Former Newcastle United captain Alan Shearer, midfielder Rob Lee and striker Andy Cole have all expressed their concern at Newcastle’s failure to sign players this summer and questioned the thinking behind Ashley’s resistance to improving the squad.
Ashley’s apparent reluctance to spend has raised concerns that he is more interested in taking money out of the club and the three feel Newcastle are suffering because of him.
No signings were made but Ashley took £18m out of the club this summer.
It was the second successive summer in which manager Alan Pardew’s plea for new players has been ignored and has led to a torrent of criticism for director of football Joe Kinnear, appointed by Ashley in June to take charge of recruitment, but who rarely scouts matches or visits Tyneside.
Speaking after former Newcastle goalkeeper Steve Harper had used his testimonial against AC Milan this week to warn that the “toxic relationship” between the club’s fans and Ashley had “poisoned” the club, Lee offered an equally pessimistic verdict.
Rob Lee: “I can see where Steve is coming from.
“The fans want to see the club progressing and they want to see the owner spending some money on the team. That hasn’t happened.
“The fans have had a few hard years. They did very, very well a couple of years ago and almost got into the Champions League again, but it has fallen apart since and they are struggling.
“If we have a full team out we’re decent, but if a couple are missing, we’re going to be poor. That was the story of last season and nothing has been done to change that.
“It is a worry. If you look at the likes of Norwich City, Southampton, Cardiff City and even Crystal Palace, they’ve spent a lot of money and if you stand still in football you tend to go backwards.
“Can they be successful under the current regime? That depends on whether Ashley is willing to spend some money or not.
“Players don’t want to join Newcastle anymore. Kevin Keegan sold this club to me when I joined. If Joe Kinnear was speaking to you, are you going to join this football club? I’m not so sure.”
Andy Cole: “If you’re not going to put finances into the football team and try to improve by buying better players, fans are going to vote with their feet.
“You’ve got to have some sense of ambition.
“Decisions are made at the top which throw a spanner in the works. It’s almost as if somebody running the club wants to upset the punters and I find that very strange.”
Pardew has tried to protect both Ashley and Kinnear after he was given just one new player, striker Loïc Rémy on loan from QPR, and he was diplomatic in his response to every question about the failure to strengthen at his press conference on Thursday, saying he was “happy with a good squad”.
But Shearer is baffled by Pardew’s behaviour as he spent all summer insisting he wanted new players.
Alan Shearer: “They needed more players but they did not arrive in the window.
“I was surprised by that because I kept on listening to Alan Pardew saying he wanted some players and the club were confident of bringing some in.
"I haven’t a clue why that didn’t happen.”
Saturday September 14
12:45 Man Utd v Crystal Palace
15:00 Aston Villa v Newcastle United
15:00 Fulham v West Brom
15:00 Hull City v Cardiff City
15:00 Stoke City v Manchester City
15:00 Sunderland v Arsenal
15:00 Tottenham v Norwich City
17:30 Everton v Chelsea
Sunday September 15
16:00 Southampton v West Ham United
Monday September 16
20:00 Swansea City v Liverpool
NEWCASTLE UTD RESULTS
NEWCASTLE 1 FULHAM 0 (Ben Arfa)
Krul, Debuchy, Yanga-Mbiwa, Coloccini, Santon, Ben Arfa, Sissoko, Anita 65' (Cabaye), Marveaux 74' (Remy), Shola Ameobi 65' (Gouffran), Cisse
Subs: Gosling, Elliot, Sammy Ameobi, Dummett
NEWCASTLE 0 WEST HAM 0
Krul, Debuchy, Yanga-Mbiwa, Coloccini, Santon, Ben Arfa, Sissoko, Anita, Marveaux 66' (Sammy Ameobi), Shola Ameobi, Cisse 72'
Subs: Gosling, Bigirimana, Elliot, Vuckic, Dummett
MAN CITY 4 NEWCASTLE 0
Krul, Debuchy, Coloccini, S Taylor, Yanga-Mbiwa, Sissoko, Tiote, Gouffran 45+4' (Dummett), Ben Arfa 65' (Sammy Ameobi), Gutierrez 44' (Anita), Cisse
Subs: Elliot, Marveaux, Shola Ameobi, Obertan
MORECAMBE 0 NEWCASTLE 2 (Shola Ameobi, Sammy Ameobi)
Elliot, Debuchy, Yanga-Mbiwa, Good, Dummett, Bigirimana, Gosling, Marveaux 88' (Sissoko), Vuckic 46' (Shola Ameobi), Sammy Ameobi, Gouffran 71' (Ben Arfa)
Subs: Santon, Anita, Alnwick, Streete
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VILLA PARK - ASTON VILLA
How To Get There By Car & Where To Park
The ground can be seen from the M6, if you are coming from the North side of Birmingham. Leave the M6 at Junction 6 and take the slip road sign posted Birmingham (NE). Turn right at the island (the fourth exit), the ground is well signposted from here. However to be on the safe side, turn right at the second set of traffic lights (there is the King Edward VII pub on the corner) on to Aston Hall Road. This road will take you down to the ground. Mostly street parking (don't be surprised though if you are approached by kids wanting to 'mind your car'), although this is not as plentiful as it once was due to a local residents only parking scheme now in place in the streets around the Witton roundabout area. Roland Archer a visiting Southampton fan adds; 'If you arrive early enough then in-between the Witton Arms and Witton Station there is a small pay and display car park which cost only £1.60 for six hours.'
