THRU BLACK & WHITE EYES – No Love Now – 16/Feb/14

by • February 16, 2014 • TBAWEComments (30)2134

I’ll confess to having had to drag myself to St James’ Park last Wednesday night after tf_109_coverleaving the warm glow of The Hotspur, where a good friend of mine couldn’t give two spare tickets away for what should be one of the most attractive fixtures of the season. Spurs at home? That should be a great game, shouldn’t it? People won’t take a ticket? For nowt? They would rather sit in a pub half-watching it over a pint on a big screen? Bloody hell!

But such is the atmosphere around United right now that a game that has traditionally got the pulses racing was played out in an almost funereal atmosphere, with the desultory attitude of supporters in the stands matched only by a limp, insipid performance from the players on the park that was lacking in commitment, courage, strategy, leadership, motivation or even professional pride. On an absolute dog of a night, a Premier League manager and his players couldn’t be arsed to perform in front of 48,264 paying customers. Fair play to Spurs’ away-following who made their way to the other end of the country on a weekday night. I didn’t think Spurs were that great to be honest. They didn’t need to be. We put in possibly the worst performance of the season, yes, worse even than Cardiff in the Cup or the game with The Mackems that has done so much to harden opinion.

There has been a definite sea-change in attitudes towards the manager. It’s no surprise really. He now has the worst record of any manager in Newcastle United’s history in terms of Derby results. His record in Cup competitions is nothing short of abysmal. His teams are unable to respond to set-backs and anyone who has been watching carefully knows that when we go a goal behind, especially away from home, that’s it, the game is lost. Throw in the view that players appear to be failing to fulfil their potential (HBA, Cisse, Marveaux etc.) and the manager is facing a growing charge-sheet. Pardew refuses to say anything in public remotely critical of the man who is hanging him out to dry and disgracefully, he described Ashley as a Newcastle United fan and dedicated the win over Chelsea to his boss. His polished media appearances are becoming more to be viewed as slimy and spiv-like with the public as he performs about turns on previous statements that defy sense.

I see Pardew as a hard-working coach who wants to do well. I believe he greatly values the job of Newcastle United manager. He won’t get a bigger stage to work on. He knows that. But I also see him as a manager whose limitations are becoming more obvious but more importantly is a manager in an impossible situation, created by the man who calls all the shots.

There is talk the manager has “lost the dressing room”. In general terms this suggests the players no longer believe he is providing the guidance and preparation for them to win football matches. It’s also a handy code for them to blame someone else for their shortcomings. Personally, for example, I think its Hatem Ben Arfa’s own responsibility for not training properly and I’m not the only one to believe he looks overweight. It is Sissoko’s lack of character that sees him stop tracking back. It is Krul’s responsibility when he can’t hold onto shots. It is Anita’s fault he can’t pick a pass forward. It is Santon’s fault he makes the wrong decisions at critical times.

Where players can be forgiven for losing faith in Pardew is in his authority at the club. If he has been telling players that new players would be coming in last summer or that replacement(s) would be brought in following the sale of Cabaye, Ba, Gutierrez etc. then they have every entitlement to be just as disillusioned as us. Not only can players not trust anything the manager tells them, there is no-one else there to offer any kind of explanation as to the club’s direction. No Chief Executive, no Director of Football, no board of directors.

As our club’s history illustrates all too well, it is easy to lose a manager but rather more difficult to appoint a good one. That is not to suggest I don’t think there aren’t any circumstances where Pardew shouldn’t be given his marching orders. What concerns me greatly is who Ashley could get to work for him given the lessons those in football will have learned in near seven years of Mike Ashley at SJP. Whatever we think of Allardyce, he got less than half a season, and then there was the abhorrent treatment of Newcastle United’s most loved sons Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer. Then think of how he treated a good man like Chris Hughton, without whom, God knows what might have happened following the Ashley-inspired relegation of 2008/09.

Could Ashley, for example, persuade a bright, ambitious in-demand manager like Roberto Martinez to have left Wigan to join United as Kenwright did to Everton given his history at our club?

Would Ashley have the insight to spot the emerging managerial talent of a Brendan Rodgers, Roberto Martinez or Michael Laudrup as Swansea City have done and convince them to work within his strategy and structure at Newcastle United?

No, it is my belief that Ashley is as isolated within the football industry as he is within the football media and amongst Newcastle United’s support.

Remember, Mike Ashley isn’t a football enthusiast. There is talk of him having been a Chelsea or Spurs fan or England fan but I don’t believe it, really. How could you be responsible for a club as prominent and important as Newcastle United FC and not be bothered to watch them if you weren’t completely disinterested? When was the last time he was at SJP? When was the last time he was at any United game?

