This post was written for The Mag in May.
There’s a misconception among Newcastle fans, as there is in the wider football world, that Mike Ashley has not and will not spend any money.
Newcastle United are the 9th biggest spenders in England since Mike Ashley arrived. I’m talking about gross spend here, regardless of where the money came from, who has been sold and what was recouped.
Just in terms of what Newcastle have shelled out for players, how much money has been provided on the field, Newcastle are number nine over seven years. Whether a club the size of Newcastle should be higher than that is open to debate, but it’s clear that the balance sheet return on that investment is a higher priority than the performance on the pitch and in the league.
Clearly the sale of a top player has a negative impact on a team. When Arsenal lose Van Persie or Man U lose Ronaldo, Spurs lose Bale, Everton lose Fellaini or we lose Cabaye, these are massive blows, but the amount received is less important than the amount spent on their replacements.
Being the 9th biggest spenders you would expect us to be a reasonably solid top half team, but of course that’s not been the case, Ashley only has two top half finishes as reward for what has been spent. Our average finish position is 13th.
So, where does this underperformance place us in comparison to the rest of the Premier League regulars?
Everton are the league’s best value club. Nine other clubs have spent more than them but on average only 5 clubs manage to finish above them.
Man U have won more titles (4) than Spurs(0), Liverpool(0), Chelsea (1) and Man City (2) combined despite spending less than all of them. Indicative of the amazing job Fergie did and how tough it was going to be for anyone replacing him.
Arsenal have never finished outside the top four despite being regularly outspent by five other clubs.
Sunderland show the most ambition for least reward. They have spent enough to expect a challenge for the Europa place every year, but as we’ve seen, they remain predictably and consistently in relegation dogfights.
Then you have Newcastle.
It’s not just in transfer fees where Newcastle are pushing themselves more than seems to be portrayed. In terms of wages paid, Newcastle continue to invest a higher percentage of their current turnover into the squad than they did for a decade prior. Primarily the reason for this is the huge drop in matchday and commercial income Ashley has presided over, however the cash amount invested has also increased.
Much is made of the lack of ambition at the club, but there is enough financial investment to expect better than we are getting. Perhaps it’s the consistent message, from the manager and the boardroom, that expectations should be low, which does more harm to our performances than the actual amount that is being put in.
Newcastle fans do not demand record transfer fees to be broken or to be challenging for the title, they just want a chairman that doesn’t hamstring the club, a positive manager that goes into every game with tactics to win, and a team that put in the effort to achieve that.