I’ve been back in the north east recently for some holiday, and when I walked into my favourite pub for my first pint of Bass in months, the landlord looked at my Newcastle United Polo shirt and immediately said “what’s going on there then?!”.

I’ve got to admit that I am just as baffled as he is by the current shenanigans at St James’ Park. I am scratching my head at the fact that just four months after the relief of a top half finish we’re already waist deep in a relegation slog, just as our jolly friends down the A19 seem to be bossing the third tier.

Much of the criticism has focused on our low spending and our team’s lack of depth and experience, as well as quality in critical positions.  For a club that’s profited so well from the transfer market, failure to reinvest in talent feels like we’re selling the family silver.  And few premium brands seem willing to associate with the pervasive feeling of cheapness that Sports Direct gives our club, so commercial income has stagnated.

But for me, ultimately it’s not about the money; money is just one way to win games, compete and move on.  If management were doing anything else that was strengthening the club in any way then it might make their broken promises to reinvest sales seem less painful.

But everything points to an asset stripping activity, to a hollowing out of the club.  Social media has recently pointed to the run-down state of SJP as well as the complete absence of a state-of-the-art training facility.

The True Faith fanzine have done solid work in pointing to inconsistencies between the club accounts and the owner’s stated ambitions.  One of their podcast interviews with Rangers fans (part-owned by Ashley) raised a fear that key club assets including commercial trademarks may no longer be owned by Newcastle United.

There seems to be something wrong within the first-team squad, things not gelling and the great gains players like Diame made last season having vanished over the summer.  Matt Ritchie’s overwrought reaction to being subbed against Spurs was a worrying sign of tensions under the surface.  Isaac Hayden’s disgraceful behaviour at Cardiff should see him never play for us again, but that would give him the transfer away he’s been agitating for all summer.

The club relations with fans appears to be hitting new depths, whether the season ticket price rises, the refusal to grant fan groups storage for matchday flags or the recent cancelling of the Fans Forum.

And worst of all is the media campaign to destabilise a manager who seems to be the one senior club employee who’s working to win games, Rafa Benitez.  The Chronicle have wisely refused to report any longer on the most ill-informed allegations from failed pundits, but the most unforgivable aspect of this is that there are signs that this campaign may originate within club circles.

There’s increasing agitation from our community that this stripping is going too far.  #IfRafagoesIgo may be criticised as the usual bigmouth dissatisfied fans, but when your MP brings up NUFC’s mismanagement in Parliament, then you know something is going wrong.

Everything seems to be pointing one way, to the owner undermining his own club until it collapses.  So the overarching feeling around the club is a premonition of impending doom rather than the mouthwatering anticipation of an exciting campaign.

That’s taken its toll on me this summer, when I normally attend every home game I can (not many!)  This summer, the lure of the sunny beach has proven too much for me, I’ve stayed away, and I sense from social media that I am not the only one that’s slowly losing faith in a fairytale ending for Newcastle.

So is that how it all ends, with a shrug of the shoulders in the pub?  I sincerely hope not, and if we can beat the odds this season to bring back the feel-good factor, then I’ll be the first to raise my glass to that in May.

You can follow Paul on Twitter @heravalue

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  • Rev

    Why not with a shrug of the shoulders in the pub …. an Owner who won’t invest at the going rate, a world class manager who it seems has to rely on goal difference to stay in the Premier League, a team thats set out to stifle the opposition which never seems to have a plan B when plan A doesnt work and players who either dont want to be here or who cant get a game because the game plan is survive on goal difference. Can anyone who has been going for 20 years or more remember a time when they had less enthusiasm for games like Forrest away in the cup? Remember the Entertainers? The sad part is its not just one thing (the Owner), its everything. Things are not going to change without a massive change. Anyone can see that. Why not the pub?

    • kingfisher

      There will never be a ” massive change” Rev, as S.J.P will always be full no matter what goes on or who’s in charge,so therefore why on earth would Ashley kill the goose that lays the golden egg?

    • GlasgowMag

      I will give you a hint at the problem at the top of your sentence you mentioned “An owner who won’t invest at the going rate”. Their lies the problem everything else you had mentioned is a consequence of your original statement!!! Wake up and smell the coffee guys remove the fire place lover and then there will be no need to shrug your shoulders any more Ashley out!!!

  • BanJones

    Sorry mate the pub is closed but you can get something sold as beer that is cloudy and tastes of strawberries served to you by a man with a beard round the corner. I’m 57 you know.

  • SuperDesHamilton

    Can’t argue with this at all, good article

  • Billmag

    Initially when Rafa signed up for us we all dared to dream, but unfortunately everyone is not allowed to dream under the man that is slowly strangling the life out of this club.

    • Will In Despair!

