Mike Ashley has had a very bad habit of gambling with Newcastle United.

So far, these gambles have resulted in two relegations in eight Premier League seasons, as well as two very near misses.

Newcastle finally confirming safety in 2012/13 when beating QPR in the last away game, then doing the same against West Ham in the very final match of the 2014/15 campaign.

When it comes to transfer windows, fans have universally believed that the better the team/results have been, the less it is likely that money will be allowed for spending on strengthening the squad.

Classic extremes of this have been only Vurnon Anita (funded by sales including future England international Fraser Forster on the cheap) bought after finishing fifth in 2011/12, whereas Β£80m+ was shelled out after that near relegation in 2014/15, most of it wasted on the wrong players – leading to relegation.

Such are the concerns about the state of the current squad after Mike Ashley failed to back Rafa Benitez in the summer, that the manager revealed on Friday that he had been granted a telephone conversation with the club’s owner to talk about the January transfer window. The first time they had spoken since May 2017 and the infamous promises made ahead of the summer window, that Rafa very publicly said had not been kept.

Obviously the nine games with only one point had even woke Mike Ashley up the fact that we are very definitely in a relegation fight.

Typical then that only nine days before that next transfer window opens, that Newcastle pull out their first win in nine weeks and only their second win in the last 14 weeks.

A brilliant day for everybody associated with Newcastle United, especially with the win coming away against another relegation rival.

However, just as no sane person should have been claiming Rafa Benitez was the big problem when Newcastle picked up only one point in nine matches.

Nobody should be shouting, or even whispering, that Mohamed Diame and/or Henri Saivet are any kind of an answer for the second half of this relegation battle.

The two players deserve every bit of praise they get for their performances at the London Stadium.

They both know that neither Rafa Benitez nor the Newcastle fans rate them and it would have been ever so easy for the pair of them to turn up and chuck the match. After all, they know they are not wanted and so what would another poor display from them really matter in the longer term.

Instead, both Saivet and Diame put a real shift in, and were key to Newcastle getting the three points. Especially with giving the first goal away it would have been predictable if Saivet had gone into hiding, instead, only a few minutes later he was stepping up and taking the responsibility of arrowing the perfect free-kick into the bottom corner.

Mohamed Diame later gave Newcastle the lead when putting in the yards to get into the opposition box and finishing a great team move.

Bottom line though is that Saturday was the perfect set-up for Newcastle, playing against one of the very few clubs that have a squad/team as weak as their own.

Yesterday was only the third time since 23 September that the Hammers have managed more than one goal in a game.

Even with Noble and Lanzini in the middle of the pitch they are still a very poor side, David Moyes just trying to defend and sneak a goal from somewhere. However, as we saw yesterday, without that pair – especially Lanzini, they are absolutely terrible.

So it is within that context that Diame and Saivet put in decent battling performances. The reality was that there wasn’t a single player in the middle of the pitch on either side, who was capable of putting their foot on the ball and work itΒ  forward. Little wonder that Rafa Benitez elected to play the two up front so he could hit it long and hope Joselu could then win the ball/hold it up for Dwight Gayle and others.

The quality that Newcastle did have on the ball was on the wings, with Ritchie & Yedlin combining better once again, whilst Atsu pulled out a far better man of the match performance.

I think yesterday, even if we had been up against Swansea or West Brom, who I rate as the two worst teams in the top tier, we could have struggled due to not having the quality in the middle of the pitch.

Diame and Saivet gave us everything in terms of workrate and trying to protect the defence but with the ball, they really struggled and didn’t look as if they wanted to try and take responsibility for creating.

Quite simply, they are what they are. Two unlikely players who came in and put in gutsy displays that they deserve a big pat on the back for – but that is where it ends.

If either of them are playing on Wednesday against Manchester City, or indeed any other match, I won’t be slagging off Rafa Benitez or the player(s) themselves.

However, I do find it amazing to read Newcastle fans suggesting that they should stay in the team ahead of the likes of Mikel Merino and Hayden & Shelvey, if it comes down to a choice with all available.

I can just imagine Mike Ashley sitting there now and thinking ‘What’s that Benitez been up to, a diamond geezer like that Henri Saivet training and playing with the reserves, when he can come in and win us three points. He’s bleating on to me about needing new players when he has superstars like Saivet and Super Mo!’.

