There is absolutely no question about it at every level of its operations Newcastle United is now suffering from a crisis in leadership. In the boardroom, in the dug-out and out on the pitch, Newcastle United is afflicted by a complete absence of courage and responsibility. Obviously the general mood music is set by Mike Ashley whose slavish obsession with the bottom line is threatening to derail the whole club.
Much of this last week has focused upon the appointment of Lee Charnley, a man whose CV is so threadbare for the position he now occupies as to be laughable. I am no fan of John Hall but in one area he got something absolutely spot on and that was in the appointment of Freddie Fletcher, who whilst not always doing the things we wanted him to do, came to Gallowgate with absolutely copper-bottomed executive credentials following his pivotal role in the renaissance of Rangers FC and earlier with Morton. Fletcher helped transform United into a cash register in the early 90s. It would be churlish not to recognise his role in the transformation of Newcastle United from the early 90s onwards. If KK nicknamed the abrasive Scot, the Jockweiler for his tenacity then I can only compare Charnley to a Lancashire lap-dog, given how the huffy nobody of Barrack Road has risen without trace at our club. He has held no other posts in football, other than those at United.
It was interesting to note that another of Ashley’s appointees, Keith Hellawell, notional Chairman of Ashley’s primary interest, Sports Direct should be so described as a “corporate lightweight” by some in the City. That world is a mystery to me but what it does sound like is much the same as Lee Charnley and Alan Pardew. Placemen for Mike Ashley.
Ashley appears to appoint people to key positions who will do what they are told. That is all very well when you are running an assembly line but in a sporting enterprise that Newcastle United vaguely resembles, there is a need for people to challenge, innovate, create and bring some drive and ambition to their role and thus their business. What we have in Charnley is a yes-man, a drone, so grateful for his undeserved and unqualified position and without any options elsewhere at a similar sized operation that he will put up with any decision made by his boss, so long as he can carry on the pretence of his ridiculous job title and maintain a salary he knows he will earn nowhere else. Ashley has turned the club into a Venus fly trap for the mediocre.
The statement which appeared on the club’s website last week was so cautious, so lacking in ambition, so utterly joyless and unimaginative as to make you check whether it applied to a sporting outfit at all. No ambitions for trophies, no aim for sporting glory, nothing to challenge at the top end of the league, no unifying call to arms but more a familiar and monotonous repetition of a capitalist credo that is spirit crushingly depressing. Orwell invited us to imagine a jack-boot stamping on the face of humanity forever in his visualisation of a totalitarian dystopia. Ashley has delivered its football equivalent at United with a Reebok Classic (the burglar’s favourite) kicking us forever in the bollocks as we continue to pay for the privilege.
Charnley’s statement concerning investment in players blew out of the water completely what Pardew has been spinning about rebuilding the squad over a busy forthcoming summer but then again from the moment Carroll was sold despite the manager’s earlier promise to the contrary nothing he has ever said, has happened. Our name is now being linked with a wish-list of players who will not sign for Newcastle United if they have options elsewhere. It is a circus for fools.
As expected, the appointment of Charnley appeared cold and bland on the website. No press conference, no interviews with journalists, no Q & A opportunity just a grey-faced, white collared dissemination. It amounted to someone switching off the light at the end of the tunnel.
It was appalling and suggests Ashley’s people (they haven’t worked for the club for a long time) no longer care if supporters buy into the club in any way at all. Letters from fans writing in explaining they are terminating their season ticket direct debits are routinely ignored. I imagine a dead-eyed Ashley wage slave shrugging his or her shoulders as they check the relevant small-print to give an utterly defeated Mag, the bad news – they are handcuffed to this never-ending farce. Or pressing a few buttons with no communication up the food chain at the alarming disengagement supporters are now having with Newcastle United, if it can be so called.
Then there is the manager, whose puny surrender to any indignity Ashley has delivered to him has, along with his own shortcomings, painted him into a corner. There is no way back for Pardew now. Once the away support, known for its stoicism calls time then he is a dead man walking. Pardew will know this but we are now into an end game of paid up contracts and positioning for the next job which I’d guess will be in the Championship at best. Pardew won’t resign. He has the security (so we are told) or diamond studded handcuffs of a long contract which he will not want to compromise. This is what explains the nonsense about Newcastle United being a hard club to play for, the shirt being a heavy one to wear, the academy kids not being from a preferred socio-economic class, imaginary injuries, an unhelpful local press and unfavourable weather conditions. It’s all eye-wash, pathetic dissembling to shore up what after this coming weekend will be an untenable position. Ashley will likely not be in attendance but I predict a toxic reception for his manager, his staff and his gutless team at St James’ Park when the admirable Swansea City visits Tyneside.
