Newcastle just spent smart; they could have done this under Mike Ashley

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Newcastle United celebrate

Have Newcastle United just done what any club could have done with good decision-makers? Did they even need the Saudi money?

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Howay the lads and all that
I’ve told most my story here before: how as a graduate student who’d fallen for a Cornish science student in the US, I moved to Bristol on what they called a blue card, permitting me to take a job while I “completed my studies” in 1995. My studies were already complete; the blue card was just a way to follow my girl home. I worked for a temp agency, then for a hospital kitchen and pub. I believe it was ITV’s coverage of Serie A – with AC Milan in their pomp and featuring the beautiful Paolo Maldini and the phenomenal George Weah (whose DNA I am convinced was somehow involved in Erling Haaland’s manufacture) that first really turned me on to football.

I picked up a newspaper most days – the Telegraph and/or Daily Mail, as I recollect — reading the news of the world, the brief NFL section, and noting page 3 with some astonishment. I had a lot of free time but not a lot of money (big shout out to Bristol’s public library system), so when I started paying attention to English football, I didn’t have access to Sky.

Match of the Day offered absolutely nothing better than the show put on by NUFC. Ferdinand, Beardsley, Ginola, et al were irresistible. That they were sponsored by my favorite beer and looked charmingly like NFL referees was mere icing. Ferdinand #9 was my first football shirt, and I was wearing it when I blew the LIV-NEW result for a pair of customers at the hospital pub on 3 April 1996. It taught me a real lesson about our respective nations’ sporting cultures. I still feel bad about it.

It’s been a long road that has, since Sir Bobby, mostly trended downward. I love my club, so there’s always been a thread of joy to find, but I’ve watched Keegan’s meltdowns, two relegations, a couple of close escapes, hopeless, threatless losses in cup finals, the utter indignity of Alan F*cking Pardew walking out on the club, and the rest of the entire grisly Mike Ashley era. 80% of it sucked.

To give him his due, Ashley didn’t leave NUFC in the worst shape. The squad wasn’t worth much – though those players are likely worth more now – but they hadn’t posted a working loss in so long that the new owners had a free hand with FFP. Which, obviously, they have used well. The success this team has earned this season is astonishing. Eddie Howe could run for President, as far as I’m concerned.

Whatever other members of the Toon Army care to admit, the fact is that NUFC was purchased not simply as a sports-washing vehicle, but as a marketing and profit vehicle for the PIF. For me, it takes some of the shine off that we’re now owned by people I think have done really horrible things. But the injection of life and money into the city is a good in its own right; how does that factor in to all this? (No, it certainly doesn’t justify crimes.) And I still love the club itself, and all that it represents.

I’ve been careful about where I spend my money, but even making sure I have the means to watch them play in television profits the club. So here’s a deep thought for you: if you are watching the Premier League while NUFC and Chelsea and MCFC and Villa and Everton and whoever else is going to be purchased next are owned by troublesome folks, aren’t you as complicit as any of these clubs’ supporters? It’s the television money that drives all this.

All that said, I still cried a little when we battered Leicester to a goalless draw and claimed our place in the Champions League today. It means the world to me. Howay the lads. And up the Geordies. They deserve it, even if the owners don’t.
Chris C, Toon Army DC


…I’m expecting to see more emails in the coming days about how my club (Newcastle) are part of the same issue as City – powered by a state and ruining football – given our success this year.

But, while there are perfectly acceptable questions over our ownership, what Newcastle have done in the past 18 months is possible by nearly all Premier League clubs. We started Monday’s game against Leicester with two Academy kids in midfield, a back four with a big money signing (Botman, who cost less than many other clubs’ defensive reinforcements) and four who were well within the budget of any club in the league. Our wage offers are supposedly not too high either (Trippier saying he took a pay cut to come from Atleti).

Yes, we spent big on Isak and Bruno. But which Premier League teams haven’t? Even ignoring Chelsea and Forest, Spurs spent millions on full backs they’ve binned off and Richarlison, Man U spent £140m on Casemiro and Antony. Look at Liverpool (for all of Klopp’s moaning) with Nunez and Gakpo. Further down the league, look at money spent by West Ham, Villa (now coming good), Fulham and so on. You have to spend some money in this league.

