WHEN Newcastle United won the Championship title, Lee Charnley said nothing. When Rafael Benitez guided the Magpies to tenth position last season, the club’s managing director did not conduct a single interview to trumpet the achievement. Earlier this season, Newcastle beat Manchester City. Both Charnley and Mike Ashley remained silent.

So it says much that Newcastle’s top brass opted to end their vow of silence earlier this week by conducting a series of cosy chats. Why? Well, it had nothing to do with events on the pitch. It wasn’t even an attempt to spell out the club’s determination to keep hold of Benitez, if indeed that is what they intend to do. Benitez’s future remains as uncertain as ever.

No. Charnley opted to step out of the shadows because he was desperate to trumpet Newcastle’s latest financial results. Forget winning football matches or trying to compete in the top half of the table. Other clubs do that. Newcastle have turned a profit, so it’s time to hang out the bunting. And the fact that the wage bill has come down as well, in an era of seemingly exponential growth in television income, is cause for an even bigger celebration.

“There is much more work to be done, but these positive financial results give the club a strong platform on which to build,” said Charnley, in the kind of corporate preamble that would normally sit alongside the publication of a hedge fund’s derivatives payments rather than the balance sheet of an institution that is responsible for nurturing the hopes and dreams of an entire region.

“We all want to see the club improve and be competitive at every level, and in every competition. We are convinced that the best route to achieving this is to do so sustainably, spending on young development players and adding high quality to the first team squad each season – players that can really make a difference and improve the team – without risking the financial health and stability of the club.”

First things first, there is nothing wrong with a football club turning a profit. Plenty of clubs have suffered from dreadful financial mismanagement in recent years, so the fact Newcastle posted a profit of £18.6m in the year ending June 2018 is to their credit. But do they have to be so unashamedly triumphalist about the fact? Is that really all that matters to those in charge?

Perhaps it wouldn’t stick in the throat so much if Charnley and Ashley were presiding over a club that was outperforming its rivals. They clearly aren’t when it comes to matters on the pitch – despite the best efforts of Benitez and his players – and they aren’t doing much to write home about off it either.

Take their turnover for example. Newcastle’s turnover in their latest accounting period was £178.5m. That sounds an impressive figure, but it is merely par for the course when every Premier League club is guaranteed more than £100m in prize money and television revenue before a ball has been kicked.

Newcastle’s commercial income rose to £26.7m, but that figure is still below the sum that was posted in the accounts for 2015-16. So much for driving significant off-pitch growth.

What about wages, normally a pretty good determinant of where a club will finish in the table? Given their turnover increased dramatically following promotion, and they have one of the biggest average attendances in Europe, surely Newcastle’s wage bill also increased accordingly?

No. Newcastle’s wage bill in the latest accounting period actually fell by £18.6m to £93.6m, leaving them in 14th position in the Premier League’s wages table. As Benitez has often said, it is perfectly understandable that Newcastle are unable to compete with the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool. Under the current regime, however, they are also falling behind clubs like Everton, West Ham, Wolves and Bournemouth at a rate of knots.

What about spending on transfers? Normally, clubs are deliberately vague about their incomings and outgoings, but Charnley has been keen to spell out exactly what Newcastle have shelled out since winning promotion from the Championship.

In the 2017-18 season, they spent £62.2m on ten players; in 2018-19, it was £47.7m. They recouped £52.2m in the same period, but seem to regard their net spend of just over £55m as evidence of their ambition. This in the same month that Wolves have just spent £30m on signing Raul Jimenez.

“Our budget to strengthen the team and establish our place back in the Premier League has been circa £122m over the last two seasons, which was an initial agreed budget of £70m plus an additional £52m generated as a result of sales and outgoing loans,” said Charnley.

“We have spent over 90 per cent of that - £111m – and the balance of £11m will be carried forward to supplement what we have for forthcoming transfer windows as we look to strengthen again.”

So with a turnover of £178.5m and outgoings of £119.6m, Newcastle’s transfer budget this summer should be around £55m, plus the additional £11m that has been carried over. A decent sum, but only time will tell whether it tallies with Benitez’s clearly-stated ambition of wanting Newcastle to be able to “compete” in the Premier League rather than merely “survive”.

Ultimately, that is the conflict that has raged at Newcastle throughout Ashley’s reign. As the latest accounts prove, the club is ticking over nicely. Total debt, all of which is owed to Ashley, stands at £111m, and is historic, having been in place for over a decade. As long as the current financial model is adhered to, it will not increase.

But where is the sense of ambition or adventure? Where is the acknowledgement that football is more than simply numbers on a balance sheet, or that a football club should be more than simply a means of shuffling money from one side of a ledger sheet to the other?

The Newcastle hierarchy will claim they want what is best for the club, but the reality is they want what is best for themselves, and that means Ashley not having to spend another penny until he is able to sell up.

If he realises his £300m asking price, Ashley will have made a profit of around £55m. Not bad when you consider the profile that Sports Direct has achieved thanks to its association with Newcastle over the last ten years.

At some stage in the future, a more ambitious set of owners might arrive, achieve something tangible, and speak publicly about their success. Until then, expect another year of silence until next year’s accounts are signed off. Then, in the eyes of Charnley and Ashley, there might be something to celebrate again.