Who knows why Ashley ever bought Newcastle United. I’m not 100% convinced he did so with a view to use the club as an advertising hoarding for his shit shops. I think that’s just an opportunity he’s taken. I’m half of the view that a man who had spent every waking moment since his teenage years building up a business empire, who was now fat and middle-aged and divorced and bored and very rich was having something of a mid-life crisis. While Ashley was looking for new mates and a “bit of fun” like so many others hitting that age group who buy themselves a Harley Davison or a minty sports car or have an affair with a crazy stripper girl in Vegas, Mike Ashley steamed in to buy a PL football club that Sir John Hall was desperate to get rid of and do the sale whilst Freddie Shepherd was laid up in hospital and who might capsize the deal for his own reasons.

Ashley then quickly realised he didn’t have a clue how to run United, turned to the wrong people for advice and realised he’d bought what his first Chairman, Chris Mort told true faith in an interview was a “bucket of holes” in financial terms. The whole thing unravelled and for Ashley, Newcastle United FC became an unwanted toy, very quickly.

Ashley’s life has moved on. Now apparently having rekindled his relationship with his wife and mother of his children with a bargain-retail empire which has thrived in these belt-tightened times, Ashley is in a different place emotionally. He and most of the club’s support now occupy polar opposites of mutual loathing. We despise him for the crass manner in which he has treated the club, its traditions and heritage. We loathe him for the joyless defeatism of his approach to running Newcastle United, devoid of ambition, honesty and integrity. For his part, I’ve no doubt he abhors us for what he might perceive is a lack of gratitude for the vast injections of his own money to keep the club afloat and prevent it from tanking as did Leeds, Rangers, Portsmouth et al.

Although allegedly diffident about his public image he is nonetheless sensitive to criticism – having the Curva Nord on Level 7 of the Leazes End disbanded for singing horrid things about him and banning individual journalists, as we learnt, for writing stuff that was just a bit too accurate.

So, here we are, stuck as a pal of mine put it, in a loveless marriage, staying together for the kids.

What can be done?

Well, the talk is of a mass desertion from the stands. The only language he understands tripping from the lips of people who have never heard him speak. Chuck your season ticket in, it’s the only way. I’m sceptical.

I’m sceptical not because I’m against action against Ashley’s deplorable running of our club but because I lack belief in that action being supported by the main body of our support.

This season, one supporter organised a march in protest against Ashley’s running of the club. He put his hand in his own pocket and paid the costs that have to be covered for these protests. It was around £500 I believe. He’s an ordinary lad and for like most of you (and me) reading this, £500 is a decent wedge of money. The march was justified and gave valid expression to a deep unhappiness at how our club was/is being trashed by Ashley. The march was supported by around 600 supporters. Not 60,000, not 6,000, no, 600. Sure, some people along the way, applauded and offered encouragement but for the overwhelming body of our support; scarfers, casuals, clued-up, young, old, hard-core home and away, SKY-fans, radgies, corporate, old school, new school couldn’t stir themselves to meet up at the City Hall and take part in a civil, legal, wholly justified march to Leazes Park before the Liverpool game. Too cool for marches? Too lazy? Something else? Take your pick.

Before the Chelsea (h) game, The Chronicle published a front-page with a message to Ashley about the banning of NCJ Media from access to Newcastle United and other grievances. The idea was match-going Mags would take copies into the game and hold them up in the direction of the directors box just before KO. It was meant as a very public display of dissent. Virtually nothing happened. It was embarrassing.

I hear complaints that as a support we lack leadership. There are extravagant calls for this person or that person to do loads of different things. It’s always someone else who has to do something and I’m beyond bored by those on social media /blogs or whatever grandstanding about what someone else should be doing. And then doing precisely nothing themselves other than gild a public image, jump upon a bandwagon or indulge a petty vendetta.

The simple truth of the matter is the largest supporters organisation we have, the Newcastle United Supporters Trust, open to all supporters and which is absolutely and completely properly constituted has less than 800 members. Not less than 8,000 members. Less than 800. I was at the recent AGM in the centre of Newcastle and there were less than 50 people in attendance. For all of the furious typists there are amongst our support, I don’t think the NUST was killed in the rush by people wanting to join the board and do some proper work to strengthen the Trust and grow it as a powerful, well-resourced organisation that can represent the interests of the supporters in a correct way.

So, why aren’t you a member of the NUST?

Oh, I know, it’s not perfect and it lacks your bold radicalism doesn’t it? You won’t join until it is a combination of MOSSAD, Greenpeace and Wiki-Leaks. That’s what you demand before you’ll join.

