Newcastle United have told supporters a top-ten finish is not the limit of their ambitions this season.
To end the campaign in the top half of the Premier League is the Magpies’ stated aim for 2013-14, but a fans forum has been assured they are hoping for better. Were they to qualify for the Europa League, however, there will be no extra recruitment to cope with it.
Newcastle struggled last season with the extra demands of Europe’s secondary competition. They played 16 matches to reach the quarter-finals, and finished only two places above the relegation zone.
It has led to the perception the club do not want to be back in the competition but according to the minutes of Monday’s forum, published yesterday, they refute that.
“The board (represented by secretary Lee Charnley and finance director John Irving) suggested that this perception had been driven by reports published prematurely from the previous fans forum, which had misled the public about what was actually said and the context,” it said. “It was restated that the club’s intentions are top ten as the minimum standard, with every place higher representing a better outcome.”
Newcastle estimate the value of last season’s Europa League run as “circa £6m”, and concluded “that was not a significant amount to strengthen the squad. Any funds available (from qualifying this season) would be used to strengthen for the Premier League and not for the Europa League.”
They added: “The squad is stronger than last year. Given that the Europa League can be a drain for clubs for very little financial reward, the club believes the structure of the competition needs to be reassessed.”
It was also stressed that “financially, the club is not under any pressure to sell players and remains an attractive proposition to players.”
Newcastle have not advanced beyond the fourth round of a domestic cup competition since Mike Ashley bought the club in 2007. Many fans have become frustrated at an apparent unwillingness to chase a first trophy since 1969.
In response to a question about the Magpies’ ambitions, it was pointed out that the Europa League had “ultimately adversely affected the club’s league campaign, while several other clubs had recently suffered relegation after winning a domestic cup.”
Charnley and Irving did, however, stress that manager Alan Pardew had started his “strongest available players” in Saturday’s FA Cup tie against Cardiff City, despite his post-match claims to the contrary.
Seven changes were made to the starting XI at the weekend, with Pardew suggesting he had been without two injured players, as well as the suspended Mathieu Debuchy. It was, nevertheless, a strong side against a struggling Cardiff team which had itself been changed.
A question as to whether the club had achieved the highest available academy status went unanswered, although Newcastle have reversed the policy of Ashley’s early years, where they bought in a large number of development players from elsewhere.
The current strategy was described as to “not bring in players from outside of the region for ages 16 and below, with only rare occasions for the higher development age categories to give local players the opportunity to play for their local club.” There are no plans to reinstate the Newcastle United Supporters Trust – expelled for publishing minutes of a previous meeting before the club – to the forum, nor to lift the ban on NCJ Media titles, including The Journal.
The club has denied NCJ Media journalists access to its Press box and pre-match Press conferences since October, and players and coaches have been told not to answer questions from our journalists outside of them.
The ban was introduced because the club felt NCJ had given “unacceptably disproportionate level of coverage which was neither fair nor balanced” to protests against Ashley’s ownership.