Post Code for SAT NAV: B6 6HE
Take the short train journey from Birmingham New Street (around 10-15 minutes) to either Aston or Witton station. Witton station is nearer to the away section and is only a few minutes walk from the ground. Turn left out of the station exit and continue down to a roundabout. Turn left at the roundabout into Witton Lane and the entrance to the away section is down this road on the right. Aston station is about a ten minute walk away from Villa Park. Extra trains are laid on to the ground on matchdays.
Remember if travelling by train then you can save on the cost of fares by booking in advance. Visit the thetrainline website to see how much you can save.
What Is It Like For Away Supporters?
Away supporters are located on one side of the Doug Ellis Stand, towards the North end of the stadium. Up to 3,000 fans can be accommodated in this area, split between both the upper and lower tiers of the stand. The concourse at the back of the upper tier is particularly tight and easily becomes crowded, whereas there is more space behind the lower section. There is a fair selection of food available and it is the first football ground that I have visited that offers meat products that are Halal. There are a selection of pies (all £3.10), Burgers (£3.10), Fish & Chips (£3.50), Southern Fried Chicken and Chips (£3.50), Vegetable Samosas (£2) and Chips & Curry Sauce (£2.50). There are wide screen televisions on the concourse, showing past encounters between the teams before kick off. There is also betting facilities available in the form of a Ladbrokes outlet. Entrance to the stand is gained by entering your match ticket into an electronic reader.
A visit to Villa Park is normally an enjoyable experience, with the stewards normally taking a relaxed and friendly attitude. One concern though, is that there is very little separating the home and away fans and this could lead to possible future crowd problems.
Where To Drink?
There are a number of pubs in the vicinity of Villa Park, but most of them on match days are either members only or have bouncers on the door. However, Dave Cooper recommends the following for away fans; 'The Witton Arms (formerly the Cap and Gown), is not a bad pub, to which half the pub is given to away fans (there is even a separate entrance for visiting fans). It is only two minutes walk from the away entrance, right on Witton Island, however it does charge £2 per person to gain entry'. Alex Alexander a visiting Norwich City fan adds; 'We found a pub approximately 15 minutes walk from the ground where away fans were made welcome. It is called the Yew Tree. Although they don’t serve real ale, they had a good range of beers and Magner’s on draught. It is on the same road as the Witton Arms, but with this pub on your left carry straight on up the road, passing Witton Railway Station on your right. After about half a mile you will see the pub on the right hand side'.
If you arrive a bit earlier then you may wish to visit the historic Bartons Arms, located about a 15 minute walk away on High Street Aston (A34). This Grade II listed building, is one of Birmingham's finest pubs, with superb Victorian decor, serving Oakham ales and Thai food is also on offer. It is a regular entry in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide.
Darren Williams a visiting Manchester City fan adds; 'We have always park at an entertainment complex called StarCity. It is just off Junction 6 of the M6, going towards Villa Park. Huge free car park, plus plenty of food and drink outlets. It is then about a mile and half walk to the ground'. Please note that alcohol is not available to away fans inside the stadium.
White Lion Pub Four Oaks. Located 15 minutes drive from Junction 9 of the M42 the White Lion pub is located in the leafy suburbs of Four Oaks, the pub is the perfect stop off point for fans on their way to Villa Park. A Thwaites pub it is popular with drinkers and those who enjoy watching sports with a number of large screens showing the early kick off. The pub is friendly and the landlord Andy Thompson has had plenty of experience of entertaining large groups of visiting fans in the pub trade. The large car park has ample space for coaches, food is available too and breakfasts can be arranged on request. Villa Park is then a 20 minute drive away. Alternatively fans can leave their car at the pub and catch a train direct to Aston from Butlers Lane Station which is around a five minute walk away, with the railway journey to Aston taking 15 minutes. Give Andy a call on 0121 308 2313 or email him to discuss your requirements.
The post code of the pub is B75 5HL.
NEWCASTLE UTD FIXTURES
Saturday September 14
15:00 Premier League
Aston Villa v Newcastle United
Saturday September 21
15:00 Premier League
Newcastle United v Hull City
Wednesday September 25
19:45 League Cup - 3rd Rnd
Newcastle United v Leeds United
Monday September 30
20:00 Premier League
Everton v Newcastle United
Saturday October 5
15:00 Premier League
Cardiff City v Newcastle United
Saturday October 19
12:45 Premier League
Newcastle United v Liverpool
Sunday October 27
13:30 Premier League
Sunderland v Newcastle United