"If Newcastle fans trust my judgement then I have good news: We are staying up. Just! It will be tight and may even come down to goal difference but I firmly believe we will do it. I saw the draw at Palace and there is no lack of fight and commitment among the players. But more crucially, we have a top-class manager in Rafa Benitez. Someone whose love of the Newcastle fans has kept him at the club through a tough time. He will not desert the ship and let it sink but nobody could blame him given the lack of support he has had from the helm.
"With the exception of attendances, there are no good stats where owner Mike Ashley is involved. The 52,400 that attend St James’ every week is not down to him either but a deep-seated loyalty which he will never understand. Newcastle’s a very big club but one that in 11 years under Ashley, has a net transfer spend of £49m. Given the gates and TV money the club has had, even with yo-yo years, that tells a shameful story. Staying in the Prem alone is probably worth around £110m a season. Benitez got the club back up but was not backed to make the next big stride.
"He was clearly struggling with a lack of quality in the squad ahead of the January transfer window so what happened? He saw Brighton and Swansea both break their transfer records and Palace spend £9m on a striker. Benitez, meanwhile, had to scramble around getting players in on loan. The hope generated by news of a possible takeover has disappeared. It is not going to happen. Ashley is holding out for more than is being offered up front and is gambling on a bumper new TV pay deal increasing the value of the club. Meanwhile, Benitez works with what he has got — a team lacking in quality but not heart."