It’s pushing on 10 years since Newcastle made any major impact at the top end of the Premier League. Back then it was called the Barclays Premiership, Alan Shearer was banging in goals and Sir Bobby Robson was watching his dynamic young side steamroll into the Champions League. Freddy Shepherd was controlling the boardroom and at the same time sending us spiraling into financial trouble. Mike Ashley came in to save us in 2007 but things just went from bad to worse. The question begged is can Newcastle ever return to their former glories under the current regime?
Chugging pints in the Emirates to the merryment of those in black and white, bringing back the supposed ‘Messiah’ Kevin Keegan to the cheers of many fans only to royally shaft him. Things spiraled out of control in 2008/09 and it ended up with Chris Hughton, Joe Kinnear, Hughton again and then Shearer trying to save us from the inevitable. He even double-crossed Shearer. It must take some guts to royally screw two Newcastle idols. Relegation happened and Ashley was the cause. He did say sorry but that wasn’t enough for the Magpies fans who now had a serious lust for the owner’s blood coursing through their veins. I’ll never be his biggest fan and some of the decisions he made stunk of a man unfamiliar with business on the pitch. However a majority of his judgments in the boardroom have been spot on, whilst he’s saved us from financial ruin and still managed to keep a number of our better players on the books.
Is he the man to restore the glories? I’m not so sure. I will go on record as saying that his decision to sell Andy Carroll for £35 million was a masterstroke. It showed that the man has incredible business acumen. I also thought his decision to dispense with the tactically inept Hughton was a shrewd one as Alan Pardew had the experience required to keep us up last season. I could go further and say that the financial position we’re in is all down to Ashley and I’m thankful that he’s finally starting to take a tough stance on players demanding contracts, which are way out of our reach. Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton and Jose Enrique have all found this out the hard way.
The only worry I have now is that the Carroll money hasn’t been used to the maximum to strengthen the playing staff. The trust that the fans have for Ashley is below naught percent. Our net-spend for the summer is £500,000 despite having £35 million resting in the bank. But as it’s been reported numerous times the money was intended to be used for wages and signing on fees as well as transfer fees. How can the club ever get back into Europe and challenge at the Premier League summit with such a prudent approach to spending? It’s understandable that Ashley want’s to get us on a better financial footing and protect his investment – he is after all a businessman. But he’s got to start looking at things from a football perspective. He made a great call bringing in Pardew; but that’s about the only good footballing decision he’s made in five years as owner.
Newcastle will never touch the heights that commander Robson and his fleet of young bucks achieved if the current regime is still in charge. They say they want us to progress steadily but at what pace? Right now we’re taking baby steps when really we should be preparing to head into the teenage years. Aside from a few quality players our squad is frighteningly average. Just good enough to slumber into mid-table whereas we should be pushing for the top half and European places. With £35 million we should have been able to buy the players necessary to achieve that goal. With money now controlling the game I can’t see why we’re not investing in quality players to take us to that next step. Surely finishing higher and entering a European competition would provide more financial benefits than a 12th place finish. Even paying a few players top dollar to turn us from mid-table dwellers into contenders for sixth place would be worth it.
Whilst I’m grateful to Ashley for saving us from an impending meltdown that would have seen us go the way of Leeds United, I’m still not on board with his ambitionless plan to sustain our Premier League life. We need to move forward and bring those European nights back to St James Park. If Stoke City can do it why can’t we? Surely that’s the only incentive Ashley needs!