It has been a while since I used to write regularly on The Mag under the name Notts Toon, maybe some of you will remember that I was quite a vocal critic of Mike Ashley in the last relegation season and now it seems, we may be coming around to that unenviable fate once more, I felt the need to write about the issues facing our club again.

To begin with, nothing new is happening here. We have been here before a number of times in the last 11 years, the only difference between then and now is that in days gone by we had a higher calibre of footballer and a lower calibre of manager.

Our previous relegation seasons have seen us dropping to the lower leagues despite a first team squad packed with recognised international footballers of some renown: Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins, Fabricio Coloccini, Andros Townsend and Moussa Sissoko to name but a few.

Our current crop has less household names and more lower league journeymen and misfits making up the numbers: Mo Diame, Javier Manquillo and Joselu for example. On the other side of things, we undoubtedly have a manager of somewhat higher standing in the game than JFK or Geordie John, or even our own inexperienced Alan Shearer.

Recently I have read a lot from fans on The Mag and elsewhere questioning the decisions of our manager, mainly regarding his team selection and omission of certain players, whose importance to the team has skyrocketed according to some in their absence from the playing field. Obviously the biggest topic of debate has been Mitrovic, a man described by most in our last relegation season as slow, immobile and simply not good enough, he appears to have become regarded by some as the second coming of Shearer since he last had a run in the team.

It seems easily forgotten that the sad truth is he really isn’t very good and only really scores regularly against very poor opposition, his career to this point is evidence of this. In short he is not the massive upgrade on Joselu that many are making him out to be, and his work rate is nowhere near that of his less lauded replacement.

Not that I would want people to think I am singing the praises of the man affectionately known as “Hoss”, he is also not a very good footballer at Premier League level. Actually, in the case of Hoss and Mitro I will be slightly more fair, neither of them, nor Gayle or Perez, are the man to get the goals which will save a newly promoted side from a relegation scrap, and therein lies the real issue.

The actual problem we have is not Mitro’s absence or Hoss’s continued selection. It isn’t that Gayle lacks confidence or that Perez poses no threat. It isn’t that Shelvey is a disciplinary liability or that Diame is as mobile as Donald Trump’s hair, it isn’t the mistakes that the keepers make or the lack of genuine quality from the wings either. It is the fact that all of these things are happening at the same time which is the crux of the issue.

The home truths are that our squad is Championship standard at best, nowhere near enough investment was made, Mitrovic is nowhere near as good as some are making him out to be (seemingly just because he says the right things), and the manager was once again shafted by the owner.

Trust me, the only reason Rafa is still here is because, like most of us, he is hoping that the takeover goes through and he can finally have a real club to work with, rather than this penny pinching shadow of what used to be Newcastle United.

How many times did Rafa say when we were in the Championship that he had bought players to get us out of that league? I remember him saying it at least six or seven times.

How many times did he say that he knew changes would have to be made in terms of quality once promotion was secured?

Does anyone remember the end of last season when there was more speculation about Rafa’s future?

About how he sought personal assurances from Mike Ashley that his vision for the club would be supported?

That what happened the previous January would not be allowed to happen in the summer, how he wanted to know that his plans for squad development would be financed? In all honesty, do any of the fans criticising the manager remember the summer transfer window at all? I am not talking about the players we signed, I am talking about the promises made that were not followed through on again.

Does this not smack of the owner planting a divide once again? Do any of you not feel in the least bit that this situation has been engineered by the owner through lack of investment and well-timed words about putting the club on the market?

Last week Rafa spoke about the squad using the Spanish phrase about the short blanket, not long enough to keep both your toes and your head warm, as Newcastle fans this is something we should be very familiar with. For years now we have seen strutting peacock big name players put in the bare minimum of effort and collect their wages, whilst on the touchline and the dressing room we have had individuals who struggled to gain the respect of these falsely lauded athletes. Now the situation is reversed, and Picasso is being asked to paint with a set of dry watercolours from the pound shop, whilst people blame him for not coming up with anything close to a masterpiece.

For those of you still intent on blaming Rafa, calling for a change or hoping that a saviour can be found amongst players left out by Benitez, I would say this. Sit tight and wait, because by the end of next month you will have your wish one way or another.

By the end of January either better players will have been brought in to improve the first team and get us away from relegation, or they won’t. Either the takeover will have moved on and we will be looking forward to the remainder of the season with some excitement or we won’t, and if these things don’t happen then Rafa won’t be here anyway and you will have your wish of seeing Mike Ashley’s next bargain basement manager put in charge, Tony Pulis anyone?

