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Tyne Talk

COMMENT: Newcastle United owners – NUFC fans desperate for quantity not just quality

3 months ago
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The new Newcastle United owners face so many challenges.

Where do you start?

Confronted by an absolute mess left behind by Mike Ashley and the main men he employed, the Newcastle United owners needing to do so much to move the club forward on and off the pitch.

When it comes to the actual football, it is clear to all that extra quality is desperately needed in so many areas of the squad.

However, there is another desperate need that I believe needs to be put right when it comes to the football side of things.

It is bizarrely massively overlooked and not really talked about because I think, so many Newcastle United fans have become so conditioned to expecting (putting up with) so little.

Here are a few examples at other clubs to give us some perspective, from the other extreme of what I am talking about.

Manchester City 2020/21

61 matches played – Premier League 38 FA Cup 5 League Cup 5 Champions League 13

Chelsea 2018/19

62 matches played – Premier League 38 FA Cup 3 League Cup 6 Europa League 15

I haven’t even included the likes of Charity / Community Shield games or whatever.

Compare this to the story of what we have seen at Newcastle United in the past 20 years or so:

54 matches played (2002/03) – Premier League 38 FA Cup 1 League Cup 1 Champions League 14

55 matches played (2003/04) – Premier League 38 FA Cup 2 League Cup 1 Champions League  /UEFA Cup 14

57 matches played (2004/05) – Premier League 38 FA Cup 5 League Cup 2 UEFA Cup 12

48 matches played (2005/06) – Premier League 38 FA Cup 4 League Cup 2 Intertoto 4

57 matches played (2006/07) – Premier League 38 FA Cup 2 League Cup 3 Intertoto / UEFA 14

43 matches played (2007/08) – Premier League 38 FA Cup 3 League Cup 2

42 matches played (2008/09) – Premier League 38 FA Cup 2 League Cup 2

51 matches played (2009/10) – Championship 46 FA Cup 3 League Cup 2

42 matches played (2010/11) – Premier League 38 FA Cup 1 League Cup 3

43 matches played (2011/12) – Premier League 38 FA Cup 2 League Cup 3

54 matches played (2012/13) – Premier League 38 FA Cup 1 League Cup 1 Europa League 14

42 matches played (2013/14) – Premier League 38 FA Cup 1 League Cup 3

43 matches played (2014/15) – Premier League 38 FA Cup 1 League Cup 4

41 matches played (2015/16) – Premier League 38 FA Cup 1 League Cup 2

53 matches played (2016/17) – Championship 46 FA Cup 3 League Cup 4

41 matches played (2017/18) – Premier League 38 FA Cup 2 League Cup 1

42 matches played (2018/19) – Premier League 38 FA Cup 3 League Cup 1

45 matches played (2019/20) – Premier League 38 FA Cup 6 League Cup 1

43 matches played (2020/21) – Premier League 38 FA Cup 1 League Cup 4

40 matches played / to play (2021/22) – Premier League 38 FA Cup 1 League Cup 1

Quite astonishing really, just how little football that Newcastle United fans have become accustomed to.

The big factor of course has been, unsurprisingly, Mike Ashley.

Newcastle United fans had become so used to a regular flow of football, with European competitions playing a key part in that. Plus of course the club always tried, pre-Ashley, to succeed in the domestic cup competitions, even if not meeting with the greatest success.

However, the arrival of Mike Ashley changed everything.

As you can see from the stats above, four of the five seasons before Ashley arrived, Newcastle United played 54 games or more. Two of the three seasons directly before he arrived, including the 2006/07 one which ended days before the Mike Ashley takeover, 57 matches were played by NUFC.

Contrast that with the 15 seasons that kicked off under Mike Ashley, 11 of the 15 seeing 43 matches or less.

The exceptions?

The 2019/20 season when we had 45 matches, though that was only due to Steve Bruce needing cup replays against lower league sides Rochdale and Oxford.

The two seasons in the Championship with 51 and 53 games respectively.

Then that stand out (in Mike Ashley terms) season of 2012/13 with 14 matches, due mainly to a run to the quarter finals of the Europa League.

Mike Ashley had zero interest in European football and that was summed up by Alan Pardew, who after that 2012/13 season ended, spoke for himself and the club’s owner, when he said something along the lines of ‘Thank God we aren’t in the Europa League next season’…absolutely no interest in ambition for the team on the pitch, nor adventure for the fans.

Mike Ashley’s plan of course was simply survival in the Premier League at the lowest cost possible and with the least distractions possible, which naturally meant domestic cup competitions and most definitely, avoiding any chance of European action. Ashley / his people even admitting a club policy of not trying in cup competitions.

Mike Ashley wanting NUFC simply to struggle on and not allow proper investment on or off the pitch, only think important was his retail empire getting the free worldwide exposure via the global Premier League TV rights thanks to St James Park and indeed the whole club, simply being a massive advertising billboard for Sports Direct and related businesses.

European competitions were especially unattractive as you have to hand over the advertising at your stadium to UEFA, so no free Sports Direct etc on show.

I don’t expect instant European football to be provided by the new Newcastle United owners of course…

However, like the fans, it is clear that this is what they will be pushing for ASAP, along with properly competing in domestic cup competitions.

Both the fans AND the players at Newcastle United need as much football as possible, especially once a properly strengthened and invested squad is in place.

This season has been an all-time low in terms of how little football AND a ridiculous impact thanks to international football demands and how football scheduling is constructed these days.

This current international break is the fifth (FIFTH!) of the season, the March one following those in September, October, November and January.

With instant exits from both domestic cups, it has meant the absolute bare minimum of 40 matches to be played this season. With that meagre number of games then arranged in a (relative) feast and famine style thanks to the international breaks.

For older fans, they will remember the days of when even if you didn’t have a single win all season, you were guaranteed at least 45 matches in a season if you were in the top flight. With 42 league matches (22 clubs in the top division), then at least one FA Cup match and two in the League Cup, as you played home and away in a two legged tie in the second round of the League Cup back in the day.

We now have a bit of hope back and arguably more Newcastle United fans than ever before, looking forward to watching as many matches as possible.

The challenge for the Newcastle United owners is simply more of everything, including hopefully a route found for a significantly bigger St James Park capacity.

As for more real success? Well it would be nice but none of us are counting on trophies arriving just yet. Simply more matches and more entertainment for starters.

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