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Players now sign for Newcastle United knowing avoiding relegation is the target – Former NUFC defender

6 months ago
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Are Newcastle United a big club?

One former player says that outsiders just ‘don’t get it’, that it is only if somebody comes to Tyneside that they can realise the ‘enormity of it.’

Mike Williamson was on Newcastle’s books for six years and played 150 times and now sees the area as home, absolutely loves it: ‘The passion for football is like nowhere else I’ve ever been.’

Returning to the area to play for and then manage Gateshead, he has been talking to The Athletic about what could have been at Newcastle United…

Like most Newcastle fans, Mike Williamson looks back at summer 2012 as the most pivotal time in Mike Ashley’s 13 year reign.

Having had a breakthrough season to finish fifth, some reasonable investment to bring in a few extra quality players could/would have seen Newcastle establish themselves. Instead, Mike Ashley allowed not a penny of net investment in the team/squad, a few fringe players sold to buy the limited Vurnon Anita as a squad player.

Williamson says that failure to build on positive momentum can be fatal and states: ‘That if we added a few we’d be able to become a force and push on. But the reality is, when you’re losing your best players and investment doesn’t come, it becomes a negative far more quickly than it should.’ That was 100% the case at St James Park, the entire team looked demoralised after Ashley refused to show any ambition and that (2012/13) season, safety was only finally assured when Newcastle won their final away game at QPR.

Summing up exactly where Newcastle United are at now as a club, Mike Williamson declares: ‘People now know how Newcastle are run and players possibly go there accepting that now. Avoiding relegation is the target…’

Mike Williamson talking to The Athletic:

“Initially, when I came up [and signed for Newcastle in January 2010], it blew me away the size of everything – the club, the stadium, the fanbase.

“It’s hard to quantify the size of the passion of the whole city.

“A lot of people from elsewhere don’t get it.

“They hear people call Newcastle a ‘big club’ and say, ‘But they don’t win anything.’ But they haven’t experienced it. You just walk around town and every other person has a Newcastle top on. It’s the enormity of it.

“The passion for football is like nowhere else I’ve ever been.

“Perhaps I became a little weathered to the enormity of it, being up here for a few years as a player, but my friends who left the club would say, ‘You don’t realise the size of it until you leave.’ I went to other clubs, still big clubs, but then you could feel the difference.

“When I was up here, I was absorbed in it; I loved it.”

Mike Ashley’s lack of ambition:

“After finishing fifth, we had a feeling that we had a really solid base of players.

“That if we added a few we’d be able to become a force and push on. But the reality is, when you’re losing your best players and investment doesn’t come, it becomes a negative far more quickly than it should.

“Everything is magnified at Newcastle and those fans have pride in that team, then it was taken away from them because they didn’t kick on.

“In 2012, players could have arrived thinking, ‘Hmm, we could be the ones to win a trophy.’ But then I feel as though, through the business side of things, that gets diluted somewhat and dreams don’t become a reality.

“People now know how Newcastle are run and players possibly go there accepting that now.

“Avoiding relegation is the target, anything else is a bonus. That’s where the mentality perhaps differs.”

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