Not so long ago, I wrote that all the power brokers at Newcastle United had to do was just let Rafa Benitez crack on with the job. Since then we’ve seen controversial claims that Mike Ashley is back on the scene and throwing his weight around over player recruitment.

The reports first surfaced in a national red top Sunday newspaper from a journalist with what many claimed was a poor track record of getting the facts right where NUFC were concerned.

It was asserted that Mr Ashley had waded into the issue of transfers, demanding a sole focus on younger players who would come with that all important sell on value. Veterans beware it would seem, despite the fact our best player at the moment is a certain 33 year-old Darryl Murphy.

The story then moved on. Local newspaper reporters seemed to use their sources to give credence to the claims that there is some sort of sticking point behind the scenes over the type of players that should be brought into the football club.

A further claim from a Daily Mail sports writer suggested that the issue was quite minor at this stage and nothing to be overly alarmed about. Rafa was focused on the job in hand with the resources made available to him and he still had a major say on the comings and goings.

The initial claims prompted a strong reaction from many Newcastle supporters on social media, particularly on Twitter. Journalists were called out for it and they took a fair bit of flak. In this new era of fake news, many suggested the story was exactly that. A load of old codswallop?

Sadly, I didn’t agree. In defence of the local sports writers, they do indeed have their sources and it has hinted at something behind scenes, though the severity of it doesn’t seem to have upset the apple cart just yet. They are duty bound to report the story, no matter if it did sound like a throwback to the bad old days under Ashley’s stewardship. Days we all hope are behind us. Remember – a recent poll in the Chronicle gave Ashley an astonishing 75 percent approval rating.

It seems many fans didn’t want to believe the claims, me included, but Ashley does have a record of messing on when it isn’t broken. What this all means in reality remains to be seen.

Promotion is the goal for now and all parties appear to be on message and working towards the Championship. Should we be successful and promotion is secured, then the issue will undoubtedly rear its head again.

If the manager doesn’t get a free hand to get the club on a Premier League footing then it’ll be a calamity and many wouldn’t blame him if he was to walk away. There would be hell on. He’s the best manager we’ve had since Robson.

Could they really be that stupid?

Brighton Rock

It’s ironic that the man standing between us and serene progress is a certain Chris Hughton. We’ve all got huge respect for him and he’s done a magnificent job on the south coast. That Brighton side doesn’t know when it’s beaten. They have now banked the points from their game in hand and sit above us by two points.

Suddenly I find myself wanting Hughton to fail. Newcastle comes first and always will.

Their squad maybe has a bit less depth?

They’re sure to catch a few hurdles between now and May? The worry is Hughton has worked some magic down there and we’re in for a real battle with them. It may even go to the wire. Let’s hope this keeps both clubs sharp and it’s a two horse race.

Brighton are a club that have been working towards this goal for many years now. Newcastle, just relegated in May, have had to undergo a very hasty rebuilding job. Worth bearing that in mind.

We’ve done fantastically well to be where we are so soon after going off the cliff edge. Most pundits still expect us to finish top. I’m less sure, but then again I’m a Toon fan, nerves are par for the course.

Golden Graham

I was genuinely touched to read about the late Graham Taylor’s trips to watch NUFC, stood on the Gallowgate end. It was a little known story that emerged when his death was announced. He even once suggested he might have become the manager of Newcastle.

While many may have railed against that idea, what can’t be denied was that Taylor was thoroughly decent man. His affinity for NUFC was absolutely genuine. He  even admitted not a single fan on the Gallowgate recognised him.

Looking back at football in the early 90s, a world away from where it is now, Taylor, just like Bobby Robson before him, got some truly appalling headlines from certain tabloids. It was out of order and we all know which newspaper I’m referring to here (The S*n). How they sell papers is beyond me.

Shut the window

It’s been a frustrating transfer window so far and it seems to be the case at the time of writing. Just a few days remain to get a winger and central midfielder to beef the squad up for the months ahead.

Players have been going for silly fees, so the waiting game is vital, even if it does frustrate fans who are keen to see some progress. If we don’t get anyone there should still be enough in our squad to get promoted, even if Jack Colback tends to terrify me.

You can follow the author on Twitter @DavePunton