Thru Black and White Eyes

THRU BLACK & WHITE EYES – A Fork In The Road – 17/May/16

by • May 17, 2016 • TBAWEComments (18)3769

TRUE15 LUKE 1977 Voucher (1)



When you get a few miles on the clock following any football club, let alone one as unique as Newcastle United, you start recognising patterns and moments and referencing them to similar points in the club’s history. Since coming away from SJP on Sunday I’ve been attempting to pin-point where we might be in terms of different moments in the time I’ve spent tied to the Barrack Road stake in the ground. Two moments spring to mind.

The first of the two goes back to 1992. Kevin Keegan came back to SJP with United staring relegation in the face and Sir John Hall putting it about that if we did go down that would be it, the club would go bust. For those that laud Hall, always remember this – it was all about the money for Thatcher’s friend in the North. I forget the game but after discovering certain assurances about bringing players in were not about to be kept, Keegan, as determined and headstrong as ever, stormed out of SJP, refusing to be anyone’s dupe and used the memorable line “it’s not what it said in the brochure” to describe how promises made to him were being broken. Keegan was away down the A1 but was memorably intercepted by Terry McDermott, a conversation was brokered between Hall and KK, matters were patched up (i.e. KK made Hall keep his promises) and the rest is hysteria.

The second of those two moments is 2009. After facing that appalling relegation in 2009, Ashley met Alan Shearer and all Rafa5seemed to have been agreed for our No.9 to take over the reigns and build the recovery of the club from the second tier. Llambias described Shearer as the best decision he ever made. Then they promptly ignored a club legend and Shearer himself often repeats he’s not heard from Ashley since.

This is where we are now. At a fork in the road. Ashley has met Rafa Benitez and they spent a good few hours together. Despite my deep cynicism of Ashley and his motives, I am starting to believe the club is serious about wanting Rafa to stay and Benitez quite fancies it as well. Whether Rafa is playing a game to tease out inducements from other clubs shouldn’t be discounted.  I don’t think he is the silly romantic fool many would paint him but the departure of Graeme Carr after an underwhelming period of squandering United money points to a real sea change in attitude at United and supports the theory that the model Ashley has attempted to use since he binned Allardyce has been ripped up. Demands we are led to believe that Rafa has made of wanting to have total control of transfers would suggest they have been accepted and that explains Graeme Carr’s sudden interest in Saga holidays. We are agonisingly close to seeing the appointment, in terms of prestige and record, the most accomplished manager we have ever had and I say that with all due respect and affection for Joe Harvey, Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson. Benitez is on a completely different level to anyone who has preceded him.

Of course there are many ex-managers of our club who have arrived with strong reputations and bombed spectacularly but nursed grievances at how much they have been allowed to truly manage. Keegan was the last one to truly exert his influence on the club and not even Robson could prevent Shepherd from his doomed manoeuvrings in the transfer market. Benitez won’t stand for that and a man of his standing shouldn’t have to at a club that has failed so persistently for so long. I’m going to take a wild stab at it and suggest all of you reading this would prefer Rafa Benitez former manager of Real Madrid, Valencia, Liverpool, Inter Milan, Napoli and Chelsea to mould a team rather than Lee Charnley, former Reserve Team Secretary at Newcastle United.

Unless Benitez and Ashley are playing deeply Machiavellian tactical games it would seem the wheel is turning in the direction of Benitez becoming the Newcastle United manager.

But. I can’t reconcile myself 100% to the thought that Ashley has changed so much to cede so much power at United to Benitez. Is he playing a cruel game on us? Will he wake up this week and decide he doesn’t want to support Benitez’s demands which aren’t just about his own salary demands but also about money for players, authority for next season but longer term into the future. Benitez doesn’t want to be dicked around like a Pardew or a McClaren with teams Ashley just wants to survive in the Premier League (which has brought a thoroughly deserved relegation) he is looking longer into the future and he wants to build a football club that can be a force in the land and in his own image.

I want desperately to believe everyone in this deal is being 100% honest with each other – Ashley with his readiness to acquiesce to Rafa’s demands and support him with resources for next season and the one after but also in Senor Benitez’s intentions to stay at United for the long term and build the sporting institution we all ache Newcastle United to be.

Looking at the successes of all top managers in the history of the game in this country and they are littered with RafaBridgeboardroom struggles where charismatic football men have overcome chairmen and directors who have their own ideas about how things should be. The personal stories of Stein, Revie, Nicholson, Shankly, Busby and Ferguson are punctuated by their battles with the men who sat in the directors’ boxes imagining it was they who brought success to clubs rather than just signed the cheques. Where relationships have broken down i.e. Clough at Derby, success has evaded those clubs and generations later supporters reflect on what might have been.