The cowardice that Pardew has displayed in his dealings with Ashley has reached its end point. This is where thoughtlessly towing the party line, bending over and having it stuck up has brought him. He will leave perhaps with his bank balance inflated but his dignity ripped to shreds. This is Ashley’s modus. There is no loyalty only manipulation and I’d guess right now another desperate dupe, certain to fail, is being lined up. Kinnear? I don’t think he’d dare. Even Ashley doesn’t want the club relegated, though he fails to recognise the link between his decisions and the likely consequences.
On the pitch, the players are going through the motions. Sometimes not even that. The stats are being compiled illustrating their ineptitude while Pardew is desperately hoping for the return of Loic Remy, a player like some others I’d guess who have their bags packed waiting to get the fuck out of NE1 4ST. Injuries are being racked up and taking a while to repair, which the cynic in me watches with suspicion.
Will we defeat Swansea on Saturday? I very much doubt it and the bitterness is such I can seek some solace in the team finishing out of the top ten and deny Pardew, staff and players their bonuses. 9th or 11th? I really could not give a fuck.
Many thanks to all of you who have dropped e-mails, responded to the news item on this site as well as made comments on Facebook and Twitter regarding the forthcoming switch to a Digital only version of true faith. Some of the very nice things that have been said have been really touching and I’ve had something in my eye on one or two occasions. But it really isn’t the end. The melancholy is completely misplaced. It really, really is the beginning.
Publishing a fanzine, ultimately a small regional title like this one became possible due to the affordability and availability of Desk Top publishing throughout the early 90s onwards. Without that we’d never have kicked off. We’ve had Quark Express and Adobe Photoshop and Apple technology to thank for allowing us to develop the fanzine as we have done. Previously, fanzines were restricted to Letraset and photocopiers. For some reason that era is seen by some as the authentic period for fanzines for reasons that escape me! Similarly, web-based software has allowed us to develop this website in the same way. We may not care to admit it but we are all under the control of the geeks.
Last week Glenn Ashcroft, the design guru behind true faith and I met to discuss the potential of the Digital fanzine in the future. It is enormous. I promise in 6 – 12 months’ time the idea of returning to a paper format will be seen as a ridiculous. I have noted the misty-eyed nostalgia surrounding vinyl as opposed to i-tunes. I will confess to missing record shops but the people as consumers have voted with their feet and wallets. What people are also confusing however is the excitable discoveries of their youth and the onward march of technology. I’ve heard some people claim vinyl sounds better than downloads. Utter crap. It definitely didn’t if it was scratched or warped. Or as often happened, they remained borrowed by mates and never returned. When I was my daughter’s age (21) I think I had about 60 LPs and about 200 singles. I was considered an enthusiast. There will be those reading this who regard that as a piffling amount but I was normal and it was a big collection compared to some. When I am allowed to look at my daughter’s lap-top and what she has been listening to I am staggered by the range of genres and how developed her tastes are but also just the sheer scale of what she has available. No-one is going to convince her that she should invest in a crap record player (as I had) and listen to music lying on the bed with massive ear phones on in a freezing cold bedroom on a council estate in Gateshead.
And the same is true with the printed media. I’m far from academic definitions of the “digital native” but it is a while since I bought a newspaper and it will be a while before I do again. The format is dying a slow lingering death with the infrastructure around the regional press, as has been shown by our experience to be crumbling. We won’t be the last to go down this road.
Over the next few years what we understand of a magazine will change completely and I am hoping we can play our role in this discovery for the fanzine movement. We have some challenges and knowing myself as I do, I’ll want to be over the mountains onto the other side before I’ve loaded the car up or put petrol in the tank. Glenn and I are going to batter each other’s heads in with this malarkey, I’m sure.
That’s not to say we want to lose what we have currently have. There is a certain intimacy and tactile feel to the printed word you don’t get digitally. I accept that. However, you will absolutely recognise true faith when you take out a Digital Subscription (you are taking out a bastard sub by the way) because it will contain all of the features it has now except only moreso. The fanzine looks great on lap tops and PCs but I recommend tablets and i-pads and in that way you’ll still be able to sit on the pot reading Paully’s Postcards From The Edge, go through Mr Whelan’s misanthropic A-Z in Sub Culture lying in the bath or read Gav’s excellent The End sitting on the bus or the train as well. It’s all there. You can only gain.
It is also going to become cheaper as well as faster and better. I’ve winced at the subs costs for the fanzine but they are all postage costs we have no control over. Add currency exchange costs into the mix and we haven’t been far south of selling true faith for a tenner each to some subscribers around the world. That’s just ridiculous and those postage costs are going to get worse now a service to the public has been turned into a trough for the Government’s mates in the City.
It took us a bit of a while to establish true faith as the glorious technicolour pocket Vogue you have before you nowadays. We achieved those improvements a bit at a time and we will do the same with the Digital only version.
But the really critical and vital ingredient we hope we’ve brought to true faith is quality writing and originality. That remains our watermark whether its paper, Digital or hologram … oh have I told you about the hologram fanzine …. maybe that’s a bit off yet …
Stick with us.