So, last week the very first meeting of the Newcastle United Fans Forum took place at St James’ Park with club officials meeting with some supporters and although sceptical this will make any real difference to the direction of travel the club is on, it did provide some astonishing revelations and convinced me ever moreso of the absolute necessity for detailed analysis of how our club is being run, how it is developing its income streams and where money we spend on the club ends up.
Obviously, the headline revelation from the lips of Finance Director, John Irving (de-facto, the man in charge at SJP since Llambias’ resignation and given Kinnear has about as much involvement in the day to day running of the club as next door’s cat) was that the cup competitions are not a priority for the club. We shouldn’t really be surprised in honesty because this is part of a pattern across football due to the amount of monies piled into football from TV companies to cover the Premier League. It is this reason clubs play virtual shadow sides in Cup competitions and why supporters have responded by treating them similarly with disdain until the latter rounds with Wembley in sight. There just isn’t enough money in the Cup competitions to impress the people who run football clubs in 2013 and by now, you must have worked out Mike Ashley’s adoration of mammon.
I can’t have been the only one who raised an eye-brow at the apparent pleasure in Alan Pardew’s early season comments regarding our lack of involvement in the Europa League. Compared to the money offered from the Premier League, this is the only show in town for club owners obsessed by the bottom line.
You are wasting your breath attempting to convince these joyless automatons of the glory of Cup wins, they are from a completely different place to you and I! Sporting glory does not interest them. It is all about maintaining a mean-spirited adherence to a business plan which is utterly bankrupt of ambition.
However, what this admission means for Newcastle United is this: we have a deliberate and real strategy NOT to win anything or even to finish fifth. Of course, we did finish fifth the season before last and what was the club’s response to that? No investment in the squad to face the sporting challenges of last season. Business wise, it just doesn’t stack up in the model Mike Ashley has established on Barrack Road. Not even the most optimistic would claim we have a chance of winning the Premier League title this season, next season, the one after that or even in the foreseeable future. That we have no prioritising of the Cup competitions is an emphatic statement of the cramping lack of ambition at the club. What will keep Ashley happy? I’d say anything from 6th to outside the bottom three. No higher and no lower.
I don’t use these words lightly, but I think that kind of plan is a corruption of the value of sport. It’s cheating the paying public and it is a cold, heart-breaking abuse of our dreams as football supporters, to see a Newcastle United captain, for one occasion only, please God, holding a Cup aloft with you, your mates, neighbours, faces you’ve known for years but haven’t got a clue about, family and the whole of the B&W community just going absolutely mental at the uninhibited ecstasy a moment like that would bring us all. To discover the club is operating on a wholly different set of values to those of us clicking through the turnstiles game after game is a new low in a never-ending series of lows on the Mike Ashley watch.
How this man feels entitled to the continuing patronage of Newcastle United by the people of the North East escapes me.
But there is one sentiment coming from Ashley that I am completely in agreement with and that is Newcastle United should stand on its own two feet financially. The club standing on its own two feet would involve charging Sports Direct the going rate for plastering its logo and advertising crap all over St James’ Park and on club merchandise. The explanation from Irving that Sports Direct is simply taking up space the club cannot sell is an insult to our intelligence.
Further, if the club is to stand on its own two feet in the longer term then it will need a team of experts to maximise commercial opportunities for the club. Commercial income is at least half of what it was in 2007 at Newcastle United when Ashley, for reasons, only he can ever explain, bought our club from Hall and Shepherd. One of the professionals we have managed to recruit to our team of analysts looking as closely as we can at the business of Newcastle United will have an expert piece for us in a forthcoming issue of the fanzine which lay bare just what is going on with this critical income stream into the club. As we will with merchandising and gate receipts. No-one would like to see the club stand on its own two feet more than me but to do that we need ambition aligned to competence and under Mike Ashley, we have neither.
I’d like to praise the Newcastle United Supporters Trust’s representative, Peter Fanning at the Forum for asking proper questions in the correct manner and thank the Trust for getting a full report online and available so quickly. I am fully expecting inane questioning (and we got them) within this forum but fair play to the NUST for setting the bar high in the standard of questions lain at the Forum’s meetings and they are to be commended for so doing.
We managed to negotiate the League Cup tie with Leeds at SJP without the expected upset some feared. A competent performance lit up with two excellent goals put the team from West Yorkshire to the sword and we have been rewarded with another home draw to Man City. Given how we were comprehensively dismantled at The Etihad in the season’s opening game and given the financial doping the Man City squad benefits from via their human rights abusing paymasters in Abu Dhabi, I don’t think hopes are high for our continued success in the League Cup. Not that John Irving or Mike Ashley will be arsed about a tin-pot that serves only as a distraction from the serious business of earning money in the PL.
Way before that though there is the small matter of the trip to Everton on Monday night. Goodison is a great trip out to a great football city but moving the fixture to a Monday night pisses all over a lot of Mags’ desire to get to the game. Still, think of the money Mike Ashley gets from the telly eh?
Everton is a slap in the face to Mike Ashley’s running of our club. Their chairman may not have the wealth of Mike Ashley, Goodison does not have the capacity or facilities of SJP but somehow they constantly punch above their weight. They have brought in a bright manager with a good reputation and managed to find the resources for him to bring in Kone, Lukaku and Barry on loan whilst we were treated to empty boats from Kinnear and “over the line” clichés from Pardew. The difference between Kenwright’s Everton and Ashley’s Newcastle United? Affection for the institution, dreams and competence! Characteristically Everton has a great spirit and they are stronger than the sum of their parts. There is much to admire in them. One thing I do know is no-one with a growing reputation like Martinez would consider working for Ashley. There is much to admire in Everton and I feel as though we will be doing very well to come away with a point.
The weekend will take us to Cardiff, a club whose owners feel as though their investment entitles them to tear up a whole history because of a whim about a colour scheme they prefer. I see that as another stern test of our resources but also of Alan Pardew’s ability to make the most of what he has at his disposal. For what it’s worth, I think Pardew has better players at his disposal than Malky Mackay but we’ll see what he makes of them. As you’ve probably guessed, I need some convincing Alan Pardew has what it takes to manage our club, even given Mike Ashley’s suffocating lack of ambition for it.
And finally, have we mentioned we’ve got a new issue of the fanzine out? TF106 is out now and you can get the whole low down on what’s in it here.
As well as the fanzine which we have to charge for I’m afraid, we are knocking out the true faith:SATURDAY SPECIAL but this s absolutely FREE of charge. You will need to register for it though. You can do that here.
There is also the true faith:PODCAST which you can have free of charge and gratis. This latest issue features The Mirror’s NE football correspondent, Simon Bird in conversation with the two big lumps Taylor & Besty and me. You can get it here.
Thanks for reading. Please make an effort to buy TF106, it really is the heart and soul of everything we do and the small profit we make from the fanzine, keeps everything else rolling.