What Newcastle have done, thanks to the new owners, is do it well. Hiring a good manager (striking their top pick was Emery, who looks like would have been just as good) and signing the right characters without spending for the sake of it.

It’s almost why this feels a bit tainted. This was possible under Ashley, or even any owner with a pinch of ambition, without needing to be so wealthy. Getting a structure in place, and doing it right has got us here.

And so Newcastle will be a frustration, but also showcase the opportunity for other clubs. Do it right and you can now compete, without dropping a ton of cash. Yes, you may not beat City over 38 games as they are a league above, but we can compete in a one-off game with them.

Brighton feel like a very similar story this season – doing it well, with an excellent manager. They deserved top 4, too, and best of luck to them next year. Our two clubs have broken the big 6 monopoly by being smart – you don’t need the Saudi money to do that.
James, NUFC (Buzzing!)


…With all the bitching and moaning in the mailbox recently, can I give a little perspective on Newcastle from a non-fan? What a turnaround for the club. Absolutely 100% deserve Champions League football ahead of my team, Liverpool. Your article highlighting why we don’t deserve it, is spot on, in my opinion.

What an example of a club that had fallen on very hard times embracing the future and pulling together. They haven’t yet spent many of the Saudi millions (billions?) and Eddie Howe has quietly and pretty humbly driven them forward to a position way beyond even the dreams of many fans surely?

They are the physical embodiment of “team spirit”, like Liverpool first were under Klopp, Leicester when they won the league or many other clubs that were much, much more than the sum of their parts. Dan Burn, what a legend, what a signing in Isak, and how Pope isn’t ahead of Pickford for England is beyond credulity.

To see all the Geordies bonding together after ridding themselves of the odious figure of Mike Ashley should bring us all a little bit of vicarious pleasure. I am sure there will be many dissenting voices, but I think respect and credit is due here.

If only Man U lose their next two games (I know, they won’t), I will be a happy, happy man!


If City success is hollow then…
I sat down to look at the ̶C̶i̶t̶y̶ ̶M̶a̶d̶r̶i̶d̶ Newcastle Leicester match tonight and as half time arrives I find myself thinking football is definitely broken. Newcastle pushing a̶r̶g̶u̶a̶b̶l̶y̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶b̶i̶g̶g̶e̶s̶t̶ ̶f̶o̶o̶t̶b̶a̶l̶l̶ ̶c̶l̶u̶b̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶w̶o̶r̶l̶d̶ recent PL Champions to almost certain relegation as if they are A̶c̶c̶r̶i̶n̶g̶t̶o̶n̶ ̶S̶t̶a̶n̶l̶e̶y̶ relegated reigning champions Man City of 1938. (no history, eh?) How do C̶i̶t̶y̶ Newcastle fans feel about this in their heart of hearts?

Even a performance like that is irredeemably tarnished by the fact it is entirely created by cheat codes. … As meaningless, plastic and unearned as every other ̶C̶i̶t̶y̶ Newcastle win/draw.

C̶i̶t̶y̶ Newcastle cruise into the top four. I saw recently someone question why the main broadcasters and written press seem to ignore this completely. It is literally never reported on or even caveated. … Shall I continue? –Something something, Lance Armstrong…

Having only come second in highest net spend of the Premier League since their takeover due to the outrageous antics of Todd Boehly, could Eddie Howe have done this without spending more than 250 million on his current players? (At 19th during this same period, and with a negative net spend, City have turned a profit) What did Eddie achieve when he didn’t have hundreds of millions to spend? Mid-table mediocrity, an average place of 14th across five PL seasons with Bournemouth? –Even last season, Newcastle finished 11th. Well, well, Howe and Pep, cut from the same cloth, can’t do it without money, obviously impossible to offer any recognition to their managerial brilliance in light of their spending. You see, no one else spends.

So do Newcastle fans feel adequately ashamed for having achieved such incredible heights and so unexpectedly? Is there enough of a “story” to this campaign for this achievement to truly be recognised or even remembered by pundits or their fans? They don’t have a trophy to show for it so Rio Ferdinand won’t be very impressed.