Apologies for the sarcasm but the Trust is the only supporters’ organisation there is with a proper agenda, that is plugged into Supporters Direct, a national network of supporters organisations, the Football Supporters Federation and which is accountable to those who pay their subs and support its activities. Everything else is a proven dead-end. Fans Forums? Do me a favour.

It’s flattering but also worrying that so many comments we’ve had on this site big up the likes of this fanzine to be in the vanguard of supporters’ action. Well, we’ve had our moments but in all honesty, we are a fringe publication as all fanzines are. If we occupied the importance some attach to us, we’d have glass fronted offices on the Quayside with admin assistants wandering around in stilettoes, pencil shirts and tight blouses with their hair up in buns and specs to make them look clever. Sorry, drifted off there for a moment. We’re nowhere near being a full time operation and now in its fifteenth year, this fanzine will never employ anyone even on the most modest of gratuities.

Far more Mags buy the club programme than fanzines. There is a bigger market for ghost-written nonsense from Joe Kinnear than clever, well-researched pieces about Newcastle United finances in one of them fanzines. I’m not bitter about that, it’s the way it always has been and always will be. That’s the mainstream, we’re the alternative. More people read the local press than fanzines. We are on the fringe, providing the alternative view. We are not mass market, never have been, never will be and never should be. We are the boil on the arse of the football media.

We have amongst the support, what old-style Marxists might have described as a lack of consciousness, though I’ve always found that patronising in the extreme and assumes people don’t agree with your analysis because they are a bit thick. No, we don’t, currently have enough supporters who will become active, who will be dedicated to a cause and do unseen, hard work for no reward, in their own time. It’s the same with political parties, whose memberships are dwindling year on year as are turnouts in elections. This is the Age of Apathy.

I’m as flaky as the rest of you reading this as well. Like you, I’ve got other commitments – family, work etc. that are really further up my hierarchy of priorities than good ol’ Newcastle United Football Club. Obviously, like you, I feel deeply about United, its part of my identity and deep in my soul. I love Newcastle United but I also despair of it and everything around it.

I don’t know what will happen, whether the club will be sold or whatever else, nobody does, least of all journalists writing substance free fluff in the Daily Shite.

To paraphrase Comrade Vladimir Ilich Lenin, What Shall Be Done? And he was definitely on about The Toon and not the cause of international socialism wasn’t he?

Well, I’m fucked if I know.

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true faith : READERS SURVEY.

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We’ll have the true faith : SATURDAY SPECIAL out again this er, Saturday coming. It’s all the work of our young Mr Harrison, true faith’s very own Dep. Ed who along with our resident design guru, Glenn Ashcroft brings you this fanzine within a fanzine and it’s fast becoming a regular cult feature of the Mag weekend. It’s absolutely free of charge and we won’t flog your e-mail addresses to Viagra companies in Latvia.

You can register for the true faith: SATURDAY SPECIAL by clicking here.

 

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Our big two lumps Taylor & Besty, have been a bit prolific with the podcasts lately. You can get on the true faith : PODCAST here and get amongst the musings of George Caulkin (The Times) and none other than Robert Lee, a bona-fide, Newcastle United icon and thoroughly smashing gadgie.

You can get on the true faith : PODCAST by clicking here.

Please note, it’s perfectly fine for journalists to lift quotes from the Podcast but it would be nice to be credited as the source – yes, we mean you at The Mail and The Independent.

Have a great week.

 

Keep On, Keepin’ On … TF_INITIALS_LOGO

 

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30 Responses to THRU BLACK & WHITE EYES – No Love Now – 16/Feb/14

  1. Shinton says:

    Polished media performance more like bullsh*t baffles brains.

  2. Gordon Young says:

    I live in Spain near Valencia. A basketcase of a club which, catlike, always falls on its feet.
    They owe getting on for 300 M euros, even after selling Mata, Silva, Villa, Soldado …, although they do own their stadium, which they can´t sell because of the crisis. They are building a new one but building work is stopped as they have run out of money.
    They put the club, which is owned by the fans, up for sale and got 2 or 3 interested parties. They got the best manager in Argentina to take charge and they got 5 loan players in during the window to turn their season around.
    If we had got even just Holtby on loan in January, things would look much better now
    There are buyers out there and I honestly believe that Ashley will sell up sooner rather than later. The question being when. If there are new owners in place by the end of August, we can do something.
    I agree that Newcastle fans seem to be lacking in something when it comes to organised protests which is strange when you think of the solidarity of the miners, shipworkers, etc.
    Being an exile I take my punishment in front of a screen however I remember going to see the Toon play Middlesbrough when Souness was manager and I was amazed at how robot like the fans were going to the stadium, almost as if they had no free will and were dragged to the game against there will. I suppose Spurs was worse. Ashley knows that people are getting near the edge and that he will need to spend 50M in the summer just to stand still. He would prefer someone else to spend that money after he has pocketed his deserved profit.
    A final bee in my bonnet. I totally disagree that Ashley saved us from the fate of Leeds, Portsmouth, etc. Leeds spent loads of money that they didn´t have, hoping to get into the Champions League. When they missed out, they went into freefall. Portsmouth received 73% of their income from TV money so obviously when they went down, there was no way back. When we went down we got 41% of income form the telly, and so were in much less danger of crashing.