Whatever happens against Man City is a bit irrelevant, as we could probably play all five central midfielders in a 14 man team and still get nowt.

However, when Newcastle play Brighton in six days time, it is inconceivable that either Diame or Saivet will be in the team, if Rafa has the other options available.

It will be even more inconceivable if Mike Ashley uses yesterday to argue that reinforcements are not so desperately needed as Rafa Benitez makes out.

We have players who are all trying but the need for extra quality is written in massive bold letters, yesterday a team that tries was just enough to get the three points but we might not get so lucky on many more occasions without better quality on the pitch…33% of Newcastle’s points so far this season have come against West Ham and only two points from games against clubs outside the bottom seven in the table.

(See Alan Shearer’s reaction to the win HERE)

(Read the instant Newcastle fan/writer reaction to beating West Ham HERE)

(National journalist launches astonishing attack on Newcastle fans and Rafa Benitez after win over West Ham – read it HERE)

(Read the match report from West Ham 2 Newcastle 3 HERE)

(David Moyes reluctant to credit Newcastle with the win – read HERE)

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  • Soldier

    West Ham are a poor team but i`d take Lanzini and Carroll any day of the week

    • thewildchimp

      Carroll is seriously underrated. His tenacity and strength in duels really help his mates push forward. We don’t have any such offensive player at the moment. Maybe Mitro comes close on his perfect days. In reality, our most penetrative player is Yedlin, a right-back…

    • Gandalf Greyhame

      You forget that Everton got a 1-1 draw early in the season. Several of City’s wins have been by one goal only. A disciplined, packed defense can definitely slow them down. Bournemouth lost 4-0 because they did not bother to cover (i.e., get within 2 feet) of any of the scoring City players

  • mactoon

    What worries me more is that all our goals came from midfield with no goals from the strikers

    • Clarko

      You’re only just starting to worry about that?

      • mactoon

        no ive been worried about it since we lost Demba Ba

        • Clarko

          So you’re just bringing it up now?

          Obvious statement is obvious.

          • mactoon

            no ive mentioned it several times over the past few windows. This comment is in direct response to an article about a midfield when I think the strikers are a bigger problem.

          • Soldier

            the strikers are the fundamental problem and have been for years

          • wheyayeman

            Clarko is being a tosser if you have a contribution to make then say it it’s a forum and you say it – never ever be concerned about toss pots picking at you. Agree or Disagree but don’t be a tosser

          • Clarko

            What did their original post contribute to this forum? What insight, analysis, information or opinion did they give?

          • Kneebotherm8

            No change there then?????

          • Clarko

            Again, obvious statement is obvious.

            “Hey guys, our strikers didn’t score yesterday”

            “No sh!t”

            “Hey guys, our strikers don’t score very often”

            “No sh!t”

            “Hey guys, that’s worrying”

            “Yeah, no sh!t”

          • mactoon

            And yet nobody would have known I thought that unless I posted it. That’s the point of posting. Instead of being negative about other peoples posts, try contributing. Its just pointless being argumentative.

          • Andrew

            It’s Clarko, it’s what he does. Don’t deny him his one hobby apart from worshipping the ground Mr Ashley walks on.

          • Kneebotherm8

            Too true……..πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

          • Clarko

            “What worries me more is that all our goals came from midfield with no goals from the strikers”

            What does that add to this forum? The answer, nothing. You have contributed nothing to this forum.

          • mactoon

            I’ve added my opinion in context to the article whereas you just criticise people’s posts. You my friend add nothing to the forum but negativity.

          • Clarko

            You posted a generic, pointless statement, there wasn’t an opinion in your post, there was nothing.

            Click on my profile and read my comments, they are filled with information, analysis, debate and justified criticism like in this case.

          • mactoon

            Justified criticism of a post and an opinion that the real problem is we have no strikers scoring goals which you have agreed with. All you do is troll people’s posts. You add nothing but pointless argument

          • Clarko

            Our strikers not scoring against West Ham is not an opinion, you “worrying” is not an opinion. You didn’t give an opinion.

