So we have that friendly in Glasgow with the artist formerly known as (The) Rangers akaNEWCO after all. It will be played on Tuesday evening of the 6/Aug/13 at Ibrox and for something horrible called the Sports Direct Cup. What this has to do with Newcastle United’s preparation for the new season remains to be seen but as a marketing ploy for Mike Ashley’s shop we can all see the attractions. For him! The question has to be asked whether at that stage of the pre-season schedule, a side about to face a testing examination in the Premier League, should be facing players from the third tier of Scottish football (probably about the standard of the Northern League in my opinion) however. If United was making the trip to Glasgow to face the Scottish Champions, Celtic, who last season had a decent campaign in the Champions League perhaps we could see the football-logic, but Rangers? This seems to be all about Ashley’s business interests rather than football.
I’m a big fan of Glasgow as a city (I would be as the Merchant City centre of Glasgow was largely designed by none other than Geordie Richard Grainger who laid out our own magnificent Grainger Town tf eh? Now doing the history of neo-classical architecture in the Industrial age) and get along generally speaking with Glaswegians who are largely gregarious and friendly like us! The match on a Tuesday night is a bit of a shitter however and will put a few off from travelling up on a school-night for a friendly against little more than a glorified pub team. Bah!
As I write this, we seem (fingers crossed) to be making progress with the signing of Gomis with talk of a fee of £4m spoken about. From what I understand of it, Swansea was interested in Gomis but as they got Bony instead they dropped their interest in him. Is this where we are now? Picking up Swansea’s B-list players?
So far as we can see it, the deal for Darren Bent has stalled because Villa want £8m for their record signing who has been told he has no future there under Paul Lambert. There has to be questions about Bent. Why does he keep falling out with managers and why is Villa so comfortable in writing off that £18m transfer fee? Why is no-one other than United seriously interested in him? He has the rather handy knack of scoring goals but very few clubs seem to be sniffing around him. He is supposedly Pardew’s preferred target and the two men have a good relationship from their time at Charlton the press reckon. I just can’t see this deal happening because it will rely upon Bent taking a big hit on his wages and we know money was a key reason in him blowing the Mackems out and heading for Villa Park. Ashley pays as little as he can and as a result we tend to shop abroad, finding the domestic market too rich for Mike’s tastes. That said Bent may look at the World Cup next summer as his final opportunity to play in a major international tournament (assuming England qualifies, like) and put his career ahead of money. With Fulham the only other club apparently half-interested, the attraction of a return to his native London is obvious too. However, Bent was happy living in Newcastle when he was turning out for the Village of the Damned First Eleven and he knows all about Newcastle United and he might get a buzz from being involved with a proper football club and community as opposed to Fulham. Who knows? Sadly, I think it will be all about the dough.
Other options include Loic Remy from QPR, who was nicked from under our noses by Redknapp in January, though happily lovable ol’ Harry’s Rs were in free fall and Loic’s arrival couldn’t halt their slide into WTCTSDTD. Again, Remy would have to be prepared to take a massive hit on the mad wages he was lured to Shepherds Bush by if he wants to play for Newcastle United. Remy has a pretty appalling Rape allegation hanging over him and United need to tread carefully on this one. We want good lads as well as good players at United. It’s preferable if they aren’t banged up as well.
Another name in the frame is Demba Ba who is said to be surplus to requirements at Chelsea now Mourinho has returned. I really liked Demba as a player but never felt he was a player you’d have in a team with ideas about winning the PL and/or CL. Although it would be galling to have a player with so obviously mercenary motives back at United, I’d have to think about his performances and his goals to salve that particular wound. If United can get Demba back to United permanently or on loan then they should do their best to make it happen. Again however, Ba was always on the look-out for more wedge from day one at United and having got used to the Russian’s money rolling into his bank account on the Stamford Bridge payroll he may baulk at the modest (I can’t believe I’ve just written that) remuneration on offer from Baron Hard-Up on Barrack Road.
The striking partnership between he and Cisse never really caught fire and was the cause of some friction so with Cisse still at United that might not happen. There will be no shortage of suitors for Ba at home and abroad.
But hey, maybe Ashley will wake up one morning and decide to have a modicum of ambition for our football club. Okay, I know …
However, last week’s main talking point wasn’t surprisingly enough how we can hang ontoJoe Kinnear in the face of a vacancy maybe appearing at the Nou Camp (ahem) but rather the on-going saga regarding our No.9 Papiss Cisse and our reviled shirt sponsor, the legal loan sharks (just my opinion) W+ng+.
I’d suggest it is probably not a good idea to develop a fixed opinion on the Cisse/W+ng+ controversy and when true faith readers are earnestly discussing the finer points of Islamic Sharia Law, it’s perhaps time to take stock.
There are a number of different scenarios that could potentially be playing out here:
(a) everything is at seems and Cisse is a devout Muslim with serious religious objections to W+ng+.
(b) the whole thing has been got up as a ruse by Cisse’s agents, anxious to either get him an improved contract at United or a move and more money. There is breathtaking hypocrisy as Cisse has worn the Virgin Money sponsored shirt, plays in the Barclays Premier League, has been interviewed in front of advertisements for alcohol and it is alleged has been spotted in the city’s casinos and a host of other stuff.
