So, the old Europe argument has once again reared its ugly head this week. The reason being that we are playing Burnley next and they are one of a number of teams that just can’t seem to get their heads around the problems associated with qualifying for it.

I understand that the way the fixtures are structured can be an inconvenience, but it should be just that, an inconvenience. It shouldn’t be a major obstacle to completing the fixture calendar, nor should it send a club into a mad panic that they have a few extra games to play.

I know footballers can be creatures of habit, but if you’re seriously telling me that altering their working week to play on a Thursday night and a Sunday afternoon (or Monday night) then these overpaid millionaires really need a reality check. Surely they all aspire to play for top clubs? Surely that would mean playing midweek and again at the weekend? It can’t be the players that are the problem with this fear of European qualification.

Burnley manager Sean Dyche, who has a growing respect in the game, came out with “When you go through it and you look back and you reflect on it, you understand why it’s well documented, you understand why all the managers come off it and go ‘massive challenge’. Well, If you under invest like Burnley did last summer I’m not surprised it’s a challenge.

How has it become a ‘massive challenge’ all of a sudden? Players are fitter, have all the right diets, have all the best facilities to train in and the vast majority of places can be reached by plane in under three hours. It seems to have been a mantra over the last decade that European competition is more of a hindrance to some clubs than a prestigious target to aspire to.

Back in 2012 when Newcastle United last qualified for the Europa League, the alarm bells were ringing at St James Park after our Premier League form took an alarming hit and we struggled against relegation. This and the attitude to Europe as a whole should be attributed to bad management, both from the coaches AND the club’s higher management, and NOT the fact that clubs have an extra few games to play.

In 2012, once Newcastle secured 5th place, that should have been another watershed moment for Mike Ashley and the people running the club. It should have been a time to build, to add quality and depth to the squad, yet instead all we got was Vurnon Anita for £6m. That wouldn’t have been good enough to consolidate on 5th place, never mind improve on it AND tackle a European campaign.

Alan Pardew (bless him) can hardly be described as a miracle worker. However, he got the club to 5th place because he simply had too much quality at his disposal to finish much lower in what was a poor league that season, and anyone who thinks otherwise, is seriously over-egging Pardew’s abilities as manager.

In a season where Chelsea and Liverpool massively underachieved and with a squad consisting of Tim Krul, Fabricio Coloccini, Davide Santon, Danny Simpson, Yohan Cabaye, Cheick Tiote, Jonas Gutierrez, Hatem Ben Arfa, Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse, you’d be hard pressed to struggle.

If I have any sympathy for Pardew, it’s that he was unlikely to be warmed to by the fans up here, based on the fact that he isn’t a good manager. The fact that he was an apologist for the owner and blamed everyone but himself, is a moot point, but I digress.

The point being made is that for nine months, clubs battle it out through a 38 game fixture list and we all know three will falter and lose Premier League status, while another four will qualify for Champions League football and 5th place will get you into the Europa League group stages.

A further two teams will qualify for the qualifying rounds if they win either the FA Cup or the EFL Cup. Now depending on who finishes where, it’s also feasible that a 6th or 7th place finish could get you into the Europa League so it’s definitely something to aim for. That is, if you’re a football fan, not so much if you’re the owner of a football club it seems these days.

Newcastle United have had a policy in recent years of not trying in cup competitions so getting into Europe via that route is out. A serious lack of investment puts 5th place well out of reach, especially considering the teams that spend way more than what we do/have done. So we are left with what exactly?

If you look at the current Premier League table, any team from Leicester City in 10th I would mark down as being relatively safe from relegation even at this early stage. This would give those teams scope to have a crack at either the European places, the cups, or both. Everybody from 11th downwards has the dubious honour of simply fighting relegation I’m afraid and that’s the group that Newcastle find themselves in.

Sadly, as I’ve already stated, what exactly is the point of the league campaign for well over half of the teams currently in this division? People may not like what I’m about to say but it must surely be merely survival.

The top four is currently proving a challenge to break into even for the Arsenals and the Manchester Uniteds of this world and with Everton, Bournemouth and Watford sniffing round, qualifying for Europe is no more than a pipe dream for Newcastle fans under this current regime. That is unless we start taking the cups seriously and for that, we need to spend some money to ensure that we can look at the cups without taking our eyes off the ball in the league.

Then again, what on earth is the point of having a crack at qualifying for Europe if the second we do, competing in it is held as a ‘massive challenge’ and a major culprit if we struggle the following season?

I’ve never advocated spending fortunes at Newcastle United as I don’t think it’s necessary. Last summer, if the money we banked was spent on Rafa Benitez’ first choice transfer targets and they were brought in BEFORE pre-season, I’m convinced we would be in a far healthier position than we currently find ourselves.

