Having suitably digested the gruel that was the weekend's serving against Southampton, this particular Newcastle United fan has examined the implications of what exactly this 4-0 drubbing against the side supposedly closest to us in the league means for Newcastle United's future moving forward.
It was painfully obvious from the first minute to the last that Southampton are a side on the up, while we are most assuredly a side on the decline. Youth development players like Luke Shaw, Calum Chambers, James Ward-Prowse and Adam Lallana outplaying our foreign imports highlighted how abysmal we have been at blooding youth. Clever signings like Ricky Lambert, Jack Cork, Jay Rodriguez and Dejan Lovren demonstrate an ambitious willingness to take their club to the next level while not risking their club's financial future exposes the flaws in our own unwillingness to speculate on bringing more talent into our ranks, and the shackles of our transfer policy is a noose that is choking our club. The chasm in quality between our two managers is so blatantly obvious it need not be expanded upon here.
Not only are Southampton F.C miles ahead of Newcastle United in terms of how much better they move the ball around the football field, and how they carved out chances at will, while we failed to threaten their goal even once, they are ahead of us in every practical department - even the ones that Mike Ashley would have you believe we are excelling in!
Surely a one-off performance against a side like Southampton does not demonstrate all of this does it? Perhaps not, if it was a one off performance. On Tuesday we were woefully exposed by a club whom we would have thought our equals, perhaps even our inferiors until a few years ago when Everton rocked up to St James' Park and taught us a complete lesson in football and walked out not only with the three points but with a comfortable 3-0 victory under their belt.
Teams are progressing, growing and developing all around us, with Everton and Southampton being two of the more poignant examples. They spend wisely, have hired managers who can get the best out of their group, and play with flair and confidence that Newcastle United fans can only dream of. They also have the financial support from their respective Chairmen/Club owner's to boot. None of that is present at Newcastle United.
This coming summer, many of the players for these two sides will find themselves representing not only their countries, but their club's at the World Cup in Brazil. Whereas any Newcastle United players who find themselves on the plane to Brazil (which will not be many on the back of this season's performance) will be representing their own interests by being in the shop window looking for a route out to a club with ambition.
Newcastle United are a stepping stone club. Nothing more, nothing less. Our players are assets. Nothing more, nothing less. Our fans are paying customers. Nothing more, nothing less. Mike Ashley is a businessman. Nothing more, but arguably something much worse...
Where do we go from here? While these clubs continue to develop their younger players and continue to bring in strength in depth, we will continue to be woefully behind them in both these fields. While they grow, we contract.
This means that not only will the gap between Newcastle United and the top four grow ever wider in the coming seasons, but so too will the gap between Newcastle United and the top six, maybe even top seven, leaving us even more on the periphery. Following the clear-out that will inevitably happen in the summer, 9th may seem like a distant, blissful memory unless the rot is stopped with some investment, and heavy investment at that - not in financial terms, but in terms of quality.
I for one do not have the confidence in the man in charge to do this. We'll be left in dire straits next season. A squad more depleted than the one we started with last season, which will be lacking in even more quality following the departures of Cabaye and Remy, and any other first team players we sell this summer.
What is the only logical conclusion to all of this? That we'll still be able to compete in the league? That we will be able to challenge Southampton and Everton next season? No. I'm afraid that ninth may indeed seem like a good season compared to the one I fear we will have next season.
The sad fact is, we'll still all be here. We'll still all want the best for our club, and hopefully we'll all be united in our disdain for the man who is systematically tearing the heart and soul from it. But by then, it could all be too late.