‘Can Mike Ashley begin to redeem himself with these two moves?’
After what has been a particularly difficult season for many reasons for Newcastle United.
The victory over Fulham meant ending the season in 12th place on 45 points, which sealed another year of meeting the Mike Ashley expectations; a three match winning cup run, low net spend and establishing Premier League safety.
So upon reflection, have Newcastle United had a ‘good’ season and should we be pleased with it?
The immediate reaction would be no, absolutely not.
We have played some of the most unattractive, spineless, dire football we’ve ever played, flirted with relegation for the best part of the season, accused of ‘expecting too much’ from the team after losses against Sheffield United et al.
We have continuously been told that we are incredibly lucky to have Steve Bruce as our manager, at one point we were even told to fund our own transfers. And, to further the peculiarity, we were rooting for Mike Ashley with his takeover court battle against the premier league.
However, once the dust settles, I find myself asking, has it really been that bad?
Over the last three years we have finished mid-table on similar points; 13th, 13th and 10th on 44 or 45 points. Not very enjoyable for fans, but maintaining Premier League status – the Mike Ashley dream.
Throughout the season we have been plagued with injuries to our main three (Wilson, Almiron and Saint-Maximin) but still managed to grind out results with mainly sh.te football – again, not enjoyable for fans, but it ‘got the job done’.
To further this, we also had a fairly ‘decent’ cup run and quite possibly should’ve gone further.
Although it took 34 games for Bruce to discover his strongest starting 11 (which could be argued and questioned, how much influence Graeme Jones actually had) we got there eventually, and, in the latter stages of the season, enjoyed some wonderful attacking football from Allan Saint-Maximin and the goal machine Joseph Willock.
Based on our record, our lack of ambition, our lack of expectation, our lack of spending and our lack of achievement, one might say, not only has this been a good season for Newcastle United, but also a good season for Steve Bruce.
However, does that mean we should we be pleased with this season? Most definitely not.
The best analogy of the situation for me is the following; ‘If you walk into a supermarket, knock all of the bottles of wine off the shelf, but clean it up, does that mean you have done a good job?’
When Bruce took charge, he was provided with the blueprint for a solid mid-table team. And credit here to Mike Ashley, spent £100million, added some new players with the expectation of pushing on, and yet, we haven’t improved at all.
At one stage in the season we found ourselves with only two wins in 21 games.
Of course, in Bruce’s defence, it hasn’t been a particularly good season for any team, bar the usual suspects. But, does it really cost £100million to sit on 45 points?
£100million and two full years of the same mediocrity, monotonously boring football which has repelled a number of fans.
So, what happens next?
Unless there is a drastic change, Steve Bruce will still be in charge next year, but could Mike Ashley redeem himself?
Of course, there’s no way fans could ever forgive the state of limbo Newcastle have found themselves in under him, and we most definitely shouldn’t be protesting because its unacceptable unless you’re Manchester United and sitting second in the league (isn’t that right Rio?), but opening the cheque book to keep Saint-Maximin and bringing Joe Willock back would definitely be the start.
Sadly, I feel as though it will be copy and paste for the last, dare I say, 10 years? Unless there is an immediate takeover, the recurring theme and pattern for us fans is inevitable – poor manager, poor football, poor expectations, poor ambition and just being a regular number in the Premier League.
And yet, like popping a spot when you shouldn’t, I’ll still be tuning in all through summer and all of next season.
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