Newcastle United Fans Are Over Ambitious
Newcastle United fans suffer from chronic over-ambition for their beloved club.
Perhaps due to a lack of silverware since 1969, Toon fans desperately want to see the club succeed and thrive – perhaps even to the detriment of it.
With a 50,000+ stadium, fervent away support and one of the most storied histories in world football, why should fans be content with middle of the road?
The hatred and vitriol aimed at owner Mike Ashley has reached new levels in recent weeks with social media constantly threatening boycotts, protests and campaigns to drive the businessman from the club and, hopefully, into the arms of someone who will be less strict with their purse strings.
The accusation Ashley does not invest in the club is founded in a belief that where Manchester City and Chelsea have gone (from mid-table mediocrity to title-chasing megastars) Newcastle United should be able to follow.
As the days of the 2014 January transfer window drew on, #NoAmbition was the hashtag of choice for disgruntled Newcastle fans. They were taking aim at an owner who has invested more than £200m into Newcastle United thus far and continues to not charge interest on the loans he has given the club.
“Ambition!” They cry. “Spend money!” They mean.
They want success, they want results and damn the finances. A club is, after all, more than just the bottom line on a bank statement. It is the heart and soul of the community and Newcastle United is the heart and soul of Tyneside.
Flash back to the situation last January, with the club hovering perilously above the drop-zone following an unforeseeable injury crisis and Demba Ba’s departure to Chelsea, Ashley invested more than £25m directly into the first team:
Mathieu Debuchy – £5.5m
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa – £8.5m
Moussa Sissoko – £2m
Yoan Gouffran – £500,000
Massadio Haidara – £2m
Combined agents fees – £7m
Debuchy arrived six months after a summer of will-he/won’t-he when Lille changed their asking price following the right back’s excellent performances in the World Cup.
Gouffran and Sissoko were both scheduled to be free transfers in the summer but were brought forward (at extra cost) by six months to help the club’s dangerous league position.
It is also worth remembering the club had also sanctioned the spending of a further £8m on Loic Remy before QPR got wind of the transfer and offered the striker exorbitant wages the club were unwilling to match (given it would blow the wage scheme out of water).
Summer last year and Geordies looked enviously 12 miles down the road as Sunderland signed scores of players to bolster their first team squad. Newcastle failed to permanently sign one player, only bringing in previous target Loic Remy on loan.
The Black Cats subsequently had a record-breakingly bad start to the season and were in the drop zone until mid-January. Newcastle’s £2m loan signing? Scored eight in his first 10 league games as the Magpies cantered into the top half of the league.
Newcastle refused to be drawn into a bidding war with West Ham to bring the once much-loved Andy Carroll to Tyneside. The Hammer ended up forking out £15m for the Tyneside born striker, who didn’t make an appearance until after Christmas.
Look elsewhere in the Premier League and you can see a litany of high-priced flops in the striking department: Ricky Van Wolfswinkel (£8.6m), Andreas Cornelius (£8.5m), Dwight Gayle (£8.5m), Aroune Kone (£5m), Dani Osvaldo (£15m), Roberto Soldado (£26m), Victor Anichibe (£6m) and Jozy Altidore (£6m – of aforementioned free spenders Sunderland) all have poorer records than Remy.
Newcastle’s one January arrival of Luuk De Jong (on loan with an option to buy) is a much more financially responsible (albeit less sexy) method of securing players. The club essentially have a six month trial period to test drive the player and discover if he is worth a large outlay.
The way scores of fans reacted to the big budget signings by Fulham of unknown Kostas Mitroglou and Hull of over-priced Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long makes one think they lament the days of yore, when Newcastle would chuck unseemly large amounts of money at also-rans and has-beens such as Michael Owen, Damien Duff, Jean-Alain Boumsong and Alan Smith.
Even manager Alan Pardew cannot escape from criticism, despite registering wins against Manchester United (at Old Trafford), Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea FC. All of whom have considerably greater financial clout than Newcastle.
The main shot taken at him is that he is “spineless” for refusing to condemn the lack of transfer activity and the lack of investment in the first team. You will be hard pressed to find any worker, in any job (much less a job in one of the most watched professions in the world) publicly criticise their boss. Pardew is faced with no choice but to be diplomatic.
With the calamitous appointment and subsequent reign of Joe Kinnear, the last thing the club and fans should want is a bust up between manager and owner.
Despite a majority of good results and good performances this season, one catastrophic performance against Sunderland and Newcastle’s season has been labelled a disaster by fans desperate to see the club challenge for, at the very least, a Europa League spot. Settling for mid-table is not in Newcastle fans’ nature, despite a reputation as unpredictable.
The importance of derby results cannot be overstated but confronting the manager with a season ticket, while still in the top half of the table, is nothing less than overkill.
A replacement for Cabaye was obviously the priority last month with his departure seemingly inevitable. Continued interest in Clement Grenier and Remy Cabella but both fell apart, to much derision. Pardew was obviously seething at the decision but kept his tongue.
The livid fan might have been better advised to throw his season ticket at Ashley but fans forget, without his takeover of the club Newcastle United could well be in the same situation as Portsmouth or Leeds United, if it weren’t for his takeover in 2007.
Fans deride the club for being a laughing stock with sponsors such as Wonga and, more recently, Papa John’s, but would they rather see the scenes at Elland Road on January 31st or the relative quiet of St James’s Park? Would they rather face liquidation or “languish” in 8th place.
There is, of course, a middle ground. A tightrope of fiscal responsibility combined with on field success.
Ashley may aim for Arsenal but Everton are arguably the benchmark, a club with almost as little financial outlay as Newcastle.
The fans may light-heartedly mock Bill Kenwright’s investment into the squad but their league position over the last 10 years has slowly improved and now the club play attractive, attacking football and are a direct challenger to cross-town rivals Liverpool.
Everton fans have had to suffer a dismal derby record against Liverpool for their troubles but now they are paying the dividends. If Newcastle’s record was as poor, message boards would go into meltdown.
Ashley, a businessman first and a football club owner second, wants the club to succeed. Even the most cynical Toon fan would concede the better Newcastle United do the more exposure his lurid Sports Direct advertising gets and the higher bids he can attract for the best players.
Ambition is a great thing for any supporter to have. It is natural for a fan to want their club to be the best but Newcastle fans, nearly 50 years after their last major trophy, want it now. Damn the expense. Damn the risk. And up the risk.
***I feel like I should include the disclaimer: I am not an Ashley stooge with this column. Of course there’s still lots I would change!
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