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It was on 17 minutes that the Newcastle United supporters first made their feelings clear. “You fat cockney bastard, get out of our club,” came the chant from one corner of The Shed and it did not require Sherlock Holmes to figure out to whom their ire was directed. Mike Ashley was not in attendance but he has remained a notable figure in proceedings, on and off the pitch.
First there was the chant, which could be heard again on three occasions during the second half, and then the makeup of those responsible for it. Newcastle fans regularly travel in good numbers but here large chunks of blue and white seats could be seen in a part of the stand that one would have expected before kick?off to be dominated by black and white.
A lunchtime kick?off and live television coverage were almost certainly causes for the absences but, if a glance at social media was anything to go by, a strong sense of apathy also appeared to play a part. As some said, why bother with an early, long train http://www.footballcardinalsofficial.com/Authentic-Tyvon-Branch-Jersey journey down south when you know your team are going to get beaten and therefore be knocked out at the fourth-round stage of the FA Cup for a fifth successive year? Worse still, when you Ryan Garbutt Jersey also know that the man at the very top barely cares? That is the impression Ashley continues to give and, as such, it is hard to blame Newcastle’s fervent followers if they are beginning to lose heart, too.
What was so evident here is just how far away Newcastle are from competing at the highest level. They started well, pushing Chelsea back with a level of aggression and intent that was absent when Daniel Murphy Authentic Jersey they faced Manchester City eight days ago. Jonjo Shelvey was having one of those games that makes the idea of the 25-year-old earning an England recall seem plausible – working hard http://www.steelersofficialsstore.com/Jj_Wilcox_Jersey_Cheap and spraying passes with ambition and precision. Matt Ritchie was also a threat in an advanced left-sided role and, had he and Dwight Gayle pulled off a quick one?two, the visitors could well have taken the lead. But they failed to do so and 10 minutes later it was Chelsea who struck through Michy Batshuayi after a classy build-up involving Pedro, Eden Hazard and Marcos Alonso.
It was the type of play – a wonderfully precise long pass, two neat ones in tight areas – that for all the industry and encouraging flashes Newcastle showed early on here they never appeared capable of pulling off, which is hardly a surprise given this largely remains a Championship group of players. Of those who started only Javier Manquillo arrived at the club since promotion and even when two more summer acquisitions came off the bench in the shape of Jacob Murphy and Joselu the quality gap remained stark, in defence as well as attack. Little wonder those in the away end were so sustained in their anger at the owner.
Any good work Ashley may have done at Newcastle since taking over a decade ago is severely undermined by his starving of the club’s on-pitch resources. Newcastle’s potential is rich yet they are relative paupers compared with those they regularly compete with and it is damning that the £17m spent on Michael Owen almost 13 years ago remains the record acquisition made at St James’ Park.
Ashley is prepared to sell but a deal DeAndre Jordan Youth jersey looks further than ever from being done, certainly with Amanda Staveley and her company PCP Capital Partners if the recent claims and counter-claims that have been exchanged between the parties are anything to go by. So the status quo remains and the worry for the fans is that Rafael Benítez will soon decide he has had enough. The manager spoke diplomatically here about signing players before the close of the transfer window but his frustration and pessimism was unmistakable. He appears to have given up hope; increasingly he is not the only one.