    Gordon Young

  3. the magpie says:

    I to was offered a ticket for the spurs match I’m glad i didn’t go and refuse to go while the FCB is in charge of our beloved club.
    one thing i do know is the FCB and his daughter’s had season tickets and a box at spurs

  4. John Burn says:

    Hard not to disagree with any of that. Apathy has well and truly taken root among the support and this includes not feeling able to do owt about it. Packing in the s/t is one way – have been told that a huge drop is the one thing Ashley fears, because his free-advertising won’t look so good in a half empty ground. Unfortunately, Pardew is complicit in what is going on and I for one have had enough of his bullshit. The man has no dignity or self-respect and yet for some reason, still manages to garner sympathy from some quarters/

    We can only hope Ashley is on course to put the club up for sale, and soon. Otherwise, a relegation scrap awaits next season.

    • Jonathan Gibson - Amery says:

      Well done Mr Burn, you’e the only one I’ve seen that spotted Ashley’s soft spot. “a huge drop is the one thing Ashley fears, because his free-advertising won’t look so good in a half empty ground” Not only will it not look good, the shoddy advertising (incl french) against a backdrop of empty seats will look pathetic.

      But you’ll never persuade those who do not wish to make the sacrifice amongst whom I include the editor of this fanzine. Oh no they’ll spout greater & greater quantities of glib excuses as to why walking away will not work. Why can’t they be honest & just fess up to their lack of will for the sacrifice required?

  5. Greeny's Guitar says:

    Michael, I cannot assist you in any way ‘cos there’s nowt as queer as folk.
    I do reckon that we have realised that action against Ashley is futile because the man hates us so much. Anything we do is thrown back at us with interest. He owns the club and whilst he will sell for the right price he’s waiting to fuck us up even more by selling to someone like the Venkys or Tan.
    I remember being angry at Gordon bastard Lee because he sold Terry Terry Terry Hibbit and Supermac. If I’d seen him on the day he sold Macdonald I would have pulled his lugs off but it was weeks later when the red mist had gone so I just swore and threw my scarf at him.
    As far as the current situation is concerned I am past being angry. I have given up and I’d like to repeat something I wrote in response to one of your earlier articles. When I started typing I had downed a couple of jars, Spurs had tanked us and I was annoyed as you can probably sense by the tone. However by the time I’d finished(the following morning) the anger had gone and the last paragraph is the result. None of it might make sense but I am trying to explain why I, in my own apathetic way, can’t be enthusiastic about demos etc. I have taken the only action I thought made sense and that was to surrender my season ticket but I will return post Ashley (if I’m still alive)

    Have you recently chucked your season ticket because you are fucking sick of the clubs lack of ambition, the lack of communication from the club hierarchy except for that arse licking useless twat Pardew who spouts more shite than Sellafield, the way he and his pathetic collection of hangers on who have managed to coach the goals out of Cisse, the energy out of Sissoko and the excitement out of Ben Arfa and the way the whole fucking lot of them seem to have forgotten that this club, nay any club, is about the fans not the money from Fucking Sky who I hate with a passion ‘cos they more than anybody have ruined our beautiful game with their wonga resulting in horrible rich bastards who don’t care about history or tradition owning our clubs who then buy mercenary mediocre bastard foreigners who have no understanding of our club or city and don’t care about the shirt or what it means to us
    I’m sorry I’m rambling again but as I have said many times this is my 60th anniversary of attending SJP and in that time I thought I had seen everything. I am lucky enough to remember the highs of success, for your younger readers that means winning things not qualifying for the misnamed Champion League and that’s another thing that the powers have invented to generate even more cash. I mean how the fuck can a team finishing 4th in a league be classed as champions. In the group stages it’s obvious after only a couple of games which teams will qualify which mean the remaining games are solely played for television and the money. Revert to the original knock out competition for champions only. This will reduce the number of matches top players have to play and the Europa league will become a meaningful competition instead of the burden it is now. The likes of Pardew, Lambert etc forget that the cups are for the fans. A weekend in London for a final is still the highlight for most fans ‘cos we ain’t gonna win the league.
    The present regime at our club has knocked all the fight out of me. The team have been in worse positions but that’s not the point. They have kicked me until I don’t care any more. I’m just lying here taking it. I can’t fight back. They have won. They have stolen the soul of my club and left me without feeling. Bastards.

