We are now in the 11th year of the Mike Ashley occupation of Newcastle United.
What a waste.
We have a generation of Newcastle supporters who know nothing else but life under the Fat Controller.
NUFC don’t have a great record when it comes to having ambitious, upstanding, selfless club owners, but Mike Ashley has taken it to a whole new level.
Most seasons spent battling relegation, that is when not busy trying to get promoted back to the Premier League.
As well as his assaults on the spirit of the club (renaming SJP, Wonga, lies about the fans, abuse of club legends, guilty of discrimination against cancer sufferer Jonas) and so much energy being put into the manipulation of the media (in cahoots with Sky Sports, Keith Bishop, media partners etc etc), maybe the most amazing thing of all has been his total failure to spot an opportunity.
For a man who is always on the lookout for his next opportunity in business, how can he so regularly fail to spot it when he comes to the football club he owns, especially when he has employed an expert who is telling him so…?
Momentum in football isn’t quite everything but it is intrinsic to any chance of success.
After Mike Ashley managed to get Newcastle relegated in 2008/09 he made a massive profit in the transfer window of summer 2009 as he didn’t give Chris Hughton a penny to spend.
Despite relying on signing free transfers and loan players, Hughton masterminded promotion as champions.
His reward on promotion, was only around £4m to spend, Newcastle did stay up despite Ashley unfairly sacking Hughton, a clear case though of wasted momentum.
Maybe the most obvious example though under Ashley, has to be summer 2012.
Newcastle had somehow ended up in fifth place and just missed out on a Champions League spot. With match winners Ba, Ben Arfa, Cabaye and Cisse in the team, win after win was achieved via wonder goals.
That fifth place was never going to be replicated with only the same group of players…but with a few key quality recruits, a massive opportunity for Newcastle to establish themselves as a top six club for some time to come.
Instead a number of players were sold, including future England international Fraser Forster, to fund the purchase of…Vurnon Anita. A player who can’t even get a game for Leeds in the Championship this season.
Instead of building on that fifth place momentum, Newcastle almost ended up relegated, only reaching safety when winning the final away game of that 2012/13 season.
There are countless other smaller examples but moving forward to summer 2017 we have the latest stand out failure of not building on momentum.
Bouncing straight back from relegation, with a respected Champions League/double La Liga winning manager, 51,000+ average crowds in the second tier, over 40,000 season tickets sold ahead of the first game and…Mike Ashley does it again.
His manager/expert reduced to asking throughout the final six weeks of the transfer window if the Newcastle United owner was going to keep his transfer window ‘promises‘.
Whilst fellow promoted clubs Huddersfield and Brighton did everything to try and build on their momentum with £40m+ net spends in the summer, Rafa was allowed a net spend of just over a quarter of that figure.
Rafa was furious at the end of the summer window (as he had been back in January when led to believe he would be allowed to bring in extra players, only for nobody to arrive) when Ashley didn’t keep those promises.
The last few weeks have seen Rafa Benitez talking about the money that wasn’t spent in the summer as being his starting point for January investment.
Remarkably, Rafa has still made Newcastle United competitive despite the lack of backing, actually coming out top when it comes to all the game so far between those clubs in the bottom half of the table. Even though the lack of quality has really shown when coming up against the better clubs in the top half.
Currently standing at 13th in the Premier League with 22 points, though with still a lot of work to do to get safety.
However, Mike Ashley is presented with yet another opportunity of using the momentum that is now being generated by Rafa Benitez.
Putting together a run of seven points from nine in the three of the four games that weren’t against Manchester City, Newcastle now face League Two in the FA Cup and then Swansea in the Premier League, both at home.
You would hope Newcastle should cope with Luton and just imagine if on top of that at least two good signings are made by the end of this week, giving them over a week to train and be part of the squad to take on Swansea.
Newcastle suddenly in the FA Cup 4th round and on 25 points from 23 games, with quite possibly only another four wins needed to get safety.
Maybe a generous fourth round home tie and one or two other players signed before the end of January.
This may all seem still like dreamland at the minute but every journey starts with a single step, no matter how far it ends up going.
Leicester City were Premier League Champions only 15 months or so after staring relegation near certainty in the face.
Nobody is claiming Newcastle can replicate that but the Foxes built ambitiously on that 2014/15 staying up and reaped massive rewards.
Mike Ashley is once again at a crossroads. Failing to back Rafa Benitez this month is tantamount to buying a ticket for the relegation raffle.
By belatedly supporting his manager/expert, Ashley would be giving the opportunity to build on these small shoots of new momentum and who knows where it will take us.
No doubt many of you will be saying what about the takeover and yes, obviously that is what we all want. However, just like everyday life, you can’t keep your life on hold and just sit there waiting for a lottery win.
Much as I hate Mike Ashley for all that he has done, if he just let Rafa Benitez get on with the job and properly supported him, then we would be all talking about the triangle of manager, players and fans, which is the way it should be anyway.
Momentum is back and opportunity knocks once again.