Waddle fears for Newcastle's future

With two of the clubs he loves in the relegation mire today, Chris Waddle hopes that he and the North East will not suffer too much today.

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With two of the clubs he loves in the relegation mire today, Chris Waddle hopes that he and the North East will not suffer too much today. Newcastle and Sunderland face a tense finale to the season, sweating on their top-flight futures. Waddle is a man with a foot in both camps. Sunderland were his boyhood team and one he could not stop from being relegated during a short spell in 1997.

It was with Newcastle, though, where he made his debut. Alongside fellow Tyneside legends Kevin Keegan and Peter Beardsley, Waddle helped them out of the old Second Division 25 years ago. But a return to the second tier - the first time since 1989 - is now on the cards if Newcastle, a point behind in the bottom three, fail to win. Alan Shearer's side visit Aston Villa hoping to better Hull's result at home to Manchester United. Sunderland will guarantee safety if they beat Chelsea at home.

Waddle thinks both will face hard times if they are relegated. "These clubs are in the position they are because they have deserved it," he said. "I still think, and hope, Newcastle and Sunderland will survive. I've been saying for the past few months that Hull were gone so I will stand by that; they are just not winning games. "No matter how much effort they put in or the adrenaline they have, you cannot see them scoring goals and I think they will lose. Aston Villa are not playing that well and I can see Newcastle getting a draw there. I think Sunderland will escape, even if I can't see them beating Chelsea.

"This is the biggest game for Newcastle since the Premier League started. You can see there is a lack of confidence in the players. I think they are trying, but sometimes you have to hold up your hands and say they have not been good enough." Waddle says the impact of relegation could be more damaging for Newcastle. "There are so many dark areas with Newcastle, you just don't know what extent the effect will be or what depths the problems will be financially," he says.

"Players will be sold, but how many will bring in big money? When an owner has been trying to sell, what does that tell you? "I don't think they have the structure to cope with going out of the Premier League. It will hurt them massively. "Just look at Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest, Charlton and Southampton. They have gone from the Premier League to League One and who can say Newcastle will not follow the same path?

"Sunderland have the backing and foundations to cope if they go down. But I hope it won't come to that for either of them." akhan@thenational.ae Villa v Newcastle, Showsports 2, Sunderland v Chelsea, Show Comedy Extra, both KO 7pm

Middlesbrough (32 points, -28 goal difference) Will go down unless they beat West Ham and Newcastle and Hull both lose. Even so, Boro would need to turn round a five-goal negative deficit on Hull. Newcastle (34 points, -18gd) Will go down if they lose. A draw would be enough to stay up on goal difference, if Hull lose. If they win and Hull or Sunderland drop points, Newcastle stay up. Hull (35 points, -24gd) Will stay up if they beat Manchester United. They can afford to draw or lose, but only if Newcastle also lose. Sunderland(36 points, -19gd) Safe with a win at home to Chelsea. Can lose or draw - unless Hull and Newcastle both win.