Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Big Fish Now in Small Pool; Newcastle's Fixture List Will at Least Ease Them in Gently, but the Culture Shock Is Still Lurking, Warns Stuart Rayner

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Big Fish Now in Small Pool; Newcastle's Fixture List Will at Least Ease Them in Gently, but the Culture Shock Is Still Lurking, Warns Stuart Rayner

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner

MANAGERLESS, and with players queuing for the exit after relegation, Newcastle United will have plenty in common with the opposition for their first match outside England's top flight since 1993.

If Magpies fans were gearing up for the culture shock of Championship life, the fixtures computer has eased them in gently.

While the Premier League clubs are completing their pre-season preparations, United will be at West Bromwich Albion for the second time this year. All five opening league matches are against teams they have faced in the Premier League since the turn of the Millennium.

Not until the late summer sunshine disappears and the nights draw in will reality hit home. In the space of five days Newcastle travel to Blackpool (not even on a weekend), then entertain Plymouth Argyle. Welcome to the small time. Trips to Bristol City, Scunthorpe United, Doncaster Rovers, Peterborough United, Swansea City and Barnsley are to come.

It is easy to sneer at such supposed lesser lights but they will be rubbing shoulders with Newcastle on merit, something all connected with the club would be wise to remember. The opposition, though, will not see it quite that way. United will be a big fish in a small pool. If results reflect that, it will allow supporters to adopt a smug air of superiority, but the desire to upset the odds that motivates all sportsmen will make it harder to achieve.

The reaction of Preston North End chairman Derek Shaw will have been mirrored by directors and supporters throughout the Championship. Shaw's first thought was to check who the Lilywhites play first (Bristol City at home in the unlikely event you're interested), but his gaze quickly turned.

"I think we all then looked for when we get Newcastle, which is November at home, and I am sure everyone is looking forward to it," he said. …

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