Easily the best Newcastle United team during the Mike Ashley era was the 2011/12 one.

Not exactly a lot of competition…

That season Newcastle finished fifth in the table and maybe there was an element of luck in terms of finishing a point ahead of sixth placed Chelsea, in terms of a fair few spectacular goals coming off that season, none more so than the two Cisse scored at Stamford Bridge in the end of season run-in.

However, there was certainly no fluke in terms of Newcastle finishing nine points clear of Everton in seventh and thirteen points ahead of Liverpool in eight. In fact, if you went the other way, Newcastle were only five points off Arsenal in third.

There were 17 players who started at least 10 Premier League matches that season, as Newcastle at last looked to have a team and squad that could establish itself in the top six, if this breakthrough season could be built on…

The feeling at the time was that a few key ambitious signings could really set the team and squad up for the next season, instead, only versatile squad player Vurnon Anita was added and even that was funded by the sale of a number of squad players.

A big thing going for that 2011/12 team/squad, was that as well as having some obvious quality amongst it, it also had a pretty perfect age profile.

When that 2011/12 season kicked off, these were the ages of the 17 players who were to go on and start 10 or more PL games, Papiss Cisse of course not signing until halfway through the season.

The age of the Newcastle United squad at start of 2011/12 season:

29 Fabricio Coloccini

28 Jonas Gutierrez

27 Mike Williamson

26 Demba Ba, Ryan Taylor, Papiss Cisse

25 James Perch, Steven Taylor, Cheick Tiote, Yohan Cabaye

24 Leon Best, Danny Guthrie, Danny Simpson, Hatem Ben Arfa

23 Tim Krul

22 Gabriel Obertan

20 Davide Santon

This was a team that could play together for years and improve season after season with the right additions.

What an opportunity wasted.

If there had been proper investment then who knows what could have been achieved.

Instead, the better players saw zero ambition and either realised they had to leave (Cabaye, Ba), or stayed and stagnated as their enthusiasm drained up and were never quite the same again (Krul, Coloccini, Tiote, Cisse, Ben Arfa).

In reality, it has been downhill pretty much ever since, even though the presence of Rafa Benitez does continue to give us hope, especially after he cajoled a relatively weak squad in 10th last season.

Newcastle United are now in a position where this below is how the age profile of the squad would look in 12 months time, unless there is serious investment.

33 Rob Elliot

32 Mohamed Diame

30 Ki Sung-yeung, Ciaran Clark, Matt Ritchie, Federico Fernandez, Martin Dubravka

29 Joselu, Karl Darlow, Henri Saivet, Dwight Gayle

28 Paul Dummett, Florian Lejeune

27 Fabian Schar, Jonjo Shelvey, Yoshinori Muto, Christian Atsu, Achraf Lazaar

26 Jamaal Lascelles, Ayoze Perez, DeAndre Yedlin

25 Javier Manquillo,

24 Isaac Hayden, Rolando Aarons, Jacob Murphy

We have now been left with an ageing squad.

A lack of investment has meant Rafa Benitez has ended up keeping players from the Championship campaign for longer than he probably intended, whilst also feeling that with so little cash to spend, he has to target older players to try and plug the gaps in quality in the short-term – rather than being able to invest for the longer-term as well.

The likes of Ki, Fernandez and Dubravka were brought in on permanent deals this summer but all will have turned 30 by this time next year. That isn’t such a bad thing on its own but when there aren’t the other more progressive bigger money deals happening for younger quality at the same time, it means no foundations are being laid for the future.

A typical Mike Ashley scenario, no long-term plan for Newcastle United, just giving the manager as little money as possible in the hope NUFC can survive in the Premier League for another season.

Rafa wasn’t even allowed to make a cash offer to buy Kenedy after his initial loan success, so if he blossoms this season then no doubt somebody else will benefit from that.

After his goals and performance against Bournemouth, a lot of Newcastle fans are hoping Rondon can be bought at the end of the season. However, he turns 30 in September and once again you are going for a temporary fix for another year or two.

I’m not saying I would be against potentially signing Rondon on a permanent deal but at some point Newcastle have to start and build a side for the future. Well run clubs invest in plaayers at all stages of their careers, whereas price consistently forces Rafa to now have to look at older players. You also have the situation where both Ki and Fernandez only signed on two year contracts, so next summer would see them contracted for only another 12 months.

We have a manager in place who could start to lay foundations in terms of turning around the failing Academy as well as building a proper first team squad, if only he received the realistic backing he needs to do so.

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  • Toontaff

    Squidward was never 22 – he was 50 at birth!

  • Paul Patterson

    I’m not that fussed about the age of the squad, I’m more concerned about the quality and depth.

    It would take a special kind of incompetence to screw up the 5th place finish in 2011 as the league was poor and our squad was good and survived injuries. Sadly, players were sold a club that was merely a stepping stone. The owner’s plan (via Graham Carr and a more than compliant Pardew) was to buy low and sell high meaning that the squad was always going to be broke up as soon as a silly bid came in and then the process would/could be repeated. Sadly, you can only get away with it so often. The well (Carr) soon dried up and the manager was shown up for what he was which was average at best if all the planets aligned and helped him through.

