It is an unhappy marriage and it has been now for a decade.
There was hope this summer that there might be a fresh spark there, but sadly it looks like we’re going to limp along as before – that is the reality for Newcastle United, even in the warm afterglow of the first Premier League win.
We are wedded to an owner in Mike Ashley, who is a thoroughly contemptible man with little or no desire to make a proper success of the club. The best we’re looking at right now is treading water and hoping Rafa can turn that water into wine.
I briefly allowed myself to wonder if Mike Ashley really had changed his approach in the wake of promotion and the new feel good factor that was sweeping around the place. What followed has seen that slowly ebb away, bit by bit.
Money has been made available but not nearly enough. The owner appears to have done a u-turn on some of the promises made to the manager, or he’s inserted a string of robust caveats into the claim that Rafa can have ‘every single penny’.
Then came what seemed to be a war of words, conducted through the media. Rafa v Ashley. One doing his best not to resign, while the other won’t sack him, but he does want him to work like his predecessors have, with one arm tied behind his back.
The Mike Ashley interview on Sky was pure poison. He went into bat with a smirk on his face and told us all he’s a poor billionaire and that we’re ‘only Newcastle United’. What an absolute berk. He wants the club to be in the Premier League but it’s got to be done on the cheap. No speculating to accumulate, no fast-paced approach to sorting out the squad.
The owner’s PR strategy has only succeeded in fuelling the media to drive a constant ‘will he, won’t he’ debate around the future of the manager – a manager who is quite possibly one of the only truly good things to happen to the club under Mike Ashley’s ownership.
The win against West Ham has eased some of those tensions but we now await the conclusion to the summer transfer window later this week.
There are some positives too. We saw them in abundance on Saturday. That team can play when they put their mind to it and press the ball properly.
But what of the unhappy marriage? Can we really be sat here in five or ten years with this same useless owner at the helm? It’s possible, sadly.
The best thing Mike Ashley can do is look at what has gone on at Southampton this summer. That club has taken on board a Chinese investor.
Surely, if a new owner can’t be found then Ashley’s people need to look at selling a stake and sharing out the load. Get a new face on the board with some fresh ideas, and money, because the current model of doing it on the cheap is likely to come unstuck at some point.
There is a huge untapped potential at Newcastle United, will someone out there come in and take advantage of that?
For now, we soldier on, but it’s precarious. All the goodwill flows from Benitez staying in his post.
Newcastle United, forever fragile under the Sports Direct regime.
The season will, of course, plough on. I think we can get 40 points, but we have to watch, as smaller clubs around us put in the kind of investment that we really need in order to see proper success.
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