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Opinion

With new owners Newcastle will finish above Leeds and with Mike Ashley, below them – It is that simple

4 months ago
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A generation of Newcastle fans have grown up knowing nothing but a football club ran with zero ambition under Mike Ashley.

Whilst 90 miles down the road a generation of Leeds fans have grown up knowing nothing but the Championship, apart from three years in League One.

Of course Mike Ashley has taken us for a couple of visits to the second tier, managing two relegations in his first eight Premier League seasons in charge. These past 16 years since a 1-0 win (Alan Shearer scoring as always against them!) on 7 January 2004, Newcastle have only played Leeds twice in the league, Championship games in 2016/17. In the previous 16 years there were 24 PL clashes, Newcastle winning 12 with six draws and six defeats.

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Both he and the Newcastle fans grateful to have Chris Hughton and Rafa Benitez to lead NUFC straight back up as champions.

When Newcastle supporters have dared to point out how rubbish it is having Mike Ashley owning the club, pundits and journalists have routinely met that with ‘look at Leeds’, funny how they always came out with that instead of ‘look at Leicester’…

Just because another club has been in an even bigger mess, doesn’t excuse the shambles at St James Park these past 13 years.

Sadly, Mike Ashley with the help of much of the media have succeeded in convincing even some Newcastle fans that avoiding relegation is some kind of success.

It isn’t that we think our club has got some automatic right to be successful, but we do know that if ran with ambition, it is realistic that Newcastle could be progressively ever more competitive year on year.

Now of course there will no longer be the ‘look at Leeds’ excuse, unless of course they bomb, which I don’t think will be the case.

Full of momentum, a talented experienced manager, a playing squad full of confidence, with ambitious ownership who will back Marcelo Bielsa. Leeds will do at least ok, in my opinion.

Money is no guarantee of success of course, you have to spend it on the right players. However, failure to properly invest in a promoted squad will almost certainly end in tears. Norwich with only a £6m net spend this season, a prime example.

When promoted is exactly the right time to invest, as it helps you take advantage of that momentum you get from going up.

Wolves had £80m net investment (all figures from Transfermarkt) in 2018/19 after promotion and ended up seventh and heading into Europe.

Sheffield United a £62m net investment and a great chance of doing the same this season, with two games to go. Wolves another £84m net investment this season and currently sixth, having been an outside chance of top four for much of the season.

For Newcastle United it was only £23m net investment allowed to Rafa Benitez in 2017/18 after promotion and then £8m in 2018/19, the profit of £33m on transfers in 2016/17 meant Mike Ashley actually made a profit on deals in and out in Rafa’s three years.

The £33m net spend this season for NUFC was an improvement but after the previous lack of proper investment a major catch up was / is needed, that £33m still far less than what Wolves and Sheffield United have done in net investment, as is indeed the case with pretty much all other newly promoted clubs.

I have no doubt Leeds will give it a good go.

With new ambitious owners at Newcastle I wouldn’t be concerned, I’d be very confident of good players being added to the better ones already in the team / squad and under a new credible manager, would finish above Leeds.

If Mike Ashley is still here though, I think we will be guaranteed to be passed by Leeds, even though they have been stuck down there for 16 years.

Newcastle have stood still at best and when everybody else is doing their best to improve, it means you are effectively going backwards.

Whether that will equal relegation, who knows? What I do know is that it is a real possibility and that for sure, Steve Bruce can’t carry the incredible luck he experienced this time, so many of the points won going against all the stats and logic.

With new owners Newcastle United will finish above Leeds and with Mike Ashley, below them – It is that simple.

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