Newcastle United's New Year's Resolutions
Background photo: Magnus Manske, CC-BY-SA-2.0
Newcastle United’s 2018 has been far from great. While the Magpies maintained their Premier League place in 2017/18, off the field disputes again dominated their summer and diminished their prospects for 2018/19. Here are four issues Toon must resolve in order to become the big club their resources and fanbase demand.
Mike Ashley seems to find a way to sabotage every potential Newcastle sale. He did it a year ago. This time, it was the consortium headed by former Manchester United Chief Executive Peter Kenyon. As with the last negotiation, talks have unexpectedly stalled. At the moment, manager Rafael Benitez is the club’s biggest asset. If Ashley doesn't close a deal soon, that won't remain the case.
The leading supporters groups have written to Ashley this week asking for him to either sell or invest in the team. During his tenure at the club, spending has always been tight. That won't change if he is planning to divest. Hopefully, he is. One also hopes new owners won't see one of England's most prestigious clubs as another discount marketing outlet.
How Ashley has kept a Champions League-winning manager in place this long is a mystery. The supporters recognise their Spanish manager's quality and would like to keep him.
We firmly believe that keeping Benitez is the best chance this football club has of improving and growing over the next few years. He was given complete control of the football side the business when he signed his three-year contract in 2016, so please listen to him and please allow him to sign the players he has requested to improve the team. It is in your own interest to do so. -- Newcastle United Supporters Trust.
It is vital that when Newcastle United look back on 2019 they do so still with Benitez in charge. If the club is taken over he is the calibre of manager who can take Toon to the next level. He clearly wants to. He isn't staying in the North East for the weather.
On the pitch, Newcastle must resuscitate their home form to remain in the top flight. Defeat to Manchester United was their eighth in 11 league games on Tyneside. It is the second-worst home record this season in the Premier League. Only Huddersfield  picked up less points than Newcastle’s seven.
Teams at the bottom in relegation scraps tend to build their survival bids on home form. Anything found on the road is a bonus. It is the other way for Newcastle. That can’t continue and certainly isn’t helping the fans. St James Park is emptying out for Mike Ashley like it did for Arsene Wenger last season.
Regardless of who runs the club, Rafa’s long-term future may depend on which tier the club finds itself in 2019/20. Newcastle bounced back at the first time of asking on the previous occasions they've dropped out of the top flight in this millennium. That's a risky game to play. The Championship becomes harder to escape with each passing season. More owners are splashing the cash to reach the top flight.
If Ashley is still in charge, he is much more likely to get the price he wants if the Magpies remain in the top flight. Ultimately, the fans want him out of the club anyway possible. If they are still in the Premier League, his departure becomes more likely.
Despite the cries from Rafa that staying up this season would be a miracle, it should be achievable. The overall standard at the bottom of the table this year has been poor. The bottom seven are set to finish on lower point totals in comparison to previous years. While Newcastle’s squad has been hampered financially and fans fear the worst, I would expect at least three sides to finish below them come May, assuming Rafa is still in charge.