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  • Da Ca

    No chance pulis he would have no problem telling Ashley to his face or to his minions what he thinks of them so no

  • TheFatController

    Yes, I’m surprised there has not been more mention made of the ‘every penny’ statement (yes, he put it on the record) that Rafa would be given every penny.

    Then, Rafa tells us he asked Ashley ‘does that mean, as an extreme example, I can spend that money on one player only, say?’ And was told ‘yes’ by Ashley)

    So, in hindsight, what can we make of those two statements?

    That Ashley knew it would sound as if we had a substantial transfer budget (many ‘guesstimated’ at £30m to £75m net + all sales) and that Rafa was subject to a change of buying policy and being given full control.

    Reality? Not anywhere close. No wonder he gets drunk in London pubs and throws up, Rafa and the support are being mocked by the owner of a 125 year old club with proud heritage and the heartbeat of a proud city.

    As Keegan once said, on the record on tv, we’ll go nowhere with Ashley because, simply, he lies…

    • HTL

      So if Rafa spent every penny, the club will not be showing a profit at the end of the financial year then?

      • TheFatController

        I’m not getting you’re point, but to clarify, he said Rafa could have every penny for fees, transfers, running costs. But didn’t qualify ‘don’t let that news get your hopes up, we still don’t have much for the this season…’

        Sometimes only telling half the story, when knowing the full story, is misleading and not honest. Which sums up Ashley in my view…

        • HTL

          Yes that sums Ashley up perfectly. Saying one thing and doing another, its all about spin and PR, I think he was worth about £0.75 Billion when he bought the club and is worth about £3 Billion now, From SD being a mainly British retail company it is now trading worldwide. Just shows how much he has profited from the free advertising from the club.

          • Geordiegiants

            Bobbi Reckons that the advertising is only worth £1m a year as well.
            POPPYCOCK BOBBI.

  • Danimal

    Welcome back and that was a perfect summary. Thanks.

  • Gary Linney

    WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT NOW? I used to read your mag regularly but your articles are now taking the P..ulis!! I can read no more of your 5h1te! NO MORE!

    • Megatron1505

      Again, please try to make a little effort to understand what you have read.

  • Eric

    this will please the rafa out brigade

  • Rich Lawson

    Sheer nonsense,Rafa is happy with the job (as long as there is a new owner at some point soon) and his family situation,He walks or is sacked,costs either party £5mil,He will tough it out and wait for the takeover. What do you think Pullis or Billic etc could honestly do to improve our situation ? Pullis in particular would not come without significant funds being made available,why not just give them to Rafa,job done ?

    • MichaelMaximusMoose

      The Fat Lad always takes the cheapest option, at least £30m for players under Rafa or pay him off £5m.
      The Pig isn`t a football man he only thinks of money

      • mentalman

        he may for £5million a year

    • Megatron1505

      You didn’t really get what the article was about did you?

  • MadMag83

    Some good points I agree with. I’ve said it before, if Ashley doesn’t invest enough in January then relegation is inevitable under Benitez because he doesn’t seem to be getting the best out the players we have.

    Pulis, for all his flaws, would probably be doing better with this lot, but thats guesswork.

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    Cancel Christmas, Cancel the takeover, pay Rafa off & get in Tony Spewlis.
    stranger thinks have happened at Newcastle Utd.

    • joe mac

      for 30 pieces of silver pulis and the rest of them on the merry go round deffo would!

    • Jezza

      Correct. Pulis wouldn’t stand for any of Fatso’s shight and Fatso knows it. Fatso wants his own puppet, nothing more, and now that the Silver Pox has gone to West Brom that leaves only one realistic contender for the NUFC job. Prepare yourselves for the third coming of Joe Kinnear.

      • MichaelMaximusMoose

        Please God not JFK

  • Oooh bobbi fleckman

    If this happens, then if that happens, something else may happen and I bet Mike Ashley will give the job to Tony Pulis and on that imaginary basis, I will get angry about it.

    • Geordiegiants

      We will not get a manger the quality of Pulis if Rafa goes, It’s total fantasy.

  • hetonmag

    Barnes was brought in to put the brakes on Rafa that was after the he can have every penny shyte.

    • Mark Potter

      Barnes is not an employee of the club, and has no say in transfer decisions. He’s a trade mark lawyer who works for Sports Direct, being involved in several very high profile financial deals for Ashley. He’s been working with Ashley for over 10 years, and used to be a Director of Sports Direct. He was also heavily involved in buying the club for Ashley, through St James Holdings. Most recently he represented Ashley in the case of the banker who tried to con £millions from Sports Direct.

