Summer is coming and with it yet another period of uncertainty for Newcastle fans.
Will Mike Ashley sell?
Will Rafa Benitez stay?
What will the budget be?
We’ve been here before. Several times in fact. The important thing to remember in all of this is that most of what you see on Twitter, in the papers, online, is speculation. Nobody knows what’s going to happen, but it sells papers, feeds clicks, increases Retweets if you pretend you do.
How many of us have clicked the link that says we’re signing a £20m player, or Rafa has a war chest this season. Guess work, all of it.
So how do we try and work out what’s really going on.
People say you can’t predict Mike Ashley, but I would counter that, you can.
I would counter that he is remarkably predictable on the things that matter to him and what matters is that NUFC continue to generate a profile for Sports Direct. Ashley needs NUFC to be visible, to be in the Premier League, for fans to buy kits he supplies. The club is his biggest customer. None of the rest matters. He is only interested in ensuring that the 40,000 people who had season tickets this season come back and spend money next year.
40,000! What a number, what a power base. Over 100,000 people recently told the government they wanted a debate on safe standing and succeeded. Imagine if 40,000 season ticket holders (76% of ticket holders) held Ashley to account. But more of that later.
So Ashley wants us back, and the way he does that, is feeding positive news stories to the media. We’ve seen it already.
On 26 April 2018 Lee Ryder wrote a story headlined ‘Newcastle United preparing to hand Rafa Benitez licence to spend’ – see it here.
But here’s the thing.
On 21 May 2017 Lee Ryder wrote a story headlined ‘Newcastle United eyeing proven centre-forward…’ – see it here.
On 31 May 2017 we wanted ‘five or six new players through the door before July 3.’ – see it here.
We all know what happened. A summer of scraping deals together, compromising on targets and broken promises. Now I don’t believe Lee is making this stuff up. His “sources” at the club are feeding this and he is reporting it. In doing so Ashley feeds our hope. Hope of success, hope of ambition. Hope and ambition sell season tickets.
Over the next few weeks we will see story after story of hope, of contracts, signings, takeovers. Then we’ll hit 40,000 season ticket holders. Money in the bank. Then it will turn to stories of frustration, of signings taking too long. By then we’re all locked in and the cycle begins again. Although probably without Rafa.
So what can be done. Well this summer Ashley is in an unusual position of having to negotiate Rafa’s contract. One year to go. The mantra goes ‘In Rafa We Trust’ and I believe in that. What’s good enough for Rafa is good enough for me. So perhaps this summer’s mantra when the season ticket renewal lands on the door step should be…
‘I sign when Rafa signs.’
People can hold Ashley to account. We all love being season ticket holders and going to the match. It will take bravery and brinkmanship but I guarantee if season ticket renewals are down with a week to the deadline the power will have shifted and we can remind Mike Ashley of why we matter so much.
Ignore takeovers, rumours of Andy Carroll and transfer war chests. The only thing you can control is whether to renew your season ticket and I’ll sign when Rafa signs.
You can follow the author on Twitter @alanofthenorth