We all have our personal tipping point with Newcastle United.

The thing is though, you don’t know where that point is until you actually reach it.

For me it was May 2014.

Well in reality it had been coming for some time and certainly I knew far earlier than May that I was going to do it – but on 3 May 2014 I walked out of St James Park knowing that I wouldn’t be coming back for the foreseeable future.

I never leave before the end but I actually did that day, it was when thousands of others also walked out on 69 minutes in protest at the running of the club by Mike Ashley. United were one up against Cardiff and eventually won 3-0, then the season ended away at Anfield the following weekend.

I was always someone who didn’t really care that much where we were in the table or even which division we were in, you met up with your mates for a good drink and then went up to the match hoping to see some decent football and a win.

I never wasted time agonising about when we would ever win a trophy, what is the point? It would be nice but going to the match was always about the ritual/routine and keeping in touch with your mates, Newcastle United being the glue that kept it all together.

As I say, I never cared really if I was watching Newcastle in the Premier League, or the Championship, or the Conference. Obviously I would much prefer to see us playing at the highest level possible and winning – but that never formed part of my decision in whether to go to the match or not.

However, my passion and love for the club had been drained over a number of years by the presence of Mike Ashley.

It is one thing for a club to end up being mediocre but to have that as your intention is just beyond what you could believe. That though was Ashley’s intention, set out to accumulate just enough points to be able to stay in the Premier League, bank the TV cash and guarantee another season of free advertising for Sports Direct.

Under Ashley we had already had one relegation and it was obvious we were heading for another, it was just a case of when, not if. Aiming to be lower middle table, 11th to 17th, meant it would only take a few things to go wrong at the same time and you would be at risk of the drop.

We got away with it in 2012/13, only buying Vurnon Anita after finishing fifth showed a laughable lack of ambition. A golden chance totally wasted after Newcastle had fluked their way to one place outside the Champions League spots, rely on every player playing at their absolute maximum and the likes of Ba, Cisse, Cabaye and Ben Arfa scoring all of the goals – most of them top quality ones in many matches where Newcastle didn’t actually play that well.

It was obvious that team needed major strengthening as they could never match that season. If there had been four or five decent signings then who knows? I think it would have been guaranteed top seven and just maybe, the new signings would both add something of their own AND help inspire the current players to repeat the previous season.

Instead the team collapsed like a pack of cards, as though the total lack of ambition shown by Ashley had poisoned the whole team. No player was anywhere near their best and Demba Ba jumped ship halfway through, Captain Coloccini tried to desert, whilst a season-long relegation battle ensued.

Mike Ashley realised the game was up and some panic buys, especially Sissoko, helped save Newcastle from relegation, Papiss Cisse coming up with a number of match winners.

Lessons weren’t learnt though and Ashley went even further in summer 2013, buying not a single player!

Once again though he fluked it, loan signing Loic Remy combined with the likes of Cabaye, Debuchy, Sissoko and Newcastle played some pretty good football in the first half of 2013/14.

Getting to January the club were in a decent position towards the top and then Ashley did it again, selling Cabaye for £18m and buying nobody, the season collapsing around us. Just what was the point?

So the end of that season I walked away, not knowing when/if I would be back.

Staying away was difficult but I couldn’t face this zero ambition way of running a club. It is one thing being incompetent but to cynically run a football club where survival in the league and not trying in the cups is the overriding strategy – it is just pure evil to mess with so many people’s football lives.

I watched from afar the comical proceedings, giving John Carver the job being the ultimate. Ashley happening anybody just so long as they would be a puppet.

That almost got the club relegated but he just got away with it again.

McClaren having failed and being sacked in the Championship was then given the job, a club statement having already stated that whoever was appointed would just be there to coach the team and would have no say on transfers in and out.

More stupid signings of young inexperienced overseas players (20 year olds Mbemba and Mitrovic, 22 year old Thauvin) in the hope of future profit ensured relegation, even Rafa Benitez couldn’t save us.

It did however save me as a Newcastle fan, I was there at Leicester for his first game in charge and haven’t missed a home game since.

It isn’t that I think he will win us the Champions League but for Rafa to have risked his reputation on a doomed team and seemingly doomed club..well he deserved our backing.

The fact he actually approached the club tells you everything, he can see the potential of Newcastle United even if Ashley and his minions can’t.

Relegation was a minor detail once Rafa Benitez confirmed he was staying, I was there buying my season ticket once again after a two year gap.

This past season hasn’t been great in terms of the football – but Rafa had to do what needed to be done in his own way.

He finished top and you can’t get any higher than that, he had also done the job with professionalism and dignity.

