St James’ Park reeks of complete and utter apathy right now. Newcastle United is just about existing, but that’s about all that can be said of the club. The heart and soul of a once-proud institution has almost completely disappeared and the joyous memories of Kevin Keegan, Alan Shearer, Les Ferdinand, Rob Lee and Gary Speed are sadly fading.
With two key players, Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin now ruled out until April, Newcastle are a club in crisis. With just two wins in their last 17 matches in all competitions, they lie only three points above the relegation zone, and given Fulham are unbeaten in their last five, it likely won’t be long before the Magpies slip into the bottom three. They're now 6/4 with Betfred to be in the Championship next season.
But honestly, at this point, who cares? Mike Ashley’s attempted sale of the club is now on pause until their fate is decided one way or another, but he has shown complete and utter contempt for the club and the people of Newcastle over the past 14 years. Yes, it really has been that long, and the regression of the club under his ownership has not been sharp, but steady and soul-sapping.
The fans care, but they’ve been visibly drained by this regime. Steve Bruce absolutely cares, but it seems he lacks the ability, and his squad is missing the quality needed to challenge in this league. Better managers than Bruce have failed under Ashley, and as a Geordie you can see that this failure truly hurts him. Aside from that, how many of the players are proud to wear the shirt? How many of them can lead like Shearer did? How many are just picking up a pay-packet until they get another move?
The failed Saudi takeover looked to be a way out of this monotony. In fact, they were at one point second favourites to sign Kylian Mbappe as excitement swept across the Tyne that they could soon be supporting Britain’s richest club. It never materialised, and now every Newcastle fan is simply desperate for the Ashley regime to come to an end, no matter if they end up in the second tier again.
This is a club that used to challenge for Premier League titles and compete in Europe. Hell, they even beat Barcelona, yet now they can barely keep their heads above water in the top flight. They face West Brom, Aston Villa and Brighton in their next three games, which could define their entire season as Bruce comes under more pressure. If they do go down they will likely come straight back up from the Championship, as they did in 2010 and 2017, but something needs to change or this cycle will just continue.
This season is ultimately a microcosm of their recent history since the Premier League’s induction in 1992. They started well, made some progress with a solid foundation and then just slid away into nothingness. If they aren't careful, the season that started with so much hope could end in relegation. Again. Short of the willingness to turn the ship around, they have faded into complete nothingness.
The Premier League, through no fault of its own, has been a soulless place for Newcastle fans over the past few years. In fact, the season that the Magpies at their best and brought the club back to life was the first of their Championship title-winning seasons in 2010, with the likes of Andy Carroll, Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan and Fabricio Coloccini thriving at the club. Now that was a team the fans could get behind.
Relegation is looming again for Newcastle but, actually, it may not be the worse thing, because right now it is just drifting. This club needs new life breathed into it once again. The Gallowgate End needs to roar, the city needs to believe. Only when Ashley finally departs will this dream become a reality.