This September marked one decade since Kevin Keegan resigned from Newcastle United following a power struggle with bolshie club directors. Ten years and three failed attempts to sell the club later and the ownership of ‘the beat of Newcastle’ is still shrouded in uncertainty.
Rumours regarding Newcastle’s ownership may be gathering venom but now is not the time for a shock to the system. Mike Ashley may be a severely unpopular owner - audibly, just visit Strawberry Lane on a Saturday afternoon if you desire proof - and, despite being a newcomer to the City of Newcastle, I can understand why. This poses the question, can Newcastle’s season be saved?
Perspective, I feel, is incredibly important here. Yes, Newcastle currently reside in the relegation zone, but the season is still young. At this point last year, the three relegated teams were sitting in 10th, 13th and 18th. Crystal Palace had failed to even register a single goal but still finished 11th come May.Undeniably, Newcastle have suffered a difficult start. The Magpies have already faced four of last season’s top six, with their fifth, Manchester United, being their next away fixture. Before October ends, Newcastle must face fellow relegation candidates Southampton and Brighton & Hove Albion, in what could be pivotal games for the Tyneside club. Lose these, and the mountain could start to look slightly more insurmountable.[pullquote]Newcastle have plenty of time to turn their season around [/pullquote]
For all the opprobrium, Mike Ashley has a strict spending policy which effectively holds the club back. As long as Newcastle remain in England’s top division and Sports Direct continues to receive great levels of exposure, Ashley seems happy. Whilst a popular figure of blame amongst the fans and supporters, Ashley remains instrumental in saving Newcastle’s season. Premier League survival could depend on how far he’s willing to open his wallet in January.
Keeping Rafael Benitez at the helm is going to be imperative to rescuing Newcastle’s season. Surely sacking Benitez is not an apt solution; he isn’t the problem. Plus, who else could be better? Aston Villa recently made this myopic mistake; Newcastle should take note. Albeit frustrated, Benitez is a world class manager. Newcastle are fortunate to have the Spaniard in charge, whose CV spans the likes of Real Madrid, Liverpool and Napoli. Watch this space, however, as Benitez isn’t happy, last week’s team meal turned into a farce, and the fans have launched the supportive #IfRafaGoesWeGo hashtag, in a bid to keep him at the club.
Any speculation surrounding the ownership of a football club understandingly increases uncertainty and instability. Regardless, Newcastle have plenty of time to turn their season around and, hedging my bets here, should survive the drop. Ashley has promised the club an all expenses covered holiday should they stay up - could this be enough motivation? Unless, of course, they don’t want to go on holiday with him.