It’s only my personal belief but I think we are at such a point. Benitez has to stay. The prospect of anyone else coming in now is just too horrific a thought to contemplate. Everyone’s favourite Spaniard is in an incredibly strong position. Ashley witnessed a remarkable scene on Sunday, where a packed SJP of over 52,000 turned up to a cheer a relegated team and drench the man from Madrid in the love and adoration of Newcastle United’s incredible, its peerless support. Were Ashley to fail to seal the deal, a man who is a born deal-maker then I think the despair around United might be irreparable.

The deal has to happen and if it does, if everything is in place we will know Rafa is our man in the dug-out and not the hired hand of an owner lambasted repeatedly for a lack of vision and ambition. We will trust him and we will adore him. He will be working for Newcastle United rather than Mike Ashley and that is the key difference. That is something we have not had since KK resigned in 2008.

For Ashley himself, he has a massive opportunity to heal the wounds of the last nine years. If Rafa does sign it will be as a result of his intervention and the guarantees he has made to the manager. That will put him just about in credit with the supporters, despite a second relegation for which he is ultimately culpable. Ashley has the opportunity to be part of something truly special but as ever, it’s up to him if he wants it.

This week is going to be agony.


Keep On, Keepin’ On …


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18 Responses to THRU BLACK & WHITE EYES – A Fork In The Road – 17/May/16

  1. Ali says:

    Think KK went walkabout before Swindon at home ?

    • Marc Corby says:

      Yeah, 3-1 win when Hall met the press and played dumb straight after.

      Don’t forget Keegan was officially finished once he kept us up. The following few weeks were similar to now where meetings occurred in an attempt to take club forward.

      Thankfully Hall etc agreed and what a 4.5 years that followed…..

    • Peter says:

      Yes…I think it was Swindon…was it not after the game?


    Senior Michael,

    I agree 100%. If they screw this up then it’s gonna be a very long and arduous journey, but I have hope. Adios Amigo!!

  3. Peter Shearer says:

    I think it fair to put me in the cynical camp when it comes to Mr Ashley! It will be very interesting to see how this plays out and what that tells us about Ashley and Rafa. We will have to wait for the outcome before we judge, but even if it is the outcome we all want, can Ashley really sit back and allow Rafa to run things? Has Ashley finally accepted that his masterplan does not work in football? Ashley now has the chance to do what he first intended to do, have some fun running a football club. Surely now he is too bored to just annoy the fans again. A note of caution however, as Ashley and his repsonse to the MPs re the Sports Direct issue suggests that he hardly looks like a convert from his previous beliefs!

    Whilst still believing that those that boycotted have played their part in increasing the pressure on Ashley, I do think the passion shown by those who still attend was impressive and certainly had an impact on Rafa. Probably as well that I was not there singing Ashley out!

  4. Pat Hughes says:

    Excellent article and it reflects my worries, hopes and fear Ashley will knock us down again but hope is currently winning my personal battle. Someone on Twitter posted something which is puzzling me – Rafa is seemingly sorting out the internal framework, structure et al so why would he do that if he’s got half an eye out for other offers. All very bizarre and unreal but I suppose that’s us. The call for Rafa at the match was a good one – the lack of negativity, lack of long faces, tears streaming down our cheeks etc will baffle the football community for years – nice one.

  5. Peter Ward says:

    It all seems to be going just too well with Benitez to be true. Ashley has been incredibly successful iin business you have to give him that, even if you don’t like his methods and business model.. He started with money from his parents with one shop. When Sports Direct went public he became a billionaire overnight. This was when he bought NUFC (in my opinion) on a whim. His initial honeymoon period lasted five minutes and a succession of cronies and sychofants – incredible really when you look at the names – arrived at SJP and mostly departed just as quickly. Through all this he has imposed his ‘business model’ on the club and never wavered despite becoming pretty much a hate figure with a lot of fans.. We’ve had two popular appointments, Keegan and Shearer. How long did they last? Could it be the same with Benitez? I don’t think Benitez is some sentimental fool. In the football jungle he’s moved in he must be a pretty hard case to have survived. Can Ashley be Trusted? He is currently in a spat with a Parlimentary Select Committee and is reported today to be refusing to meet them – except on his terms. Of course we don’t know what Benitez is demanding or what Ashley has agreed to – if anything. Look what happened with Shearer. Ashley has imposed an iron grip with his buying of players, limits on wages and transfer fees. Is this to change dramatically? Frankly I just don’t see it. Benitez has a history of clashing with owners so how can this work given Ashley’s history of conflict with anyone he doesn’t agree with and refusal to cede control. Can Ashley really change his spots? A nagging doubt tells me it could all go belly up, if not immediately then sometime soon.

