t"Let's all laugh at Newcastle. Ha ha!" The cruel taunt on placards at the Stadium of Light summed up the general feeling as Sunderland supporters celebrated the fall of their neighbours and arch-rivals. The news of Newcastle's relegation from the Premier League was greeted with similar, somewhat sadistic, delight and disbelief at grounds around the country.
It was the same when Leeds United dropped into the Championship five years ago. Tears on one side, cheers on the other, and cue the cliches. No team is too big or too good to go down. Newcastle are hurting, but they cannot wallow in self pity. If Mike Ashley, the owner, cares about the club then he must rebuild immediately. Drastic measures for drastic times. The first stone must be laid with the appointment of Alan Shearer as the permanent manager and he, in turn, has to create a team around committed players such as Steven Taylor and show others like Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins and Fabricio Coloccini the exit door.
The sight of Taylor, the teary and shell-shocked Geordie defender at the end of Sunday's final day defeat at Aston Villa, shows how much this club means to him. An inquest into Newcastle's depressing campaign has already begun and Ashley will hold talks this week with Shearer about the way forward - and return back. Bobby Moncur, who captained Newcastle to their last trophy success with the Fairs Cup in 1969, said: "Alan has to stay. He is the one man to get them out of this position."
Chris Waddle, who helped Newcastle out of the doldrums of the second tier back in 1984, warned: "The club needs to plan for the next 10 years, not just one. "Newcastle are not going to disappear, but if they are to be a top club again, they have to do things right." With Middlesbrough also down, Gareth Southgate can relate to the grim plight of his former England teammate Shearer. He has vowed to stay on as manager and make the necessary changes to engineer a promotion push.
"My heart is in this club and I'm determined to fight and repay the faith shown in me," he said. "There are huge lessons to be learned, but we have an enormous fight on our hands and we need fighters to take that challenge on." Hull and Sunderland, who have Gordon Strachan lined up to replace Ricky Sbragia as manager, will also need to learn from a Premier League campaign that has once again produced the drama and an outcome which makes it the most exciting, and unpredictable, in the world.
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