I have noticed that when Newcastle fans criticise or talk honestly about Mike Ashley and our football club, a common response from some is, ‘You should be grateful you’re not down the bottom in a relegation fight!’
Well this might be a controversial comment for a football fan to make, but I actually don’t fear relegation anymore. It genuinely doesn’t scare me the way it should, because at least in a relegation fight we’d have something to care about.
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I think it’s unlikely that we will get relegated, but if we did ever find ourselves in that position then at least we’d have some excitement back again, because getting relegated is the only situation where Ashley would ever show real ambition. He’d want his TV money back and he’d want his free advertising back, so he’d actually have to break with character and try for once.
So a season (or seasons) in the Championship would be like supporting a real football club again, rather than supporting a private money making machine. And that’s what I want. I want to support a football club again. I’m sick of supporting a private money making machine. And if supporting a football club again means the risk of relegation well then so be it, but I want the passion back. I want to care again. I want a real football club, where we aim for footballing success. Not a plc where we aim to be the balance sheet champions.
At the moment we’re just existing. If we threaten to qualify for Europe, Ashley will sell our best players. If we get drawn into a relegation fight, Ashley will buy a few players in the January transfer window to help protect his TV money and free advertising. Where’s the passion in that? Where’s the passion in existing?
When we beat Villa the other day I was pleased when the final whistle went, but then a few minutes later I realised…What does it matter? We’re battling for 10th position and that’s all we’ll ever have to look forward to until Ashley leaves the club. We’re never going to threaten the top places, and we’re unlikely to get relegated. We’re just existing.
So although a few fans of other clubs may have been brainwashed by media pundits into thinking that existing is better than the threat of relegation, and that financial stability is the new black, I personally don’t share that point of view. I’ve experienced existing and I’ve experienced relegation battles, and even the days under Ossie Ardiles were more enjoyable than things are now. At least back then we had something to care about. A win or a defeat mattered.
In fairness, not all fans of other clubs have been taken in by the ‘financial stability’ argument, so in the interests of balance I should also acknowledge fans of other clubs who empathise and see Mike Ashley for the leech that he is.
I’ve chatted with fans in real life (rather than on forums) who totally agree that people like Mike Ashley, the Glazers, etc, are leeching money out of football, which if you look at the bigger picture is bad for the game as a whole.
One final thought which sums up my current mood, is an example from 2012/13 when Wigan became the first team to win the FA Cup and get relegated in the same season. A Wigan fan who I know, proudly declared that if you offered him a trade, he wouldn’t swap the cup win for Premiership survival. Relegation can always potentially be reversed with a subsequent promotion, but no one can ever take away a cup win. To me, he understands what being a football fan is all about.
Anyway, despite the current depressingly unambitious situation at our club/private money making machine, I want to finish on a positive note, and say that the one hope to cling to is that Mike Ashley hopefully won’t be around forever. Maybe one day we’ll have a football club again, and not a private money making machine, and we’ll get to once again experience ambition and excitement and all of those other things that used to make being a football supporter so brilliant.
And if the price to pay for supporting a football club rather than a plc is the threat of relegation, well then I still wouldn’t change my opinion. In fact if someone offered me that trade I’d bite their hand off.
Give me a football club over a private money making machine any day of the week.