It’s not often that Newcastle United can surprise me these days and after a wholly predictable and routine defeat to Liverpool complete with inept defending and barely a threat in attack with the brain-dead sending off the team’s “leader” Sissoko, I had a kind of comforting warmth that the club had no shocks left.
How wrong I was!
The news United has published its accounts and revealed it had £34m available at the end of the last financial year in June 14 left me speechless. It’s almost as if the people Ashley has running Newcastle United want to piss us off.
Today’s release of the accounts has just left me dumbfounded. Not that the money is there, every qualified and independent financial forecast suggested the amount of money that has been announced in the club’s books. No, it’s just that the club has allowed these accounts to be published in the run up to what will be the largest demonstration against the Ashley regime in the eight utterly depressing years the man has stunk out St James’ Park.
Let’s get it on the record, while the club was squandering a £6m fee and associated wages on Riviere and God knows what else in salary on Ferreya, the club had £34m at its disposal but was unable to push through deals for the likes of Gomis (available on a free and who had been widely scouted by Carr) or Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette with whom we are persistently linked. Although that money was available, Newcastle United was raking around in the bargain bucket and coming up with not very much at all. Don’t forget Papiss Cisse has been unfit for at least 12 months and Siem de Jong’s fitness record in Holland always suggested fitful contributions.
It’s at least three years now since it has been blindingly obvious that we have needed serious reinforcement at centre-half. We have Colo, who great servant though he might have been is a fading force and appears to have his commitment to the B&W shirt compromised. We have Williamson who is painfully out of his depth in the PL. We have Steven Taylor who is injury prone and we have Paul Dummett who it seems is a better central defender than left-back. Despite no reinforcements at all, we packed Mbwia off to Roma and recruited no-one. We sent Davide Santon to Italy as well in January and no-one replaced him either. All with £34m sitting in the bank.
We also hear the salary to turnover ratio is down to 60%. That sounds wonderful I bet to accountants but maybe not ones who support Newcastle United.
We have heard (or rather read, I’ve never heard the bloke’s voice) Lee Charnley lecture the Fans Forum on the recklessness of competing for Cup competitions as it threatens the delicate financial structure of the good ship Newcastle United. We saw Newcastle United perform abysmally in front of 4000 travelling fans at Leicester and make its traditional Third Round exit in the Midlands. All with £34m sitting in the bank!
The availability of that money placed alongside the crying and desperate need for team-strengthening tells you everything you want to know about the ambition of Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United. Or rather the desperate absence of it.
Not that the £34m is the only money we have available come the summer. It will have been added to by virtue of the additional monies raised by the sales of Santon and Mbwia and the compensation received from Palace for Pardew. That will also mean that the pay-bill will have fallen again as well.
By the time the transfer window opens again in June, United will have had another year’s profit at its finger tips for investment. I’ll leave you to decide whether we’ll be looking at the likes of Lacazette or whether Graeme Carr has been reading through the small-print of some St Etienne reserve striker of the quality of a Riviere, who might be available on a free.
I’ll leave you to speculate on whether Perez, Sissoko, Janmaat, Krul won’t be punted to the highest bidder come the summer and whether the club will be looking to unload Tiote and Cisse. I don’t doubt players will be bought but I feel confident plenty will be sold and we will start next season with the same standard of mediocrity we currently have. Ashley will preside over the football equivalent of re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic (incidentally, the name of the hotel United stayed at on Monday).
I’m absolutely confident the players brought in will be using United as a stepping stone to greater things and Ashley will be looking to sell them at a profit. Whatever Ashley is building at St James’ Park, it isn’t a football team.
I’m cynical because we have had eight spirit-sapping years of Mike Ashley’s bloodless, corporate defeatism and we know Ashley’s objective is simply to remain on the PL gravy train and nothing else.
The complete absence of joy, hope, anticipation has brought us to our knees.
£34m doesn’t tell us the whole story. The club is generating profits but is hideously under-performing as anyone who has examined the collapse in every funding channel at United can testify. Ticket money, commercial, merchandise, corporate, all down and all less in 2015 to what it was in 2007. Well-run club? Don’t make laugh.
These accounts tell us unequivocally what the game-plan is at United and it has absolutely nothing to do with football, dreams, ambition, hope and anticipation.
If anyone was in any doubt whatsoever about what Ashley is up to today’s financial results scream it into your face.
So, what can we do?
Well, we can get off our knees for a start. We can shake ourselves out of this depression that we are in and we can fight back.
That fight-back starts on Sunday when unless you have been living under a rock for the last ten days you are all invited to #BoycottSpurs.
There are those whose defeatism is so ingrained that they cannot use their imaginations to understand the power of swathes of empty seats live on SKY. They cannot understand the damage this will inflict upon the attractiveness of Newcastle United as a choice for live matches in future with these kinds of actions hanging over SJP fixtures. Ashley might have some of our season ticket money for these games but he does not have Murdoch’s and he will not get it if the stands are empty.
Rightly, some claim #BoycottSpurs will not sufficiently damage Ashley where he understands it best – in his pocket. Maybe not immediately but when the Premier League clocks what is going on at United and when SKY and BT do likewise then the pressure you and I are forcing upon Ashley becomes altogether more powerful.
No-one in their right mind would claim one action such as #BoycottSpurs will see Ashley hitch up his skirts and flee down St James’ Boulevard. Of course it won’t. But it is only the start in what I am confident will be a sustained campaign to make Newcastle United just too much bother for Ashley and to persuade him to sell-up and move on.
I understand there are those who see Ashley as a symptom rather than the cause of football’s problems. I have articulated that view myself. I completely agree football should not provide the environment for sharks such as Ashley to operate in.
There are those who claim AshleyOut.com lacks a sophistication to it and it will be rendered impotent by the wider inequities of football. I understand that point but it’s as if nothing else is going on in the wider game amongst supporters groups.
The Newcastle United Supporters Trust has played a pivotal role as part of a network of others led by Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters Federation and it’s as a result of such lobbying that the Labour Party will make such key manifesto commitments going into the forthcoming General Election. The argument of football fans is being won all over the country, high and low. The balls are bouncing our way.
But AshleyOut.com does allow us the opportunity for a collective howl at the trashing of our beloved football club. It allows us the opportunity for us to come together and shout NO to Ashley. It allows us to reclaim our self-respect because throughout the dark, cold years of Ashley at United, many of us have felt sullied by our lack of a response to the sourness this man has brought to our club, our city and our region. We have been Ashley’s bitches for too long.
I am not really arsed about what some van-driver from Kent phoning into Talksport to whine at a braying Adrian Durham or some such thinks about our club or us. Fuck him. Fuck Robbie Savage. Fuck Stan Collymore. Fuck Patrick Barclay and every other half-baked prick who can barely string a thought together.
Sunday is about us. It is about you and your love for Newcastle United and your pride in what it should, what is could represent.
On this occasion, we supporters can achieve far more for Newcastle United by NOT clicking through the turnstile on Sunday. That empty seat will speak far louder than you ever could by sitting in it this Sunday.
At the risk of being accused of being provocative and possibly divisive, I would ask those who intend to go on Sunday, what they hope to achieve by ignoring #BoycottSpurs? Whose cause that does support? The long-term future of Newcastle United or the short term gain of Mike Ashley.
Make no mistake about it, every supporter who ignores #BoycottSpurs offers succour and encouragement to Ashley. I’m sorry to say that but it is the truth.
Every empty seat on Sunday is a personal challenge to Ashley and every occupied one can only convince him he can continue.
Fight Ashley. Save Newcastle United.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …