Angry Newcastle fans turn against owner Ashley

FOURTH ROUND

NEWCASTLE 0

MAN CITY 2 (Alvaro Negredo 99, Edin Dzeko 105)

After extra-time

Newcastle United crashed out of the League Cup yesterday morning (Singapore time), losing 0-2 at home to Manchester City.

In an existence that seems to be punctuated with one catastrophe after another, it barely even registered with the home fans.

They have bigger problems than losing football matches.

They have Mike Ashley.

Ashley has reigned unrivalled and unquestioned at St James' Park for just over six years.

In that time, he has employed and, in most cases dismissed, Sam Allardyce, Kevin Keegan, Joe Kinnear, Alan Shearer, Chris Hughton and Alan Pardew.

He has been relegated from the Premier League.

He has changed the name of the stadium to match his sportswear business.

He has undermined the power structure by returning Kinnear to his court as director of football.

STAGNANT

In all of that time, with all of that upheaval and uncertainty, Newcastle are essentially in the same position that he found them: Mid-table.

It must be said that he has also, in certain ways, been a force for good.

Newcastle's work within the community and their imaginative efforts in ticket pricing are to be applauded.

Ashley has fostered an intelligent scouting system, using Graham Carr's talents to the full, especially in France.

He has also worked to pay down the debt that the ruinous regime of Freddy Shepherd had left him as a legacy.

But all of that has been hopelessly compromised by the way that he has stomped, unopposed, across the city of Newcastle.

He is contemptuous of the history of the club, of the supporters and of those who report on it.

They are not fools in the north-east, they are not blinded by the pursuit of success because it's so rare that they get to enjoy any.

They want their club to stand for something, to represent the city.

At present, it's simply a plaything for Ashley.

When they have attempted to make that point inside the stadium, they have met resistance.

According to one reporter at St James' Park yesterday morning, there were scuffles between supporters and stewards and at least one ejection.

A number of supporters attempted to further their opposition recently by staging a march against Ashley.

The march, with a lower than expected turnout, was duly covered by the local press.

When Ashley read the coverage, he flew into a rage and banned the journalists of three major local papers from St James' Park and ordered his press officers to prevent them from asking Pardew questions at away games.

It's a wholly disproportionate response and it will only exacerbate the rift between Ashley and the city.

But Ashley has never shirked a battle. He once banned a reporter from the Daily Mail because his colleagues on the news desk had written a damaging story about the Football Association, while the Daily Telegraph's reporter was banned last year for suggesting that there were problems in the dressing room.

The derby defeat by Sunderland was a grievous blow to confidence and Pardew no longer has the full support of the fans.

That said, he is yet to meet widespread opposition, probably because the fans know that Kinnear lurks in the wings as a replacement.

With all of this in the background, it's little wonder that the players have offered such inconsistent displays. It's little wonder that so many of them are anxious to leave.

When Newcastle finished fifth in 2011, they had a chance to build on that success. Since then, on and off the pitch, everything that has been worked for has fallen apart.

This club are in a mess and Ashley's behaviour isn't helping.

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