Relegation-threatened Newcastle United return to Villa Park desperate to exorcise the demons of 2009. Tim Krul tells chief sports writer Mark Douglas there are at least five reasons to be hopeful that they will do just that
DEEP in the bowels of Villa Park, Alan Shearer cleared his throat and prepared to deliver one of the darkest sermons in the history of Newcastle United.
It was May 2009, and a day of sweltering heat and heartbreak in the Second City. An ignominious relegation had been confirmed thanks to one of the meekest performances in black-and-white history and Shearer’s late salvage job had been unable to overturn the momentum built up by a year of mismanagement.
“The guys at the top have big decisions to make,” the then caretaker manager said. “I think a lot of people will try to make the comparison to what happened at Leeds. It depends on where people want this football club to go.”
Three and a half years on, Newcastle travel to Birmingham in a position almost equally as precarious as the one they occupied back then. The difference this time? United have been bold in January.
They have blocked Fabricio Coloccini’s exit and signed five international players to try and inject some urgency into a situation that seemed to be sliding towards an emergency.
Suddenly, a trip that carried such dark omens is viewed as a chance for renewal and renaissance.
For proof of that, witness Tim Krul’s wide smile as he prepares to address the media ahead of a return to the ground where he witnessed relegation first hand from the bench.
He has had to dodge out of the way of the imposing figure of new arrival Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa – “He is some unit,” Krul chuckles – but there is no ducking from the conclusion that the onus is now on the players to take their lead from the boardroom.
“The owner and chairman have done what they said they were going to do,” he says.
“Five new players is more than I expected and it’s given everyone a massive lift.
“The club said we were going to strengthen the squad and they showed that in five or six days signing five new players.
“It gives that extra competition for places, instead of taking things for granted and people will have to work their socks off to stay in the side.
“At a club like Newcastle, you need that. We were just happy to get 11 on the pitch and a bench. We’ve definitely got strength in depth now.”
The irony is that Newcastle’s return for Tuesday’s potentially critical clash sees them pitch up in Birmingham with their opponents now facing the same abyss that United once teetered over. Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa have been knocked out of two Cup competitions by lower league opposition in the space of a week and have slipped into the relegation zone.