      Barnes’ job is to sell the club. He’s been working on this since early in the year. Well before any discussions about Rafa’s summer budget. So, no he was (a) not “brought into” the club and (b) not putting the brakes on Rafa after the “every penny” promise. This was just misinformed speculation from the Chron and the Mag. They didn’t know at the time that Ashley was looking to sell the club, so made up what they thought his role was.

      • TheNutJob

        you need to catch up bonnie lad, Barnes was put in place last January to oversee Penfold, it`s rumoured the plug was pulled on transfers on his advice. he`s Fatty`s dirty tricks man.

      • hetonmag

        May I ask where you’ve got this information from you seem to be well informed, or are you just speculating like we all do on this forum. I’ll defy anybody that can preempt what Ashley and his minions are planning because they’ve never done anything in the best interest of this club, so I stand by what I said in my previous post until proved otherwise.

        • Mark Potter

          I researched it, the facts can be found, both about Barnes’ relationship with Ashley and Sports Direct, and the sale of the club. I searched at Companies House to find that he had been a Director of Sports Direct and of St James Holdings around the time of the sale of the club by the Halls and Shepherd. I already knew that it was SJH that bought the shares of NUFC, and still holds them (Ashley doesn’t). A further company MASH Holdings owns the shares of SJH, and Ashley owns the shares of that company. That makes him the “ultimate owner”, but he has no direct role in any of the subsidiaries. Barnes’ history with Sports Direct is entirely with buying and selling businesses/brands on behalf of Ashley, not in running any of those businesses. Indeed, after setting up SJH and acquiring the shares of the club, he quickly moved on, making way for other people in Ashley’s circle to run the club on a day to day basis. It’s one reason why he is not well known.

          Around early summer 2017 it leaked out that he had been somehow involved with the club and this had started earlier in the year. Finding references to him as Ashley’s “fixer” speculation arose that he had been brought into the club to oversee Charnley. But subsequently it was confirmed that he hadn’t been brought into the club at all, he isn’t employed by the club.

          It’s clear that he’s working on behalf of Ashley in the sale, and therefore he’s being retained by MASH, or SJH, not the club. Although his name wasn’t mentioned, it would not be surprising if he had been with Ashley and Staveley at the Liverpool game. It was reported that he spent sometime in the Middle East with Charnley earlier in the year. It was also reported that Rafa (and Charnley of course) knew about Barnes’ role before the summer, though the same reports were still unsure what that role actually was (they pre-date all of the Staveley reports). Though by that time it had started to leak out that there might be a possibility that Ashley was willing to sell, and that potential investors had been approached and some interested parties had signed NDAs. It’s surprising that no-one seems to have directly connected these two things (Barnes and a potential sale). But no-one before me seems to have realised that Barnes was involved on behalf of Ashley when SJH originally bought the club. Not one of the major papers, including the Times, mentioned this previous connection. Either they failed to search his appointments at Companies House, or amongst the 61 different companies he has been involved with over the years, they failed to note SJH was one of them, and/or they weren’t aware that SJH is the current owner of NUFC.

          So, you can standby your opinion. But the facts don’t support it. Barnes was not brought into the club, and his role goes back well before the “every penny” reports and discussions about Rafa’s transfer budget.

  • joe mac

    starting to think this is payback for all the abuse fatso has had over the years!…slow tortue!….building our hopes up of a sale, with no intention of selling!…laying a nice plush rug under our feet…then gleefully pulling it up at the last minute….every plan this odious, obese, obnoxious oaf has ever had always has a twist at the end…i fear this will end the same way!…..ordinary mortals cannot comprehend how much money this baffoon has….£250..£300 million is mear play money to him….and i think he,s playing with it….and us!….next four weeks will tell…and if he is playing….i cant think of any way to stop his games..

    • Peaky Magpie

      I’ve said this for ages Joe,he’s laughing at our desperation to get rid of him.

  • Megatron1505

    Yeh, the Pulis title is a bit misleading….the piece isn’t really about employing Tony Pulis.

    • Leazes Ender

      Barry Fry is still alive….

      • TheNutJob

        only you would know that

      • Kneebotherm8

        and kicking……

      • Geordiegiants

        That’s more Jabbas stamp of manger than Pulis

  • Michael Pattison

    Great article some good points raised, The takeover simply needs to happen for the club to go forward… I’ve faith Rafa can turn the season around but to do it we need goals so a fwd and No.10 are essential. If we get relegated we’re stuck with Ashley for longer !!!

  • Leazes Ender

    A club with too many problems to ever succeed.

