Counting the cost of relegation for Newcastle United.

When Mike Ashley looks back at his ownership of Newcastle, he will be able to claim proudly that he turned our fortunes around. For a club that had experienced 11 European campaigns in 13 years before he arrived, Newcastle United have at the very least flirted with relegation in 3 of his 7 Premier League seasons.

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Yes, we have been here before. We went down in 2009, we narrowly escaped in 2013. A known gambler, Ashley has gambled once again and despite generating a cash surplus of over £35m last year, those fortunes have not been translated to the football pitch.

Relegation can of course be argued to have its plus points. For supporters there are guaranteed to be 23 home games against 19 in the Premier League. All games look much more winnable. Supporters visiting St James’ Park bring a sense of awe and occasion. The football seems much more honest.

We also see a level of commitment from predominantly British players. Young players with talent who would be languishing in top tier reserve teams have a showcase. It’s also good to visit some of those mysterious places like Scunthorpe and Doncaster that remind us of our heritage.

In some of our own days in a lower division, it has been a chance to rebuild, talent emerging with the likes of Beardsley, Waddle and more recently, Carroll. For these plus points, there is a cost.

Some clubs can come from the Championship and build, the likes of Swansea, Southampton and even Stoke. For each of those, there are former domestic, even European champions, Leeds, Forest, Derby, Blackburn and 2008 FA Cup winners Portsmouth who have struggled to regain former glories.

What can we expect from Mike Ashley, the man who was reported as losing up to £300m in March 2008 with a poor punt on the Stock Market with HBOS. It will be noted that the sum is even more than he has wagered on Newcastle United.

As we have seen, club finances are important to the man. He would be missing out on the extra revenue from new deals. Gone will be the Premier League TV revenues, listed as £78.3m in the 2014 accounts. Instead this will be replaced with a parachute payment of £16m. Commercial revenues of £25.6m would be significantly hit, particularly with a brand that has been made toxic by Ashley.

Last time we were relegated, crowds also fell, at least initially. This time around, after waves of protest and a surge in apathy, they could be expected to fall more. Newcastle United might be considered fortunate to even emulate the £52.4m turnover achieved in that last relegation season.

This time around, there is the added disadvantage of meeting Financial Fair Play requirements. It will be remembered that costs for last season amounted to £105.5m, staff costs alone amounting to £78.3m, around 50% higher than likely revenues.

How will Ashley cope? We can look back at the evidence of the 2009-10 season for guidance. That time, the wage bill was the first thing to be cut. Although some relatively big earners were kept on, out went Owen, Viduka, Martins, Geremi, Cacapa, Bassong, Beye and Duff.

This time around, we can anticipate the same sort of scenario; Coloccini, Jonas, Tiote, Krul, Janmaat, Sissoko, Cisse and more. Not only would the wage bill be reduced but valuable transfer income would reduce the need for a further cash injection from Ashley.

We also have the managerial situation to be addressed. Last time around, there was the luxury of a coach who had worked under some greats of the English game, Chris Hughton, who was promoted from within.

This time, we have Carver, who has fallen dreadfully short, Dave Watson whose elevation to defensive coach for the first team reflects his mediocre record with the Academy, and Peter B, who shone with the Under 21s before the start of the year and has fallen off since.

relegation

Externally, there may be little hope for a Karanka or Jokanović. Perhaps the only people mad enough to want to come to St James’ Park will be former players like Lee Clark who has operated within financial constraints at Birmingham and Blackpool, taking the latter down. What about Ryan Taylor? Who knows, even Solano or Ketsbaia could be tempted?

They will face a shortage of experienced players in key position. This time we do not have the likes of Shola or Lovenkrands who could shine in the Championship. Darlow and Lascelles may provide experience of this level whilst it could be a development opportunity for players like Dummett and Haidara, even Heardman, Satka and Roberts from the under 21s, but overhaul will be required.

Who will pay for this? Not Ashley, he can cut costs as he did before. This time, we would expect that cost cutting to be far more ruthless, after all, he has the excuse of Financial Fair Play. After putting up the “Everyone Must Go” posters, there will be a threadbare squad in need of rebuilding, on a budget at that.

Some clubs have been ambitious enough to come back up, both Sunderland and West Brom are examples of clubs that have been yoyos. Does the owner have the same ambition as those clubs have demonstrated? Two top 10 finishes in 7 Premier League seasons suggests not.

No, the price is likely to be paid by supporters. Unable to command a price that would even cover the debt that Ashley has created from the club to himself, we can expect the sort of fire sale in the image of his cheap retail brands, once great names that are associated with poor quality. He retains the ability to punish the Geordie public for rising up against him over what a tribunal judged to be his lies.

