Newcastle United's fortunes had been fading for a long time before they finally suffered relegation from the Premiership yesterday. It doesn't mean they are not still a great club; the legend of Jackie Milburn, Kevin Keegan and others remains intact. But history counts for nothing if you can't get the management right, still less the ownership, and that has been Newcastle's problem for a good while now.
Alan Shearer was idolised as a player at St James's Park, and when he returned as coach earlier this season, Tynesiders held out the hope that he could transform the team as Keegan had in the early 1990s. But it hasn't worked out that way. Shearer's passionate identification with the city and the club that had always been part of his life was impressive, but his ability to get the same commitment out of his players was lacking.
Newcastle United have recovered from such disappointment before. The challenge now is to do so again.