(c) the club is being completely inflexible as is W+ng+ and a s a result we may lose our No.9
(d) the club is using Cisse’s genuine uncertainty about the sponsorship to sell him and use the money to reinvest (ha-ha) in other players as Ashley will not allocate funds for team strengthening having been pissed off at having to buy in January to keep the club in the PL.
(e) or something else
(f) or a combination of the above.
This one seems like it will run and run but it seems likely Cisse is on the way out be it because of God or mammon.
There are those of us with serious misgivings about how our football club is being run on and off the park and whilst our natural focus is on the first team squad which causes enough concern on its own, behind the scenes questions have to be asked of what actually is going on.
true faith scribbler, Andrew Trobe has written several pieces over the last year which have analysed United’s financial position and whilst it is true overall, income is up and costs are down, that does not tell the full story. The club’s income is largely up because of the renegotiated TV deal, which so far as I am aware was sorted by the Premier League and which United had nothing to do with other than be happy beneficiaries. The costs are down because we don’t pay big wages (it’s all relative) and don’t lash out big fees. Although we are selling out matches at SJP, this appears largely to be down to a number of schemes which have made football certainly more affordable for some fans but at the same time caused some to question the value of buying a season ticket. God knows where the club’s attendances would be were it not for the expanding Family Enclosure. We all know plenty of Mags who have chucked going in the last few years and won’t return until Ashley is gone or shows some ambition. Those recorded attendances are covering a lot of cracks.
The club’s commercial income (advertising, shirt-sponsors etc) isn’t as good as it was whenAshley bought the club in 2007 I believe. It’s no surprise United were so ready to hop into bed with W+ng+ because so far as I can see it, the club has very little of a proactive commercial operation going out and bringing in money either by pitching shirt deals and sponsorships as other clubs do. The club seems to be doing little more than ticking over and taking whatever comes along regardless of any potential damage to the “brand” or any ethical concerns.
The debt remains and although I’ve been thankful of Ashley’s money in keeping us afloat after the greed and incompetence of the Hall-Shepherd years, I’m having cause to revisit what he is getting from all of this in financial terms, particularly as we learn he may be being paid by the Sports Direct PLC board for sorting all of the free advertising he has sorted at SJP which has beamed free and gratis all around the world. I’m no accountant but wonder how the debt he underwrites at United is used for his tax returns etc. If there are any tax experts out there we’d be grateful to hear your theories on this.
We could go on … the club shop giving receipts with Sports Direct on them and on and on. There isn’t an area of the club’s operation that couldn’t vastly be improved but that requires full-on, committed leadership from the top with a load of ambition, a man revved up as Pardew put it a while back. We don’t have that. We seem to have a man keeping us ticking over, apparently getting money out of United in other ways it seems, reducing his losses and maybe waiting for someone to come along and take it off his hands when it suits his bank balance. This is where we are. In limbo! This is why we have people like Joe Kinnear at United.
There was, we think, some good news coming out of United last week and that was a sort of confirmation the club’s Academy had achieved Cat 1 status under the Premier League’s EPPP strategy to improve standards. This is more a cause of relief than celebration. The original independent inspection of the Academy took place more than twelve months ago and whilst lots of clubs were awarded Cat 1 immediately (i.e. Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal and even shit clubs like Sunderland) we were not. Getting to the bottom of the reasons why we didn’t achieved the Cat 1 rating at the first time of asking has proven very difficult with United reluctant to comment and the local football press apparently unable or unwilling to thoroughly investigate what has been going on.
From our assorted touts around the place we’ve heard claims of insufficient coaching time with youngsters, coaches being poorly prepared for the inspection and some nonsense with the paper-work and confusion about job-roles. The Academy was allowed some grace before being banged as a Cat 2 Academy (which would have had dire consequences) and has been working on something of an improvement plan over the intervening period. Llambias told us the whole thing would be sorted by April of this year (as well as some bizarre claim that W+ng+ would help the club with the Academy). April came and went with no news and then so did Llambias. We were then given the nod it would be boxed off by June and that didn’t happen. For a while we were told the Academy hadn’t achieved the Cat 1 status by people who should know but obviously didn’t. A conclusion to be drawn is United have squeaked through but however it has been achieved, we are where we should be and it’s to be hoped The Academy can live up to its ratings.
Whatever ratings The Academy achieves it has to start producing players for the first team. Not one single player has been recruited to The Academy and come through the ranks and established himself as a first team-regular on Ashley’s 6-year watch. Krul, Carroll and S. Taylor all pre-date Ashley! We have some who have flattered to achieve (Sammy Ameobi, Shane Ferguson) and some for whom the last chance has passed despite having had great expectations built around them (i.e. Mehdi Abeid, now supposedly interesting St Johnstone). The latest to get a good billing from the manager is Paul Dummett but this seems to be on the strength of a half-arsed pre-season friendly v. Motherwell. Let’s hope Paul can make the transition.
That really has to improve and for that alone I can understand why Ashley wants someone to have a close look at what is going on with the coaching (but Joe Kinnear???) and identify who and what is going wrong.
Anyway! If this maybe explains why we aren’t always full of positivity for Newcastle United then it’s been worth sitting here minging in my pants typing this old bollocks up for the last couple of hours.
Have a great week.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
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