I was going to say Alan Pardew would be lucky to be in the dug-out this coming Saturday for the visit of Hull City but “lucky” is far from the right description. If, as can be reasonably feared, things go badly, the mood inside St James’ Park will go beyond toxic and the target for the torrent of poisonous invective will be a 53-year-old Londoner, who has become the lightening conductor for the stomach churning dissatisfaction at how Mike Ashley runs Newcastle United.
Let’s be perfectly honest, but for the season we came 5th, a period when all the planets aligned for Alan Pardew, his performance as manager has proceeded pretty much as expected when he replaced Chris Hughton and became, despite widespread incredulity, the manager of Newcastle United. By the week I am more inclined to believe the rumour, there is something more to the relationship between Pardew and Ashley than what we know.
Not that it has been all bad for Pardew in his time on Barrack Road. Season 11/12 was good as any we have had since the curtain came down on SBR’s career and the first half of last season showed great promise. With a fair wind we could, probably should have matched or possibly exceeded the achievements of Season 2011/12. This was when Pardiola’s star was at its height.
Let us be exactly clear what is responsible for the current Newcastle United malaise. It is not Alan Pardew or John Carver. It is Mike Ashley. At pivotal times during Pardew’s time at United, the owner has acted in a manner which has capsized any progress, failed to build upon achievements and provided the biggest impediment to re-establishing Newcastle United as a prominent football force in the land. It was Ashley’s decision-making which got the club relegated and lost the club millions. It was Ashley who appointed Kinnear and ultimately, selling Cabaye on the cheap lost United millions again.
This is rumour, but I’ve had it repeated by some that should know. When Newcastle United finished fifth there was far from back-slapping and cigars handed around the SJP boardroom. I have heard it put forward by reliable people that Ashley, having invested in Papiss Cisse believed a justifiable return would have been Champions League football at the end of the 2011/12 season. That we finished in a Europa League place pissed Ashley off greatly because it meant a stretched squad from a competition which in financial terms did nothing for the club’s coffers. Ashley, it is understood, hit the roof. None of that can be confirmed but I’ve heard it said Llambias and Pardew were carpeted by Ashley for a season which did not comply with the owner’s model of minimum outlay for maximum return. Namely, do enough to stay in the Premier League and nothing else while he looks to recoup as much of his money as he possibly can ahead of dumping the club and moving on. This theory, albeit of the deeply conspiratorial variety would tend to support the under-pinning thinking behind statements kindly volunteered by Lee Charnley regards the club’s attitude towards Cup competitions. There is nothing in winning a Cup competition which complies with Ashley’s finance first, finance only model for United.
Let us look at how Ashley responded to finishing fifth in 11/12. No meaningful strengthening of the squad in that summer and on an executive level the failure to rid ourselves of Ba or his escape clause meant we bled to death the following season as Demba worked to his own agenda and got his dream move to Chelsea. No replacement brought in for Ba in that window and in the three that followed including the last one. Last season up to Christmas, Yohan Cabaye was the leader in a Gallic dressing room, though he too was working to his own private plan and that was to get a big more to an “ambitious club”. Mission accomplished with the transfer to PSG and the head-spinning appointment of Joe Kinnear as Director of Football thankfully coming to an end after six, short, though extremely damaging months. That was Ashley’s call.
The appointment of Lee Charnley to the big chair on Barrack Road simply defies belief. This is another, promoted beyond his ability and one whose cramping lack of qualification for his job and subsequent gratitude for it will lead him to prostrate himself at his master’s feet, complying with every whim without complaint. He is far from the first and there was plenty cronyism under Shepherd too but what these appointments do is turn positions which should be occupied by creative, expert operators who bring new perspectives to their positions and by association Newcastle United are filled by lottery-winners in the jobs market who know obedience and a complete lack of challenge are the prerequisites to stay on the salary. If the feedback that comes my way is anything to go by, those remaining on the executive payroll spend much of their days shitting themselves they displease Big Mike or his acolyte Charnley.
There is no-one on the United payroll more cowed and fearful than Alan Pardew. This is a man who should be well aware he has been promoted beyond his abilities. This is a man who trots out the party-line about being delighted with his squad, who praises Ashley’s investment in new players and basically spends his time as a haddock-eyed mouth-piece for a man who is a malignant tumour upon Newcastle United FC. Pardew may have had moments at United when with the right decision-making and prudent investment could have kicked the club on. That is a moot point and when he does go, I think we should all reflect upon that because when the next dupe is wheeled through the doors at United, no-one can expect things to much change, given Ashley’s model will likely not be for the changing.
That is not to defend Pardew or his coaching team. On Saturday, as I watched Sammy Ameobi, a willing trier but ultimately, never a PL player enter the fray, I couldn’t help reflect that at that moment we had Hatem Ben Arfa, Sylvain Marveaux and Jonas Guitteraz on the club’s books but unavailable for different reasons unavailable for selection. All better options than Sammy. Similarly, we also had Gabriel Obertan o the club’s books. I know, I know … but consider this … Obertan was widely used in pre-season friendlies, did well at the Schalke tournament but can’t make the cut it seems. This is just another area that is absolutely baffling.