Newcastle arguably robbed football royalty, Liverpool(!) of a top four spot and without that filthy money, who knows Brighton, even Villa may have shone even brighter than they did this season. Robbery, it’s all worth….. nothing.
JG MCFC (speaking for all the big 6 fans who may forget to write in today–and presumably any Sunderland fans too 😉


The league is busted
Yesterday’s mailbox quite rightly challenged Stewie’s weird assertion that because Dortmund can do something in one league, it’s possible for another club to do something in a different league, against different sides, and across a longer season (with regression to the mean).

But it’s also worth noting exactly what it’s taken for Liverpool to stop City winning 6 titles in a row, as it paints a somewhat depressing picture of where the league is at.

(19-20) WWWWWWWWDWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW…. (covid break 19 Feb. LFC 25 points clear. Pep conceded the league at Christmas) (99 points, ultimately)

that’s a run of 65 games in the league with one defeat. That’s what it took to stop City winning six in a row. What this Arsenal side managed for 19 games, well basically do that twice. And if that doesn’t work, then do it a third time in a row, and at that point, City might give up.

Should also be noted that the one defeat was away to City, with a clearance off the line… by just 11 millimetres. over 210mm of the ball was in the goal, but just over one centimetre was on the line and that stopped LFC from being Invincibles, whilst winning the Champions League at the same time. Likely to have been the very best season in the clubs history and ‘in the conversation’ with the best club achievements in Premier League history. but it wasn’t good enough to beat this City. You can be that good, and yet you still need luck to beat them.

The season they did win, they could have been Invincibles again, only for a world-stopping-virus to strike. bad luck. when they returned from the covid break, they were utterly drunk, with no pre-season, and into empty stadiums. some cretins wanna try and troll and say “asterisk, asterisk” or whatever else because the finish line was crossed after lock down; as if Liverpool fans would do anything other than laugh at them.

There’s two statements that aren’t mutually exclusive to describe where we are:

1 – It is utterly hilarious how some Arsenal fans went way too far for a team that’s been average for half a year (“best start ever, best start ever. don’t look it up because it’s not accurate, but best start ever”), and indeed how funny it is that some Arsenal fans are taking this worse-than-Keegan-capitulation so badly.

2 – the league is busted; wining it now is virtually impossible. I’m old enough to remember the tabloids worrying that the Arsenal+United dominance of the late 90’s and early 00’s was turning the league into the Scottish Premiership. Ultimately, the Prem has become league un. there’s only one side in it. Man City are definitely, definitely not up to anything weird. Like the covid season, in ’21,where their revenue went up 17%. That’s totally normal. Barca, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Man United, yeah they all went down. Because you know, the word was on fire. City’s revenue stream went up 17%. That’s fine. Total matchday income of 0.8 million, but their overall revenue went up 17%. Nothing to see there. It’s their own accounts. perfectly transparent. Normal.

And with that commercial acumen and leadership miracles, and a passionate owner who’s never there, there’s not much that can stop them next year either.

Here’s hoping the other sides have a shot in the near future, but it’d require a perfect storm of circumstances, not all of them within a club’s control: and a favourable run with injuries, Statistically improbable success with transfers who all hit the ground running (until Keita), and a player like Mo Salah becoming a phenomenon. The uncovering of a generational talent from the academy. And with the best manager available, and after half a decade of steady growth. They got one shot. And now they are rebuilding to try again.

To that end, and to reiterate my last note, I’m getting more comfortable with just celebrating a team if they inspire affection in them. And affection doesn’t mean they’ve won. Prior to Klopp, I’d known a Houllier side nominally come close on paper but in reality it was a very good cup side; nothing more. I’d seen a Rafa side come close (highest LFC points total at the time), andIi’d adored him as a manager, but I’d never really bonded with the team.