  6. Vin Crockwell says:

    I subscribe to true-faith and log on to nufc.com daily and although I agree with most of the sentiments expressed neither advocates a boycott. You could certainly argue like our friends at Thomson House that without match reports etc they would certainly lose readership/website hits etc. so there is in my opinion an element of self interest. A boycott won’t work because there are two many selfish bastards who won’t even try it.

  7. Vin, if anyone was motivated by self interest on this or any other fanzine, they wouldn’t spend hours doing unpaid work for a fanzine. If I personally was motivated by self interest I’d accept the almost weekly invitations to go on the telly and raise the profile of true faith. To suggest we or anyone won’t organise a boycott of season tickets because we are motivated by self interest in supporting stuff we provide completely free of charge and which generates no income, illustrates just how fucked up this argument has become.

  8. Vin Crockwell says:

    Michael as I said in my post I agree with most of the content raised in the fanzine and I am in fact a subscriber but I just don’t get the argument that a boycott won’t work. If we look at the facts he is giving out 10 year season ticket deals, filling the ground up with families (yes a good thing) and generally giving out discounted tickets not from of the goodness of his heart but because he wants `bums on seats’ and a full ground is more positive than an empty one. The fact that according to Graham Courteney, when interviewed on the radio after the Spurs game mentioned that there was only about 4,000 Newcastle fans in the ground at the end of the game shows that it is noticed. Whether those figures are correct, which I doubt, it was mentioned so attention was drawn to it. Can you imagine what 20K empty seats against Villa would do. The FCB hates negative publicity for his Sports Direct empire and you only have to look at the re-branding of his shite direct sports news service to see that.

    Another argument put forward is that it doesn’t matter what you do as Ashley is down south and disconnected from the area so he couldn’t give a fuck. That doesn’t stand up to scrutiny though. He disbanded level 7 for signing nasty songs about him, banned the local papers who reported a march with 400/500 people on it and has banned the NUST from the fans forum because they started to ask some awkward questions although the club put their spin on it with the ludicrous `they broke protocol’ argument.

    However until all of the people who hold a bit of clout, yourselves, nufc.com, NUST, Time4Change, MAOC and the local papers start signing from the same hymn sheet we are going to remain divided and hence have no chance of success. If you think the NUST is the way forward I would quite happily join but it has to be co-ordinated properly and more than anything we need numbers. Not 500/600 or 700 hundred but 5,000 to make people sit up and take notice.

    There might not be a buyer out there but is that a reason for not get rid of the cancer that is ruining our football club. If Ashley was seriously looking for a buyer (and not going to the middle east like last time and playing the cunt and getting drunk) I believe there will be one out there. The third best supported team in the country who before Ashley got his grubby hands on us where always in the top 20 for turnover and a team who plays in the richest league in the world must be worth a punt for somebody. I would take the risk that the new owner will not be as big a cunt as Ashley.

    • David Rutherford says:

      I wholeheartedly agree with everything you say, Vin, but Michael raised some important points about apathy too.
      You’re right about one thing – I’ve said elsewhere on here in the last few weeks that if the fanzines and organisations with a bit of influence were to release editorials urging or at the very least condoning a boycott of a home game it would have a much bigger impact than me and ten of my mates not going. On the other hand, Michael is right that it’s easy for the likes of me to suggest what True Faith, NUFC.com should be doing from the safety of my living room but in the same sense, if I started a viral campaign tomorrow campaigning for a boycott it’s not likely to get as many hits as this site is it?
      We’re not asking for any huge effort here – I’m not suggesting anything more than an article on the front page endorsing a protest, ideally with The Mag, the NUST, Time4Change etc singing from the same song sheet elsewhere. But Michael’s right to caution that if people aren’t even willing to join the NUST or take part in a march what chance do we have of persuading them to boycott a game? Who knows but Christ, it’s worth a try. And we already saw a drop off of several thousand for the Spurs game. After that shockingly shite performance I’d be very surprised if the gates went up for an early kick off this Sunday.
      Of course if the editors and people running those organisations don’t agree with a boycott then fair enough, but I’m convinced the majority of fans do.
      It’s a depressing state of affairs but at the moment my only vaguely realistic dream as a Newcastle fan is to see a premiership game played in a half empty St James’ Park.
      Closely followed by Ashley’s head on a spike.

