In recent weeks, there have been rumblings among the ranks of Newcastle United supporters that this is simply the worst team ever to pull on the famous black and white stripes. How true is the sentiment? 

It is easy to react to a run of form that has seen a solitary point out of 30 available. Those who haven’t boycotted can see for themselves in the flesh the symptoms. Those who have boycotted can see the lowlights on TV and those from abroad can watch on their internet connections. 

What has made the players so lacklustre? We can certainly see the symptoms but can we see the cause of the disease that has brought the club to a serious state of depression, some would argue a cancer. 

Those who have supported the club through history will have seen some success. Prior to WW1, Newcastle United won league titles and a cup, the inter-war years saw more trophies, the 50’s saw FA Cup glory. 

The relegations that came in 1934 and 1961 must have seemed like hammer blows at the time. Joe Harvey brought about a transition to an exciting, diligent breed of football, exhibiting passion and flair. Other than the forerunner to the Europa League in 1969, we won nothing but competed in the top flight and indeed, made finals of both domestic cup competitions. 

Harvey’s time came to an end, decisions being made that seem strangely similar to today. In came Gordon Lee, a manager of limited success and a dour brand of football. One of his first acts was to sell a number 9 who epitomised fighting spirit. You could almost swap Gordon Lee for Alan Pardew, Supermac for Carroll and history was repeated. 

Lee’s replacement was a coach who worked under him who had achieved nothing in the game. Richard Dinnis finished off the job of qualifying for the UEFA Cup but a poor run of form saw us head to the bottom of the table. 

The supporters of today have not had the same experience that 7,000 or so who witnessed home games against Wrexham in dire weather. Towards the end of Bill McGarry’s tenure, after the club had sold Peter Withe, we had probably truly the worst team to wear our stripes. How many can remember Ray Clarke, Bobby Shinton and Billy Rafferty up front? 

In came Arthur Cox to give us hope, Keegan the player was signed, younger players developed around him, Waddle, Beardsley and some seasoned professionals brought into the squad. Promotion came, the manager was apparently not supported with a top flight contract and we went back into a cycle of depression, the talent that had been developed here being sold. 

We were soon back in the 2nd tier, Jim Smith producing a workmanlike side but getting nowhere with a decreasing level of squad investment. Yes, Ardiles nearly took us to the 3rd Division. However, his teams played great football but investment was lacking and the side one of the youngest in our history. Supporters even whipped round to help generate funds to buy Franz Carr but there was no experience in the squad. 

The newer generations of supporters were treated to Keegan the manager. After some faddish appointments Sir Bobby came in. Even with Gullit and the Liverpool legends, later Roeder too, we competed. Allardyce’s and Souness’s styles weren’t the best but we survived. 

Then came Ashley, then came Kinnear, then came Pardew, then came Carver. 

The team we have now has been assembled on the basis of selling high value players to buy prospects. It is easy to look at recent results and complain about the quality. These are the same players who won 6 in a row before Christmas and many are the same who finished 5th a few seasons ago. 

A look through the squad suggests that on paper, there is quality. Krul was a hero in the recent World Cup. Also representing major nations there were Janmaat, Sissoko and Tiote. Other players to have represented their country at senior level include Cisse, Coloccini, Jonas, Anita, Cabella, de Jong, Dummett, Elliott and Good. A host more have represented their countries at junior level. 

No, this isn’t the worst group of players, there is something else amiss. 

In his most recent interview, Ryan Taylor has probably hit the nail in the head. Confidence has gone. There was uncertainty over the managerial position. The team needs characters. 

It will be remembered that Ashley has sold major talent at profit, Carroll, Ba and Cabaye being the headline acts. Pardew aided and abetted, also clearing out some of the characters in the dressing room and on the pitch. Pardew has rarely seemed to be able to cope with talent. Carver appears to have tolerated, if not sanctioned the selling of further talent, Mbiwa, Ben Arfa and Santon. 

We can look back at what is alleged to have been Pardew’s first result, a spirited win against Liverpool with players like Nolan and Barton speaking out. The same players rallied the troops in the 4-4 comeback against Arsenal. They were let go, alongside the likes for Harper, Shola, Smith and others who were not replaced like for like. Class as Coloccini has been in his career, he does not lead in the same way. 

Successive managers have allowed the squad to be depleted in key areas, up front and in defence, meaning that rotation ad injuries can not be covered. The problem has been at the top. Carver, whose previous full time management job saw a win ratio of 30% with Toronto, is effectively a lovably enthusiastic mongrel manager in charge of pedigree players or to be kinder, a dachshund training greyhounds. 

That is not the fault of Carver, nothing ever is. It is down to an owner doing his bird impressions “cheap, cheap, cheap”. What he gets is migratory birds picking up crumbs on their way to better feeding grounds, sticking with a manager who will agree to sell rather than develop and with a Managing Director who seems like a cocaine addict without a budget to find a line to get over. 

Whatever the quality in the squad, it is hardly surprising that an owner without ambition provides no ambition for the players. Loyalty to the club is barely existent. It’s hardly surprising that mediocre ambition, no cups, no Europe and mid table mediocrity will eventually spread the disease and produce just that, mediocrity. 

No, the players are fine. They are just in an environment that does not engender performance. Mr Ashley, there are lessons for you. The greyhound is a wonderful animal, capable of great performance. However, to perform at their best, they need to chase a hare, not a tortoise.