This isn’t the biggest Mike Ashley crime at Newcastle United
We have asked a number of our regular/irregular contributors various question about Newcastle United – the events of last season and moving forward.
Up now is Davey Hat Trick:
How does this promotion team compare to the 2009/10 one?
Not quite as exciting as far as I’m concerned. I’m not sure I feel the same affinity with this group as I did the Bartons, Nolans, Carrolls, Jonases et al. This team feels organised and efficient rather than characterful and exciting. It’s not a complaint, but this season just hasn’t been as much fun as 09/10 for me
Somebody who deserves more credit for last season than they maybe have received?
Gouffran. I know he’s not a flair player but he’s worked hard and protected Dummett well. Scored a couple of decent goals too. He’s better than you think.
How would you rate (out of 10) Rafa Benitez last season on:
7/10 Good question – but it assumes transfers are all his work.
I suspect the owner and his halfwitted MD have a say… Clark, Ritchie and Gayle are obvious standouts, but I’d think getting rid of Sissoko for £30m was his (or Ashley’s, or Penfold’s) crowning achievement. I know a couple of Tottenham fans who can articulate that with a lot more passion than I do. I’m not sure we’ve got a team that will do well in the top tier, but Rafa did put a team that won the Championship together. I hope he gets the support to build further.
8/10 I think this is why I wasn’t that excited this season. It’s a new experience for me not to panic as soon as the opposition get the ball in our half, so I appreciate the organisational discipline I’ve seen. I’d like to have seen us taking more risks at times but Rafa has always been safety first. Ironic, because when he is in the clarts, he can switch up. Think Norwich last year, or when he won the European Cup with Liverpool…
6/10 It’s funny, we scored a lot of goals but it doesn’t feel like it. It sounds like I’m complaining but I’m not. The objective was to get promoted and we did it. I’d have taken 1-0s and 0-0s for the same outcome – but a bit more flair wouldn’t have gone amiss
7.5/10 Job done. Work to do in the transfer window and more for Rafa to prove, but he’s our best manager for a long while, and I hope he’s around for a while to come.
How did the Championship season turn out compared to what you imagined would happen?
Pretty much exactly. I thought we’d be up at the top, and I know Rafa’s playing style, and that’s what I got.
If no signings (other than Atsu) where would this current squad/team finish in the Premier League?
That’s a hard one. Six points separated the team below Everton and the team that was 4th bottom. That’s 10 teams – half of the league. I reckon this team would end up in that mix somewhere, but probably nearer the bottom.
With level of signings you anticipate, how high do you think Newcastle can aim next season?
That’s the worry. I said in a recent Mag article that if Mike Ashley’s maths work like mine, he may not see any sense in spending big. There is nowt to choose between the teams in 8th to 17th. If this team is good enough to finish 16th/17th, Ashley may conclude they are good enough to finish 8th. But to answer the question, the best we could do in the medium term would be 7th. Some big signings might see us get up to Everton’s level, but whoever we sign, I don’t see us matching the current top 6.
If 10 was Mike Ashley totally changing his outlook on running Newcastle and 0 not at all, how far do you think he has moved (if at all) in the 15 months Rafa Benitez has been at St James Park?
I have no idea. No one does. But he was the only conversation in town for a long time and now the fans are talking about other things. So I’ll score him at a 6. I assume he recognises talent on his Sports Direct management team, so by rights he should feel he can trust Rafa.
How do you rate local media coverage of Newcastle these days?
I have a bit of sympathy with them. They get very little from the club, they get 5 minutes with a couple of reluctant players, and they have to spin that into 4+ pages 13 times a week. This season nothing much has happened (previously, we had a crisis every week), so it’s slim pickings. John Gibson is good and I like the live feed from away games.
How do you rate national media coverage of Newcastle these days?
They ignore us most of the time but that will change now we are back in the big time. They are lazy for the most part and trot out the old cliches a lot of the time. But half of them are ex-players with no journalistic talents and not much in the way of brains. I try to let it all wash over me.
What would be your ideal first Newcastle Premier League fixture of the season?
Anything winnable at home. Watford, Palace, Leicester, something like that. It doesn’t mean we WILL win but I’d like to get a decent start.
Three words to describe how you feel about Newcastle United at the minute?
Curious, mildly optimistic.
Mike Ashley is pushing ahead with a development on land opposite the Gallowgate End which almost certainly will make it impossible to ever expand St James Park in the future (This will only profit him and not the football club). What are your thoughts, especially considering Newcastle averaged over fifty one thousand in the Championship.
It’s a shame. The idea of a 65,000 crowd is great but I can’t get worked up about it. We had big crowds under Keegan and Robson and it wasn’t a massive issue then. So it’s not the biggest of Mike Ashley’s crimes
How positive do you feel about progress being made underneath first team level at Newcastle?
Not very – but that’s nothing new. It’s a massive massive leap from reserves to Premiership at every club, and we seem worse than most at doing it. I’d back Rafa to sort it but it’s a 5 to 10 year project I think.
What are your hopes/expectations for the atmosphere at St James Park next season and what could be done to improve it?
I get more nervous in the Premiership because every team could turn us over. I think most people do. And that leads to more passion in my experience. So I think it will be better.
At the risk of repeating myself, a less cautious approach to tactics cold improve things, but Rafa is unlikely to do that. More controversially perhaps, I’d put away supporters somewhere we can hear them…
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