The other is the presence at the club of Facunda Ferreya and Ayoze Perez. I cannot accept either for one moment was scouted by Graeme Carr. I simply refuse to accept Ferreya was suitably scrutinised in the Ukraine by anyone from United and he’s been a cheap option dropped into the mix at United by an agent who has been picked up. The same is true of Ayoze Perez. These two look like players who have by-passed Carr’s scrutiny and may have more to do with Charnley attempting to build himself a reputation. Just my opinion!
There is much to detail in Pardew’s management as failings but for me, most damning is for supporters, we just cannot believe a word he ever says. Whether he himself is being similarly deceived by those above him or stringing us along with promises of jam tomorrow, I really don’t know but I do know this – nothing Alan Pardew ever says, ever happens. We were promised players going out would be replaced, that goal-scorers would be signed, that there would be money spent and all the rest of it, I am afraid all of that are mistruths. The club has simply re-stocked the shelves and nowt else. Pardew has been consistently accused of being a puppet and I feel this complete lack of authority at the club has ultimately been his undoing. Pardew is fulfilling the role Ashley wanted for KK but our great former leader, refused to go along with and its one Chris Hughton would never have been comfortable with either. Enter, stage left, Alan Pardew, a willing accomplice.
Pardew has also put his name to programme notes which are a straightforward dissembling of Ashley propaganda and an insult to our intelligence. The manager has exhorted the support to understand that United must live within its means. But this is no admirable awakening to good financial husbandry at United.
There are big questions to ask of what is happening with the club’s existing finances and those it fails to exploit.
Firstly, where will the money from the new TV deal go? Will Ashley pull this money out of the club to lower the debt owed to him? Will that happen with the money received this summer and in future summers as players are spun in and out of United as the only way of generating income to reinvest in order merely to tread water in the Premier League.
Secondly, as was highlighted through excellent questioning by George Caulkin (The Times) and Simon Bird (The Mirror) at the Sports Direct AGM last week, all of the advertising around St James’ Park and Darsley Park and on some United kit is worth a significant amount to Sports Direct. That isn’t me saying that, those are Mike Ashley’s words.
Thirdly, there is enough concern now to pose the question – who benefits from sales of Newcastle United merchandise? Is it Sports Direct? Or is it Newcastle United? I ask because the club’s online merchandising operation is run completely by Sports Direct and the latest I hear is that club employees in the United shop receive pay statements from Sports Direct. Who do the people running United’s merchandise work for? Sports Direct or Newcastle United? Who profits from the sales of Newcastle United merchandise?
Live within the club’s means Mr Pardew? Oh, that we could.
Speaking of the programme in which Pardew’s notes appear, just observe how many adverts are for companies owned by Ashley companies. I’ve had conversations with several people who have attempted to buy space in the programme – it’s made as difficult as it would be buying perimeter advertising. The club is little more than a billboard for Ashley’s businesses. Every space that can be used for Ashley’s companies is used by Ashley’s companies. That is his priority, not Newcastle United. Never has been, never will be. This is not a man of good intentions in my opinion.
In responding to reports of an Ashley sale to move to a purchase of Rangers, the club responded in its usual cack-handed fashion. Surely, those who work at United’s PR, (or Supporters Liaison Officers, it’s an easy mistake to make) must know, this is their last job in PR. But the statement did open the door to the intention Ashley has of moving out of United and suggests a timetable when that might happen. Obviously, you can’t rely on anything coming out of United as believable or honest. This is a club run by a proven liar so it’s little surprise that dishonesty runs through it like Blackpool rock.
We do know, Ashley is going! That is the narrative established by United. That cat is out of the bag. There is an end-game. He will leave. That is the light at the end of the tunnel. Something for us to cling to. 2016 or 2017? Who knows, but he wants to go, that is the plan. Bring it on.
But in the short term, the dummy he has reduced to a figure of ridicule and hatred will have to face the fury of our seething support as the despicable Ashley and Charnley hide behind him.
So, there is another newspaper banned from Newcastle United. The response to the piece published in The Telegraph courtesy of Luke Edwards is another, wholly disproportionate even if it was false. However, Luke Edwards has been banned before and whilst the club struck out at a time when we struggled against relegation amid talk of a divided dressing room. As subsequently was learnt however, there was a divided dressing room and the ban wasn’t about accuracy and more about annoyance at the discomfort it caused. I think those in positions of authority at United, think Freedom of Speech is some new absurdly named gastro-pub in Ponteland.
So, Luke will join The Chronicle, The Journal and the Sunday Sun out in the cold. There may well be others and I’m sure George Caulkin and Simon Bird will be looking over their shoulders for some ridiculously got-up charge that will see them pelted out of the press box and privileges removed. The Newcastle United Supporters Trust will be ready to compare notes.
On and off the park, in the boardroom and in the dug-out, Newcastle United is an embarrassment.
Going to the match on Saturday? Don’t forget your pitchfork and lantern.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
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