Torres and Gerrard and Kuyt and Mascherano, absolutely. Adored those players. But a team of Reira, Skrtel, Dossena, El Zhar… They never plucked the heart strings. I never got on the Lucas bandwagon; an average player at best, who’s only good years were when the club fell off a cliff; he was the best player in a team in 12th…

But the Brendan side; This Klopp side. There’s only been one title in a decade of that, but it has been supremely entertaining. That’s where I’d hope Arsenal fans go, or United next year. And that’s where I’d hope the mailbox goes too. People connecting with their team, not getting so riled if other fans laugh at them. Stop the VAR bollocks and even worse conspiracy talk. That we all just hope for miracles because that’s how the Premier League have chosen for it to be.
Tom G (very excited by the Europa; Hoping for more basketball scores as it’s been in the past)


Could City’s dominance result in irrelevance?
After all of the dust has settled after the season, and all the talk of ‘who is the biggest bottlejobs’ (a hotly contested subject) has subsided, what next? We all have to start the season again (aside from the bottom three), knowing that whatever great feats of tactical and technical ability a team is able to pull off, it probably won’t be enough.

City winning the league has become an inevitability, so much so that it could become irrelevant. Second place could become the new first. City will win, so who out of the other six or seven teams could come second? That’s the real question, and the real competition, and even at this point, we don’t know… it could even be Chelsea. That’s how competitive the next league could be.

The real issue is that the idea of next season becomes immediately more exciting if City are not in the picture, and I don’t think that is a very good thing for the club. This got me thinking… what if everyone boycotts City’s games until the FFP case has been settled? Take the fine, 3-0 wins all year, rest your players for a week (Klopp will like that) and City don’t get to play football. Yes, they will win the league and make lots of money, but that doesn’t mean anything if you have more than you need anyway. A billionaire winning the lottery has far less impact than someone like you or I winning. But take away the football, and what is left?

I, like many, play FIFA. If I was granted a billion coins, it would be a lot easier to win. If I was granted those coins, but unable to compete in division rivals or weekend league, would I play? No. We have never been in this situation before, so no one knows how to handle it, but what could become clear over the next few seasons, is that what is more important than performance is competition. I’m sure people will comment about rival fans like me being bitter, but maybe we’re not bitter, we’re just getting bored, and that’s not good long-term, for City as much as anyone else.


Justin nailed it with his explanation on City’s predictable and inevitable brilliance vs the action heroes of yesteryear. Flawed heroes are way more fun!


It was ever thus
With all the talk of City ruining football by being so boringly, predictably dominant that people are fed up, so unlike the treble-winning United team, I had a little browse of F365 in the Wayback archives to see what people thought about it all back then.

Sometimes you’re just lucky, so lo and behold on the very first click I came across an interesting article dated two days after Manchester United had triumphed I over Juventus in their Champions league second leg semi-final ’99. How fitting. Here are some amusing snippets.

“THIS week, inevitably, I have been thinking about Manchester United. Even before their performance in Turin (where, let’s be honest, they took the piss out a team that once would have sent shivers of fear down the spines of English clubs), it was becoming obvious that they were making the transition from being a really good team to the very threshold of being a great one.”

Whats this now? Putting down a European giant in style? Surely not. That is after all a sign that the ‘game’s gone’ as City have shown with Madrid.

“That’s great for them and their supporters, but sounds a dire warning for those of us who love the traditional competitiveness of the English game….”

Where have I heard that recently?

“… Manchester United’s last Premiership match, the 3-0 stroll against Sheffield Wednesday. In reality, what we witnessed was United’s reserves brushing aside Wednesday. United are now so strong they can leave out seven internationals and replace them with seven others that would walk into another Premiership team.”

Not at all like City of course who heralded the end times of all excitement with what their own reserves did to Chelsea this weekend.

” … the element of uncertainty as to the eventual outcome (the very thing that has lain at the heart of the sport’s global popularity for a century) was utterly missing. And if football stops being a contest, and become a mere spectacle, then, first, the bookmakers will go out of business and we’ll all cheer. But the cheers will soon turn to tears because the game we know and love will soon follow suit, as, say, Manchester United and Arsenal come to totally dominate the domestic scene.”

What carefree days these were when City were in the third tier staying out of the way so everyone else could get on with being fair and competition-spirited. Not a state owner in sight.

” Maybe, just maybe, the Leeds and Tottenhams and Aston Villas of this world will follow the well-run, carefully-financed likes of the current big two, emerge as genuine contenders once again and restore the competitiveness without which the English game will cease to thrive.”

Wow. Where do you even begin analysing that irony-laden bad boy?

