A lot for Newcastle fans to be thankful for?

Newcastle fans have had to endure some pretty torrid times of late, as their club spiraled through a series of events that would try the patience of even the most dedicated of followers. A slip from Champions League status of the early 2000’s to eventual relegation in 2009, has created a sense of disappointment in the north-east, which hasn’t been helped by the reign of owner, Mike Ashley.

Ashley secured the club in 2007, ousting Sir John Hall and Freddie Shepherd, who had seen the the outfit fall under increasing financial difficulty. The millionaire entrepreneur, who made his fortune in the sports clothing business, was faced with the task of stabalising a club running at an unsustainable level, while achieving on field success. A tough proposition for anybody. Immediately an unpopular choice, due to his south of England roots, Ashley’s cause was not aided by a series of managerial dismissals and relegation, which saw the Magpies drop out of the top flight for the first time since the early 1990’s.

An immediate return and subsequent Premier League safety have done little to build a relationship between owner and fans, as the club has lurched between off-field disasters ever since. However, there may be cause for optimism, after latest figures suggest that financial plans for the club may finally be paying dividends, as the sides annual turnover rose by a staggering 69% for 2011. The £35 million received for Andy Carroll may warp this figure somewhat, but the stringent financial beliefs of the club led to minimal investment of this sum in first team affairs. Initially this angered fans, but as their club look on track to become one of few footballing establishments in England to be near running in the black, maybe it’s time to give credit where it is due. Managing director Derek Llambias was particularly pleased with the results of the latest readings:

“The financial results for the year ending June 2011 are extremely strong,” he told the Guardian.

“We can now count ourselves among the very few clubs across the UK and Europe who are operating at close to break even. What is particularly pleasing is that we have achieved this whilst also ensuring we have a strong squad sitting firmly in the top third of the table and currently pushing for a European place.

“Mike Ashley continues to provide loans totalling £140m interest-free, for which we are extraordinarily fortunate. Once again, Mike has not taken any money out of the club.”

The Toon made a loss of just £3.9 million across the last financial year with turnover rising to just shy of £90 million. Wage payments account for just over 60% of financial action, a considerable decline from previously unsustainable figures in the region of 80%,which when factored in with drops in running costs, makes for positive reading for all involved. This change for the club shows that for all the criticism received, Ashley has actually had the best interests of Newcastle at the forefront of his thoughts, altering the lavish spending based on European qualification for a more realistic approach.

The days of large wages and transfer fees may be a thing of the past, as the club switch from the pursuits of big names such as Michael Owen and the wages they demand, to the likes of Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye, for much more modest outlay. Factors including bonuses and image rights for players have also been reduced, keeping the spending to a minimum, and aiding the off-field running of the club.

Despite the positive nature of Newcastle as it stands, any drop-off in performances could once again raise questions over Ashley’s tenure at the club. However for now let’s send some praise to the much criticized owner, as in a world of spiraling debt and administration; it’s a relief to see a football club being run in the right fashion.

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