No longer when away with work did I feel the need to apologise for the existence of the likes of Pardew, Carver, McClaren (and Ashley, Charnley) etc at my club.

If you have a Manager like Benitez, then a bond between him, the players and the fans can be enough.

To be honest, I can’t see that a whole lot else has changed at Newcastle United.

Yes Ashley has been forced to give Rafa a reasonable transfer budget and freedom to choose his players – but even he could see it would have been football/financial suicide to try and put the Manager in his place.

There is still no state of the art training complex that was promised years ago, Ashley is making more personal millions by developing land opposite St James Park that will make it impossible for St James Park to ever be expanded (you couldn’t make it up!) and Sports Direct continue to get all the free advertising, with zero ambition to bring in any commercial money apart from the basics of finding a replacement for Wonga who were skint.

Despite all this though, so long as Rafa is in charge I will be there at the matches.

Somebody in charge (of the team) doing their very best to make us all proud of our club, never mind the continuing shambles above him.

The players buy into him as well and just maybe, just maybe, by the Manager, team and fans coming together, something quite special could happen.

I’m just happy that I can once again go to the matches and simply for that, I will always be grateful to Rafa Benitez.

(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])

  • Geordiegiants

    Jabba, our debt and his free advertising is shambolic, Rafa is taking away the bad feeling from the toxic running of our club. It may not be perfect, but it seems to be working for all parties.

    • Oooh bobbi fleckman

      The debt & advertising is shambolic? The debt is interest free but look at it as being offset against forgoing advertising income worth about £2m. That’s pretty good value.

      • Hughie_Gallacher

        The debt would have been paid off long before now, had it been an ordinary bank loan.

        • Stephen Paylor

          paid off by now at what interest rate?

          • Hughie_Gallacher

            The usual, for a commercial loan. This interest would also have been paid off and there would be no sword of Damocles hanging over the club’s head, wielded by a rapacious owner.

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            How would it have been paid off? where would the money have come from. We were losing £30m a year financed by ever increasing debt, there was no sign of the club repaying anything.

          • Geordiegiants

            Sky money!

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            That would have only been possible had ffs’ regime managed to re finance the messy debt into low interest loans and successfully cut overheads in order for the club to ‘wipe it’s​ own …….’ (to borrow a phrase from our former MD).

            The Ffs regime failed at the refinancing as increasingly​ desperate attempts to get finance and / or investment into NUFC met rejection. They also showed no signs of being able to address the high overheads or to stop overspending on transfer fees.

          • Geordiegiants

            They would of got it refinanced. The banks along with all of the people in the know, knew the Sky money was coming and getting bigger and bigger. There is not a chance they would of folded the club.

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            The club were really struggling to get finance and were hemorrhaging money. Barclays had already become nervous around the summer of 2006 and had put a lid on any more finance. Shepherd had been looking for partners and initially things had looked positive for getting investment from Belgravia who are a jersey investment fund and another US investment group Polygon. Both had started due diligence and Belgravia pulled out in Jan 2007 and Polygon confirmed it was a ‘no’ by Easter of that year. Shepherd wanted investment not a takeover, but became frantic and had no where to go. Shepherd cleverly changed his contract of employment to say that he was on 2 years notice, and that if anyone bought 25% of the shares (NOT 29.9% which tips a takeover bid into action) and decided to replace him as chairman then he could give 3 months notice and then be entitled to two years salary in pay-off meaning that the buyer would have to pay him another £1m to get rid – he knew the game was up.

            I’d certainly agree that it was not in Barclays’ interest to fold the club. The club owed them nearly £90m and the other major group of creditors were other football clubs were owed around £25m from transfers which were protected under premier league rules making Barclays in a precarious position.

            Barclays would have been considering their options, take it into administration (big risk in football) and force a takeover or find new owners and force a sale (more difficult when it’s a PLC). Fortunately for Barclays, SJH realised that his son had made an almighty coque up of things and needed an exit strategy and in came sir Mike of Buckinghamshire.

            One thing is for sure, Dougy & Freddie would not be able to carry on as they were, someone had to come in and finance the club as well as start to manage the costs correctly. IMHO, whoever the new owner would be, they did not have to pay the shareholders the £130m that MA paid out and most of that £130m could have gone on ‘investment’.

        • Oooh bobbi fleckman

          It was never an ordinary bank loan. The debt at the club before Mike Ashley was made up of a series of maturing debts which were drawn as the stadium was built, a callable loan from a casino group, a frightening amount of unpaid player transfer payments, a very chunky overdraft which was a culmination of running a substantial loss (reached £30m in FFS’s last year).

