Simon O'Rourke: The slippery slope of being "mathematically safe" in English football

Our Sport Correspondent's take on Tyne Tees sport Credit: ITV Tyne Tees / PA

By Simon O'Rourke, Sports Correspondent

"Mathematically safe". It's one of the strangest, and yet the most comforting of football statements. It's also very North Eastern. This is us. This is what we do. We spend months being flawed and mostly unwatchable, but we usually end up mathematically safe and, at that point, our work is done.

Newcastle United are now mathematically safe from relegation. This represents a successful Mike Ashley season. Stay up, shut up, don't spend too much (alright, Joelinton, I know.) Don't go down. Job done. But it's a rather depressing job and it has been for years now. This is why the actual football matters less than the takeover at the moment. Nothing changes unless something changes. The waiting has become unbearable for all concerned.

But here's the thing with "mathematically safe". It's a slippery slope. Sunderland were the Kings of being mathematically safe for years at the bottom of the Premier League. Then one year they weren't and then the next year the whole house caved in.

That leads us to Middlesbrough, who can but dream of being mathematically safe. They've lived through their worst possible weekend and now the threat of dropping into League 1 is very, very real. Lockdown has rendered the world in strange colours, and the delay to the Championship season makes it hard to reconcile this. The squad looked fine. Not promotion material perhaps, but fine. Jonathan Woodgate was an interesting, idealistic appointment, which, unfortunately, didn't work out. Neil Warnock is a sensible and obvious short term solution. He will, probably, get the job done. But it just doesn't feel right. Middlesbrough, this Middlesbrough, just shouldn't be here. But they are, and it's Millwall away next and I'm worried for them. Believe me, they want nothing to do with League 1... Ask Sunderland. Mathematically safe seems a long way off at the moment.