Newcastle United – Specialists in failure

I am looking into the spectacularly mind-blowing underachievement of my beloved Newcastle United as later this year we mark the SIXTIETH anniversary of their 1955 FA Cup Final win – their last domestic trophy.

Last month saw the publishing of Deloitte’s annual ‘Money League’ – a list of the twenty richest clubs in world football, ordered solely by revenue. Newcastle United this year re-entered that list in 19th place. Now anyone who has kept even half an eye on football in the modern era knows that to be successful nowadays you need money. And lots of it. Manchester City and Chelsea have proved that with a bottomless budget you can turn middle-of-the-road clubs into Champions. So money=success and success=money right? Well for the vast majority of clubs, yes. But for Newcastle United, in the Top 20 richest clubs in the WORLD for 7 of the last 10 seasons, the answer is a resounding no.

Let’s begin last season. As we already know, NUFC were the 19th richest club in the world last season in terms of revenue. How did this equate in terms of team performance?

newcastle united

Source(s): Deloitte; http://www.worldfootball.net

As you can see, out of the top twenty teams, NUFC finished in the lowest place – 10th in the Premier League. In fact, only three other teams out of that top twenty finished outside of the top five in their respective leagues – Man Utd, AC Milan, and Spurs. Now it could be argued that, with revenue of 518 million Euros and a finishing position of 7th, that Man Utd were the most spectacular failure on that list. As much as it warms my heart to include the words ‘Man Utd’ and ‘failure’ in the same sentence, unfortunately I can’t see the end of that particular era just yet.

So we’ve already established that NUFC were the worst performing of the world’s richest clubs last year. Was this just a bad season? Unfortunately not. For a clearer picture of the consistency of Newcastle United’s staggering underachievement over the years, look no further than the number of domestic trophies won by the rest of that list since Newcastle’s last triumph in 1955:

newcastle united

Source(s): Deloitte; http://www.worldfootball.net

That is simply ridiculous. There is no club in the world in the modern era that has earned so much revenue and has seen so little success. But the world is a big place, full of rich and glamorous clubs. How do Newcastle compare against their fellow clubs in the English Premier League?

newcastle united

Source(s): http://www.worldfootball.net

Thank you Hull City and Crystal Palace for making me feel a little better. But with all due respect to those clubs (ok, ok, – utter disrespect) they are small clubs in terms of revenue, support, and worldwide reach – no one would really be surprised if they never won the league or either of the cups. However, ‘small’ clubs do win trophies – check out some of the clubs who have seen domestic success since NUFC’s last trophy win:

newcastle united

Source(s): http://www.worldfootball.net

Swindon Town??!! I certainly don’t begrudge any of those teams their place in the sun (except the 1973 FA Cup Winners of course) – it just gets harder and harder to accept that Newcastle aren’t among them. And it’s not just me. As well as being amongst the richest clubs in world football, Newcastle are also consistently one of the best supported. Last year, they were the thirteenth best supported club in Europe. And the crowds come to see successful, winning football teams right? Well, for almost every other team in the top twenty, yes. For Newcastle United (and Hertha Berlin!) supporters, it must be the pies:

newcastle united

Source(s): http://www.worldfootball.net; Wikipedia

Ah, the strange case of Hertha Berlin. Kindred spirits of Newcastle United. Both enjoy consistently large support. Both are specialists in failure. German champions in 1930 and 1931, Hertha then suffered greatly in the post-World War II carve-up of Berlin and the subsequent construction of the Berlin Wall. After a (trophy-less) period of relative success during the 70s, they spent most of the 80s and 90s in the second tier of German football. In fact, when Hertha were promoted in 1997, it ended Berlin’s six-year-long drought without a Bundesliga side, which had made the Bundesliga the only top league in Europe without representation from its country’s biggest city and capital. So a one-club city with a population of 3.5 million in a football-mad country would certainly explain Hertha’s large attendances, if not their lack of trophies. To compare, Newcastle is currently England’s 19th largest city with a population of 252,000.

So far, so bad – but is there hope for Newcastle? Recent successes by Chelsea, Man City and PSG across the channel have shown that a wealthy benefactor can dramatically improve a club’s fortunes. And Mike Ashley, the owner of NUFC, is pretty damn wealthy. A billionaire in fact – and one of only a select few Premier League club owners who appear on the Forbes World Billionaires List 2014. So how did the other billionaires do? Let’s look at last season again:

newcastle united

Source(s): http://www.worldfootball.net; Forbes

Of the billionaire-backed teams, Newcastle are again bottom of the list. There are some obvious omissions from this list due to Forbes’ policy of only including in their list individuals rather than families. That excludes Sheikh Mansour and the Qatari Royal Family who own Manchester City (1st), the much-loved Glazer family (Manchester United – 7th) and the Liebherr family in charge at Southampton (8th). All finished above Newcastle and have done pretty consistently since Ashley took charge.

