Relegation battle reaches critical stage

The Northern Echo: DROP LOOMING: Gus Poyet on Monday evening DROP LOOMING: Gus Poyet on Monday evening

THE next few weeks could see us cut adrift. Then what for Gus Poyet?

We’re at a critical stage. The relegation trapdoor is swinging off its hinges and it seems there’s not a thing anyone can do about it.

The players lack ability and sometimes effort and the manager is trying to tinker to find the best possible solution for this rag-tag squad, but to no real positive ends.

Since the cup final just a month ago, the wheels have come off. Barring a miracle, we could be well adrift by the time we face Cardiff at home. April could be the most unpleasant month of this generally wretched season.

We should go to Tottenham on Monday and field the same, somewhat controversial, three centreback system in my opinion. I’d drop Connor Wickham, include Adam Johnson and play him and Ki behind a lone Fabio Borini.

It’s unlikely, whatever system or players we play, that we’ll get a positive result though. That’s just the way things are panning out at the moment.

We can’t do the basic things right. Can’t defend a set piece, can’t defend a corner, can’t clear a second ball and can’t take gilt-edged chances.

Whatever system you play, if you don’t do the basics then you don’t win matches, simple as that.

The next three fixtures are pretty scary. I really fear we could be looking upwards at a seven-point gap come the Cardiff City game. The gap could possibly make that crucial ‘must-win’ encounter somewhat pointless, though Gus Poyet said they will keep going until the end.

But let’s be honest, there comes a point when you have to accept the inevitable.

There’s a bigger picture and that’s next season, which will more than likely be in the second tier.

Do we take a chance to have a look at some of the youngsters available in preparation, or do we stick with the same disappointing group who’ve often failed over the last three years?

Where is the cut-off point?

If we fail to beat Cardiff and we’re a fair distance from safety, do we look to trying new systems with the players who will be available for next year’s promotion campaign?

It has to be a promotion campaign by the way.

Financially, a long-term spell in the Championship would be a disaster.

Would going down and clearing the decks be a good thing?

I know some have mentioned this before. I don’t think it would be, though the Championship would provide a solid base for Poyet to build a new side completely in his mould and give younger players an opportunity to develop at the club, rather than loaning them out.

I’m really clutching at straws for positives at the moment.

We look all but doomed. It’s going to take immense character and a minor miracle to get out of this.

If the signs are worse in the next few weeks, I wouldn’t be against taking a reality check, then looking to the future.

The present is just far too depressing.

GARETH BARKER

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