Football is a feast or famine type affair.
Take Arsenal. Perennial CL qualifiers until last year, their fans only see failure and underachievement, a habitual inability to compete for the Premier League, a lack of spending in comparison to the other powerhouses of the division.
FA Cup? Meh.
For most fans, Arsenal would provide a veritable feast. To them however, famine, injustice and a manager not worthy of the badge.
Perception truly is reality.
Which brings me nicely to Newcastle.
No one would argue that since Keegan and to a lesser degree, Bobby Robson, we have had nothing worthy of the term “gourmet” to dine out on.
Mike Ashley has left his own inimitable print on the history of our club.
Currently, I see many comments posted on NUFC forums, trying desperately to work out where responsibility lies, what is happening and why the owner continues to jeopardise our PL future by refusing to invest?
Comments made to the press seem to invariably result in broken promises and false hope. We all know it is the hope that kills us ultimately.
There are 3 fundamental points to make here.
Firstly, have no doubt that Mike Ashley is solely responsible for our position.
Charnley, Carr and others who have and continue to do his bidding, like all employees, work to instructions and a business strategy, irrespective of whether any of us agree with that strategy or not. Do not waste time trying to conjure alternative theories. Mike Ashley is single handedly responsible for the last 10 years.
Ashley bought Newcastle, not to embellish the sparse trophy cabinet and to woo fans but to further his major business interest, namely Sports Direct.
This involves at a basic level, a retention of PL status, where the football club is self-sustainable. Clearly, this strategy has not been implemented without issue.
Two relegations stand testimony to this.
However, this leads us the second point, which all fans need to understand.
Mike Ashley is a billionaire, an incredibly astute businessman. He wants to make money and Newcastle is simply a vehicle for him to achieve that.
However unpalatable this is to us all, it is also the truth.
No amount of revenue that Newcastle United generates as a business, from PL money to gate receipts and shirt sales, matters to him. These revenues simply aren’t enough to move the dial when you consider the operational costs. Any PL club with an ounce of ambition cannot achieve long-term success and be self-sustainable, especially given the current transfer prices. See Manchester United (laden with debt), Chelsea & Manchester City (benevolent owners) for further details.
By continuing to think that he is only interested in profiteering from Newcastle as a club, we are being illogical.
The final point is this.
After promotion last year, we all expected change. Investment in the team and support for our world class manager. In our feast or famine football world, change does not come in shades. It’s either everything or nothing.
As is often the case, the truth is somewhere in between.
Mike Ashley has changed.
Well, in simple terms, by appointing a manager that can deliver his vision. The vision of a self-sustainable PL club.
He has realised that his goals and objectives could not be met by mediocre or downright poor managers, such as Pardew, Carver or McClaren.
He has accepted that, in the world of the PL where colossal financial inequality exists, he needed something special to deliver his business model.
This is why he went out and spent heavily on acquiring Benitez, one of the best paid managers in the world.
Have his spending philosophies changed? Not in the slightest.
Have his desires for the club changed? Not one bit.
Does he really care about winning anything? Not at all.
But does he have the right man at the helm, the guy who can deliver what he wants? Yes.
Mike Ashley, by any standards, has been a horrendous proprietor of Newcastle and seemingly will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. He has delivered perpetual misery since arriving.
But to accuse him of being stupid and failing to learn is simply wrong.
Ashley has negated the risk of failure by realising the importance and value of a top manager. From his perspective, investment in Benitez is a cost-effective way of delivering long term stability.
Of course, as with all businesses, good people tend to move on if their ambition and personal objectives cannot be met and herein lies Ashley’s real risk.
But right now, it is almost certain that Ashley will be dining out at a 5-star restaurant, marvelling at his own competence whilst fans are left feeding off the scraps of an uninspiring meal, namely a battle for PL survival.
(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])