Have Newcastle and Middlesbrough found their level?


Last weekend Newcastle defeated Middlesbrough 2-0 at St. James’s Park, they claimed a new Championship record with a crowd of 49,644. The Geordies are showing that they have no intentions of sticking around in the Championship longer than they need to.

Currently they are taking the league by storm and look set to take two more records while they are at it: the record for points taken in one season and the fewest goals conceded. In 22 games Steve Harper has kept 13 clean sheets, and has only conceded 4 goals at St. James’s Park.

Relegation is tough for any club, especially a club like Newcastle who a few years ago were playing in the Champions League and challenging the leagues so-called Big Four which the even managed to break up in successive seasons (2001/02 & 2002/03).

Having said that I think relegation is what the doctor ordered for Newcastle, ever since Mike Ashley took over the club has been going backwards, while it may be a harsh dose of reality, getting relegated could be the best thing that’s happened to the club.

Chris Houghton deserves full credit for the reversal of fortunes, he is the man who has single-handedly turned the clubs form around.

If Newcastle can get promoted back to the Premier League and it most likely will given their current standing in the Championship then things will have to change at the club.

Obviously they can no longer attract big names to the club, because they simply haven’t got the money. But, stability is something every club needs and while the Premier League may not be plain sailing for the Geordies at first I think they can weather the storm with their mixture of youth and experience.

In my season predictions I did not tip Newcastle to win the Championship because this was back in August when they were still without a manager and the ownership crisis was still ongoing.

A team of contrasting fortune is Middlesbrough, who are continuing to falter under Gordon Strachan, when the Scot took over at the end of October they were only 1 point behind the Geordies, and fourth in the table.

Now two months later Newcastle boasts an impressive 20 point league over Boro who lie 14th in the Championship after only one victory in eight games.

Also in my season predictions I had Middlesbrough down to win the Championship and bounce right back up, but at the moment the only look likely to be mid-table mediocrity.It certainly begs the question why was Gareth Southgate sacked?

Since writing the start of this piece this morning, today’s fixtures meant that things have changed in the league once again. Newcastle were held to a 2-2 draw against managerless Sheffield Wednesday, while Middlesbrough recorded a comprehensive victory over Scunthorpe, running out 3-0 winners.

Those results mean that Newcastle are now 10 unbeaten and continue to top the Championship, eight points ahead of second placed West Brom. Boro move up to tenth after only their second win under Strachan.

This level of football is what suits Middlesbrough, while Newcastle are definitely are true Premier League side. After a minor blip of relegation last season The Geordies look set to be on the way back up.

However, we are only at the half-way point of the season, and as we know the Championship is a very competitive league, there will most likely be more twists and turns to come.

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