STEVE Harper has warned Mike Ashley that Newcastle United are "dying a slow and painful death" while the takeover saga limps on.
United kicked off their pre-season campaign in low-key fashion in Dublin on Saturday, but a routine 3-0 win was overshadowed by the continued and worrying inaction in the boardroom.
With no manager, no new signings and a desperate owner unable to broker a quick sale of the club he has washed his hands of, United’s most experienced campaigner is beginning to fear the worst. In a brutally honest and revealing account of the mood in the dressing room, Harper told The Journal the club had been "slowly imploding" for five years – and a perfect chance to rebuild from top to bottom is being squandered.
Harper’s concern mirrors that of defender Sebastien Bassong, who predicted other players would follow his lead in demanding a move from the beleaguered club.
As a senior professional with the respect of his colleagues and the club’s supporters, his words should illustrate to Ashley and managing director Derek Llambias the precariousness of the situation they have created. "It’s an awful situation which we cannot do anything about as players. The sooner it is resolved the better for everyone because we can start again," he said.
"All we keep hearing is ‘Next few days, next few days, next few days’. Everybody – fans, players, staff – wants it resolved so we can rebuild this football club because we are in an awful state at the moment.
"We want it to be done and dusted so we know where we are and where we are going because at this moment the football club is dying a slow, painful death.
"We have to soldier on, but the sooner the better for everyone concerned – and most importantly for Newcastle United."
Having witnessed first-hand the mistakes made not only by Ashley but also previous regimes, Harper was hoping for a fresh start following the club’s dispiriting relegation.
The anticipated appointment of Alan Shearer has been mothballed while Ashley tries to sell the club, leaving United far behind their Championship rivals in their attempts to recruit players and sell some of their high earners.
That has left Harper – United’s longest-serving player – frustrated and searching in vain for any positives to take from the club’s dreadful year.
He added: "What happened last season was desperately, desperately disappointing.
"Just when you think there is an opportunity for this club to put itself right, this happens.
"For five or six years now it has been a gradual, slow implosion. It’s happened now and just when you think there is an opportunity to get it right, build and get straight back up, the opposite happens.
"A lot of fans have come up to me and said ‘In two or three years, it might be a blessing that it (relegation) happened’. Obviously everyone is very disappointed that it happened, but if something good comes out of it and the club rebuilds then maybe I can see that point.
"At the moment the club is not rebuilding – it is in a state of limbo and it is no good for anyone. We just want to get this club going back in the right direction and the situation is very, very frustrating for all of us."
With the situation descending into farce, Harper praised the stoic Chris Hughton for handling the situation so well.
"It is a unique and awful situation but we have to soldier on. This time of year is about getting as fit as possible, getting through games like this with no injuries, which we have managed to do," he said.
"Getting a result helps and we have had a good week. We just need things to be resolved next week now – that is what we’re all hoping. As players we continue our preparations for August 8 this morning. That has to be our focus."