            Some examples of contribution in the last week:

            “Brighton brought in Gross. Bournemouth brought in Begovic, Ake and Defoe. Swansea brought in Abraham, Sanches, Mesa, Clucas and Bony. Huddersfield brought in Mounie and Mooy. Crystal Palace brought in Sakho. I could go on. It’s his job to get players and I personally don’t think “survival” is the first thing players consider when deciding on a new club (£££).”

            “That’s not true, Newcastle spent the whole summer trying to get rid players and failed, hence why Colback, Saivet, Mitrovic and Mbemba are still present. Newcastle didn’t lose any first team players in the summer (other than maybe Gouffran).”

            “That isn’t a “blatant lie”, Benitez has spent ~€113.05m on players since coming to Newcastle.
            As for the net spend, you’re either uninformed or selectively leaving out information, the full quote from the accounts:
            ‘Subsequent to the balance sheet date the club has generated a net surplus of around Β£40m in respect of changes to the playing squad, a substantial proportion of the player sales are on deferred terms and will be received over the next 3-4 years, with the result that in the year ending 30 June 2017 there will be a net cash outlay with respect to these transfers'”

          • Kneebotherm8

            Lies,damned lies and your statistics.
            We buy players cash up front and sell players on the never never.
            Pull the other one its got bells on,creative accounting at its best,Mikes always putting his hand in his pocket if you believe this [email protected]

          • Clarko

            Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.

          • Kneebotherm8

            Eh?????…….the fact is that Ashley has made a transfer profit on Rafa’s transfer dealings since he was appointed as manager of the football club…………..simples……

          • Clarko

            It’s only fair, Benitez did relegate the club that he owns, costing him Β£100m in PL TV money, and you know, profit isn’t profit when you don’t get the money for “3-4 years”.


          • Kneebotherm8

            Benitez didn’t relegate the club…..he nearly saved us from the absolutely dire position McLaren had us in,if he’d been appointed earlier we’d have survived based on the results he did achieve.
            That’s accepted by the vast majority of fans and the reason there was a massive groundswell of opinion to have him appointed as manager,was it not?
            I think if the fans thought he’d relegated us,then we’d have been wanting him”sacked in the morning”.

          • Clarko

            If only he managed to win the games against Norwich, Aston Villa and Sunderland. Benitez was brought in to save us from relegation, not to “nearly” save us. He failed, fact.

          • Kneebotherm8

            Brought in too late……..fact……his points ratio tranlated over the season would have had us top half….fact..
            We stuck with the Β£75 million clown McLaren too long…..fact….52000 fans wanting him kept on as manager on the final day of the season….fact……

          • Clarko

            No he wasn’t “brought in to late”, that is not a “fact”, that is fiction, Benitez had 10 games, a possible 40 points, he only managed to get 13 points, he needed at 16 points to keep Newcastle up. He didn’t do it, failing to win games against relegation rivals Norwich and Sunderland and the already relegated Aston Villa. He failed.

            Saying “fact” after random statements, do not make them facts. There is clearly a massive IQ deficit here, so have fun, enjoy the holidays, maybe look into joining an evening class after the new year. Good luck πŸ‘πŸΏ

          • Kneebotherm8

            Yes he was brought in too late and that is the popular consensus,were you screaming for him to be sacked at the end of our relegation season?

          • Clarko

            The “popular consensus” is wrong, as proven. 13 points from a possible 40 points. He was brought in to avoid relegation, he failed.

            This “debate” has nothing to do with me or anyone else wanting Benitez sacked. Again, take a reading class after the holidays, it will do you good.

          • Kneebotherm8

            Yeah everybody’s wrong except you……….πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚…………you saddo………

          • Clarko

            13 out a possible 40 points when only 16 points were needed, you’re arguing against math, dummy.

          • Kneebotherm8

            He was only in charge for 10 games,which when I went to school equals a maximumum of 30 points,that’s to say 10 games,10 wins @ 3 points a game equals 30 points,would you agree on that one?
            Even with your maths there’s no way 40 is divisible by 3.
            No,it’s you who need the evening classes,not me you dummyπŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

          • Clarko

            My mistake, 30 points, is that still mathematically possible? I believe it is, therefore he was not brought in too late.

