Newcastle United’s squad earn around £100m a year.
Last weekend they largely escaped scrutiny for a performance against Brighton that was one of the most pathetic and uncompetitive in the 20 years I’ve covered the club.
It looked and smelled like they were trying to get Steve Bruce the sack with their collective lack of fight.
Bruce takes the flack, and rightly so, for overseeing just two wins in 20 games and a disintegration of spirit and belief.
It is clear a proportion, possibly a high number, of the playing squad, don’t rate Bruce. They have had valid complaints.
Many have gone backwards since Bruce took over from Rafa Benitez. They see a manager talking up average opposition, showing no ambition, little positivity and thrashed by sharper tactical brains.
They see a lazy malaise gripping the club with multiple days off, possibly benefitting Bruce who has a mansion and family in the North West.
It was telling that when Isaac Hayden was ruled out for the season last week, the joke was that on the bright side he’d only miss three of four training sessions.
No matter what United players feel about Bruce, they face an emergency on the pitch and it is time for a call to arms. They have to stand up and fight and keep the club in the Premier League, or the blame could quickly shift to them.
Jobs, city prestige, Geordie pride, and tussling with the elite are at stake, and Jamaal Lascelles, Callum Wilson, Martin Dubravka and co have to bang heads together and separate any lack of faith in Bruce, from a need to keep the club afloat.
By quickly saying Bruce stays in charge, Ashley is deliberately throwing the pressure back on to the players and asking to justify their big contracts.
Ashley’s thinking? Sacking managers in 2009 and and 2016 at this stage with a handful of games to go didn’t prevent relegation, so why do it again.
There is hope that the likely return to the first team of Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin this weekend against Spurs will help get the points needed to stay in the Premier League.
Northern clubs are cashing in on the Government’s furlough scheme – while spending tens of million on transfer fees.
Newcastle United and Leeds United banked between £100,000 and £250,000 in furlough cash in December alone, HMRC’s most up to date figures show.
Newcastle forked out £35m for transfers in the summer, and Leeds £95m. They justify using furlough to protect jobs.
Critics might argue that gorging on public money while affording huge fees is an unjustifiable position to be in.