When I actually sat down and begun to think about where my team Newcastle United might be in three years’ time, I was completely stumped. To be honest, given the slapdash way the clubs always been run over the years, it’s hard enough to try and predict what is going to happen next week at Newcastle let alone in the years to come. I was torn about whether to approach this as a disappointingly negative look of what the club can realistically achieve under the current owner’s strategy; or whether to suspend belief and go all out with the most positive, yet totally unrealistic prophecy I could ever hope for. In the end I did both!
Newcastle 2016: Realistic/Negative
If I’m being brutally honest, the long-term future of Newcastle United under the stewardship of Mike Ashley is pretty uninspiring stuff. After six years in charge there is no sign of the loveless marriage that both fans and owner find themselves in these days coming to an end. Both parties have no love left for the other and both are fully aware that for the foreseeable future, they’re stuck with each other.
The main gripe from the fans is that under the ownership of Mike Ashley, Newcastle have no ambition. The only two objectives of the club are to ensure that they stay in the Premier League and that they are as self-sufficient as possible so that the owner does not have to plough anymore of his own money in. Clearly one objective is heavily dependent on the other. This lack of ambition means that sadly for the fans, Newcastle are more than happy to sit mid-table treading water year after year, whilst reaping all the financial benefits that the Premier League gravy train has to offer.
With chief scout Graham Carr locked into a long-term contract, Europe is scoured for the best, unearthed talents. Good quality players who can enhance the side are signed for relatively low fees, and if Mike’s lucky enough for them to be even better than expected, are then sold for massive profits all in the name of ‘self-sufficiency’. Pretty depressing stuff really.
The scary thing about all this is that Mike is playing with fire. As we saw last season with Newcastle only just escaping relegation on the penultimate weekend, if his penny-pinching goes too far and the quality spread too thin then the club could quite easily find themselves in a world of pain in this most competitive of Premier Leagues.
Whether it be three years or ten years, I simply do not see this approach changing as long as Ashley is running the show. He is a businessman and a successful one at that; all that really matters to Mike is the bottom line. His failure to check the books when he bought the club meant that he alone had to service the £150m debt racked up by the Hall/Shepherd era or faced losing his asset. From that point on Mike has had no desire to input anymore of his own money than absolutely necessary, due to this fact, sadly it is us the fans who are now ultimately paying the price.
Newcastle 2016: Completely Unrealistic/Positive bordering on ridiculous
After years of having the hope and expectation worn out of us by the Mike Ashley era at St James’ Park, there is now only one feint hope for many fans; that of a new owner. The way clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City have been transformed from mid-table “also rans” into Premier League champions is sadly now the only hope I have for success for my team. Whilst being bankrolled by a foreign billionaire is not the way that most football fans would like to see their team gain success, in the modern, money driven game it is now clear that if you do not have the financial clout to mix it with the really big boys, then by and large you will achieve nothing.
I may be blinkered in my opinion here, but for the life of me I can’t get my head around why Newcastle has not yet been snapped up by an Arab billionaire or a bored oligarch looking for a play thing. The stadium, the facilities, the fans and the infrastructure are all there; everything is in place for success, it just needs the right backing.
St James’ Park is one of the finest arenas in the British game holding 52,000 fans situated deep in the heart of the city and needs no further investment or renovation. The fan base itself is famously loyal to the core, always willing to invest their hard earned money into the club whether it is in the form tickets or merchandise. Then of course there is the unique factor of it being a one team city, no rivals to try win support from unlike other cities like London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester. One city, one team, one dream.
If anyone was to as much as win a trophy here they would become legends; if they were to achieve real, sustained success? Christ, they’d probably be immortalised!
Sir John Hall saw the potential of this place twenty odd years ago and came agonisingly close to fulfilling its potential. These days it’s a different ball game, you don’t need a millionaire, you need a billionaire.
Of course at this moment in time all this is pie in the sky, there certainly doesn’t seem to be a white knight with bottomless pockets waiting around the corner to rescue us from Ashley’s tyranny. However, the mere fact that second tier clubs like City, Chelsea, PSG, Monaco and Anzhi are being bought up and transported to football’s top table is enough to give me hope. That being said this is Newcastle, the club that has done nothing but frustrate me and let me down for virtually my whole life, for that reason I won’t be getting my hopes up just yet!