          I’d guess that Mike Ashley would like nothing more than that loan being paid off by now but it would have left the club bereft of working capital and certainly no signings.

  • Andy Mac

    I continued to stay away after KK left and now I dont really have a choice. However I would like to think those disaffected, hardcore older fans might now be thinking of returning as long as Rafa keeps hold of the reins ?

    • Leazes Ender

      He hasn’t got hold of them yet….

  • Oooh bobbi fleckman

    “make it impossible for St James Park to ever be expanded (you couldn’t make it up!)”.

    Great quote, the author makes up a ‘fact’ and then says you couldn’t make it up!

    • Geordiegiants

      Of course, I forgot, talking bollocks is something you never do!

      • Oooh bobbi fleckman

        Wow, you may need to point out this b****cks you refer to.

        • Geordiegiants

          95% of the stuff that comes off your finger tips.
          One example: The owner never got us in debt, although he cleared the debt when he bought it!
          How much do we owe out now?

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            I think you misunderstand. He didn’t clear the debt, he restructured it. So, instead of owing the debt holders, the bank, the clubs we’d bought players from, a casino group and other individual creditors, MA lent the club enough money to restructure that debt and finance the losses.

            There is a huge advantage to the club if the owner lends the money rather than outside creditors. Much of the debt in 2007 was due for repayment fairly soon. The player transfer instalments were due the month MA took over, the stadium debt would normally have been rolled-over but it was credit-crunch time and the debt holders were very nervous about the finances at NUFC and Barclays were not keen to extend the overdraft. Liverpool had been in a similar position earlier and RBS effectively forced Gillette & Hicks out of Liverpool, Barclays were about to do the same to FFS & hall. As MA provided the money for the club to survive, that money repaid all the other debt, the advantage being that a) MA wasn’t charging interest b) MA would not pull the plug on a club that he owned and one that owed him £130m.

            According to the last financial results for NUFC, the club owes the same £129m that MA put in to restructure in 2007. The club had just short of £2m in the bank. It was noted that a further £15m loan facility was available from December 2016 so potentially £144m. It remains to be seen if this £15m was drawn but given the Rafa stays statement, it sounds like that money will remain in the club.

          • Geordiegiants

            I think you misunderstand. When he bought it the club the debt was wiped, and that was made very public. When he realised he had dropped a rick, because he was incompetent, he then got the club into debt himself.

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            No, you don’t just wipe the debt or moreover there is no advantage in doing so unless you wanted to artificially meet FFP rules or perhaps wanted to sell the club debt free.

            When he took over, the club owed (just an example with round figures) say, £10,000,000 to Real Madrid for the balance of Michael Owen’s transfer. Just because MA took over, Real Madrid did not write that debt off, they still wanted their money. When he took over, he owned a club that had financial commitments, they don’t get wiped. The terms of the stadium loans were that on new ownership, they needed repaying (or what was expected, renewing). Player transfers were due and other debts were hanging around the clubs neck. There was not enough in the bank to pay these debts so what he did was do a review of the finances and introduce more money to pay the most pressing of debts. He then negotiated debts down and repaid early.

            For him to ‘wipe’ a debt, he’d have to issue more shares to himself and the club would be given the money for the shares. Otherwise, someone has to lend the club the money, through convenience or necessity, he provided the money himself. If you are a 100% shareholder, there is no advantage in issuing himself more shares so the obvious thing is for him to lend the club the money.

          • Geordiegiants

            This 10 years ago, there was no FFP, or if there was it wasn’t enforced properly. He bought the club and let it be known we were a debt free club. In fact they made a huge thing about it being a debt free club. He owns the whole thing lock stock and barrel. He bought the club wiped the debt in the process, then realised he didn’t have a clue what he was doing, then saddled the club with debt owed to him, and used that as an excuse to extort the club of advertising money. Dress it how you like, he is also taking money out of the club to benefit his jumble sale.

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            I will not dress anything up, it’s simply untrue that he is taking money out and the untrue about the debt being wiped. I’ve re-read the accounts and there is nothing in there that backs up your claim.

            The debt remains as it was in 2007 and your argument is mixed up if you want the debt reduced, you’ll need him to take money out. There was an additional loan put into the club at relegation and withdrawn again once re-established in the premier league.

            I think you are misreading the takeover process. I certainly don’t recall the club saying they were debt-free, because they never have been and the accounts confirm this to be the case. They may have made a point of no external debt which is the great advantage in comparison to the previous borrowing but the most important thing was that having restructured the finance, the costs were bought under control and the crippling losses were bought to an end.

