Club Focus – Newcastle – Newcastle set for Tykes test

Top of the table Newcastle United return to action on Saturday with a home match against Barnsley. Following on from last weekend’s solid win over Watford and a recent run of good form confidence should be sky high in the Newcastle camp.

They now hold an eight point lead over Nottingham Forest in third place, with the double bonus of a game in hand and a home game against them to come. Once again Newcastle will put their unbeaten home record on the line against a Barnsley side who came close to beating them when they met earlier in the season. When they met in December the game finished up 2-2 with Barsley scoring five minutes from time. Under young manager Mark Robins the Tykes have become one of the most improved sides in the Championship and they sit only four points from the play-off places. The biggest selection poser for manager Chris Hughton is who will play at left back on Saturday afternoon, as Patrick van Aanholt has returned to his parent club Chelsea. If Jose Enrique has not fully recovered from his hamstring injury then Ryan Taylor, who has scored in the last two home games, and Tamas Kadar should come in to contention.

Young defender Kadar has fallen down the pecking order since the January arrivals of Mike Williamson and Fitz Hall. Speaking ahead of the game Hughton said: “I don’t expect anything less than tough against Barnsley. They are a good side and they have a nice mix in the team of attacking players and defensive options. They showed what a good team they were back in December when they finished the game against us so strongly.” It has been an emotional week for Hughton following the death of Macclesfield Town manager Keith Alexander who was one of Hughton closest friends in the game. Fans will also want to remember the memory of former player Charlie Crowe who was part of the club’s 1951 FA Cup winning side. Crowe was the last surviving member of Newcastle’s 1951 team but sadly passed away this week. The publication of the football rich list saw Newcastle remain in the top 20 although they dropped three places from 17 to 20. For the 2008/09 season the club’s revenue was 86 million pounds with broadcasting totaling 39.2 million and match day revenue at 32.4 million.

Newcastle were one of only three clubs in Europe who made the top 20, despite not playing in Europe. They were joined in the list compiled by Deloitte by six other English clubs. The main reason behind the club’s economic success has been attributed to their loyal fan base with just under 50,000 fans turning up for most home games. It is unlikely Newcastle will make the rich list next year as they count the cost of relegation to the Championship. Despite featuring on TV nearly every other week the broadcasting deals are not worth as much below the Premier League. The list does show why Newcastle, if run carefully and sustainably, can become a successful club without having to run up huge debts in the process. Newcastle’s managing director Derek Llambias has spoken publicly for the first time in several months. Llambias stated his belief that controversial owner Mike Ashley is beginning to win the majority of fans over. The amount of dissent towards Ashley has certainly decreased over the course of the season with only small pockets of supporters still singing anti-Ashley chants.

This is likely to be down to two reasons. The club’s success on the pitch and Ashley’s willingness to put his hand in his pocket to bail out any money worries. Ashley is yet to be forgiven and probably never will for his misdemeanors, but in the light of other club’s financial problems Ashley can be viewed in a more positive light. Llambias said: “You can’t lose the income we have lost in relegation and still be where we are, so Mike has put in £25million in December. He has put in another £5milllion this week, so he is committed. We bought £5.5million worth of players in January. We needed to freshen up the team and support our manager. There is a very small section of fans that are basically not reasonable; there is no reality to where they are. I am hoping that we get there and we’ll see what happens next season. The reality is that if Mike had not taken the club, we would be in a mess.”

If Newcastle do return to the Premier League then this summer should prove just how committed Ashley and Llambias are to the club.

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