When Mike Ashley took over at Newcastle nearly 10 years ago, there was excitement. There was a hope for change, after Freddy Shepherd financially ruined the club. Fans, including myself – loved the guy. He could do no wrong – he had saved the club, and written off over £130m of debt that so nearly turned the club into another Leeds or Portsmouth.
Fast-forward to 2016, and unfortunately he was the polar opposite of the former Chairman and owner. Rather than spend pools of money on the likes of Owen, Emre and Luque – he, for the duration, bar a window or two – failed to invest, even when the club were in Europe, which led to several flirts with relegation, and what’s looking like a 2nd relegation, despite £80m of investment this season. The facts seem to point to one thing – too much faith placed in an old man (Graham Carr), a proven flop (Steve McClaren) and an idiot (Lee Charnley).
All of this had led to one thing. The extermination of a once great club. Fans no longer care weather the team wins or loses, and all sorts of bad records have been broken. They look set for another relegation, which 10 years ago was a huge surprise. Now, it’s basically expected. Although £80m has been spent, the same sort of players have come in. Those who think that ‘It’ll be fine, we’ll get out of it easily’ – which really hasn’t happened. Steve McClaren was only the start of the downfall – they could have gone and got someone like Benitez last summer, but instead went with a friend of Graham Carr. He was a proven flop, yet Carr and Charnley were as thick as thieves and still went with him.
Charnley was also a huge part of the problem. He was trusted with the club by Mike Ashley, and with little experience in the role he has failed badly. They signed good players – Wijnaldum, Mbemba, Mitrovic, Townsend, Shelvey etc – but never got near to gelling them together as a unit. Performances were disjointed and it was clear that McClaren was struggling with so many big names and ego’s. It took until March for Newcastle to sack McClaren, and they even made a mess of that with everyone knowing Benitez was all but appointed, yet Macca remained in his role until nearly the next weekend. Part of the problem was that McClaren was on the board, which for me delayed the inevitable for weeks, maybe months!
Rafa has come in and despite initial improvements, even he has admitted that the players are mentally scarred from all the losses and are being torn apart by the fear of losing, and with captain Coloccini about as useful as a chocolate tea-pot, the club have been rudderless for weeks, if not months. Wijnaldum has been invisible for most of the season, Mitrovic has missed chances and when the club desperately needed defenders in January, they got midfielders and forwards instead. Seydou Doumbia was probably the most pointless transfer I’ve seen – loaned in, one sub appearance and not played since.
While all this has been happening, the club posted a very healthy profit – but at what cost? The extra TV money this season has all been spent on players and when the club are relegated in a few weeks, I can only see a huge fire-sale. Janmaat, Krul, Wijnaldum, Perez, Townsend, Sissoko, Coloccini and many more will likely be sold, with the club left with a skeleton of youth and fringe players like Adam Armstrong, Kevin Mbabu, Rob Elliot and Paul Dummett. Last time, they had Steve Harper, Joey Barton, Alan Smith, Peter Lovenkrands and Nicky Butt – all massively experienced and with that in hand, got promoted with ease.
This time, they will have none of those. Rob Elliot will be a key player, while Adam Armstrong is an exciting prospect that would have been loaned out at Championship level if Newcastle stayed in the league. Benitez is likely to leave too, leaving the club in a bad state. Should they go down, the money from sales needs to go to getting an experienced Championship manager, and players with passion and fight as I don’t see many of them in the current crop.
With 6 games to go, and fixtures against Tottenham, Liverpool and Man City – and 6 points between them and safety, they are all but down. Only a miracle, will save them. However – they did beat Liverpool and Spurs, while games against Palace, Swansea and Villa are winnable. Norwich and Sunderland have equally hard games, so as many as 8-9 points could save them. But, even with Rafa at the helm – the same could happen next season.
On the whole, this last 8 years under Mike Ashley has been a nightmare. 1 relegation, another looking certain – 2 more huge flirts with the drop and a couple of midtable finishes, and let’s not forget the 5th placed finish and Europa League campaign – the only highlight. Cup competitions have been non-existent, with no effort put towards trying to even get past the 5th round.
In short, Ashley has ruined my club. I used to follow the team to the point where I knew the club and it’s players/staff inside out. In the last 2 seasons, my passion for the club has ebbed away to the point where I hardly care what happens from this point onwards, because basically every promise has been broken. The club is no longer an entity, it’s an advertising tool.