Toon Army issue Ashley warning

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Newcastle fans have warned owner Mike Ashley not to aim too low as the club prepares for a season of austerity in the Barclays Premier League.

The Magpies on Sunday released a lengthy statement making it clear to supporters that there would be no new investment in the squad this summer, and outlining in stark terms the club's financial position after it made an estimated operating loss for the last two financial years of almost £70million.

Manager Chris Hughton now faces the task of trying to strengthen a side which won the Coca-Cola Championship by 11 points for the much tougher task of surviving in the top flight on a shoestring with Ashley having embarked upon a five-year mission to reach the break-even point.

However, while Mark Jensen, editor of fanzine The Mag and a prominent member of the Newcastle United Supporters' Trust, acknowledges that a return to the wild spending of the recent past is neither possible nor desirable, he is concerned that a lack of ambition could prove fatal.

Jensen said: "My take on it, regardless of this statement, is Newcastle United should be aiming for every place in the Premier League from ninth downwards because I don't think there's a great amount of difference between those clubs from probably fourth-bottom upwards.

"I don't expect to finish ninth, but I think you should be aiming for that and if you end up just staying up, I wouldn't be crying into my beer then. But if you are aiming to be fourth-bottom, it doesn't leave you any margin for error.

"They are talking about breaking even in five years' time, but presumably that is dependent on still being in the Premier League. If the club is relegated, surely all that goes out of the window?"

Newcastle's statement attempted to lay out the facts with sobering clarity as speculation over potential summer targets to bolster the pared-down squad which bounced back from the humiliation of relegation to take the Championship by storm gathered pace.

However, the wage bill, although drastically reduced, still amounted to more than £40million last season, and Ashley had to pump in a further £36million to fund the January acquisitions of Wayne Routledge, Mike Williamson and Leon Best and cover the club's running costs.

Promotion is worth an estimated £60million to the Magpies - and that figure could rise significantly if parachute payments for relegated clubs are extended to four years - but they are determined to make ends meet.

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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