  9. Gav C says:

    To your point viz reader flows to the websites Vin, surely if people weren’t going to the match they would want to know what had gone on so there’d be more than likely more readers to the websites?

    Alas I agree whole-heartedly with Michael in his article that apathy has indeed taken over, something that has been warned of for as long a time. I personally feel it. Apathy or a feeling of helplessness or pointlessness is why these protest/fans groups members are numbered in their hundreds and not thousands.

    I dearly hope that someone does come in and gives Ashley what he deems to be an acceptable offer for the club, but it’s worth pointing out that Ashley is very much a symptom of modern football at large. Given the experiences of Hull/Cardiff/Leeds etc we may well be wise to be careful what we wish for, that said I’d take the chance….

  10. Bob says:

    Ok, I’m going to play devils advocate here.

    What do you expect Ashley to do?

    In my mind he has three choices:

    1. Sell the club

    I’m sure there are lots of people who would favour this. However, look at the sorts of people who are buying clubs like Leeds right now? The grass isn’t always greener and for every Roman Abramovich there are 10 Glazers/ Venkys. Ashley has no interest in securing the clubs future, he will simply want to get as much cash as possible. There is a significant chance the people we take over have as little interest in improving the club as he does. We aren’t a London club, nor are we really a global brand, we aren’t going to attract the same sorts of buyers / investment as some other clubs.

    2. Invest and try and improve the team

    Why would he do this? The last five seasons Man City have spent £640m, Chelsea £440m, Man United £270m, Liverpool £309m, Spurs £310m (Newcastle £93). And this doesn’t even take into account the wage bill.
    Ashley can neither afford to keep pace with that can of spend nor will it guarantee any form of return on his investment. Man Utd have spent nearly £300m and they aren’t going to be even close to CL, they’re going to need to spend another £200m in this summer just to revamp their squad again. Without creating significant debt or the money coming out of Ashley’s pocket, where will the money for this come from? Again it comes back to the point about Ashley being here as a businessman, not a benevolent investor. Would you rather gamble on a chance of success and destroy yourselves financially (see Leeds for more details) or simply stagnate but retain top tier status?

    It begs the question, why buy the club in the first place (I suspect Ashley asks himself this a lot), but I think you covered that fairly correctly with your “mid life crisis” comments…..

    3. Retain the status quo.

    Ashley has realised that the club can be effectively self sustaining (unusual in football) as long as it remains in the PL. If they invest moderately in players and sell on for additional profit the club can remain in top flight and, as you say, provide an excellent advertising vehicle for his retail concerns.

    People hold up Swansea as a model of comparison. But in truth, their cup win was a lucky exception which could, with right blend of luck, happen the Newcastle at some point. After their Europa league experiences, I suspect their attitude will, with time, morph into that of Newcastles – maintaining PL status is all that matters.

    On the question of cup competitions, you (rightly) criticise the lack of desire to challenge for cup competitions. But in reality they do not offer the same financial reward to encourage clubs to really go for them. Even when you are safe in mid table, why risk your top striker in a cup match where he could injure himself. You protect your top assets for the highest priority game. People talk about Swansea and Wigan but both those clubs rested players in earlier rounds in th eyears they won. The only difference between us and them is that they rested players but go away with it. The solution to this probably has to come from the FA. If there was a CL place at the end of the FA Cup you would see a whole different attitude from mid table clubs to the Cup.

    So in conclusion, a depressing state of affairs. I can’t see a way out of it. Short of a benevolent billionaire taking over the club and chucking cash our way we will never again challenge for the title or top 4 (and FFP will shortly even close the gates on that for us) We criticise Ashley for the situation but in my opinion it is the result of fundamental flaws in the game.

    1. The TV money to stay in the PL makes prioritising anything else idiotic. This is combined with ridiculous wages which players command meaning relegation can cause a serious financial threat to clubs (see Boltons current plight)
    2. The huge amount of money involved in the CL means that clubs who have had regular CL football have pulled away from everyone else.
    3. The financial reward to qualifying for the Europa league via league finish or cup win is too small vs the price of staying up.
    4. The transfer price inflation has meant tha the cost of buying your way into the top table has increased exponentially. FFP will pull up the drawbridge on all other clubs who are there already.

    Anyway, enough of my ramble. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a defence of Ashley. I’m just posing the question, in reality, what is is the alternative? I think our situation mirrors that of many clubs in the league. The question of competing in cup competitions masks the bigger picture. Do we really want to be in a situation where the best we can ever hope for is the league cup? There are fundamental flaws in the way the game has developed and the bottom line is that game has moved on and Newcastle have been left behind.

