Now that Newcastle United's relegation has been confirmed, thinking about the future becomes a little easier. Abject failures through the life of the 2015-2016 Premier League season had put us in a situation in which we were dependent upon other squads – notably a squad that has mastered the art of sitting in the relegation zone for 35 matches before pulling escape out of their asses – and those results didn't come. The hand-wringing "Gee I hope Spurs don't show up" is over. We're down and it's time to come to some realizations. First up: An immediate return to the Premier League, while it would feel good, may not be the most effective outcome to our most recent season in the Championship.
A slight aside: Last night I was fortunate enough to see the Prog Rock band Dream Theater in the final stop of their tour for their new album The Astonishing. I'm glad to have a fight on the internet about Dream Theater and in particular Mike Mangini, but that's neither here nor there for this discussion. Why do I bring it up? Lyrics. We as people look for guidance (for better or worse these days) from songs and lyrics. From my first time listening to the new album, there were a couple of lines that stuck with me. The relevant one goes as such:
On the road to revolution
There are lessons to be learned
All the things you thought that mattered
Are lost at every turn
--Dream Theater - "Astonishing"
There is no doubt that Newcastle United are in need of a revolution. The Mike Ashley era is defined by the habitual smashing of the club's figurative head against a very real brick wall. As a club, you want to be in the Premier League. That is the baseline goal. As Newcastle United fans, you thirst for the days that a Newcastle United Premier League title is a very real idea. The reality of our current situation is that all of this must take a back seat to the very real need for change.
The easy target for change is Mike Ashley which is entirely understandable. He has owned the club for 10 years and we have been relegated twice, seen a series of adversarial and derisive actions taken seemingly to spite the fans. Complete strangers to the very specialized business of running a football club have been tasked with running our club. While it does seem obvious that Lee Charnley and his 16% win percentage as Managing Director needs to go, his boss may fall a little further down the list in clear-out targets. While there is plenty of room to question his motives, his business ethics, or his relative value in the pantheon of human beings (if you're an extremist), he has lately shown in extremely small increments the ability to... ehh.. change would be too strong at this point... let's say modify his behaviors to a degree. In recent years, we haven't had one of those straight out middle fingers at the fans that we saw when things were good (think Sports Direct Arena and nearly every other decision made in that season). Except Charnley, but that appointment – while a middle finger to fans – wasn't meant to be exactly that.
We've seen Mike Ashley spend stupid amounts of money on Graham Carr-identified "talents" to the tune of £80m (Yeah, you're on the "To Go" list as well, buddy). Rafa Benitez, albeit MONTHS too late, was brought in to try to save the huge broadcast payout that should have had Ashley salivating. There have been decisions made that are footballing decisions even if the timing was bad or the reasoning /target identifying was horrendously off base - which ultimately gets us to the crux of the matter.
Newcastle United needs to be run like a football club. We've seen the good of hiring up-and-coming mercenary players at the peak of their powers to sell of at handsome profits. We've also now seen with tragic effect what happens when you get that wrong. Instead of viewing players purely as assets, we need to look at the on-pitch product as tantamount. We've seen what happens when you put an onus on hiring an English coach/manager at all costs. We need to view a manager as a football man first and any other identifier that may for some reason matter second. We need to have a person with intimate knowledge of the football business making the football decisions. Tentatively, if Mike Ashley can get on board with this, he can stay (long term he has to go. I know it. He knows it. The people know it.) We cannot see the backsides of Charnley and Carr quickly enough. Ultimately, even if it takes more than one season in the Championship, the lessons must be learned. The lessons must be learned by Mike Ashley. Yes, Newcastle United is a business... but let it be run like an actual Football Club.