These are desperate days for Newcastle United as the Premier League club scratch around for good omens before Sunday's relegation decider at Aston Villa. Defeat would send Newcastle out of the top flight of English football for the first time since 1993, a scenario that could have far-reaching consequences for a club that would have a brimming trophy room if silverware was handed out for self-inflicted crises. The club's website ran a story on Wednesday with the comforting news that the referee in charge at Villa also officiated in their two away league victories this season. Presumably, employees of the club are also being told to avoid walking under ladders in the run-up to a match in which even victory might not be enough to save them. Sunday's final round of fixtures will be unbearably tense for the clubs trying to avoid joining West Bromwich Albion through the cellar door. Middlesbrough, second from bottom with 32 points, are virtually down but could save themselves if they won well at West Ham United and Newcastle and Hull City both lost. Hull would stay up with a home victory over champions Manchester United, a tall order in normal circumstances but with United in the Champions League final three days later they are likely to field a weakened side. Newcastle, third bottom with 34 points, could survive with a draw should Hull (35 points) lose. The North East will have full representation in the relegation scrap with Sunderland (36 points) in danger of dropping should they lose at home to Chelsea and Hull and Newcastle both win. ONE WIN Hull manager Phil Brown will certainly take nothing for granted, whoever plays for United, especially as his side have managed just one league win this year. Newcastle face arguably the toughest assignment, although Aston Villa, pushing for a top-four finish for so long, have gone badly off the boil. Martin O'Neill's team do, however, have the incentive of trying to finish on a high and snatch fifth place from FA Cup finalists Everton who are at Fulham. A win or draw for Fulham would ensure they finished seventh and qualified for next season's Europa League, but Tottenham Hotspur could snatch seventh spot if they won at Liverpool and Fulham lost. Newcastle assistant manager Iain Dowie said his team were thinking only of victory. "I believe if we win we will stay up, I really do," Dowie told Newcastle's website. "There is a saying that fortune favours the brave - let's hope so, because if that's true I think we will be OK this weekend."
21 May 2009
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