      I’ve thought for a while maybe this was a main objective when employing Rafa; give the fans a respected manager they could only wish for, one with all the credentials with plenty top level experience, one that’s won many titles and has the pedigree even top clubs would love to have, and that’s it, and where it ends!
      Then watch them squirm, when he starves said manager of everything he needs to, well I won’t say succeed, as its blatantly obvious he doesn’t want that, so starves him of just about everything!

      Sickening really!

      • Sickandtired

        He’s got a quality manager who is proving his worth – by keeping the club on the gravy train while the owner contributes as little as possible. Well, he contributes nowt at all actually.

  • disqus_XQXm6KjMkq

    Why invest when you cannot compete with the money and rosters of clubs funded by the richest people in the world? won’t happen until there is a salary cap, roster limits and a draft. The Prem might lose its status as the top league, but every team in the UK would have a chance to win something if they were well managed.

    • TheFatController

      Well, if you earn the money you can invest it to have a cup run.

      Wigan, Hull, Portsmouth, Southampton – even that lot down the road – all have a day at Wembley to look back on as a result of investing. Yes, some have been relegated, but it’s not as though that’s a fate we’ve avoided whilst not investing and not going for the cups…

    • Sickandtired

      In any other business in the world, if you don’t improve your services and product then the customer will walk. Ashley doesn’t need to care about either as it’s Sky keeping his business afloat. Pretty sure he couldn’t care less if the ground was only 1/4 full either, because of that.

    • Jonas

      because if you don’t you get relegated
      we’ve proved it, everybody else has proved it
      you’ve got to spend money to make money in this “game”
      why does every other club bar us, EVERY other club, do it?

  • Lostprofit DBC

    Unrest is mounting but the fans still feel powerless. Our regularity on Sky just shows where our grievance can be advertised. A difficult start, Rafa’s precarious position and underlying bitterness will spark action. I just hope that the effect of Sky tv isn’t overlooked, mass boycott at a televised game?

  • Peaco

    Trust your Polo shirt is an old one, and hasn’t helped to line Fatty’s pockets?

  • Kenny

    Rafa will leave, the fans will shrug their shoulders then go and buy a season ticket
    the Fat Rat will be in the Spit & Vomit downing the pints & planning what shops to buy next when he gets the annual tv money. same old, same old.

    • TheFatController

      My money’s on Gordon strachan to undo any good work Rafa manages this season.

      Whether wee Gordon relegates us from the PL or the Championship means I can’t put my money where my mouth is yet..

      • Sickandtired

        I doubt Ashley would brave Strachan’s temperament. He likes spineless yes men.

        • TheFatController

          Joe Kinnear, the third coming it is then!

          • Kenny

            heart attack Jack, nothing would surprise me when it comes to the Fat Rat

    • Jonas

      when Rafa leaves, we’ll likely be relegated thereafter – I’d shrug my shoulders at anybody but kids that still went to games, at how some people are just to stupid to see how counter productive they are and how obviously they’re being laughed at by a revolting slob. What else can you do but give up when you’re talking to people that stupid.
      “a patriot must be willing to defend his country against its government”

  • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

    “Run-down state of SJP???” When did that happen? it looked fine to me.

    • Kenny

      In 11 years how much has Ashley spent improving the ground & facilities

      • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

        £3.5m has been spent on the building and property improvements.

        The repairs are not listed as these will be in the P&L.

        How is SJP in a run down state? Moreover, you’ve not been in it.

        • Kenny

          The money spent is mostly to comply with health & safety regulations for UK stadiums, in other words he was forced to spend the money, he’s vermin.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            Really, do you care to list them?

            There doesn’t seem to ave been many updates to the the H&S requirements since the extension was built.

            as for vermin, given your other log-in, you would know.

          • Chris-Chapple

            you seem to pull figures out of the air which just happen to match ones supplied by trolls. unless you are Nufcs certified accountant your posts are pure fantasy

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            I pulled the figure off the accounts filed with companies House.

            So, not pulled out of the air but qualified and signed off by a chartered accountant.

          • Chris-Chapple

            You mean like the ones HMRC impounded last year, tell that to the fairies

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            Or the ones that HMRC did us for in 2005/6.

            HMRC do not have a problem with our accounts, they think the way we pay the agent is avoiding payroll taxes. It’s interesting because if that’s the case, then the VAT case they won against the club in 2006 is potentially unsafe. HMRC can’t get 2 lots of tax.

          • Wezza

            Just block the troll mate, he is a wind up merchant who gets off on getting a reaction. Very sad.

          • Chris-Chapple

            I gathered that.

    • Chris-Chapple

      through rose tinted glasses

      • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

        What was the problem? I was there professionally in July, it looked rather good. There was a lot of work going on but not run down.

