Newcastle fans can be a fickle lot.
After all, if you were to go back to some of the match threads on this site during that 2010-11 season when the Mags finished fifth, you'd see ratings done in "Pardews". It wasn't many months later till the rumblings of Pardew Out started. They became a roar early this season. An improbable run of good form maybe quieted that a bit when Newcastle ripped off six straight wins, but was in full force after the club crashed out of the Capital One Cup and lost another derby.
We love out players, right up to the point that we start hating them. Newcastle's fan base defines the "What have you done for me lately" mentality that permeates all over English football. Especially for clubs with aspirations of European football, there is no time to implement a system. Ask David Moyes.
As a fan base, obviously, The Toon Army has high ambitions. And why not? In the past decade, there have been three European campaigns. Newcastle isn't a mainstay in Europe by any means, but the Mags have shown they can get there. It is not unreasonable to think that with maybe some better depth and a decent manager, Newcastle could knick a Champion's League spot, or at least make a decent run in a domestic cup. For a club that has the history that Newcastle has, asking for a bit of silverware after 60 years (Sorry, Inter-Cities Fairs Cup) is not unreasonable or delusional.
A lot is made over how Newcastle should see itself. Is it a big club? It has the funds to justify that claim (Newcastle will pop up on the most valuable clubs list from Forbes every now and again, ranking 20th in 2013.) Certainly, with St. James' Park being sold out every match, the support is there as if it were a big club.
But, Newcastle doesn't act like a big club. With lackluster transfer windows and allowing Alan Pardew to hold on to his managerial spot for as long as Newcastle did, Mike Ashley and the board can almost be seen as not wanting to emulate the club's past success. As Robert Bishop stated on a recent podcast, Ashley's goal with Newcastle United is to make money. Bringing in more players costs money. Trying for Europe costs money. Making cup runs costs money. And, if you don't get into Europe, or if you don't go far in Europe to justify those expenses, it can hurt. Mike Ashley runs Newcastle like a business, whose bottom line is not wins or trips to Europe. The bottom line is money, and in the bizarre world of football, finishing tenth on the cheap can be better for the bottom line then trying for fourth and finishing seventh.
But now, Mike Ashly could change that. Newcastle should feel fairly confident that they will remain in the Premier League for next season. With the right manager, Newcastle could start laying the ground work for more ambitious plans. Frank de Boer, who has seen great success at Ajax could be such a hire. If de Boer is given some control in transfers and signings and can implement his system, Newcastle could see great success. De Boer's agent has said he won't leave Ajax during the season, but he's worth looking at and if nothing else might be persuaded to come Tyneside over the summer. If Newcastle wait until the season is done to find a permanent solution, then any number of managers could be available or at least willing to listen. And, given the club's resources and fan base, it wouldn't be hard for Ashley to make Newcastle look attractive.
Or, Ashley could solidify that his only ambition is to remain in top flight and not contend for trophies. He could go with a Tony Pulis. A manager that wouldn't be considered an inspired choice or signify European ambitions. A hire like that probably puts Ashley and the board at odds with the fans again.
I chose the photo for this article for a reason. At one time, Mike Ashley was a popular owner. He sat with the fans, wore a jersey, and seemed to be genuinely interested in putting together a good club. It may be hard to admit, but there's a strong argument to be made that Ashley saved Newcastle from years in the lower divisions and financial uncertainty. This managerial change comes at a time when he could strive to repair a lot of the bridges he's damaged in recent years. An inspired choice and the effort to back the manager with quality players can send the message that Newcastle are ready to compete with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal. A more conservative, business-minded selection signifies that we're content battling West Brom, Stoke, and West Ham for 10th.
We have seen how Ashley has run this club up to this point. He now has a chance to become bolder. It may not happen over night, but the foundations can be laid now for a Newcastle United that is focused on qualifying for Europe and earning silverware.
The question is, will he take the chance?