for their return and have decided on their perfect DNA for the new recruits they need to strengthen the Championship champions. Before they arrive, Newcastle are worthy title winners and they deserve a party to remember.
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