Club Focus – Newcastle – Top meets bottom in promotion decider

Newcastle United supporters will be celebrating an instant return to the Premier League this weekend, providing that results go their way. If Newcastle take all three points on Saturday and Nottingham Forest suffer defeat to Bristol City then automatic promotion will be confirmed. To do so as early as Easter weekend would represent a great achievement, even in a season due to finish early thanks to this summer’s World Cup.

Saturday will see two sides in action who will almost certainly be playing more than a division apart next season. Bottom of the table Peterborough United are 13 points adrift of safety and it seems only a matter of time until their relegation fate will be confirmed. Over 4000 Newcastle fans are expected to make the long trip down to London Road for what could be a promotion party. Going into the game top scorer Andy Carroll is a major doubt after limping out of Monday’s Forest game with an ankle injury. If he is unable to play then Shola Ameobi may get a chance to make a rare start this year. Before making a crucial goalscoring return against Forest, Ameobi had not featured for the first team since early February. His scoring form this season makes for impressive reading with nine goals from only 14 games in an injury disrupted campaign. If he had been fit all season then it may have Ameobi making all the headlines instead of a certain other Geordie striker.

The other goal hero from Newcastle’s 2-0 victory over Nottingham Forest, Jose Enrique, has been the focus for most of the local media’s attention this week. This is perhaps unsurprising given that he had just scored the maiden goal of his career on the back of his best season since arriving in England. Enrique faced a tough decision in the summer over whether to turn his back on Newcastle in search of a fresh challenge elsewhere. But unlike a number of other players he chose to continue his spell in a black and white shirt. The Spaniard said: “What I can say is that every player who decided to stay at Newcastle following relegation did so because they wanted to stay. They decided it was better to try and help the team win promotion than leave straight after relegation. That was the same for me. I wanted to play in the Championship because I knew we had a great chance of getting straight back to the Premier League. Looking back now, I know it was the right decision. Even last summer when I said I wanted to stay, I meant it. I don’t lie. People will now believe and realise why I did.” Enrique believes that Newcastle still feels like a Premier League club even though they have been on the rung below that level this season. He said: “We get nearly 50,000 coming here every week and away from home, there are always two or three thousand of them. It has never stopped feeling like a big club, a Premier League club. But it was also important for us to remember not only that we were in the Championship but why we were in the Championship. It was the players’ own mistakes and the fact we did not play well last season.” The former Valencia player will almost certainly keep his position as first choice left back next season. But Newcastle may need to bring in another left back to provide cover if Enrique picks up a serious injury. At times in their relegation season the likes of Ryan Taylor and Damien Duff were used at left back due to a lack of alternatives.

Already Newcastle are starting to plan for life in the top flight next season with the rumour mill starting to buzz with speculation on who will be coming to St James’ Park in the summer. This week Newcastle have been linked with Getafe’s Juan Albin who is available as a free agent in a few months. There is no doubt that Newcastle will have to bring in new players for next season to boost their survival hopes. After the Forest game losing manager Billy Davies felt that around £60 million would be needed to be invested just to be competitive. He said: “They are more equipped than any other team in this division. But they will still need to spend, speaking as a greedy manager, at least £40m for the first window and £20m for the second window.” Owner Mike Ashley is unlikely to make that much money available with a figure between £10 – £20 mil believed to be available to spend on new players. There is unlikely to be a return to spending large sums on big name players given the current circumstances both at Newcastle and football in general.

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