Interview: Newcastle United fans discuss the takeover, Ashley, Bruce and more

Craig Hanson 4 days ago
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There's a lot going on in the North East as the Magpies prepare for next season

It's not easy being a Newcastle fan these days. There's been growing discontent among the fanbase for years now when it comes to controversial owner Mike Ashley. Steve Bruce didn't seem to win anyone over last season apart from some TV pundits. Investment on and off the pitch has not been satisfactory in the eyes of supporters - either not enough or poorly spent. It's hard to find any optimism in the air. Fan groups are still fighting to make the proposed Saudi-backed takeover happen and many still believe that change is on the horizon, but the mood right now is one of dejection and hopelessness among a large number of fans.

We spoke to Kris Wallace from Gallowgate Shots and Pete from the Magpie Group to find out if there are any reasons to be optimistic going into the upcoming season. Here's what they had to say:

Q. With all that's gone on during the past year and in recent weeks, how optimistic are fans of a takeover going through and what would one mean for the club and the region?

Kris: The takeover is out of our hands right now, and we don’t even know if the Saudis are still 100% at the table. Mike Ashley has taken the Premier League to court and we have to wait to see the outcome of that.  Any substantial takeover would transform both the club and region with the obvious investment that would follow. 

Q. If you could sum it up in a few words, why is the relationship between Mike Ashley and the Newcastle United fanbase so toxic and how desperate are fans to see a change in ownership?

Kris: Mike Ashley has had chances to reconnect with the fans on numerous occasions but he keeps failing, and will always fail. New ownership is vital to the future of this club if we ever want to progress further than being a mid-table Premier League club at best. 

Q. How would you rate Steve Bruce's performance last season?

Kris: Lucky, fans saw the flaws in the team and setup from day one. He was lucky to still be in the role at the end of the season. If fans were allowed into St James' Park throughout the season then he would have been axed.

Q. How do you feel about, in all likelihood, seeing another season with Steve Bruce as manager?

Kris: It’ll just be more of the same I’d imagine, another season of defensive football which rarely has any highs or edge-of-the-seat moments. 

Q. Takeover or not, do you feel investment in the playing squad is crucial in the coming months, and if so in what areas of the pitch do you particularly see a need for improvement?

Pete: Yes. Proper cover for Callum Wilson, as he is likely to play 25 games max, and Dwight Gayle just never looks interested. A genuine 10 who can weigh in with goals too . A real combative box-to-box midfielder, who can link up and not just lump 50/ 50 balls from deep like Shelvey does.

Q. Are you concerned at all about losing any of the current squad members, and who would you be most disappointed to see go?

Pete: Yes. Freddie Woodman. He should be our number two as he can be the future but he hasn’t been given the chance. Allan Saint-Maximin isn't the greatest I have ever seen but he has a knack for just making things happen. He needs better players around him or he will be gone soon.

Q. Looking to the future, are there are youngsters on the periphery that could step up in the coming season and make a name for themselves in the first team?

Pete: As well as the obvious things we do see, like the state of what was once one of the best stadiums in Europe, I think that behind the scenes there's been zero investment in the academy and that has meant there is no clear path or direction for the kids coming through. Kelland Watts is a good shout and Freddie Woodman of course. The trouble is that if we are battling relegation from the first game it’s very hard to see Bruce not going for his “ seasoned pro” every time.

Q. There's so much in the air at Newcastle with legal cases, a poor relationship with the current owner, discontent about the management staff - with all that in mind, how do you see next season going? Is there optimism among fans that you can improve on what you did last season?

Pete: If things don’t change I think we'll just get more of the same, but we will again need three teams worse than us in order to go down. Looking at the three coming up, I don’t think there will be three worse teams, despite the fact that all the other teams are spending and building. Having fans back could help us as our away following are world class. I think we definitely need to re-sign Joe Willock and get some cover for Callum Wilson. If we can keep Saint-Maximin we should finish in the top 12. If we don't then the season could be on a knife edge for the next nine months.

There's still plenty of time before the season begins and we could be dealing with a whole different dynamic in a month's time. Various appeals processes are underway regarding the takeover bid, a new manager may well be appointed and some new faces are almost certainly going to rock up at St. James' Park. Perhaps things won't be quite so bleak on Tyneside this season after all. We will have to wait and see.

The countdown to the new Premier League season has almost begun. Fans will be clamouring to hear news and updates about players coming in, players leaving the club, debates, banter and everything else concerning Newcastle before they return to competitive action on Sunday 15th August. They start their campaign at home to one of last season's surprise packages, David Moyes' West Ham United. How many new faces could feature in that game? Will Steve Bruce still be in charge? Will Mike Ashley still own the club?

A good way to answer these questions is by following the wonderful fan pages featured in this article. Go ahead and follow Gallowgate Shots and The Magpie Group on Twitter where you'll get news, updates and debate on all things Newcastle.

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