          • Kneebotherm8

            Newcastle United would have finished in 10th place in the Premier League had the season started when Rafa Benitez took charge – a fact that highlights the dramatic impact the Spaniard has made at the club.

            From Benitez’s 10 matches at the helm since taking over from Steve McClaren on March 11, the Magpies collected 13 points and recorded a goal difference of +4, scoring 16 times and conceding 12.In fact, Benitez’s points-per-game return of 1.3 was significantly higher than the 0.86 per match predecessor McClaren accrued.

            Should that points ratio be multiplied across an entire 38-game season, Newcastle would have finished with 49 points – enough to have claimed 11th place, just one shy of fallen champions Chelsea.

            McClaren’s tally multiplied across an entire season?

            Well that would have seen United finish with 33 points, meaning they’d have slipped below Norwich City into 19th place, rather than only just fall two short of rivals Sunderland as they have done.

            It may have taken a good month for Benitez’s changes to take hold, but over the last six matches – when Newcastle have collected 12 points form the last 18 available during an impressive unbeaten run – the Magpies are a staggering fifth in the Premier League form table.
            In many ways United can be considered extremely unlucky to have gone down, yet the reality is the club failed to act quick enough to replace McClaren with enough time for his successor’s impact to really pay dividends.

          • Clarko

            See, the problem plagiarism, is that, not only is it blatantly obvious, but usually the person using someone else’s words usually uses them incorrectly, like in this case.

            This conversation isn’t about “what would’ve happened if Benitez was at Newcastle at the start of the season”, this conversation is whether it he was “brought in too late” to save the club from relegation, it turns out, he wasn’t.

          • Kneebotherm8

            I can’t argue with that persons words at all,his facts and figures are in fact,fact.
            A massive ,massive improvement when Rafa came in,just needed to be in that wee bit earlier,all in the world can see that except you or the likes of you.

          • Clarko

            No they’re not all facts, the piece is structured and based on statistical predictions/generalisations.

            Again, Benitez was brought in for 10 games, tasked with avoiding relegation, he needed 16 points from a possible 30 points, meaning he wasn’t brought in too late (I mean why would he sign for the club if it was too late? That would be silly wouldn’t it?) he only managed 13 points, he failed.

            Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. I’m done, have fun being ignorant.

          • Kneebotherm8

            Did you send Mike his Christmas card?………πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

          • Mark Potter

            Did we need 16 points to stay up? Surely, not getting beat by Sunderland would have clinched it. He failed with that, providing them yet another derby win, but more importantly it turned out to be the proverbial 6 pointer. That was the critical point (with hindsight) where the rest of the great work that was done by Rafa didn’t matter, unfortunately. Especially as that win gave the Mackems a bit of confidence to go on and get the points needed for them to stay up. I think we would have been comfortable under Rafa if we had won that game, and probably stayed up if we had only drawn.

            Your maths error (40 points available, when it was only 30) is somewhat embarrassing. It’s not a small error. With a maximum of 40, 13 sounds poor (though what we would give for 13 from the last 39). With only 30 available, then 13 is almost 50% of the points. Easily enough to stay up if replicated over the season. And easily enough to stay up, and be comfortably midtable if we replicated it the rest of this season.

          • Clarko

            We has 24 points when he took over, Newcastle ended on 37 points and Sunderland ended on 39 points, so yeah a win over Sunderland would have clinched survival providing all other results remained the same.

            On a side note, Sunderland didn’t win the derby, it was a draw. So your whole argument is based on incorrect reasoning. Which is even more embarrassing then me confusing the number of available points (30 points) with the number of points needed for survival (40 points), it wasn’t a “maths error”, it was a typo.

            Benitez failed to win games against Sunderland, Norwich and Aston Villa, he failed.

          • Kneebotherm8

            Edit the math and dummy bit as well you fkn halfwit.

          • Clarko

            Doesn’t even make sense does it…

          • Kneebotherm8

            You’re right it makes no sense at all……. 13 points out of a possible 40 ?…….ha ha ha ha ha………what school did you go to ?………..who’s the mathematical genius and dummy now?…………..take your own advice and go read a book………here’s a suggestion specially for you………..”Basic Maths for Dummies”……………ha ha ha ha ha ha…

          • Clarko

            16 points needed out of a possible 30. Apparently that’s impossible according to you and the “general consensus”. Get an education.