            The fact you mention there was no FFP makes my point for me, no reason whatsoever to convert debt to equity.

          • Geordiegiants

            So you are trying to tell me that, the jumble sale does not get payments for OUR football strips? Do not give me the story about it being cheaper to hold it all in their depot etc etc. Rangers were getting 25p in the pound from the same deal. FFS and Hall were not complaining about how much they were making off selling strips. ( Remember the News of the World?)He is clever at accounting or rather his advisers are, he is making other money from the club no doubt. It is probable that somewhere along the line he will be getting it out of agents/players, especially as all of his deals are undisclosed and with the same people time after time, we also have the largest payments to agents. His books on the face of it look to balance up no doubt, but he is still a crook that is draining our club of valuable income.

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            FFS and Hall were not complaining about shirts and merchandise!! That is certainly right. Bruce Shepherd (FFS’s brother) had a deal to store NUFC merchandise for the club giving him a cool £2.5m. NUFC actually lost money on merchandise in some years before MA.

            I don’t know the exact deal with SD and NUFC but if it were 25p in the £, I’d be thrilled with that. I’m unaware of a physical product shifting business that can produce a profit after wages and costs of 25%. There is nothing wrong with outsourcing.

            As for getting an income on the side from agents, I really think you are reading the Mag too much, he owns 100% of the shares in NUFC, any money that is missed by the club is 100% lost by the owner….him, so why would he take a bit on the side? If he wanted to make a little more, he could do a window cleaning round and that is about as likely.

            Deals may be undisclosed at the time of transfer but they are disclosed in the finances and every deal that is between two controlling parties (NUFC and a Mike Ashley controlled 3rd party) must be disclosed. NUFC is not MA’s income earner, he could switch on the income tap if he wanted to but you are getting taking in the daft posters on here if you really think he cares about the minutiae of NUFC.

          • Geordiegiants

            I don’t think 25p in the pound is good business at all. Yeah, Bruce was getting 2.5m a year for storing them and still we made money! So how are we getting a good deal from the jumble sale? The pie man is getting a good deal that is for sure. He claims not to get a wage from them or us, he is creative accounting to get his money, he loves the buzz. I’m not a wealthy man but earn a very good living, I love a bit of cash here and there like everyone. Any where to get that little bit more is what it’s all about, he is no different just on a grander scale.

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            We weren’t making money on merchandise in the last year of ffs. The storage wasn’t 2.5m a year, that was the size of the deal over the term of the deal. Nevertheless, it was not to nufc’s benefit.

            25p in the pound seems a bit generous on SD’s behalf. Its far better than a business would get selling goods on a full logistics Amazon seller deal for instance. However, neither of us know the terms of the deal but in theory, it makes sense to utilise logistics, staff, storage, web systems etc from a specialist with economies of scale.

          • Geordiegiants

            Sorry my memory had failed me. They get 75p every £10 spent. Not 25p in the pound.

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            That would be rangers rather than NUFC? The circumstances are different at Rangers. That said, such an arrangement guarantees a profit which for Rangers’ predicament is no bad thing.

            I believe Nufc’s deal is more beneficial.

            I’m not saying all Ashley has done is right (we’d not have gone down if it was) and there are sticks to beat him with that are reality rather than perpetuating myths which is what happens on these pages (not pointing the finger at you btw).

            Some accusations are clearly wrong (debt etc) others are groundless (stadium expansion). The business model for the club has changed, even I would agree that the Arsenal model we were trying to copy was too rigid and contributed our relegation.

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            As for making a bit on the side, I think the incentive to do so when you earn £100k a year is stronger than you earn that amount every week which is why perhaps you and I may like to make a few extra quid when the likes of MA can do this without pulling a fast one.

            To put into perspective, MA can take £2m a year from the club tax free for the next 64 1/2 years if he was really hard up. The way you suggest is going to incur tax and yes taking money from his own pot.

            He may be driven to create an empire, but you don’t do that by following your implied model.

  • benton mag

    glory hunters

  • Stephen Paylor

    a good article and i think the voice of many for a while. Through it all there have been times that i have been totally frustrated too but in the end its up to big mike where he parks his tanks and if he doesn’t want to invest much further then we have to make do with what we have. Putting a first class manager in and giving him the control of the club in terms of signings is however not something to forget so i like many others are happy. Mike is never going to understand that helpless feeling when your 2 down with 6 minutes to go but i think he and the club of late have come a long way so lets just give him at least some credit for the past 15 months and maybe even more considering the net spend the summer before too.

  • benton mag

    Not proper magpies on this site bye-bye disgrace how so called slag the mags off