This could have allowed us to at least have a go at the cups instead of being in perpetual limbo with only survival to aim for. We already know the aim of the owner is survival and nothing more and at the most minimum of expenditure possible. Sure he’d like to finish higher but it’s also true that he’d also gamble on relegation (and has done season after season) rather than risk qualifying for Europe, as that would mean massive investment would be required.

It’s for this reason that two factions won’t be around next season if Ashley remains in situ.

Firstly, Rafa Benitez, he isn’t an also ran, he harbours a project and the project he sees for Newcastle will include some sort of progress, not middling about in the lower half of the table forever.

The second group that won’t be here next season if Rafa goes, is many, many fans who will simply have had enough. If Rafa walks, it will be a cast iron assurance of zero ambition, as if we needed any further confirmation.

There is no point in a club existing simply to make up the numbers season after season. At some point an effort has to be made.

The food chain of the Premier League doesn’t help, but there are teams in the league, that make a far better fist of it than Newcastle United do under Ashley.

Either back the club and the manager properly or sell up and clear off, because this groundhog day scenario that he has run the club into is getting mighty tedious, annoying and certainly no fun at all. Failure I can handle but not merely existing as a ghost club for the club’s billionaire owner.

Once again, If Rafa leaves at the end of this campaign, I won’t be around next season to participate in the charade any further.

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  • Viru leckworth

    Me too. A supporter since 1952. If Rafa goes, there go I.

    • wheyayeman

      And Aye also

      • Viru leckworth

        And me mam.

        • Wezza

          And me.

          • Leazes.

            ….and me gran….. and a bucket of vindaloo…

    • Kenny

      I`ve already gone, won`t be back until the Rat leaves

    • KennySamsung

      If Rafa goes and the no mark stays I go!

  • Rich Lawson

    Love a cup run with favourable draws,it’s exciting and gives a glimmer of hope of silver, but you need to play the 1st team,who as the writer says should have no bother playing an extra game of football in the UK,3rd to 5th round of the FA Cup,Prem’ games aren’t generally played that day anyway.Even for a tenner (recent seasons) I don’t want to turn up to see mostly reserves get turned over by a lower league team who are excited by the competition (and presumably have a smaller squad and a bigger league fixture list ?)

  • Albert Stubbins

    your choice- there’s no guarantees with any club barring Man City. Even if we got a new owner in who invested in the team (here’s hoping) it would be years until we could be realistically expected to challenge for a European place as most clubs have invested over the last ten years thus have an enormous advantage over us. No doubt you’ll be back again when all is rosy in the garden, sorry but football rarely works out that way irrespective of the owner.

    • Carverlier football

      There’s no guarantees, but there is such a thing as at least trying to achieve your maximum potential. Not that we’d know about that… Underachievement through mismanagement is one thing, but our club’s underachievements are deliberate which is unacceptable

      • Albert Stubbins

        I agree 100% but my point is that there no guarantee of success irrespective of how much is invested in the team. Even during arguably our best period in recent times we still won nothing. Of course it would be nice to be able to compete but even with investment in the team it will take several years to catch up with the rest- i.e Everton/Spurs who we were on a par with before Fatso came in.

        • Carverlier football

          I agree there’s no guarantee of success, I’m just frustrated we don’t try to succeed. The players try, the manager tries, the club doesn’t, and if the club isn’t even trying to be successful what’s the point? The main point I can see is getting rid of Ashley, above and beyond whatever is happening on the pitch. As you say though, it’s down to individuals to make up their own minds.

      • t00nraider

        Deliberate underachievement? Hadaway. A lot of money was spent on managers and players who failed to deliver and the financial mess the previous regime caused. We are slowly recovering. If we stick together to keep in the prem in the next couple of seasons we will be on the up. Keep the faith.

    • Martin Rooney

      I think it’s crazy to think that mansour will just sit back and watch if a rich new owner comes into the premier league and tries to do what he has. If that owner spends £350m on a club £650m on players, Mansour will only need to spend £250m to stay well out in front of the new noisey competitor.

      I think it’s best to just let the self indulgent idiot get on with it.

    • Steven05

      I get the feeling that our fans aren’t demanding or expecting trophies even if/when a new owner comes in – but just want the club to TRY. Let the club spend what the club makes – reinvest transfer sales and TV income – act like every other football club does. I’ve yet to speak to someone in the North East who expects their club to win anything, but when you feel the club is TRYING to win, surely that’s what it’s all about, or at least, it should be?

      • Albert Stubbins

        Again I agree- the people Ive got a problem with are the ones who seem to think everything will be great when/If Fatso goes- the ones who wont come back until we are competing again. I agree with you in that the vast majority of just want us to reach our potential (whatever that is). There are no guarantees in football nor is there any guarantee that the person (s) who replaces Fatso will pump an infinite amount of money in. Do people then stop going then as well?

        • Steven05

          I would hope not! You rightly point out that most just want us to reach our potential. While none of us know what that potential is – I think we all know it’s far greater than what we are being given right now/under Ashley’s reign. It is possible we could get someone just as bad or even worse – but I’d certainly love to find out!