    Ashley thought it could go on forever so he gave the scout and the manager eight year contracts safe in the knowledge (falsely) that he could keep regurgitating the Cabaye success (bought for £5m and sold for £25m) every so often and re-invest a small portion of that profit.

    The one thing that has changed is that we have a sound manager, sadly if he goes (he won’t walk in January) then we will have a compliant manager next season (Probably Bruce) and Lascelles will become the 2019 Cabaye (bought for £5m and sold for £50m).

    Profit and greed is always the aim, not squad building. Anyone that thinks otherwise is a delusional idiot, or part of the regime. 💰💰

    • Leazes.

      In eleven years Ashley has taken a squad valued at the 6th highest to seventeenth highest…. a place a season…. it wasn’t greed it was malevolence….. he didn’t have to do it.

      • Paul Patterson

        I’ve said elsewhere that it’s what he does. Takes over somewhere, flogs the saleable assets and as a business analyst said ‘trims the fat’ off the company. How good the company is after that doesn’t matter. The profits have been reaped.

        • Leazes.

          He’s turned the Wine into Water.

          • East Durham Mag

            Six words that sum up eleven years of the Fattwat.

          • KennySamsung

            How clevers that

        • Wezza

          Spot on.

        • Leazes.

          The clubs own income and merchandising wasn’t fat…. it was the heart and lungs.

    • KennySamsung

      Who is this?
      Profit, greed, “I know best”, naiivity, diabetes, gout, didn’t listen, childish behaviour, personality issues, drunkeness, “oops I did it again”, jack the lad, everybody hates me…… boy from the hood!!
      I’m Ash on the lash with a pocket full of cash and I love bangers and mash sorry have to dash need me hash and cover me rash with another wash.

      • Ram Kishore

        The last paragraph was funny and real quality 😂👏

      • Leazes.

        Trump?

        • KennySamsung

          🤣 No.. guess again!

    • Clarko

      So you want Ashley to buy high and sell low?

      Side note, we are not and were not a “selling club”.

  • Leazes.

    How many of the squad Ashley inherited (2006/7) would feature in the present team?

    • Paul Patterson

      Given, Parker, Emre, Solano Milner, Duff, Martins, Owen?

      • Leazes.

        Good measuring stick….. Bernard, Parker, Lualua, Carroll, N’Zogbia.

        • Paul Patterson

          The thing is, they were all huge earners and disposed of as quickly as was humanly possible . .

  • KennySamsung

    “He’ll get nowt off me” said Ashley.
    Ashley runs his businesses like he runs his life, balancing on a cliff edge, if a slight breeze comes it could blow him over, so far he has been lucky.

    • Geordiegiants

      It won’t last for ever.

    • drc74

      i imagine if the fat cxnt was blown over he’d be like a turtle thats been wrong ended trying to get back up

  • mentalman

    I’m sure i recall seeing a similar article on here a few seasons ago complaining how young the squad was.

    It seems not only should The magpie group consult with The Mag on protests, the club should also consult with The Mag on what age of player they would like signed

    • JohnnyH
      • Ram Kishore

        I don’t think so he is wrong a bit Johny. Last season we had a young squad after promotion, we complained about that. Rafa felt he needed experienced players which would give us a balance.
        Now we have a good number of experienced players as Rafa had wanted, now the age of the players is an excuse of players?

        There are enough for The Mag and others here to blame him. Doesn’t this seem a bit cooked up.
        The club was buying younger players 3 years ago. Now this summer they have brought in experience. Next window we may buy players in mid 20s. Just being honest here

    • Damon Horner

      Personally don’t think the age of this squad is that much of a worry.

      • Ram Kishore

        Most of the players who are around 30 have a year or two left on their contracts. Unless they do well, they won’t be getting a contract extension.

        • Damon Horner

          Probably, which is a good thing. It avoids a Colback scenario and we’ve had too many of those under Ashley.

          If we are able to freshen during the transfer window the transition only needs to be gradual, not too much to worry about at this stage for me.

  • Down Under Mag

    All depends on point of view, but Fatty won’t be bothered – I think he would be happy to squeeze as much out of the current squad and then offload when it all gets to the point of falling apart (training ground, St James Park or the actual squad, he won’t care as long as he’s made his millions off us and can leave with who knows what kind of noose around the clubs neck for the new owners – in fact it would be likely that if he does sell it may seem “on the cheap” specifically to ensure that deals for revenue streams are kept in place).

  • Burt Humperdink

    Why are we talking about how old a squad is a year from now? that’s bizarre. Ashley clearly has a bias towards youth so not sure you can knock him on that front. In fact it is Rafa who is notorious for preferring ready made talents in their late 20’s and early 30’s. It’s literally something he is known for, Mourinho too. Proven by the fact he pushed for the purchases of Hernandez and Rondon in order to increase the experience in the squad.

    Generally I would say age is a non factor as most successful teams skew older anyway.