Lack of ambition outlined in black and white

Posted by Marc Duffy

Stu Forster/Getty ImagesApparently, finishing tenth every season seems to be just fine with Newcastle owner Mike Ashley.

The Newcastle United Fan Forum held their first meeting of 2014 on Monday night.

Although closely controlled and with a carefully selected panel, the forum offers the chance for a select group of supporters to ask questions of various senior ranking club officials including Club Secretary Lee Charnley.

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I always read the meeting minutes with interest. You can find them here.

While I think the Forum is definitely a step in the right direction in terms of the club forging a closer relationship with the fans, it is quite saddening to read the minutes confirming what many supporters feared -- under Mike Ashley, Newcastle United have no interest in winning a trophy.

The previous meeting was held last September. During that meeting a fan asked the Newcastle contingent for more information about the club's five year plan. Apparently there is one! -- though it looks to be a moving feast, therefore making it a one year rolling plan in my eyes.

"Last season knocked the club back a little and resulted in the club revising its expectations for this season. The club's intention was to finish in the top eight. Because we finished lower, the club re-evaluated and we want to finish in the top ten this season."

So they wanted an eighth-place finish in a season with European football, but are happy with tenth in a season without? Or do they just make things up as they go along?

They went on with: "Given the quality of our current squad, we think we can and should reasonably expect to finish in the top ten this season."

A mighty goal repeated in Monday's meeting: "The board repeated its aim this season remains a top ten finish."

"Reach for the stars" as some pop-group once crooned.....

On the impact of European football last season, one supporter asked if "the club would be happy with any position under a Europa League place." While not actually answering the question, the board did state that "the Europa League generated circa six million pounds last season and that was not a significant amount."

What? Since when did Ashley not view that type of money as "significant"?

The really miserable part of the minutes for me are when the board are quizzed about trying to win Newcastle a cup.

"...we utilise the cup competitions to secure match experience for the wider squad. Our primary aim and focus has to be the Premier League and we don't want to jeopardise that."

There you have it -- confirmation in writing that the club aren't really interested in winning anything and will be delighted with nothing more than tenth in the league.

As a supporter you have to ask yourself what is the point? But then if 50,000 keep turning up every home game and Ashley keeps taking his healthy returns, why WOULD he want to bother aiming high?

The board also used Wigan, Birmingham and Portsmouth, all relegated after winning cups, as examples for why they take this stance. Another kick between the legs -- are they our competitive set? A club whose average attendance is greater than that of both Milan clubs? A club who have played in the Champions League and pre-Ashley raked in a top ten world football revenue?

Don't build your hopes up for any January arrivals either: "If the right player became available for the right price, perhaps the club would bring someone into the squad."


There were also questions about falling commercial revenues and confirmation that Sports Direct and its brands (Firetrap for instance) don't pay for the advertising space they have splattered all over the stadium, "but it would be sold if other advertisers wanted the space." I'm betting they don't have too many people pushing too hard to find buyers for that space.

For me, the most frustrating thing about all of this is that Ashley's transfer policy is oh-so-close to building something, but with all of the above and his mates as Director of Football and Manager, these things will never be achieved.

The club looks like nothing more than a cash cow and there's very little we can do about it.

Oh, and Wonga have contributed to some banners that will be displayed in the Gallowgate for the derby. Not for me, thanks.

I know there will be a few of you criticising me for my negativity here, but I'm all ears -- let me know why I'm wrong.

Twitter: @MarcSDuffy


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