Respite from the Comedy League is refreshing for Newcastle United fans

By Lee Ryder on Feb 11, 10 10:20 AM

With Portsmouth heading for meltdown, Queens Park Rangers in total chaos and Crystal Palace crashing into administration and losing 10 points, Newcastle United are, incredibly, in danger of actually looking like a well an organised and stable club in comparison to our southern counterparts.

And all of this despite a season long campaign from Newcastle fans for Mike Ashley to leave Toon.

Chants for Ashley to go have not disappeared this season but this week it was interesting to see one of the Toon tycoon's fiercest critics, in fanzine True Faith, suggest that the United owner deserved credit for his performance in the January transfer window.

An extract from True Faith's editorial read: "It would be churlish not to offer some praise to Ashley for releasing the funds, no matter how limited, to Hughton to bring in the new recruits as well as retain all the players in the first team squad, we'd want to retain.
"Its pretty pointless at this point to go over the heavy terrain of Ashley's previous but suffice it to say of all the humiliation we have endured under his ownership, he remains the only director of Newcastle United FC who has EVER put his own money INTO the club."

Regardless of whether Ashley will be the long-term future of Newcastle, there still seems to be nobody that can put their money where their mouth is while the progress of NUST is still very much a case of watch this space.

Bidders in the summer, such as the Profitable Group and the arguably insane American group led by Geoff Sheard claimed that despite putting in bids at the asking price they were not allowed to proceed with the sale.

Newastle managing director Derek Llambias explained in his programme notes that nobody came up with the money.

Sheard's standing in football, after being associated with two failed bids for clubs in Sheff Wed and then United, shows the sort of interested contenders who are attracted to buying Newcastle.

And if they want to buy it on the cheap, then surely they don't have the funds to take Newcastle to where many feel they should be in English football.

In reality and in the same style as Ashley, if Newcastle are ever sold, any businessmen or tycoons who know what they are doing will surely buy first and talk later (or barely ever in Ashley's case) rather than attempt to hog the limelight and mislead fans.

With nobody seemingly interested in taking Newcastle off Ashley's hands, none of that eases any of the unhappiness within United's remaining fanbase.

The theory of a lot of Newcastle fans is that the Magpies should never have ended up in the Championship and even been in the position they're in to start with - and I agree entirely with that.

Newcastle have proved they can house a team in the Champions League and with the fanbase and resources we have mount a serious challenge to the top four or six and even a push at the title - that's not pie in the sky, it happened in 1994, 1995, 1996. 1997, 2002, 2003 and 2004.

Whoever runs the good ship Newcastle cannot lose sight of that.

And while it may well be a safe option even talk of getting promoted and then just surviving is a major turn off - I personally would hate to see Newcastle turn into a Stoke, Wigan or Hull and that sort of mentality will do exactly that.

Just to survive is singing on the pitch when you have just lost and stayed up due to the failings of others, just ask Phil Brown that.

Give Newcastle a strong leader, financial backing and a manager who can balance the expectations of the crowd with the reality of the modern global economic situation, then there should be no reason why they can't get back to the business of at least European football.

Come on if Fulham are it, then surely it is not beyond the realms of possibility for Newcastle to get back to those halcyon continental nights.

First things first, Newcastle need to get promoted and with 17 games to go there is plenty of work to be getting on with.

We don't know what the plans are of a current regime that has now shut shop when it comes to revealing future plans.

With so much hysteria surrounding whatever they have said in the past and anger still in the air after the treatment of first Kevin Keegan and then Alan Shearer, it's a policy they may well stick to.

The feelings are still very raw on the streets of Tyneside even though fans have backed the team throughout the season to date.

Saying nothing does not sell season tickets though and traditionally factors like marquee signings and talk of European adventures ensured not only full houses (or all season ticket crowds) at St James' Park - but a waiting lists of thousands.

I once remember being offered as much as £200 for one ticket by a pushy tout (which I didn't accept because I'd rather watch the match) but interest has dwindled so badly now, you may struggle to give away a seat at St James' Park.

Those days may well be gone and we are living in a different world now from a financial point of view.

Manchester City for all of their millions can't sell out every game they play at Eastlands and even the sight of pockets of empty seats at Old Trafford during this dark financial era tells its own sad story.

And if that isn't convincing enough, the upturn in crowds at Northern League level, where fans can pay as little as a fiver to watch the game, then enjoy a pint with the players, the manager and the chairman, shows where some of Newcastle's stay away fans have ended up.

But I do think that Newcastle can eventually get back to full houses if they win promotion, providing the price is right.

You can't blame the stay away fans and there is a strong argument to be made for cheaper ticket prices whether Newcastle get promoted or not.

However, how long Newcastle stay out of the Comedy League, and the headlines for the wrong reasons, depends largely on either the future plans of Mr Ashley or anybody who is willing to take the club of his hands.


Mr Black said:

Out of the comedy league are we, or just temporarily knocked off the top? So far this season we’ve seen another bungled sale of the club draw to a close, set the record for the longest time without a permanent manager, seen our chairman streak across the SJP turf (allegedly) and the stadium renamed sportsdirect@stjamespark. We’ve also won quite few games, which is probably where this notion the club is now being well run comes from. Personally I think our league position owes everything to blind luck and nothing to planning, it has to because there was no planning in the summer.

