ONSIDE: Mediocrity mission accomplished for Newcastle United

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HOW many of you Newcastle United fans out there were willing Crystal Palace to score a late winner after Liverpool’s dramatic collapse the other night?

Not that the Magpies players themselves were roaring on the home side.

For Monday’s 3-3 draw ensured that Alan Pardew’s side, despite their post-Christmas collapse, will somehow finish in the Premier League top 10.

Cue contractual bonus for the squad to squander on their summer jollies.

Let’s hope they haven’t got their flip-fops on prematurely this Sunday when they end another tempestuous season at title bottlers Liverpool.

Only Newcastle United could turn midtable mediocrity, a position envied by nearly half the division, by into a painful drama.

Flashback to August and I’m sure the majority of black and white fans would have taken ninth or 10th as the team’s eventual resting place.

But it is the manner in which this “feat” has been achieved which is more concerning.

Sixth at Christmas, the club have once again failed to build from a position of strength with the long-suffering faithful enduring repeated blows since the decs came down.

First there was the tame surrender at home to Cardiff City in the FA Cup third round.

Then there was the sale of star midfielder Yohan Cabaye and the failure to replace him before the January transfer window closed.

Next up within days was a second successive 3-0 home mauling by serial relegation fighters Sunderland before Pardew’s headbut and resulting ban marred what was arguably the performance of the season at Hull.

Phew. No wonder most fans have been willing this season to end since March.

The agony will no doubt continue over the summer with repeated talk over who the club are or more tellingly aren’t going to buy.

You watch. Some geezer you’ve never heard of will score a wonder goal during the first week of the World Cup and Newcastle will immediately be linked with him.

If owner Mike Ashley has any sense then the club’s recruitment drive will already have started by then.

While Saturday’s various fan walk-outs before the end of the Cardiff win were a relative anti-climax, there are still likely to be thousands of season-ticket holders who won’t come back next term.

Should neighbours Gateshead return to the Football League after a 54-year exile then the number of empty seats will increase still further.

Sports Direct supremo Ashley only tends to act when he feels his investment is threatened.

So surely a team battling against relegation in front of rebellious fans in a one-third empty stadium isn’t good for business?

- GAVIN LEDWITH

@GLedwithHMail