Times are bad at St. James' Park. It has been obvious over the course of years that there is a sickness within the club... a disconnect between the supporters, the squad that they are meant to love and the ownership. The ownership who are meant to not only provide a competitive and appropriately appointed squad but also ensure the long-term financial viability of the club. During the Mike Ashley Era, the ownership have never really made strides toward the former even if it appears to have made progress on the latter. It has also not been helped by the ownership's propensity for making decisions that have every hallmark of being spiteful or vindictive against the fans that are meant to be "part of it". None of this has endeared ownership to the supporters in any way at all and has in fact engendered protests against manager and owner in recent times. Never mind that these protests have been relatively mild and subdued when compared with other anti-ownership protests around the football league. The results of these mild protests (which are largely designed to NOT influence the players as much as possible) are invariably complaints from the coach/manager in the press blaming defeat after defeat on the fans.
Toxic atmospheres can cause people to start thinking very strange things. If you have a moldy house – which we decidedly do at Newcastle United following years of wallpapering over cracks in the walls – it can do things to your cognitive functions. We have been seeing some of these kind of erratic, irrational thoughts drifting around out there. "Newcastle will be better off if we don't survive" is the big one, and it just doesn't make sense.
The popular train of thought goes something like this: If the club are relegated, Mike Ashley will sell off because... some reason. Let us be honest, relegation from the Premier League will not only take the media money out of Mike Ashley's pocket – which is perhaps the only possible incentive for him to sell in this scenario – but will destroy any value that he has managed to build up in the club over the years of striving towards "financial self-sufficiency". He has shown recently that he has no problem running a Sports Direct subsidiary (which, let's be honest, is what we now are) into the ground so that it can be consolidated to his financial benefit (see the USC situation around the turn of the year). The problem is, there is not another branch of Mike Ashley Football Enterprises.
Mike Ashley will not sell, and Lee Charnley has not managed to anticipate their flawed policies leading to yet another potential relegation. Many of Newcastle's players acquired over the last couple of years do not have relegation clauses built in to their contracts that would mitigate their salaries to some degree in the absence of PL TV broadcast monies. This will lead to a perceived need to liquidate big salaries (even on players such as Remy Cabella who have stated that they will stay at the club no matter what happens in the final three matches of the season) which will set up a need, when combined with the already stated attitude that players coming out of contract this summer will not be retained, to completely rebuild the squad. If this idea doesn't terrify you, I do not know what will.
The last time Newcastle were relegated, it was a point of pride that in spite of being in the Championship, Newcastle were among the top average attendances in the Football League. Fans turned out, travelled and a the club made an instant return to the Premier League with pride and colors intact. If Mike Ashley is anticipating a repeat of that performance from the fans, he is likely in for a big surprise. His decisions and mismanagement will have turned too many fans off. Sure attendances will likely be on the high end of the Championship, but they are not likely to be anywhere near what Ashley would need to "balance the books" – whatever that means relative to this situation – which will set up a failure loop that could see our club be the latest to "Pull a Leeds" although through exactly the opposite philosophy.
Stating that the final three matches of this Premier League season are "like three cup finals" is popular hyperbole at this point and doesn't sit well with fans as we know that "Cups are not a priority" and we have already lost at least two "Cup Finals". It is without a hint of irony or hyperbole that I sit here and say that these three matches could very well be the biggest three matches in the long, storied history of our club. Based on the levels of apathy we have seen and the inability to inspire of persons in position to do so, it's hard to see any potential for the club to keep its head above water.