Newcastle are left to count cost of failure

Dyer may have to be sacrificed after failure to reach group stage as Rangers draw English champions
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The Independent Football

The north-east was smothered in drizzle yesterday morning, appropriate weather to be waking up to a hangover.

Newcastle United's great achievement last season was to re-qualify for the Champions' League, something Leeds and Chelsea had failed to do and which left them financially crippled as a result. Wednesday night's four missed penalties, either blazed into the Gallowgate End or saved by Partizan Belgrade's keeper, Ivica Kralj, erased all that.

In his programme notes for the second leg of this qualifier, which he confidently expected his team to win, the Newcastle chairman, Freddy Shepherd, declared the Champions' League: "vital in terms of both prestige and finance". Yesterday he had neither.

He and his manager, Sir Bobby Robson, had fortunately decided to wait until their position was guaranteed before embarking on any further spending on players. The policy may have looked over cautious to their supporters, but this morning it looks wise.

Newcastle owe uncomfortably large sums, having taken out a £55m loan to finance the rebuilding of St James' Park four years ago, although club officials state the debt is long-term and manageable. However, without Champions' League football to provide anything between £10-15m of income, Robson will have some uncomfortable choices to make, quite apart from having to rearrange away trips to Fulham and probably Arsenal because they clash with Uefa Cup dates.

Laurent Robert remains a continuing problem; neither his attitude nor his results has impressed. His reaction to the penalty shoot-out was to take off his boots and sit in the centre circle, although as a dead-ball specialist he might have been expected to have volunteered. Should Manchester United, or any other club, attempt to test Robson's resolve with a substantial bid for Kieron Dyer, it is debatable whether Newcastle could resist or whether the player would want them to.

Reaction to defeat came swiftly with some £7m being wiped off the value of Newcastle's share price, which fell 14 per cent and the feeling of financial insecurity was not confined to St James' Park. Following their defeat in a penalty shoot-out to Bruges, shares in Borussia Dortmund, slumped by 16 per cent with one analyst declaring that the Uefa Cup was "a cup for losers".

Perhaps, although the 80,000 Celtic fans who packed Seville for the Uefa Cup final with Porto, 10 months after their manager, Martin O'Neill, was left pounding the earth at St Jakob's Park in Basle after their elimination from the Champions' League might disagree.

Robson described the defeat as his worst feeling since coming to Newcastle four years ago, although his captain attempted to draw some positives. Chief among them should be the realisation that when fit, Nolberto Solano demonstrates a commitment possessed by neither Robert, nor on limited evidence, by Lee Bowyer.

Alan Shearer, who set the tone of the shoot-out by driving the first penalty of the evening over the bar said Newcastle "would have to roll our sleeves up and show a bit of character. Partizan actually played better here than they did in Belgrade. They did their homework and sat deep so we could not get in behind them."

In Serbia and on Tyneside, Partizan outperformed a Newcastle side which has sometimes looked ill at ease with itself. Although only 81 fans made their way to St James' on Wednesday their victory was greeted in Belgrade by street parties, gunfire and fireworks.