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Opinion

Newcastle United now at this major crossroads

2 months ago
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I felt compelled to write in after reading this Newcastle United article on Sunday.

If you missed it, it was an epic piece entitled ‘The battle now on to save Newcastle United’ which appeared on The Mag yesterday. A very much recommended read.

Basically, Dean Wilkins who wrote it, gave a brilliant overview of where we are as a club.

He pointed out that the virus situation has been so overwhelming that it has made so many people forget just how dramatic it was last season, in terms of Newcastle fans finally saying enough is enough.

Mike Ashley might have relegated Newcastle twice already but the luck he has carried has been extraordinary.

Despite his disgraceful running of Newcastle United, the fans have kept turning up. Which of course is why he chose us to be his giant advertising hoarding to promote his tat empire.

If say he had bought the likes of Aston Villa instead, back in 2007, Ashley would have sold up long ago. Villa crowds are notoriously so fickle anyway in terms of fluctuating, full houses when doing well but rapidly dropping away when times are bad. Back in 2016/17, Newcastle sold out week after week and averaged over 51,000 when dropping down to the Championship, whilst Villa closed down a large part of Villa Park as crowds fell away, though having Steve Bruce as manager for most of that season hardly helped matters.

Having a half empty stadium to promote his retail businesses worldwide wouldn’t have been the right image, Villa fans staying away would have ensured Mike Ashley sold up very quickly.

No matter what he has thrown at Newcastle fans though, we kept turning up. That has all changed now though.

Twice he (Mike Ashley) came close to all collapsing around him but by sheer luck he got away with it.

The first time was after relegation in 2009, Mike Ashley sold a host of players and refused to allow any spending as Newcastle went into the Championship. He gave Chris Hughton the job as caretaker just because he was cheap and already at the club, making him rely on only free transfers and loans.

Easy to forget that around 15,000 Newcastle fans turned their back on Mike Ashley only two years after he took over, the first match after relegation saw only 36,944 turn up to see Newcastle beat Reading 3-0 with a Shola hat-trick! Hughton did a magnificent job and inadvertently saved Mike Ashley, if that season had gone wrong, we could well have seen crowds go under 30,000 as Ashley ran the club into the ground. Instead Chris Hughton worked wonders and 43,388 was the eventual average crowd in the Championship.

Not that Mike Ashley was grateful in any way, finding out that Hughton wasn’t the pushover he thought he was, he sacked him only four months into the next (PL) season with Newcastle in mid-table and results such as 6-0 v Villa, 5-1 v Sunderland and winning 1-0 at Arsenal. Sacking Hughton in order to bring in a patsy, Ashley bringing in Pardew and selling Andy Carroll only a month later.

The other saviour for Mike Ashley was of course Rafa Benitez. To the astonishment of everybody, after leaving Real Madrid, out of the blue the Spaniard came and offered his services to Newcastle United who were on their way to relegation. Due to the fans and then promises of support (which would then be broken later) from Mike Ashley, Rafa stayed, the rest is history as NUFC were instantly promoted in front of full crowds week after week, averaging over 51,000.

If Rafa Benitez hadn’t agreed to stay, what would the crowds have been?

Well, we now have a very good idea of exactly what would have happened.

Mike Ashley forced Rafa out in summer 2019 and you saw 10,000 regulars walk away from St James Park.

With crowds down to as low as just over 40,000, Mike Ashley was forced to give away 10,000 free season tickets in December 2019 to fill the seats next to his shop adverts.

Remember, this was / is the Premier League as well!

If Rafa Benitez had walked away in summer 2016 and Mike Ashley had appointed somebody of the level of Steve Bruce or Steve McClaren, you would have been talking about potentially 20,000, not 10,000, saying enough was enough, as Ashley once again relegated NUFC.

Now we have the virus situation and Newcastle fans having no choice but to stay away for the foreseeable, maybe a couple of thousand able to get in if our city becomes tier two in the near future.

However, next season looks realistically when now a very good chance of tens of thousands being allowed back into St James Park.

The question is though, will they / we come?

For me, whilst Mike Ashley is still there, no way I will go back. Steve Bruce’s football simply the cherry on the very top of the cake.

Like many of you, I will now be looking at it as a case of something needing to happen to make me want to go back now, rather than simply turning up blindly and giving my money (and backside on the seat) to Mike Ashley. Even if he gave all the season tickets away next season I wouldn’t go back whilst he is still there.

So, Newcastle United are set to go one of two ways now, with everything resting on a takeover.

Remember, don’t be fooled into thinking it is only about whether or not the Saudis will buy NUFC or not.

Obviously they were willing to pay over the odds BUT if they don’t end up buying the club, then don’t be saying Mike Ashley has no other choice but to stay as owner.

The vast majority of other major English clubs have been bought and sold, some several times, since Ashley bought Newcastle United. The only reason he is still the owner is because he pretended he was trying to sell the club for over a decade.

If the Saudi deal doesn’t happen, Mike Ashley could easily sell the club still, if he is willing to sell at a fair price. Every other club can be bought and sold so why should NUFC not, if it is up for sale at the market price?

As Newcastle fans we just want the chance to get behind ambitious new owners who will treat the club and supporters in a decent way, people who are worthy of our support.

That will never be the case under Mike Ashley and I won’t be back until he has gone.

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