This is a question I ask myself all the time. What’s the point? What do I get out of it? Maybe the reason is to feel part of something. As Sir Bobby said, it’s the feeling of belonging. Is it those small moments of joy when we hold our own against the giants of the game? Or moments of genius which are seldom seen since the days of Ben Arfa? Possibly, but big picture what does that actually accomplish?

I’m going to assume Mike Ashley will be the owner long term as he has the keys to the club until he doesn’t. We know his goals at the start of the season: finish above 18th, collect the TV and prize money, invest what is required to achieve the same the following season and repeat. Everyone reading this knows this as a fact, we’ve got 13 years of historical data to back this up. Whenever there’s a chance to change this, to reach for the brass ring, it is avoided like a group of charvas in the Metrocentre that aren’t wearing face masks.

Case in point would be that miracle season where Alan Pardew guided the French Revolution into 5th place. We as fans had bought in completely, no one was talking about Mike Ashley in negative terms anymore. All the talk was how great a businessman he was and how he had found a cheat code on how to use the European market to his advantage. Graeme Carr was his secret weapon, unearthing gems from the continent that didn’t cost the Earth. Clubs up and down the country were jealous of this model. We had cracked it at last.

On the cusp of something great, something that could change the culture of the club, what did Ashley do? Spent £1.7million net that summer. In his mind, why spend any more? If we can finish 5th with this squad in 11/12, we can certainly finish 17th in 12/13.

So as a fan, what did that say to me? It showed the ambition of the club, it showed me there’s no point hoping for better as it will never ever happen, unless by complete fluke – but, even if that was the case, it wouldn’t be built on.

Stupidly, I gave him a second chance. Almost like battered wife syndrome, where I keep coming back even through there is nothing in it for me except heartache. When Benitez agreed to stay and signed a 3-year deal at the start of the Championship campaign, that got me back in. For a manager of his calibre to agree to those terms, Mike must have changed right? The fans were completely onboard, and when we got back to the Premier League the atmosphere was like days gone by, smiling faces, flag displays, songs about the manager who we would follow to the end of the world. We feared no one. After the 10th place finish I thought this is it, we can kick on. We don’t need to spend fortunes, just need to spend correctly and trust the manager we’ve hired. Well, you know what happened next.

Going back to the bigger picture, what I’m worried about is the future of the club and the fanbase. Being 38, I grew up at the perfect time to be a Newcastle fan. The Keegan era transformed the city and the perception of the club. Everyone wanted to be part of the journey from local kids to football fans around the globe. Even fans from other clubs would keep an eye on our results. It built a gigantic following which Mike Ashley is reaping the benefit from, and taking for granted today. There are fan clubs in dozens of countries who follow every match religiously.

My question is, where are the next generation of fans coming from? We have already seen 10 thousand season ticket holders walk away. What’s the draw of the club now? If you are a teenager in Thailand, America or Senegal, what would you see about Newcastle United and think, “yep, that’s the team for me?”. This isn’t just the case internationally, you see kids on the street (pre lockdown, of course!) wearing Man City, Barcelona, PSG and Liverpool shirts. As all games are on TV, they can see with their own eyes who is the better bet to get behind if you want to actually enjoy the game of football.

I have friends with kids who, given the choice between watching a Newcastle match or playing Fortnite online with their friends, will choose the Xbox 10 times out of 10. That never used to be the case but there’s more choice for entertainment now than ever before. Why would you choose to sit through 90 minutes of this version of Newcastle United if you didn’t have to?

This wouldn’t be the case if the club could just show they want more than the bare minimum – offer some genuine hope. It might seem over the top, but what’s going to happen in 30 or 40 years time? Who will follow the club then? Men and women of my generation and older will always have the memories. It’s the kids I feel sorry for.

JOHN LIDDELL Twitter – @johnliddell1982