        • Superdooperhooper

          In what capacity were you there may I ask ? On ashley’s payroll are you ? Did you see Monkseaton in the lift?

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            No, I was there in a consultative capacity for a client who was doing some work for the Ed Sheeren gig.

          • Superdooperhooper

            That’s apt . Sheeran is very pedestrian and rafa has a bus! And I didn’t say the figures were incorrect. I said there’s an obvious difference between a debt and a liability

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            But he rinsed out the paper liabilities to only report the debt. In fact he missed out some debt.

          • Superdooperhooper

            I must be thick but I only learned accounts at gcse level. However I thought a debt was a sensible serviceable thing say a loan for home improvement which would add value. And a liability was someone going to the casino and maxing out their credit card. But according to you and Monkseaton they’re the same thing.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            Not saying you are thick but I’ve got a fair few more qualifications than a GCSE. Your definition is very narrow. Even on a personal finance level, that credit card bill is a debt.

            In terms of corporate finance, anything that is owed is a debt, not just a loan but overdraft, credit cards, trade creditors, crown creditors and any other advances.

            With NuFC, there are a couple of other liabilities that I’d consider as close to debt. For instance, the club had a VAT liability at 2007 where HMRC took us to court for VAT on agents fees. We lost the case and had a liability, we’d not paid the money we owed – a debt?. When Ashley took over, he appealed the case and failed in the appeal and we had to pay up in 2010. That showed as a liability in 2007, would you call that a debt? The liability resulted in Mike Ashley having to lend more money into the club in 2010 (along with other issues) in order to pay the resulting bill. The figure was in the liabilities of 2007, it looked a lot like debt to me.

            For NUFC, the problem wasn’t just your definition of debt, it was the £50m+ that was owed to creditors other than the bank which is also debt.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            how did you get on with those figures you were claiming to be incorrect?

        • JohnCornwell’sHair

          Outside concrete and metal struts are manky.
          Self seeded tree’s springing up all over, place needs a good spruce up.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            Which bit, gallowgate?

          • JohnCornwell’sHair

            Leazes end, right mess.

  • Sickandtired

    “…feels like we’re selling the family silver.”. Too late for that, mate. Ashley stole it all already.

    • panther

      That was sold years ago

  • Jonas

    firstly I hope we never get to “boss” the third tier, if that’s bothering you, tell the SMB’s to get a life and a reality check. That’s like Rangers bossing the lower leagues in Scotland, do you know I don’t think Celtic, Hearts or anybody else did anything but laugh or not give a s***, so should you.
    The good news is that if/when we’re relegated and when Rafa goes, its all down hill from there, gates, clubs value, income for him and the more he asset strips the lower it all gets – that’s our best change of getting rid of him.
    That Nottingham Forest (a middling second tier club) have a net spend £20million plus more than us is truly sickening, we have no business being in the PL with that little investment.

  • East Durham Mag

    The only work on the ground has been garish Sh*t Dir*ct logo’s being plastered ad nauseam on every place possible. The Fat One must now laughing into his Stella at discord starting among supporters egged on by his minions Bishop and henchmen in the media.

    • Chris-Chapple

      i doubt the actual amount spent amounts to 1 penny

      • East Durham Mag

        Very likely when it is looked at from an accounting perspective. It boilsmypiss looking at it all over the place it looks cheap like Fattys shops.

  • Jimblag23

    I for one can genuinely say I’m feeling a lull in my enthusiasm at the moment, for example i haven’t bothered to watch one MOTD and I have zero burning desire to watch tonight’s game. I will, because I still support Rafa and the boys but if there is one more major negative setback eg Rafa leaving, I can see me tailing off in support. Purely out of boredom of the whole Ashley saga.

  • panther

    Well that wasn’t very good, I like the regy kray fancy dress though

  • X,WHY,Y MAN.

    Still hoping that “Apathy” will eventually put paid to the Ashley Regime but with 52,000 people lining his pockets, It could be a very long game before the penny drops for most folk !

  • magpiefifer

    Some good points Paul – very depressing isn’t it!!!?
    Now we’ll watch our exit from the League Cup!

    • Jimmy_toons

      Do you happen to be Mystic Mag-piefifer?

      • magpiefifer

        Of course!!
        Hate to tell you,but we’ll be relegated this season.

  • Return of the Mack

    I’m staggered that it’s taken the majority of Newcastle fans 11 years to realise what a leech Mike Ashley is. He’s had history in every line of business he’s been in. Listening to the Rangers fan podcast I am scared as to what he has done behind the scenes that fans know nothing about. We need to stop going to televised games. Let the world see what a corrupt owner we have. It won’t happen though. He thrives on the sheep fans we have.