  11. Tom Bates says:

    Theres a difference between spending hundereds of millions to not guarentee champions league football and spending nothing over a year after selling players, surely we can sign two or three players and compete in a cup without bankrupting the club. Everyone uses the worst case examples like Portsmouth, Leeds to defend the clubs stance on spending but thats like saying if we didnt have the Tories in charge of the country we might have a Nazi ‘type’ party in power, sorry for the bad taste.

  12. Vin Crockwell says:

    Everybody uses Leeds, Portsmouth and Rangers as examples. What about Everton? They have a transfer surplus like ourselves but still manage to challenge for a CL place and still take cup competitions seriously. I also don’t agree that we can’t challenge for a CL spot. This season highlights that the chance is there if you are in a position to take advantage. If we had invested in the summer we could have well been in the mix for a CL place this season. We were only six points off 1st place at one point and if we had of bought those two or three players that we needed in the summer we would have been more than capable of beating Arsenal and Man City over that christmas/new year period. Lets be honest Arsenal were there for the taking and Man City were helped by incompetent refereeing. We’ve had some poor owners over the years but as supporters you always had the hope that better days were just around the corner – like when we signed Keegan. Now all we have is the ninth placed trophy to play for and Balance Sheet of the Year. Fuck that – that’s not why I fell in love with NUFC.

    • Bob says:

      @Vin

      Everton isn’t a very good example to use:

      1. They have spent even less money than we have, so you can’t use them to criticise Ashley for lack of investment. Even now their best players are on loan!

      2. How many times have they qualified for the CL in the last 10 years? Once if I remember correctly and they got knocked out in qualifying rounds. How many cups have they won? Zero.

      3. The only difference between us and them is that they enjoyed 10 years of stability under Moyes whilst we fucked around with Souness, Allardyce, Kinner and relegation. Their fans are equally depressed about lack of ambition and investment in the club and Kenwright has been looking to sell the club for as long as I can remember.

  13. Bob says:

    @Tom Bates.

    From Ashley’s perspective, what is the point of spending £10m-£20m (plus wages) to improve a team for a cup competition that offers virtually no reward and, in all reality, you only have a small chance of winning. It makes no financial sense. Remember, this guy is not a fan, he is a businessman. Even if he did make new signings, would he really play them in a cup game when the priority is always the league?

    We got knocked out by Man City in the LC this season (in extra time) and the team we put out against Cardiff in the FA cup was strong, certainly strong enough to win that game at home. We are always going to rotate our squad for these games and I’m not sure I would expect the club to do any differently.

    The players played very poorly but that needs to be put on the shoulders of the playing squad and the manager, not Ashley.

  14. IanB says:

    This seems to be a very surreal and bizarre season.

    Here we are “slumping” to 9th, 9 points clear of tenth… while our poor neighbours are sitting in 18th and staring relegation in the face… (ok so they are having a decent couple of cups runs… but they won’t win either!)

    However, our season is seen as one of disappointment and the mood amongst the great unwashed is one of positivity.

    Not sure if that speaks volumes about our high expectations, or their low ones!

    • Gordon Young says:

      If we don´t get a positive result against Villa, then I think we could well finish below them.
      You have to look at momentum, confidence, a style of play which, I´m afraid to say, none of which we have.
      After the derby defeat I was going to be a smart alec and write that Poyet had had 3 and a half years to instill his style on his team whereas Pards had only had a few months, so obviously it was unfair to criticise him for the defeat! Sums it up in my mind.

  15. Tom Bates says:

    Ian, theyve won as many games us us if you add up the cup wins, plus they have improved after a terrible start, we’ve slumped after a great start. Its not the league position, its the lack of ambition to kick on that is depressing people.

  16. Tom Bates says:

    Bob, to improve the squad, yes I agree its easier for him not to spend, but all I am asking is to reinvest the money from sales not break the bank, of course that wont guarentee Europe or a cup run but at least it would be having a go.

  17. Andy Hoggins says:

    For most of my life, no make that all my life Newcastle United have had shit owners. People bollock on about SJH, his end game was plain to see, however he did build the club up and left it in a better state than when he took control.
    My point is that Ashley is no different to any other owner or chairman in my lifetime.
    The fans expectations are greater than that of the custodians of the club. No change there then.
    If I had a pound for every time I’ve got home after the match and said “that’s it I’m finished I’m not going again” I’d be loaded.
    I’m still saying it now. My family and friends roll their eyes, knowing I’m talking shite,knowing I will never stop going. I cannot stop myself. Newcastle United is a drug more addictive than heroine.
    This publication is right. Making a stand is not chucking your season ticket in and saying your boycotting the match, while sitting in the house on a Saturday afternoon. These individuals need to join a group and organise themselves to show why they’ve stopped going.
    If I stop going to the match it will not be because of Ashley or the team being shit or the manager is clueless, it will because I cannot be arsed with football anymore.
    I collectively hate all the lying, cheating, money grabbing cunts that infest this sport more than Ashley. He is the symptom of what this great game is today I’m afraid, not the cause.
    That sickens me more than anything. I’m getting sick of football more than I’m sick of the Toon.