Relegation cost NUFC £40m, if we’ve avoided doing a Portsmouth just how much credit can Mr Ashley take? That’s if we have avoided financial meltdown, for the club still owes huge amounts of money. The only thing that has really changed over the last year is which division the club play in and vastly reduced income. Well done Mike, you cut the wage bill by selling our better players and replacing them with loanees, free transfers and a couple of vulture style budget purchases. What next?

Francis Vincent said:

Read a few lines of your piece Lee but no... Never,Never ever will forgive that man,his lies and his lackeys lies.
I could have been comfortably watching a KK team doing reasonably well in the premier league playing a decent type of football but no. I'm left with a (barely) second division team who,if they should happen to be one of the 2 least worst teams in a poor,poor league,will only come straight back down.An objective look at the bargain buys could conclude that there have been some very long contracts given to players who've spent little amounts of time at many many clubs and have never proven themeselves in the PL.Doesn't seem like sound commercial sense to me. The centre halves have started reasonably but then hasn't every atrocious centre half we've had in recent times. Boumsong,Bramble et al looked like world beaters in their first few games until they seemed to develop clownitis. It's too early to play the 'didn't he do well' card,why not raise this topic again at the end of March say?
No I'm afraid I will never go back until he's gone (seems like there's around 10,000 like me)and I won't ever give him one ounce of credit as it's only because of him we find ourselves having to find positivity in very mediocre offerings and I have to find something else to do on a Saturday

Ginola said:

Stop going on about KK, if we're talking about the past we could be living in a country that is run by Germany?!
Get over the fact Keegan isn't here, get over the fact we're not in the premiership. Live with the facts man, this is ridiculous.

We're in the 1st division, we've had to start again. Yes, MA is to blame for that, i fully agree. But sitting there complaining everyday about last season or 1995 or whenever is totally pointless. Who benefits from that attitude? Not me or you, certainly not the players and definitely not the manager who is trying his best and actually not doing too bad.
WE ARE A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM!!! get over it, support your club properly instead if being a bunch of moaning old men and keegan lovers (who ditched us twice!) Help your team get back to the premiership and support them in staying there.

Chris Gray said:

Some people won’t like this, but here goes.

Keegan was never going to bring back the glory days. His day had come and gone. By his own admission he didn’t like or understand modern footballers (who would blame him?). As for Shearer – great player though he was – as a potential manager he must scare any potential employer to death with his self-opinionated arrogance. He probably scared Ashley off for the same reason. All the top managers have spent a few years at least learning the business. Mourinho with Robson is a leading example. Shearer said he wouldn’t take a job unless he could be number 1 immediately. How many top players have gone straight into management as the main man at a major club and been successful? Hardly any. There are some European coaches who have done so, but they have always had the support of a Director of Football (oops, sorry, a swear word). You can be self-opinionated and arrogant when you’ve been a top manager for a few years, but not when you haven’t even started out.

So, Ashley’s list of errors do not in my opinion include the losses of Keegan and Shearer. Now 
 if that’s not bad enough for you, then wait for this one

Neither does his list of errors include the appointment of Dennis Wise. Odious though he appeared to be, the time will come when his contribution will be seen to have been positive: Kadar, Vukic, Ranger (was he a Wise acquisition?) and a few others might a) be decent players for Newcastle and b) have huge sell-on value. Would Keegan have ever invested for the longer term? No. Remember, he was the one who scrapped the reserve team.

No, the major error of the Ashley years is simply their pathetic, risible PR approach. Talk to us! Just talk to us! We don’t really mind what you say. Hughton (good man though he is) uses thousands of words but says virtually nothing. And we like him. Talk to us, and we might even start to like you.

Trouble is – as usual, the impatient, unstrategic, often unrealistic and even at times plain stupid Newcastle fans (and I’m one of them) wouldn’t know a long-term approach if it bit us in the leg. We want it now. We always do. True, we don’t often get it – I know because I go back to the days of Arthur Horsfield and Albert Bennett – but we still want it. Even when it’s nothing more than a romantic, impossible dream

The time will come when we look back at the Ashley era and realise that it saved us from a REAL slippery slope. As some (“big”) clubs disappear down the plug hole and we are still around and doing OK; and Kadar, Vukic and co are worth £10 million each; and when Xisco has just scored a hat-trick in the World Cup Final for Spain (remember Tomasson?); and when Shearer is still sitting on the MOTD sofa outraged that he hasn’t been offered the Barcelona job - then we will realise that Ashley wasn’t as bad as he was painted.

I told you some people wouldn’t like this, Lee, and as I don the flak jacket I await the response with interest.

Mal said:

Mr Black - You say 'Well done Mike, you cut the wage bill by selling our better players....'

I'm not entering the debate about MA but who exactly are you talking about. We got rid of a load of highly paid tossers who did absolutely nothing for newcastle united. Good riddance to them all.

Mr Black said:

Given, Milner and Bassong spring to mind, but it’s fair to say we're better off without the likes of Owen. My point was cost cutting has been the only plan at SJP for two years and our current league position is a fluke. The club is being run the same way now as it was being run last season. Sustained mediocrity beckons.

Edmond Dante said:

If someone cut off my leg, I would not forgive them if several months later they presented me with a flimsy crutch.

jon Demred said:

yes, fantastic. love this. totally.


Lee Ryder

Lee Ryder - Proudly born and bred on Tyneside, the Chronicle's chief sports writer has followed the fortunes of the club over the last three decades as a Toon fan and football writer.

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