          • X2

            Yes. I just want a club that genuinely tries to be the best it can be. NUFC is dead under Ashley. I respect the players as professionals and not their fault, but watching them play under the Ashley asset-strip regime is like watching a battle re-enactment and trying to kid yourself it’s a real war-zone.

  • Mike

    agree with your comments….but 50k will still turn up regardless buy in Sports Direct and moan about the setup. nothing changes

  • Martin Rooney

    Paul, had the ref done his job against Burnley last season in just the two games against NUFC last season they wouldn’t be in Europe, had we also got what we deserved against Everton, then it would have been us in this european competition. I understand many will think hyperbole, but to me it’s fact. We aren’t a horrendous team we won’t go down and it’s irresponsible to go chasing the recklessness of city and chelsea’s owners to try and compete at the very top, without it taking evenmore money out of the hands of the poorest in societies across the globe in order to give rich men sporting pleasure , it’s quite sickening actually those two clubs along with PSG, AC milan and a few others should be shoved out of the game not coveted.

    We are were we are and it’s pretty good compared to most with an even playing field we’re easily in the top ten in this country. Not bad.

    • X2

      Sports Direct is just a really sh*t company though, isn’t it? Vicious, bullying work practices: how anyone with half a conscience can buy their tat is beyond me.

      • Martin Rooney

        Depends on your experience and knowledge I guess some directly employed staff will see other facts as equally or more important like that no other company in the ftse has increased employee ownership levels as sports direct has increasing the staffs wealth beyond any other retail store. They will feel differently to nmw agency doing the casual come and go work in the warehouse.
        They sell some tat which I’ve bought and I’ve also bought some really high quality sports gear there at bargain prices.
        The wifes also bought a load of tat at harrods on a day trip to London.

        • X2

          “Mike Ashley, Deputy Executive Chairman, founder of, and majority shareholder in Sports Direct must be held accountable for the appalling working conditions and practices at the retailer’s shops and at the Shirebrook warehouse in Derbyshire, the Business, Innovation and Skills
          (BIS) Select Committee finds in its report on Employment practices at Sports Direct.”

          • Martin Rooney

            Didn’t he agree with that statement? Saying you would be very concerned if you kids were working at a place like that……I’ll be taking a keen interest to see we improve.
            And isn’t it reported they are now paying above the living wage for those over 25 ( to who it applies) and is also one of the two fastest improving employers for working conditions in the UK?

          • Wezza

            That’s a troll.

          • X2

            Thanks, Wezza. I reckon he’s either a troll or one of Ashley’s PR mob and just wondered what would happen if I tried countering the PR with home-truths about Sports Direct. Just an experiment.

          • Wezza

            I’d say go for it! Like the Grant Thornton investigation into SD accounts… they do our accounts too!

    • GlasgowMag

      Ye not bad!! No intention of ever going for a trophy or challenging for the European places!! Just a advertising board for a low budget tat shop yip we are all blessed!!

  • Wezza

    Good article Paul and spot on about Pardew.

  • KennySamsung

    The apathy of it all! only a brainless moron without any passion could not be moved by the static and unambitious persuit of unhappiness which this owner sweats from every pore in his body. When you aren’t happy an intelligent person shouts it from the roof tops, to do nothing is to stand still, or in this case sit still.

  • Wezza

    From the Ronnie:

    “Newcastle United have the fourth lowest average first-team wage bill in the Premier League, according to a new report on global sports wages.

    The reputable Global Sports Salaries Survey – published by Sporting Intelligence – ranks United at 17th in the Premier League and reports the club has the 166th highest wage bill in world sport.”

    I’ve been saying this again and again for months now. We NEVER had a massive wage bill in the championship either. Lazaar never was in 100k and the accounts are manipulating the truth. Mind, Independent auditor Grant Thornton, paid for by FCB, did our accounts and is also under investigation for SD accounts.
    Why oh why this gets overlooked is beyond me! 50k still go and actually think everything is above board! Staggering!
    Comments please, trolls will be blocked.

    • Leazes.

      It correlates well with the squad valuation which was 17th as well…. that is where this owner has placed the club with a top manager.

      its a slow decline mostly unnoticed by the chronicle who are a good friend to the regime….

      ….Ashley couldn’t have gotten away with the strip if it hadn’t been for the pesky Douglas and Ryder….. only at this club will you get betrayal at this scale!

  • Leicester Mag

    Wezza sums it up to a tee. Every word eminating from this shytehouse is a lie. He’s laughing in our faces, wreaking the club and the area

  • Paul Edwards

    Mr Patterson has hit nail truly on its head either sell up or back the manager the same shyte season after season is getting boring where you say the manager will have every penny if that were true Rafa would have had a transfer kitty of £100 million plus and we wouldn’t be having this discussion season after season