With my beloved Middlesbrough languishing in 17th place in the Premiership, and the performances getting worse, perhaps I should start looking at relegation as a possibility. Southgate is still a rookie, so dropping down a division is very possible, and looks more than probable.
But would it really be all that bad? Could we ‘do a Leeds’? Last season, they were trapped in a Championship relegation battle with mounting debt, and near-suicidal football. The only way was down, with their misery finally compounded with 25 points being deducted to first confirm they finished bottom, and then start the next season at the bottom.
The misery of Leeds United has lifted. No longer does it seem to be the end of the World, or even the end of Leeds. Playing the best football they’ve managed for a lot of years, probably in the best run of form in the World, and cheering everyone up with their starling performances this season, would relegation be too bad?
Surely its just a golden opportunity to lift the player’s confidence? To give the manager a different angle to look at things? To get the town (or city) in a cheery mood? The more you think about what relegation has achieved for Leeds, the harder it is to find a negative.
Imagine if Middlesbrough went down. Parachute payments, minimal losses of players (most are local lads on long-term contracts), a chance to get some confidence, and play some fantastic football. Hell, it may even draw a few more fans to the Riverside if they subsequently dropped ticket prices.
Although… there is always a flipside. Take another look at Leeds. Aren’t they the side who was in the Champions League semi-final less then 10 years ago? And upon their subsequent relegation to the Championship (or Division 1 as it was then), didn’t bounce back as expected. They have looked like coming back up occasionally, but ultimately, downwards was the dominant direction.
Their finest players left, the debts mounted, and those ‘local lads’ went off to the enemy. The Premiership seemed a distant dream, the jokes and the remarks about Leeds once being a good team mounted, and were then forgotten as people accepted a new era of top level football – one which didn’t include Leeds United.
I’ll be honest, if we ‘did a Leeds’ – went down, and didn’t return to the Premiership, I’d be a bit gutted. No doubt Newcastle fans would suddenly decide that they actually wanted to be our rivals again (they’ve gone into denial recently, since we’ve become more successful), simply for the opportunity to call us crap. Those Mackems I lost contact with a year or two ago would somehow find me for a ‘chat’, and Hartlepool might catch up to us…
So is it a risk worth taking? Is the yo-yo pattern of going down, owning, and coming back up worth the risk of never coming back? Sunderland have famously yo-yoed between the two divisions for a number of years, which has at least kept them in contention, though the parachute payments seem to be putting an end to it. Leeds will be the real proof after their (inevitable) promotion this season, and we’ll see if they begin their own yo-yo.
Personally, I’m not sure either way. Finishing top of the Championship would be nice to see – we haven’t won a League in donkeys years, but if it meant we stopped being a Premiership team for quite a while, I’d be quite upset.
One things for sure though – should we be in one of those dreaded bottom three spots come May, I won’t see it as the end of the world, just an opportunity to prove ourselves at a different level.