Why 17th is the worst possible Premier League finish for Newcastle United
Six games into this new Premier League season.
At times it feels like it has already lasted a lifetime.
As Newcastle fans we didn’t have a close season. When last season ended it was straight into the days leading to the now infamous Mike meets Rafa at secret location in London summit.
The meeting where many assumed that surely this was just going to be a shaking of hands, with a contract extension for the manager already agreed behind the scenes in advance.
It didn’t quite go like that…
So anyway, it was a VERY LONG summer.
You all know what happened but it was basically pure torture, stretched out over three months or so.
The quarter of the year when most football fans get a bit of a timeout from the stresses and strains of supporting their team, whereas for Newcastle fans it was a case of every day feeling worse than the last one.
So we get to the actual football again and it has been underwhelming to say the least.
Probably not very different to how most of us anticipated things would go once Rafa Benitez was replaced by Steve Bruce and it became abundantly clear that Mike Ashley had no intention of changing.
This threw up all kinds of dilemmas for fans.
Is this now the time to finally say enough is enough and vote with your feet against Mike Ashley?
In the good old days, voting with your feet was easy. Only a few thousand had season tickets and the rest of us just paid cash on the day to the 97 year old turnstile operators the club employed. Deciding to not go to the next match could be done any time between leaving the previous game and kick-off at the next one.
These days it is a bit more complicated, now it is a case of all but a few thousand have season tickets, plus a majority had made at least some kind of commitment already to this season’s one, well before we found out Mike Ashley was forcing Rafa Benitez out of the club.
Nevertheless, that hasn’t prevented thousands of season ticket holders staying away from one or more matches this season.
It is a rubbish situation that all Newcastle fans find themselves in, whether they are still going to games or not. What to do for the best?
The thing is, maintaining the status quo is for me the very worst thing.
Before Rafa Benitez came along we had become used to a ‘plan’ of just surviving from season to season, we didn’t like it but 50,000 of us still felt no other option than to turn up every other week and hope eventually something would happen, ideally Mike Ashley selling up.
Once Rafa got Newcastle instantly promoted back to the top tier, we had two more tight/non-existent budget seasons of survival.
However, there was real hope that after those two years, this was when we were going to step it up again.
An excellent manager in position and ideally new owners set to come in but even failing that, Mike Ashley would see the obvious and agree to give Rafa enough of what he wanted to stay on and start and aim higher in both the transfer market and the Premier League table.
Instead we are stuck back in Groundhog Day country.
The thing is for me, finishing 17th would be the very worst place to finish this season for Newcastle United.
Mike Ashley in his element, just done enough to stay up, ‘proved right’ with Steve Bruce appointment, more of the same to come.
The thing is though, that with those Rafa inspired hopes of better this season, we have crossed a line.
Just surviving is in reality just the club dying a little bit more.
There are now only two progressive ways forward this season.
By some miracle the Mike Ashley/Steve Bruce plan comes together, the new signings get with the rest of the team/squad, picking up a serious number of goals and points to soar up the table.
Yes there will/would be a small hardcore who will never accept there can be progress if it means Mike Ashley is still here BUT what 99% of fans want is simply a club that is run along the most ambitious lines possible and that brings better football, entertainment and relative success/progress on the pitch.
I know that this scenario above is a ‘little’ unlikely BUT if it did happen, then I would say fair play. In terms of league position I think top eight would be the benchmark this season with then a willingness to properly invest on top of that.
I know that this isn’t going to happen BUT if it did.
The thing is, if Rafa Benitez had got proper backing that was enough to convince him to stay, then I honestly think that top eight is where Newcastle would have been aiming for on a realistic level AND competing in cups.
So anyway, if Ashley/Bruce don’t perform this unlikely minor miracle, there is no in between, as I honestly think the next best thing is that Newcastle are relegated.
Clinging on season after season in the Premier League is no life as a football fan, when you know that run on ambitious lines relegation wouldn’t even be a consideration for Newcastle.
None of us know whether relegation and staying down would be enough to convince Mike Ashley to sell but in the absence of that very unlikely success happening this season, I’m more than prepared to give it a go.
Ashley has refused to genuinely try and sell the club so far, so long as it clings onto Premier League status and/or bounces straight back after relegation.
This can’t go on.
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