For Blackburn Rovers, it was an unexpected yet welcome three points gained in the battle against relegation. For Newcastle, it was three points dropped in their chase of an instant return to the Premier League. But regardless of the result, for Rovers fans, Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Newcastle will quite possibly have also been a stark reminder of what might have been.
The strange thing is, Mike Ashley is far from heralded in Newcastle for some of his activities as owner of Newcastle United Football Club, far from it. But one thing that you can’t say about the often outspoken businessman is that he isn’t afraid to put his money where his mouth is.
This summer, while Rovers struggled to find a manager to build a squad capable of challenging for promotion, Ashley’s Newcastle were busy spending more than £50 million to prepare for just such a challenge. Admittedly, they did receive some £80 million on player sales, but unlike Rovers they certainly showed their intention to reinvest on the playing squad.
The other thing Newcastle have managed to do that Rovers could not was hold on to their manager, and a well proven one at that. It was telling Rovers took so long in their search for a manager before appointing Owen Coyle, despite having known even before the end of last season that Coyle’s predecessor, Paul Lambert, was due to leave E-Wood Park at the end of the football year. Newcastle meanwhile where at the same time busy in making sure Rafael Benitez would go back on his initial assertion that he would leave the club should they be relegated from the Premier League.
Newcastle went down, but Benitez remained, and as such it has allowed the St James Park club to prepare adequately for what is already starting to look like a quick return to the top division.
Rovers meanwhile are starting to see an upturn in form, but it is hard a squad with the size and experience such as this will find it difficult to maintain such form long enough to challenge a club such as Newcastle.
I stand to be corrected, but right now it feels as though while Rovers won the battle, Newcastle stand to win the war.
By Toby Wilding