For a population, particularly the young who grew up with Keegan, Sir Bobby and Shearer, the price is potentially immeasurable in a loss of heritage. The true cost of relegation is even greater than that HBOS loss that Ashley gambled on.

We could realistically be consigned to watching the likes of Forest, Cardiff, Leeds, Wigan Brentford, the Sheffield clubs and Milton Keynes for more than a generation.

Rex also runs his own website (toontoon.co.uk) which you can visit HERE and you can follow him on Twitter @ToonToonCoUk



  • Sickandtiredstill

    No doubt he’d mortgage everything again, like he did last time and why standing charges remain over the all the Clubs assets. This myth about him ‘spending his own money’ is just that, a myth. 

    Excellent article on a QPR blog a few days back. Funny how other supporters and the national media are now understanding how things are here, yet some of our own ‘supporters’ still don’t get it.

    http://www.fansnetwork.co.uk/football/queensparkrangers/news/38654/death-by-a-thousand-cuts–opposition-profile

  • fishandchips

    Bollox reg ,, we must avoid relagation at all costs its better to see NUFC in the premier league than the championship, ashley will eventually fcuk off so relagation is a idiots way off thinking fatman will leave , he is a busines man and he will not walk away on a loss making investment, ie nufc, if we go down he will be here longer, to get his money back , so its fcuk off to relagation the premier leagues were we should be and will be next season ,,, fingers crossed

  • hettonmag

    Sickandtiredstill Cheers mate for the link an excellent read,  good  piece as usual  from Rex N.

  • Hetton Mag

    The QPR link is one of the best and most insightful pieces of writing on the premier league and Nufc that l have read this season, accurate, emotive and chilling all at the same time.I urge you all to read.

  • Sickandtiredstill

    fishandchips Have you forgotten the last relegation? Fatty was on the verge of selling to Barry Moat for 80 million because of it. I’m not saying its the best thing, but plainly your argument has no basis in fact or past behaviour.

  • I’ve got to admit that relegation wouldn’t rip the soul out of me, like it would have done in years gone by. For example, if we do get relegated I can’t see the football next season being any less entertaining than what this season has been.

  • northender

    Sickandtiredstill And that is a big, big problem for you relegation or not. Like a lot of erstwhile bedrock clubs Newcastle have won nothing domestically for many, many years [64 if I can count] and its no good thinking nostalgically of KK and Sir Bobby, they didn’t win you anything except that the BBC patronised you for some years as ‘great supporters’. And that is where Ashley came to cash in on your devotion to the club.

    The big problem for you is that either Ashley stays on or he sells to another like-minded businessman/consortium who is looking for a couple of seasons of easy money and then a bit of asset-stripping. He is not the only carpet-bagger around and for the moment think yourself lucky that you are not Portsmouth, Leeds, Wednesday or Blackburn. In five years time-who knows?

    Is there a better road? Is there a local man prepared to spend his money on your ambitions? I don’t know but IMHO the last two you had [Hall and Shepherd] leached you just as much as Ashley, but because they were local you rather stood for it I’m afraid.

    And before you say the blindingly obvious-I am not local and have no axe to grind. I simply have an opinion that has been forming for the past 20 years. This is a public blog for people who have views on Newcastle, I have some views so don’t moan about it just because I don’t have the right accent.

  • prestondave

    Do you comment on the Preston blogs?

  • northender

    prestondave Sorry mate, wrong suspect.

  • Sickandtiredstill

    northender I think you are arguing with yourself, mate.

  • northender

    Sickandtiredstill northender Totally confused by your reply, mate.
    I was agreeing with a good post and responding to your ‘Funny how other supporters and the national media are now understanding how things are here, yet some of our own ‘supporters’ still don’t get it’. I thought you got it spot-on.-

  • Sickandtiredstill

    northender Sickandtiredstill Your last paragraph reads like you were responding to me.
    No worries.

  • PhilYare

    if we stay up this will be next seasons results with cardew

    LLLLLLLLLLLLLL(cup)LLLLLLLLL(cup)LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLDLLLLLLLLDLLLLLLLLLLLL

    I haven’t counted but thats about 38 cup finals (excluding the 2 cup games)

  • RexN

    hettonmag Sickandtiredstill You are too kind, many thanks for the comment.

  • RossYogiGraver

    An excellent read thank you

  • Brownale69

    at least we wouldnt get beat off the mackems

  • northender

    Sickandtiredstill northender Sorry if I gave the wrong impression. Not meant.