    • Thanks Andy. My position summed up superbly. And a few others I’d wager too.

    • Matt Flynn says:

      Ashley sees sporting ambition as an irrelevance, which marks him out as different from just about every owner we’ve ever had. Even the clubs at the cutting edge of today’s corporate greed haven’t abandoned sporting ambition. Ashley isn’t a symptom of what football has become, he’s using our club to trail blaze a path towards what the game will become if supporters across the board don’t snap out of their shoulder shrugging apathy.

      As things stand the options NUFC supporters unhappy with our drive towards abject mediocrity have boil down to cancelling your ST or doing jack shit. Things might have been different if boycott was easier to spell, but it’s isn’t and they aren’t.

      • Tom Pitt says:

        Spot on Matt. Ashley is different from all other owners in football. He just isnt interested in making any kind of progress. As long as we stay up,hes happy.
        The trouble is even a small miscalculation in the strength of our squad (which I fear will come this summer) will result in a serious struggle,possibly ending in relegation.
        What happens then is anyones guess.
        As a collective support we have been beaten,simple as that. Those of us that still go,do so without hope or expectation.
        There are obviously an increasing number who have had enough and I cant say I blame them.
        Its only a matter of time for me if things dont change radically.

  18. Tony Higgins says:

    Well written….. depressing but well written, as usual.

  19. anton says:

    I am not happy about Ashley and his regime and I have stopped funding the club directly and indirectly. Having said that, isn’t Ashley just a symptom rather than the disease?

    Imagine that you are a Southampton fan: you are in a nice spot in the Premiership; you are not going to win it, but that’s ok, you are not made of money. At least there are only 4 games to reach the FA Cup final and you are only playing blooming Sunderland, a club that really, really needs to concentrate on the league. So you book your tickets, travel across the country to get to a 12:45 kick off and… imagine your surprise when you see that your team has fielded a second/third string; which proceeds to lose to Sunderland.
    Reminds you of any other team closer to our hearts?

    The disease has a name: Champions effing League. It sucks up all the cash, talent and ambition.
    Can we not have a better redistribution of cash right at the top of these competitions? Can we not give Champions League positions to the FA Cup and the League Cup winners? Why are we celebrating failure (4th place in Premiership – wow, what a childhood dream!!).
    At the same time, can the Europa League not be restructured and better balanced (in terms of cost/benefit) to encourage teams to compete?

    Honestly, I have no love for Pardew and Ashley, but I think they are only bit players: there are serious problems with football.

  20. Jackson Yates says:

    When you buy some sportswear from Sports Direct, you’re casting a vote for Ashley in the marketplace. When you buy a ticket for the match, you’re voting for Ashley as an owner. If you don’t like him, stop voting for him.

  21. Tom Bates says:

    Anyone seen a recent article by Martin Samuel of the Daily Mail commenting that Newcastle would be mad to sack Pardew? I scrolled down the comments and it seems the consensus is that Newcastle would be relegated without Pardew and he has worked miracles with poor French players.
    Worryingly this semes to be the feeling in the rest of the country and I fear that if Pardew goes fans will be labelled as morons with unrealistic expectations again. They are missing the fact that Graham Carr has actualy provided Pardew with good players, we have 50,000 fans attending etc. We werent going down under Hughton were we with a thinner squad so none of these arguments stack up. Some also said pardew only signs French players on the cheap, again misinformation as we know he has no say in transfers. They also think he maintains an admirable front despite the mess going on around him (we call it lying). Cabaye (until sale) Titoe, Krul, Remy, Collocini, Gouffran, Debuchy etc and people think without Pardews miracle management we would be relegated?

  22. anton says:

    @Tom Bates
    I wouldn’t take any of this nonsense seriously: it’s only Daily Mail click-bait. I think most sane football fans understand what Pardew is all about. After all, the killer question is always: well if you like Pardew so much, would you install him as a coach in your football team? And, honestly, it’s not as if Pardew was considered for the Chelsea or ManU jobs.

    As for “poor” French players: most of them will be running out of the door this summer – let’s see how we and they fare next season.

  23. Tom Bates says:

    Just looked on the mag and there is a section still informing people how they can still cancel their season ticket if they do it by the end of February