Date: 10th May 2019 at 7:36am
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Newcastle United fans aren’t daft. They know they’re being taken for a ride by an owner more obsessed with profit than playing style, and they know that things are unlikely to get any better any time soon.

Mike Ashley has built a reputation for stinginess and stubbornness, and as long as the Magpies keep on surviving by the skin of their teeth and he keeps raking in the profits, he has no reason or inclination to go anywhere.

That might be a frustrating reality for the Toon Army, but it is a reality nonetheless, and one that, to their credit, they have handled with dignity and fierce loyalty to the club they adore.

By rights, Newcastle should be up there with the Everton’s and Leicester City’s of the Premier League. Some would argue they should perhaps be even higher. But the issue facing the Magpies now is that a chasm has opened.

This was perfectly summed up in Mark Lawrenson’s latest comments on the club.

Speaking to BBC Sport, he said: “The big questions, as ever, for the Magpies are will manager Rafa Benitez stay, and will he get the money that he wants to spend?

“I think the answers are ‘yes’ and ‘no’… but he will get some of it, and enough to make some more improvements to his squad.

“We already know Magpies owner Mike Ashley is never going to splash the cash, because he could give Benitez £100m and he is realistically only going to finish seventh, at best.”

This illustrates pretty perfectly the size of the task facing Newcastle now.

It is harder than ever to break into that top bracket occupied by the big six, and years of stagnation and thrifty spending have ensured that the Toon Army are way, way off the pace in terms of challenging for that mantle.

United have, on paper, everything they could need to have a go. They’ve go the stadium, the captive fanbase of a big city, the attraction of a world class manager.

But they also have the albatross of a burdensome owner, and until he decides to sell up and move on, survival battles are the best this team can hope for.