  6. Donabba says:

    I cannot believe that Ashley will pull the plug on his promises to Rafa. We have seen him do this sort of thing many times in the past, but now Ashley is at a different stage. He has had his fun, and is planning his departure. As ever, the priority is money and the value of his investment needs a big boost. Rafa is God sent for Ashley as much as the rest of us. He will enable an MA departure at the top of the graph, whilst cleaning up his reputation.
    No. Rafa has all the cards. It’s his decision.

  7. Still the Leazes End says:

    “tied to the Barrack Road stake”
    Good one!
    Me too for 52 years.

  8. richard hands says:

    Great comments as usual cheers for the seasons coverage . A couple of points, a straw poll mates and family in February 16 out 18 had cancelled DD and have opted to pay as they go would love to see figures overall if a good percentage have done the same it will put pressure on . According to press reports all the serious negotiations are carried out at Shirebrook as we already no on here, It cannot be underestimated the difference this makes they will never have any of the passion we have.

    Out cycling the other day, road past Freddies house in Jesmond by the time I got to exhibition park realised I was looking back on his tenure with fond memories !!!!! you have to laugh sometimes keep the faith

    • Marc Corby says:

      Our of my immediate bunch of 12, 2 packed in prior to last season and have possibly been to 6 games between them this season.

      Another has packed in but insists he will still ‘PAYG’ from now on.

      As a side, the going rate for spares (ST Holders who can’t make it) amongst our lot is a token gesture of £10. I think only once I never managed to sell.

  9. colin McCabe says:

    Haha WTF is going on, we’ve just got relegated, had a pathetic season with , for a long time, the worst away record in the whole of England and put up with utter garbage no clue no effort football for 3/4 of it yet I’m more optimistic now then I was about NUFC 8 years ago, please please do the right thing and give this man what he wants & needs as it really could be a Match made in heaven.

  10. rich says:

    I believe Sunday may have been a turning point for Ashley. The fans display of passive aggression seems to be far more powerful than the alternative scenario if McClaren had still been in charge. Ashley must be thinking ‘Blimey i may just have got away with this’. Having said that if he does revert to type then the venom will be threefold.

  11. Ian Orrick says:

    Am I the only person who has a vision of Fatty & Penfold sitting down & looking at Rafa’s ‘demands’, i.e. the reported £5 million a year contract and the request for a decent transfer kitty. Fatty pours over the figures, sweating profusely & Penfold, ever eager to please suggests that we could get Nigel Pearson for £1 million a year & he’ll sign second division players no fucker has heard of for next to nowt & we’ll still get straight back up. A smile spreads across Fatty’s pudgy face. ‘Nice one my son – that’s why I pay you the big bucks’.
    Is Fatty going to completely change his business model & effectively admit he’s got it horribly wrong all these years by employing Rafa? I desperately hope I’m wrong but sometime over the next week or so we’re going to hear that Rafa & the club just haven’t been able to agree the fine details & the club are pursuing other potential managers.
    Supporting the Toon has turned me into a right miserable cunt.

  12. Joe Hawkins says:

    Personally if they wanted Rafa Benitez it would be a done deal already !
    The fact the trail has went cold again which is typical of Ashley and his regime speaks volumes imo.
    As alluded to by the author a similar situation occurred in 2009 when they said they wanted Shearer only to ignore the man up until this very day.

    There is no way on this earth that Ashley or his minions will give Rafa full control of transfers etc and their flawed policy will continue come what may.
    I fully expect weeks of silence until the relegation has been given time to sink in to then be hit with one of their pathetic statements saying they couldn’t agree terms with Rafa.
    Then some rubbish about taking time to find the right man to lead us in The Championship with the summer ticking on with nothing but sales of players being the only thing we get from the club.
    Then at the 11th hour another desperado stooge will step forward to be given the job of “Led-Coach” and the whole sorry mess starts again !

    The only thing I disagree with is this thing about Newcastle United being a “Unique” club.
    There is no difference between us and any other club the length and breadth of this country imo.
    This is the sort of stuff that gets us called deluded and all the other insults that get thrown around.
    The only thing you could say about Newcastle fans is that we are uniquely stupid if their is such a word lol

    • Boomtown says:

      I would tend to agree…
      Do you want to stay… Yes/No
      If yes, what are your terms?
      OK we agree, or we don’t!
      Am I missing some level of complexity?

      • Peter Ward says:

        If the latest reports about the ‘complexity about the negotiations’ you probably are. However if I was dealing with Ashley I’d want a top lawyer to scrutinise the small print, everything’s in triplicate in writing, and copies kept in the vaults of the Bank of England.