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What constitutes a big club?


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It was the eve of a European away game in Germany a few years ago. Manchester United were playing, but Newcastle United were giving them a run back home. A few journalists, a few beers and the talk turned to that most futile of debates: what constitutes a big club? Specifically, did Newcastle now qualify?


There was a significant Geordie presence around the table. The sceptics were outnumbered. And yet, as much as anybody ever wins a pub argument, we thought we carried this one. Our case was that the reach of a truly big club must extend beyond their locality. International stature was required, and therefore a significant European pedigree.


Newcastle were huge in the North East, granted, but invisible beyond. Kids in areas not served by a Premier League football club did not gravitate towards them the way they did Manchester United or Liverpool. Half of Singapore were not signed up to the supporters’ club.

Name the biggest club in Germany. Easy: Bayern Munich. Now the second. The consensus was for Borussia Dortmund, very strong at the time. And the third? There was much discussion.


Finally, it was agreed: Hamburg. And nobody even mentioned Schalke 04. Nobody advocated the third best-supported club in Germany, regularly pulling in crowds of more than 60,000 from the industrial outpost of Gelsenkirchen.


Schalke were omitted for the same reason Newcastle would be absent from any list of English juggernauts — because they had never experienced great success in Europe. Hamburg played Nottingham Forest in the 1980 European Cup final and signed Kevin Keegan in his prime.


These men, of a certain age, all knew Hamburg. None would recognise Schalke as greater simply because of local support. QED, the same applies to Newcastle. Now, who’s getting the beers in?


And without wishing to reignite the hoariest of disputes, never has Newcastle’s place in the hierarchy of football been more relevant than now, having lost arguably their best performer, Kevin Nolan, to second-tier West Ham United.


Nolan missed out to Joey Barton in the player of the year polls, but Barton is likely to be on his way, too, as is Jose Enrique, Jonas Gutierrez and perhaps Fabricio Coloccini. Even with £35million from the sale of Andy Carroll in the bank, the men who own Newcastle have looked at the numbers and decided many salaries are too rich for their tastes.


Size does matter. The Toon Army will consume the dreadful new shirt and fill the ground as always, they will plaster the name of Demba Ba on the back while waiting for the next local hero to emerge, but it is no longer enough.


Nolan was earning roughly £45,000 per week and was offered an extra year on his contract at £50,000, plus a £500,000 bonus if Newcastle finished in the top 10. West Ham proposed £55,000 per week and the chance to work with Sam Allardyce again, and Nolan took it.


Potential is the key here. West Ham may be in the Championship, but the club are eyeing a swift return to the Premier League and a move to the cavernous Olympic stadium.


Mike Ashley, Newcastle owner, clearly believes his club are operating at capacity. What would it take to compete with the new elite as represented by Manchester City and Chelsea, or even those bubbling under, like Liverpool or Tottenham Hotspur?


Ashley needs resources that Newcastle cannot generate alone, money that requires global revenue streams he has been unable to exploit. He either throws his own fortune at the problem, or finds a conservative third way.


So Newcastle are in limbo. Still big on expectation, hope and desire, just not big enough to stop their best midfielder dropping a division. Previous owners may have been unrealistic in their ambitions but at least they shared them with those in the Gallowgate End.


Ashley, an outsider, simply sees Newcastle for what they are. He would have been on the side of cold, hard logic that night in Germany but where is the fun in that?





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I'll answer the question, and not the article like.


Newcastle are a 'big' club, bigger than most anyway. People just seem to get mixed up betwean 'big' and 'the biggest', 'giant', 'absolutely f***ing massive' etc which leads to some pretty cringeworthy views.

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Newcastle is the sixth most supported English club in most countries going by official fan club members IIRC. Beaten only by Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs. "Not big outside the North East" my fucking arse.

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what a stupid article. Nolan left because he saw more potential in West Ham? OMG, that is poor poor poor


I guess you could say the same about Ba moving from West Ham to Newcastle?


Or what about Owen leaving Real for Newcastle? Must have been huge potential to be greater than Real.


poor logic

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People often confuse a 'big club' with a 'successful club'.


The two things that can exist separately.

In Liverpools case it's there success that makes them so big, for the likes of Villa & Everton however, although they are very successful clubs historicaly, they are not successfull enough to the point where it has an effect on there modern day stature in football.


People say "silverware is everything" when it suits them, but unless it directly affects there following/sales/revenue etc, it means absolutely fuck all.

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The definition of a big club is quite simple........................ You can be simply a big club, a well supported club, a successful club, a historically successful club, a well supported big club, a historically well supported club, a big well supported successful club, or you can be Sunderland.




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You could be a small club with a Russian Billionaire then buy the league and become a big club.


You could be a big club with massive stadium and fill it, but be a small club.



make sense? :p

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My answer is : WHO CARES?


You dont get prizes for marketing, supporter club numbers, size of stadium, etc


The only thing that counts is how you do in the league, ie Success. Everything else is a waste of time and counts for nothing

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Just to reiterate, that article is absolute garbage. Even he doesn't seem to know what point he's making.


It's clear that the amount of column inches, bandwidth and broadcast time available now far outstrips the ability of publishers to fill it with anything decent.

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The comparison with Schalke had potential, but as soon as he mentioned the Nolan deal it descended into idiocy. Hasn't he always hated us?


We're not an elite European juggernaut, but we're still a big club. With a big support, big reputation, a big history but with some recent big nights too. We have all the potential in the world, so when we finally get somehwere (and Ashley fucks off) it'll be magnificent.

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One of the things I dislike most about football journalists is that they think they have a better knowledge of the game than Joe Public when in fact knowing anything about football is very little to do with how they got their jobs.


I'm sure there are journalists who know their stuff but you just have to look at someone like Lee Ryder to see that it is far from a prerequisite.


'Ooh a few journalists, a few beers, and we decided...'


Might as well say a load of plumbers got together to discuss the issue. Stuff like that Sunday Supplement on Sky, it's cringeworthy watching how wise they think they all are.

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