  • HTL

    Looks like the takeover is stalling, we have not had an article about it or a picture of Stavely for at least 20 hours now.

    • Kneebotherm8

      Roll on the next 10 years with Mike still at the helm…….

      • Geordiegiants

        It’s not Jabba, just keep blaming the mangers, it’s easier.🤪

  • mentalman

    why buy players to only get us out of the league, who we then struggle to get rid of when we get promoted, we over paid for these players to get out of the championship and now we are stuck with them or have to accept a loss on half of the squad

    • Megatron1505

      I believe the full plan, as stated, was that we bought players to get us out of the Championship who had the potential to play in the Premier League.

      I don’t think they were ever intended to be leading the way in our Premier League campaign, and in the case of players like Grant Hanley it didn’t work out too well.

      • mentalman

        rafa failed at his plan at the first hurdle then

        • Danimal

          First hurdle was promotion surely? Success. Hayden, Clark, Ritchie, Gayle, Yedlin all now useful Premier League squad players. Partial success. Addition of genuine Premier-ready squad enhancements. Little success so far. Reasons why – discuss.

          • TheFatController

            Yes, the brief was ‘just get us back on the PL gravy train’

            Reason why others spend the gravy whereas we get a small pack of Bisto for £10m – discuss …

          • Danimal

            Others have owners/chairmen who appear to support their teams and take pleasure in attending matches whereas we have Mike Ashley.

          • TheNutJob

            he`d rather be selling tat & be in the Bull & Bush than watch Newcastle

          • Kneebotherm8

            He fkn hates us Geordies man……I’m tellin’ ya.

          • Geordiegiants

            💯 %

          • Geordiegiants

            We got an oxo cube.

          • mentalman

            they are all showing why they dropped into the championship last season

          • Danimal

            Agreed. But they’d look better as squad players, alongside the first choice players the manager was led to believe he’d be able to sign.

          • 1957

            The players mentioned all have issues,

            Hayden’s on field discipline is suspect on target for 15 yellow cards in the season, can Benitez trust him?;

            Clark no longer seems to have Benitez confidence otherwise he would surely be playing instead of an underperforming Lejeune;

            Ritchie’s form has been incredibly inconsistent ;

            Gayle for me needs an effective partner up front if he is to score on a regular basis. He’s not the man to play upfront alone in this league;

            Yedlin always look impressive going forward but struggles when he is the last man at the back post

          • Kneebotherm8

            Promotion was secured……….some on here need to ask Villa fans how easy that task is given the mega money they spent without success.
            Apparently it was a simple task for Benitez to get us promoted.
            With proper backing from Ashley to build on that core of players you mention,we’d be doing a whole lot better than we’re doing now.

          • Danimal

            Agreed.

      • Kneebotherm8

        Hanley and Murphy were brought in for championship experience, I don’t think the plan was ever to keep them for the Premier league.

        • Paul Patterson

          Sadly, I think Murphy would be better than Joselu ..

          • Kneebotherm8

            We should’ve kept Murphy.

        • mentalman

          Hanley wasn’t used and took the place of a young lad getting first team experience,

          Connor Hourihane was available for less money than Murphy and scored more goals and made more assists

          • Kneebotherm8

            Which young lad was that?
            Hourihane is a goalscoring midfielder who played more games than Murphy……………the point is that they were brought in to beef the squad up for the championship and it worked…… we got promoted…………so we move on to the next step in the premier league……….well Ashley didn’t and we are where we are because of him…….

  • S.G.M.

    I think you might find that Swansea will out bid us for Pulis.
    ………….13th May 2018 At home to Chelsea, we manage to scrape a point….. West brom travel to Palace and take home all three and Pards waves us good bye as we visit the Championship once again. oh the irony.

    • Peaky Magpie

      It’s written in the stars.

      • Dillon Tovak

        We’ll end up with Mark Hughes. Shudder at the thought of any of them.
        But, you know, the fans want rid of Rafa so here comes a fresh new hell.

        • Peaky Magpie

          You may be right with Mark Hughes.One of my local couriers has just dropped a delivery and he’s a huge Stoke fan,they’ve got WBA coming up and anything else than 3 points he reckons it’ll be curtains.It definitely will if we beat them at Stoke.

  • Jezza

    Great article. Sums up the reality of the current situation very well.

    • TheNutJob

      Doomed

  • TheNutJob

    i think the takeover is Doomed

    • Kneebotherm8

      Was it ever gonna happen?……..

