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Ashley carves up a shambles at Newcastle United

Wednesday 27th May 2015
Newcastle United, the football soap opera. Never a dull day. Going in to the last day of the Premiership season, their first win since February preserved their top flight status. But the inquests will soon begin after a season that went into free-fall almost ended up relegating the Magpies.

The fans are at loggerheads with the owner Mike Ashley and they aren't too keen on caretaker manager John Carver either. The self-proclaimed 'best c0oach in the league' has gone on record to say he wants the job permanently, Ashley says he will not sell the club until they have 'won something' or 'qualified for the Champions League', just where do they go from here?

Does Mike Ashley realise that penny pinching does not win trophies, or climb tables? His promise to invest in the team this summer will be clung on to by the fans who pay their hard earned money and turn up in their droves to St. James' Park (I refuse to call it Sports Direct Arena) week in week out. After selling key players over the last few years, Newcastle have a squad that has so little genuine quality, a major overhaul is required. Ashley has boasted of record profits again this year, which is all well and good, but he is making a rod for his own back as the fans expect this money to be invested on the pitch. The banner "We don't demand a club that wins, we demand a club that tries" hit the nail on the head. Not since the days of Kevin Keegan (his first stint) have Newcastle been able to speak of ambition and hope. Back then, players like Alan Shearer and David Ginola made Newcastle a team to be feared. They had pace and power, they didn't necessarily defend well, but often outscored the opposition, keeping fans and neutrals alike on the edge of their seats. Now? They cannot defend, don't score many goals and have a manager who accuses players of getting sent off deliberately to avoid the pressure cooker of playing in a tough relegation run-in.

I won't mention Alan Pardew and the fact Newcastle were comfortably mid-table under his wing because Geordies do not agree and this is about looking ahead, not back. The majority wanted his head and they eventually got their wish. But not for one second did they think that Ashley would take mid-table mediocrity so much for granted, that he would give Carver the job. His decisions dragged the club into a dog fight. The Sports Direct tycoon should think long and hard before making his next move. Approaches for Steve McClaren didn't materialise after the former England manager pledged his allegiance to Derby - but then at the seasons end, he was removed from his position at Pride Park by a board dissatisfied with his performance. McClaren remains the red-hot favourite to take over the reigns at St. James', even more so now he has become a free agent. But is he the right choice? Derby, who were in the Championship's top three for most of the season, failed to make the play-offs. It was another example of a season imploding, similar to Newcastle's. You can't help but think a manager who can oversee such a shambolic end to the season, a manager who can let the pressure get to his team so much that they have this incredible dip in form, isn't the man to be under the microscope in the North East.

Finding the right manager, forking out for seven or eight quality players and getting the faithful back on side must be Ashley's three objectives this pre-season. If West Ham at home was Newcastle's biggest game since their last relegation showdown at Aston Villa in 2009, then this surely is their biggest pre-season. A massive task lies ahead for whoever takes over the helm. A club with such potential - a sleeping giant. How has it come to this?

Twitter: RobWildeyHQ
Rob Wildey

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