          • Kneebotherm8

            “Basic Maths for Dummies”……………go educate yourself………πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

          • Geordiegiants

            You are an absolute pointless article. Get yourself back on ALS.

          • Clarko

            Really, because you’ve just been telling @mactoon all about my “hard facts” and “opinion” posts, that doesn’t sound very “pointless”, dummy.

          • Geordiegiants

            Exactly that’s my point.

          • Kneebotherm8

            There’s two words for the workie ticket,mate.
            The first one begins with eff and the second one ends with off.

          • Geordiegiants

            He’s a proper t!t, he has even lost his own way in recent times, he has posted his opinion rather than hard facts 😴

          • Clarko

            You do realise that you’re helping my argument right? Of course you don’t, you’re brain dead, thanks though.

          • Geordiegiants

            Yeah brain dead I’ve been β€œHammered” πŸ€ͺ

  • Scooter

    good article

  • Leazes Ender

    Very much agree with the article……

    …… except I don’t think the relegations were a gamble…. I think they knew what they were doing…. and very much deliberate.

    The Chronicle bore the banner headline screaming…..

    ‘Charnley you have two things to do, secure the services of Benitez and in the name of God….. GO!

    Ashley read it and said right I’m keeping him…. the motivation of Ashley towards United has been spite and malice…. the Chronicle went silent on the Charnley issue but they know why he’s there.

    The relegations like the ‘Cashiering’ of the name’s ‘St James’ Park’ and ‘Shearer’s Bar’ were deliberate acts designed for malice, the epaulets thrown to the ground and stamped upon by the regime.

    Ashley has no links at all with this City, he has killed off the clubs future and that is his leaving present…. a more dreadful human you might never meet…. I hope he dies, slowly.

    • Geordiegiants

      Very well said Leazes.πŸŽ…

    • Oooh bobbi fleckman

      You are an idiot, merry Christmas

  • Kneebotherm8

    All you get with Mike Ashley is reaction………….he’s never been pro active in his time here………………..Gambling Man,he is………..and he usually loses.

  • robbersdog

    Thought for the day: If a miracle happens and we draw (or win!) against City, I can imagine our illustrious owner flapping around in the shallow end of his private pool in the Caribbean and thinking…f*ck this for a game of soldiers, we don’t need any new players next month, I’ll sit tight and let Staveley pick up the slack when I’ve trousered Β£300m.

    That thought is no doubt already percolating after yesterday’s win, so a good performance on Wednesday might be a double edged sword.

    • Oooh bobbi fleckman

      That’s not how it works.

    • thewildchimp

      Well, if they somehow manage to get on the bus in Manchester and end up somewhere in the jungles of Central America and we win by default – then maybe. Otherwise, we are safe.
      Honestly, if we concede less than 4 – I consider that a good score. But, really, wouldn’t it be glorious, if we ended their run…

  • Oooh bobbi fleckman

    This is what happens at times when there is a takeover irrespective of individual strategies, a joint strategy will have been decided in terms of the purchase of assets.

    As far as cash is concerned, the owner of the club does not take cash with him when he sells. The cash is still in the bank or if the agreement is Β£30m of player spending happens then the cash will leave the bank and become player assets. The club value remains the same.

  • StevieB

    I always liked the look of Saivet to be honest . Didn’t surprise me at all on Saturday

    • Kneebotherm8

      He’s scored some cracking free kicks in the past for Senegal and a helluva one for Bordeaux against Liverpool in Europe,so that one against West Ham wasn’t a one off.
      For whatever reason,he’s never had a chance here.

      • StevieB

        He should be given a chance mate to be honest , anyone who comes in from the cold, gives a good performance like that should be given the chance to keep his place, especially when the other candidates for the position haven’t exactly been setting the world on fire lately

      • gallowgate26

        Aye, Ritchie is decent at corners but useless at direct free-kicks, I’m pleased Saviet was allowed to take it.

  • NoelBlack

    Good article. I agree entirely.

  • Angelswithdirtyfaces

    If Rafa can motivate these two guys to Premiership standard performances, even if not Top 6 level, then great. Saivet must have been very professional in training, to even get the call.