It could be worse for the Toon Army

by Paul Little

Ashley NewcastleAs the Toon Army vented their disillusionment with manager and owner in the 69th minute at St James Park on Saturday, a moment’s consideration for the fans of Cardiff City might well have given them pause for thought.

The Magpies may not have celebrated silverware since 1969, but at least they were not about to fall off the Premier League gravy train. And while changes in ownership and management can bring about a change in fortune, that change isn’t always for the better.

Indeed, Cardiff fans might argue that while Mike Ashley’s reign may not be a golden period in Newcastle’s history, at least he hasn’t decided that red and white stripes might be luckier or saddled the club with an inexperienced manager, like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, incapable of halting a relegation slide.

How Bluebirds’ fans would have loved their host’s season – envy probably shared by all clubs in the Premier League’s bottom ten. Underwhelming as the Magpies may have been, they’ve still been comfortably safe from relegation since late February. Of course, merely avoiding the relegation scrap shouldn’t be the limit of their ambitions, but then given that the club’s owner really only seems interested in the top-flight meal ticket, he’s probably not been too unhappy with how the season has unfolded.

In fact, that’s probably a little unfair – he’s likely also interested in making a large profit in selling the club. You sense that given how levels of investment in Newcastle have tailed off, the For Sale sign has been up for quite a while. To that end, Ashley has at least put the club on a sound and attractive financial footing, if nothing else. Not exactly cause for an end of season open top bus parade around the city centre, I grant you.

And what of Alan Pardew? Clearly the fans have lost patience, not just because of recent poor results (Saturday’s win halted a run of six consecutive league defeats) but with his largely limited approach to the game and his inability to change the mindset of a squad that’s been in holiday mode for a couple of months at least.

That said, given the restrictions he works under and the limited ambitions of the owner, it’s not hard to see why Ashley would persevere with the former Hammers boss.

With the seventh biggest revenue in the Premier League and the eleventh biggest wage bill (often a strong determinant of how a club might fare), their current position of ninth suggests that Pardew has his squad performing at just about par. Not exactly inspiring for the fans, but just right for an owner who knows that Premier League revenues are the best way to entice a buyer and who has no ambition to do more than bide his time and maintain the status quo before cashing in.

It’s been a dispiriting season for the Toon Army – but a quick look around shows plenty who are worse off. And as the old saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for”. Cardiff fans know all about that.

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