” For the sake of all but the most die-hard Manchester United fans, I hope that’s how it goes… “

Sounds dreamy, but unfortunately it took well-run and mega rich along with a complete loss of wits from United after their legendary manager called it a day.

There we go. Evidence that it was all way more exciting until City came along, bought the ball and took it home. And is that an article today about Bayern finally slipping up for the 1st time in a decade? Must be because of the state ownership policy in the Bundesliga….

Lets stop blaming City for ruining the competitiveness of the league with their boring dominance shall we. We know the most ‘meh’ timeline is the one where the Premier League banned external investment into clubs before Abramovich got his hands on Chelsea and demanded clubs only spend what they earn. United hoovered up every good player that popped his head up above the parapet in the Premier League and once a decade got caught wearing flip-flops.


To those City haters
Maybe they should write a book entitled “Waaaah”

They’re doing better than us “waaaah”
They spend their money wisely “waaaah”
They’ve got one of the best managers ever “waaah”
They’ve got lots of money “waaaah”
They’re better than us “waaaah”

Maybe these people watch F1 because it’s exactly the same – “These people are doing a better job than us…..waaaaaah”

Seriously now though, without Pep and Man City, our league would be in a really sorry state. As it stands, City are the benchmark, for England and Europe and yet people still bawl and wail on social media and F365 as if it matters.

What I can see now, as I can also see happening with these state owned clubs, is that they don’t just piss their money away like some Jonny come lately like Moshiri or Boehly. They spend wisely and have much more idea of the value of money and what it can achieve, rather than throwing it around like someone who is challenged in the trouser department.

So suck it up people, you have to do a better job. It’s like blaming VAR, you haven’t done enough to win, you haven’t done enough to compete so work harder, smarter and then you might get some sympathy from me.

Salty tears really are a cliche these days so why not try something new.
Fat Man


Harry Kane should leave
Great article from Ian Watson on Kane and his impact on Spurs this season.

I’ve seen a bunch of teams of the season over the past couple of days, and Kane wasn’t in any of them. It feels like it’s got to the point where his brilliance is a. so expected and b. so overshadowed by Spurs awfulness that he can no longer shine where he is.

As a Spurs season ticket holder I really would encourage him to go. The guy has to finish with a title or two, even if it’s just the Bundesliga. The murals, the tifos, the dvds and even the Premier League top goalscorer mean nothing. The painful rebuild that was predicted five years ago still hasn’t started and we end the season showing relegation form. With a huge slice of luck he might end up with a league or FA Cup but otherwise, the poor lad is going to win f all with us.

Andrew, Woodford Green


On Liverpool and referees
I have a brief counter-argument to PL from DL’s suggestion that Tierney/Brooks’ involvement in Liverpool games should be scaled back given the controversial Spurs game – no they bloody well shouldn’t.

Maybe Tierney has refereed a slightly higher proportion of Liverpool’s games than average this year, but I’m quite certain that it will be for 1001 logistical reasons (e.g. given them equivalent rest time to the teams when doing midweek/weekend fixtures). If there was some great refereeing conspiracy against Liverpool (which there obviously isn’t), then the villainous PGMOL would just instruct A.N Other to give dodgy decisions against them – it doesn’t need to be Tierney…

PGMOL should not be changing a single thing to kowtow to Liverpool/Klopp’s bullying tactics to influence matches in their favour – including by changing the line up of referees to better suit the club – that would be absurd.

If the position has broken down so badly that a ref can’t do his job around Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp (which, to be clear, it hasn’t), then I’d politely suggest that’s Liverpool/Klopp’s problem and the solution would be a much sterner punishment for the club/manager than a two match touchline ban. Tierney/PGMOL shouldn’t have to do anything to accomodate Liverpool just because their manager threw a tantrum that would have seen a three year old sent to the naughty step…
Andy (MUFC)


Stream of consciousness
Yo. Several things….

Rice? What? I don’t understand the hype. Runs around watching.

Arsenal? They’re not getting relegated. They are runners up in the Worlds Greatest Football League Competition in the World.

Coventry v Luton? Oh my absolute hell. To actually think that one of these is replacing Everton or Leeds or Leicester???

Has the world gone mad? And then the 4.45 kick off.

I am vomiting while weeping.