  • Stuart Latimer

    Mitrovic’s goals in 2015/6 for us against Man City, Man Utd & Spurs Home & Away plus against Arsenal & Borussia Dortmund for Anderlecht in The Champions League more than suggest he does the business against the best plus our last win and a draw, the 4 points we’ve won in our last 30 have all been gained when he’s been on the pitch. #Mitromentum 🔥

    • Dillon Tovak

      What about the sitters he fluffed against Burton and Barnsley?

      • Stuart Latimer

        He didn’t play against Burton & set up Gayle’s goal vs Barnsley on the final day of the season in his only game against them as he didn’t get many games in The Championship – he will be playing against Brazil at The World Cup in Russia 2018 so watch out for him.

        • Dillon Tovak

          I wasn’t being literal. But he did fluff many a chance in the championship.
          I will watch out and hope he does really well, but up until now he hasn’t really shown much.

          • Mark Potter

            It sounds pretty literal when you mention specific clubs. Presumably you didn’t think anyone would fact-check you.

            Well done Stuart, for bringing facts into the discussion.

  • shellington

    If Ashley doesn’t move on and January plays out predictably as an extreme let down then that will be the end of the road for Rafa, he’s having the pis taken out of him and will not stand for it.

    With some other yes man non entity installed guiding our path to oblivion anyone turning up at SJP without a pitch fork to hunt that fat f—— sociopath down for a lynching is a mug.

  • Geordiegiants

    Anyone thinking we will get a manger of Pulis’s standard are kidding themselves.

    • Megatron1505

      It’s an example, not a fact.

      • Geordiegiants

        Where you been like Notts?

        • Megatron1505

          I was captured by Sports Direct agents in Shirebrook and forced to pack Lonsdale tracksuits. I escaped by making a rope by weaving the strings from Donnay tennis rackets and scaled my way from the top floor of Fortress Gola.

          • Geordiegiants

            So your the saviour, you got in Jabbas head and brainwashed him to sell!

  • Desree

    I thought you had died.

    • Megatron1505

      So did I .

  • Mike

    go down……no one will buy the club

  • thewildchimp

    A decent article, some really good observations but some bad ones. Only 2 bad ones, to be precise.

    First of all, Mitro is a decent player. He was the answer for the McClaren side, Benitez thinks otherwise for his. The problem is that he is still our best and most useful forward. And Hoss playing every week isn’t working out. End of.
    I don’t mention Mitro so often because I rate him superbly or because of his passion (Colback and Stevie Taylor also love the club but tough luck) – it’s because he might actually change something. If he doesn’t – fair enough. “A drowning man will clutch at a straw”, if you want it bluntly. But, please, don’t spout nonsense that he can’t play well. Try to remember the end of the 2015/16 or just google some of the international games he took part in. Sterling missed 2 empty goals in a huge match last week and nobody is screaming for a replacement.

    Second, we don’t expect Rafa to win the PL. We expect him to win more than 1 point in 9 matches. All of these games are lost in the same manner. Now, if he experimented and got shafted – no probs. But playing the same sh’t for 2 months? No! Enough about the quality of the players! We know they are lacking. But teach them! After year and a half of playing together, they still only know how to give ball to Shelvey and hope for a miracle pass to unlock the defence or punt it long for someone to setup Ritchie for a long range effort! And, of course, don’t forget our main weapon – CDs heading during free kicks. It’s sickening to watch! Benitez can and must do better!

    • Phil

      I wouldn’t say it is as simple as saying ‘teach them’ there is only so much a manager can do and then it comes down to the player

      Mitro is worth a try I agree. But he is not our best forward. Gayle is a better finisher, is faster, his movement is better and he is not as likely to kill anybody.

      • thewildchimp

        Yeah, I agree that this bunch isn’t capable of thinking like Messi, Modric, Reus, let alone Scholes, Cruyff, Ronaldinho, Iniesta, etc. You can’t really explain it to them. I believe that’s the main reason why Rafa doesn’t rate Mitro – he kinda looks the thickest in that department, to be honest.

        That’s why he has to drill it into them. No fancy stuff, just movement on and off the ball and some patterns. Most of them are rather young, they’d learn. He probably does and selects them on that basis – but it’s clearly not working.

        Overall – you are right. But I don’t think Gayle is physically and tactically suited for a lone striker role in the Prem. Said it from the day he was brought. He’s good at the running and poaching game, but there are some of the finest defenders on the planet in this league. That Championship stuff like Shelvey drilling it from the center-line into the box isn’t gonna work here. Not on a regular basis, that is. For slower teams, people like Mitro are far more suited. And he upped his positioning game drastically under Rafa and the Serbian manager.

        If only we had someone better than Perez and Diame – this whole situation probably wouldn’t even exist…