So how is it that a cash-rich, well supported club cannot win trophies when all clubs of a similar wealth and support can? Do we blame spectacular mismanagement on and off the field? The ongoing backlash against the Mike Ashley regime is, in my humble opinion, the very least he deserves. But that man and his team have won just as many domestic trophies as all of his predecessors since 1955 – ZERO. Newcastle United are an anomaly, a freak, a statistical outlier across world football. And, it seems, for that particular football club, no amount of money and support can change that.

Footnote: I am in no way writing-off the glorious Fairs Cup (aka UEFA Cup aka Europa League) victory by Joe Harvey and his boys in 1969 – its sometimes the only thing that keeps you going through the dark days of a home loss to Stoke City. This piece only concerns domestic success a) because it is the 60th anniversary and 60 is a nice round number and b) because I’m too lazy to trawl through every team’s European records and include them here.

We recommend you also visit Matt’s own blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter @bondigeordie



  • GToon

    Excellent article. Now all we need is for every media clown to have it read to them 5 times a day every day until they finally get why we might be a little bit fed up.

  • supermacsnewname

    heart breaking

  • supermacsnewname

    still, it can’t get worse
    can it?
    isn’t there a plan of some sort ………… ?

  • wor monga

    Have a great and exciting time exploring the magical
    colourful  world of statistics…and learn
    that we haven’t won a domestic trophy since 1955…or even a now defunct EURO
    trophy since 1969…wow…aah didn’t that!!

  • LeazesEnder

    Excellent Graphs and correlations!

  • SimonM68

    Very comprehensive and very depressing. Sadly, not very surprising. Thsi should be sent to clowns like Robbie Savage and particularly that odious little nark michael Owen who talk about us being ‘where we should be’ in football terms.

  • Sickandtiredstill

    Hey, don’t forget the two Texaco Cup wins! A defunct competition now, but they count for me as I saw them
    :-) 
    I still think that the statistics are far worse in the modern era than this article suggests. The PL birth and influx of TV money is what puts the last 20 years or so on a completely different footing to the years before it. We have had money and we came very very close – and I still believe if SBR had followed KK we would have indeed got there.
    The trouble now is without doubt Ashley himself. He brought back KK then put Wise over him. Sacks Houghton and brings Pardew, then puts Kinnear over him. Tried that twice in fact .Now it is to be Charnley (and Carr) over whoever the ‘coach’ is.
    Jimenez, Wise, Llambias may be his trusted mates, but plainly their football or club management skills were none existent. Llambias walked but is now again in the fold at Rangers. Wise sued Jimenez for a business deal and in turn Wise is now being sued (for 1 Million) by his oldest remaining childhood friend for another business deal. That’s the caliber of people close to Ashley in footballing terms. 
    NUFC’s and Mike Ashley’s biggest problem – is Mike Ashley.

  • Paul Patterson

    Fascinating stuff- Sadly . .

  • Brownale69

    Guess the only thing we have is the loyal support nothing else!

  • RexN

    Brilliant stuff, Matt.

  • Hughie

    Worth sending to the chronic or the journo– much more illuminating than 95% of their Toon articles.

  • grahame49

    The only football matches that create imence feeling in me are Newcastle united, if they didn’t I’d be free to chase a trophy winning team. The second half v Chelsea is why I go ask a palace fan or hull they will say the same. Passion is what its about that’s why it hurts with Ashley doing what he is

  • newcastle7

    There has been of of managers, chairmen and players during this period so do not blame the current regime its always been the same.Just support the team see you all at Man City.

  • MidlandsMag

    newcastle7 
    Read the penultimate paragraph again.  You might understand it this time.

  • newcastle7

    The message was not to the writer but the people who have a go at Ashley,Pardew and all the other managers we have had feel sorry for Carver.

  • MidlandsMag

    The point of the article is that we stillcannot win anything even though we have moved up the pecking order financially.

  • amacdee

    wor monga As usual we get snide. sarcastic comments from you whenever the regime is taken to task in articles on this site. 
    However what we really need from Fatmanophiles like you is a desperate attempt to justify your hero’s strategy/philosophy. Maybe a well thought out defence of the Fatman’s lack of ambition, spending and shoddy treatment of the fans or even a justification for Carver, Charnley and Wendy ? 
    In fact anything that would suggest you’re more than just a sad, wind up merchant sponsored by the Fatman’s spin team ?

  • amacdee

    Despite the slagging off from the usual Fatman supporters this is another article that needs to be used again and again in the battle against this corrupt regime. It has to be printed along with the KK trial summing up and various NUFC Financial mismanagement quotes so that the “floating voters” who still attend SJP are left in no doubt as to why they should cease to turn up in the fight to oust the Corpulent One asap.
    Life, as we know it, will never be the same for NUFC until this disease is eradicated from our club .

  • Sickandtiredstill

    wor monga Texaco Cup twice by the way. 73/74 and 74/75. 
    Forget the pas statst. Football changed forever with the PL and Sky money. Our statistics were way better since then and before Fatty arrived.