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Top journalist – No interest covering Sunderland and Boro games it’s all about covering Newcastle

4 months ago
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Newcastle United travel to Brighton on Saturday.

Rafa Benitez takes his team the length of the country as he hopes to match last season’s 44 points total with two games to spare.

Also heading to Brighton is Newcastle United fan George Caulkin.

However, he is heading there in his professional capacity, as the foremost journalist covering north east football.

The man from The Times explains that…times have changed, that when it comes to covering north east football matches he covers Newcastle United and that is it.

The newspaper readership interest isn’t there to justify him attending Sunderland or Middlesbrough matches, so rather than Middlesbrough v Reading or Sunderland v Portsmouth, he is travelling all the way to the south coast for Brighton v Newcastle.

Sunderland and Middlesbrough fans might not enjoy that harsh truth but the same for Newcastle supporters when they hear what else George Caulkin has had to say.

He contrasts the ambition shown by Brighton owner Tony Bloom compared to Mike Ashley at Newcastle, especially when it comes to the infrastructure.

As well as financing and building a brand new stadium, Tony Bloom has invested massively in the rest of the infrastructure, leading the eman from The Times to declare: ‘Investment can be in the first team but it can also be the academy, the training ground, infrastructure. I have been to Brighton’s training ground a couple of times and it’s breathtaking. That feels like a club doing things right and perhaps over-achieving. Newcastle don’t do that. If they decide they can’t afford to spend fortunes on players, why can’t they at least be the biggest club in the North in terms of finding and producing their own players? They haven’t done that either.’

Caulkin says that Newcastle United are the only Premier League club between Burnley and Scotland and should be going all out to set themselves up as the ‘club of the north’, attracting all the best young talent, saying that Rafa realises this. No prizes for guessing who doesn’t realise this…

When the latest Newcastle United (2017/18) accounts came out, Lee Charnley justified the lack of investment in Newcastle’s infrastructure with some shameless comments on behalf of Mike Ashley. Six years ago Newcastle fans were told a state of the art new training complex would be built and that it was essential if Newcastle were going to be able to compete. However, when asked about it, Charnley’s embarrassing response was: ‘In my experience, has a player turned round and said I’m not signing for Newcastle United because of your training facilities? No. Did it stop us getting promoted out of the Championship, did it stop us finishing tenth, did it stop us having a good season this season? No.’

Only £10m was invested in the entire Newcastle United infrastructure over the course of the first 10 years of Mike Ashley’s reign, £1m on average per year spent on Capital Expenditure which is defined as ‘Money spent by a business or organisation on acquiring or maintaining fixed assets, such as land, buildings, and equipment.’

To put that into perspective, a study (see here) by football finance expert ‘Swiss Ramble’ showed that in that same 10 year period, Brighton owner Tony Bloom had spent £159m on capital expenditure, including brand new stadium and state of the art training complex.

George Caulkin talking to the official Brighton site:

“The north-east isn’t so much of a patch any more – it’s Newcastle only as far as matches are concerned, so I’ve looked farther afield when they are not at home both in matches but also in subjects to write about.

“And because Newcastle have been clinging on and Sunderland were too for years before they finally went, the reporting hasn’t been exactly life-affirming so I have wanted to go elsewhere to find something more positive.

“If you go down the pyramid you find some amazing stories and people who are very pleased that you’re interested in telling them.

Rafa has been fabulous.

“It is hard to explain the depth of affection for him to people outside the club but beyond his CV is also the fact that he came to Newcastle talking about potential and talking about history and stature.

“The supporters hadn’t been able to think about it in those terms for quite a long time. It still looks like a big club in terms of the stadium and the number of fans but it behaves like a small club,

“Investment can be in the first team but it can also be the academy, the training ground, infrastructure.

“I have been to Brighton’s training ground a couple of times and it’s breathtaking.

“That feels like a club doing things right and perhaps over-achieving. Newcastle don’t do that.

“If they decide they can’t afford to spend fortunes on players, why can’t they at least be the biggest club in the North in terms of finding and producing their own players? They haven’t done that either.

“If you can’t be Manchester City, at least you can have an identity and decide you’re going to do things a certain way. Rafa realises that.

“At the moment Newcastle is the only Premier League club between Scotland and Burnley and that’s a big potential catchment area. They could set themselves up as the club of the north but they haven’t.

“Gazza was the player that made me realise there was poetry in football and made me want to do what I do now. He could do things I didn’t have the language to describe, he had that raw, muscular beauty in what he did, an inexplicable force of nature.

“Peter Beardsley is one of my favourites, David Ginola for a time, Alan Shearer of course. He didn’t just win games, he saved them as well – often the team’s best defender as well as attacker: the complete centre-forward. We have been blessed with some great players over the years.

“We don’t quite have them at the minute but the thing I do admire is that they are a team. You know you are watching an honest team with a low tw.t content.”

The full interview is an excellent read and you can find it here.

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