Why Newcastle United Can't Compete with the EPL Powerhouses

Dan SheridanContributor IAugust 29, 2013

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24:  Alan Pardew, the Newcastle United manager looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and West Ham United at St James' Park on August 24, 2013 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
David Rogers/Getty Images

In English football, only champions Manchester United and North London giants Arsenal command higher average attendances than Newcastle.

Unfortunately for the Toon, that’s where the similarity with two of Europe’s most famous clubs ends.

It’s a familiar tale on Tyneside. Just two games into the new campaign, not much seems to have changed since their brush with relegation at the end of last season. New signings are thin on the ground, and Alan Pardew’s shot-shy side have registered just one effort on target in two Premier League games without success.

With just four days to go until the summer transfer window slams shut and not one permanent senior signing through the door, many Magpies fans are openly questioning the club’s long- and short-term ambition.

The reality, however, is that the majority of the squad that guided the Geordies to a fifth-place finish and a Europa League spot not 15 months ago—an achievement that also saw Pardew win two Manager of the Year awards—are still at St. James’ Park.

With average gates of 50,000, Newcastle also find themselves in a unique position only bettered by nine other clubs on the continent.

But it is an advantage not utilised by billionaire owner Mike Ashley.

As emphasised by his burgeoning Sports Direct retail empire, his economic template is cautiously structured to maximise profits at minimal cost. In any other business, it is a rational approach.

But it's a model that struggles to carry weight in the world’s richest football league. While those around them have spent the last few months speculating to accumulate over the summer, United’s chequebook remains closed.

Newly promoted Cardiff City have splashed over £30 million in an effort to stay in the division, while Southampton have spent over £35 million simply to consolidate their position in the top flight.

And while such expenditure comes with zero guarantees, the figures represent statements of intent, and in the eyes of many Newcastle fans, it further highlights Ashley’s perceived lack of ambition for the club.

United have 96 hours and counting until the window closes. If they intend to engage in anything other than a season of struggle as they did last term, Ashley needs to change his approach, and quickly.