Ever since being crowned SKY BET Championship 2016-2017 champions last season, Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle United have weathered many twists and turns throughout their touch and go re-acquaintance in the fast lane of the English Premier League.
Irrespective of a tenth place finish in the EPL in 2017-2018, Newcastle United’s most gravest challenge moving forward remains predominately on a questionable transfer policy stemmed by the universally unpopular ownership of Mike Ashley, coupled alongside the unsteady direction of the club, which has seen a perennial yo-yo effect rallying back and forth between the EPL and Sky BET Championship.
During the last two consecutive transfer windows, Newcastle United owner Ashley relatively deprived Magpies fans and the club of standard bearing acquisitions which are conveniently suited to the lofty level and intensity of the EPL.
In the summer of 2017, Newcastle United purchased six players (Christian Atsu, Joselu, Mikel Merino, Javier Manquillo, Jacob Murphy and Florian Lejuene), whereas 13 players departed from Tyneside.
Of the six Newcastle United players which arrived at St. James’ Park in the summer of 2017, Newcastle United spent almost £45 million. Conversely, of the 13 players which departed from the North East last summer, the Magpies made just £17.5 million.
Furthermore, the last transfer window in January 2018, the Mapies did not permanently purchase any players and decided to loan three players until the end of the season (Islam Slimani, Kenedy and Martin Dubravka).
Newcastle United did not sell any players during the January 2018 transfer window, rather loaning out 10 players (Aleksander Mitrovic, Jack Colback, Freddie Woodman, Rolando Aarons, Henri Saivet, Jamie Sterry, Daniel Barlaser, Kyle Cameron, Ivan Toney and Adam Armstrong).
In turn, Newcastle United’s transfer policy has become one of frustration and Benitez has performed a relative miracle during his tenure at the club, particularly given both the lack of pure quality in the squad, as well as the insufficient funds and trust that he has been provided with from the Newcastle United board and ownership.
Throughout the course of this decade, Benitez has arguably been the most prominent believer in the potential of Newcastle United in contrast to his predecessors.
Ever since Ashley has been associated with the Tyneside club, the Magpies have twice been relegated from the EPL. Moreover, Ashley has not been highly communicative with his clubs’ fans nor the mainstream media, in relation to his goals and ambition for the club.
Ultimately, The Magpies are a big club in historical stature, although the club today is most certainly a shell of its former glory. During the 2016-2017 season, Newcastle United striker Dwight Gayle became the first player in 13 years to score over 20 goals in a season for the club. Newcastle United legend Alan Shearer scored 28 goals in the 2003-2004 season.
Furthermore, Benitez has built tremendous rapport with the Toon Army and is unquestionably their most beloved manager since Sir Bobby Robson.
Despite being a UEFA Champions League winner, Benitez cannot yet be placed in the same category of Kevin Keegan at St. James Park. This is due to Keegan inspiring the Magpies with stellar performances and finishes in the English Premier League.
Magpies fans romanticize the initial successful Keegan era of the 1990s, which was underscored by the entertaining and gungo-ho attacking likes of Faustino Asprilla, Alan Shearer, Les Ferdinand, Peter Beardsley, David Ginola, Keith Gillespie, as well as the reliable likes of Rob Lee, David Batty and Shaka Hislop.
During six years at St. James’ Park, Keegan twice finished second place in the EPL with Newcastle United (1995-1996, 1996-1997) as well as winning promotion with the Magpies in 1992-1993.
Newcastle United have only finished in the top half of the EPL twice before Ashley’s arrival at Newcastle United; Ashley became the owner of Newcastle United in 2007.
Ashley first put Newcastle United up for sale in September 2008 thereafter the departure of Keegan.
In May 2009, thereafter Newcastle United’s relegation into the SKY BET Championship, Ashley placed the club back on the market for sale. Subsequently, Ashley’s desire to sell Newcastle United ended just five months before remaining as owner.
For all intents and purposes, Ashley’s Sports Direct company has been a profound advertising vehicle given that Ashley controversially renamed St. James’ Park as the Sports Direct Arena. Three years later thereafter disapproval of St. James’ Park being renamed the Sports Direct Arena, Newcastle United reverted back to the beloved traditional stadium name of St. James’ Park.
Over the course of the past ten years on Tyneside, no less than 10 different managers have managed Newcastle United: Alan Shearer, Sam Allardyce, Nigel Pearson, Kevin Keegan, Joe Kinnear, Chris Hughton, Alan Pardew, John Carver, Steve McLaren and Rafa Benitez.
In 2013, Newcastle’s three local news publication’s (The Chronicle, The Sunday Sun and The Journal) were all been banned from attending games at St. James’ Park due to their reporting of a Time 4 Change anti-Ashley march.
Newcastle United’s fanbase have longed for aspirations of European action, coupled alongside re-establishing their credibility as a well-respected force in the English Premier League. They have won a disappointing four F.A Cup games in a decade since the arrival of Ashley.
Ashley has been resigned to selling Newcastle United for over a decade, thus adamantly refusing to budge as the club’s ambition, vision and future has become more shallow and mediocre with each passing season.
For the third time in a decade, Ashley came very close to selling Newcastle United in the autumn of 2017, however, the ever-defiant Ashley resisted from selling the club much to the chagrin of the Toon Army.