I don’t think anyone had us down for such a convincing and comprehensive performance and result as the one we enjoyed over West Ham on Saturday gone. Certainly not coke-addled simpletons in the pay of SKY TV and other assorted goons with an axe to grind!
We were competitive all over the park with Merino and Ritchie in particular putting in eye-catching performances. After the disappointing result at home to Forest in the League Cup it was important to arrest a pretty ropey start to the season and raise some spirits amongst Black & Whiters. That was achieved and we all left SJP with something of a spring in our steps. No matter that the media narrative switched to Bilic’s immediate future at West Ham and the possibility of Rafa moving to East London to replace him. Every silver lining has a cloud in Newcastle United’s world.
For a few hours at least the stomach churning frustration of following Ashley’s club was put on the back burner and many of us enjoyed a great night in NE1 hailing old friends after the first Saturday afternoon KO of the season.
Then of course reality sets in. The Mirror led with a tale that Ashley’s hirelings Keith Bishop PR and his solicitor Justin Barnes, neither of whom have any known or specific role at United, spoke with Rafa afterwards and warned him as to his comments about transfers to the media. Interestingly, Lee Charnley was also said to be at that meeting though as Ashley has told us, he answers to Benitez, that is a curious arrangement. Ashley could have been lying again though.
I’m sure this was meant to be a private matter so it’s dubious how effective that was given it appeared in the press only hours later. This of course comes hot on the heels of Ashley’s PR man (whose company he has a major stake in) turning up at the training ground last Tuesday to keep a watchful eye over Rafa’s press conference.
In the last week the club has moved on Riviere and De Jong. Two highly remunerated and under-performing players who can hardly said to be ringing endorsements of Graeme Carr’s super-scout status. The departure of those two players should allow space on the payroll for new players of Rafa’s choices and it is to be hoped Lazaar, Krul, Colback and Haidara are moved on this week.
More curious however has been reports that Dwight Gayle is “disillusioned” at United. What the cause of this disillusion is can only be speculated upon but it might be the case there is smoke and mirrors with Gayle’s value never being higher and some doubts about both his quality and hamstrings for the rigours of life in the Premier League.
Mind, this is Ashley’s Newcastle United so there’s every chance we could be shot of Riviere, De Jong and Gayle and not bring any players in to replace them.
I don’t think it’s too outlandish to pin-point where we are lacking at the moment. Clearly, we need a striker(s). We needed
them before we swept Riviere and De Jong out of the back of the cupboard and the need is even greater now. That said, I was impressed by Joselu. His movement and running was intelligent, he has a bit of pace and his aerial ability and other assorted flick-ons were impressive. I liked the cut of his jib.
Having lost Anita in the summer as well as Vuckic and an unloved Colback at United we do need more creativity in midfield and recruits are required for what will be a long, hard season. I was impressed by Merino but the English game is brutal in its intensity and if we expect those kinds of performances against West Ham every weekend we are going to be disappointed.
The big one for me though is left-back. I don’t think we’ve really had a proper time-served left-back since Jose Enrique departed Barrack Road for the Anfield buffet car. I don’t think I’ve seen a half decent United team in all the years I’ve been throwing my head in my hands on Gallowgate that hasn’t had accomplished full-backs and particularly on the left-hand side. I did get a frisson when we signed Lazaar but he hasn’t worked out and is down as one of Rafa’s rare mistakes.
Hopefully, we’ll get all of those positions in the next few days but let’s be honest, we probably won’t.
The big question of course is what does this mean for Rafa. He has clearly been deceived by Ashley who now communicates with his manager via SKY TV and some PR hireling and a solicitor. The lesson he appears to have learned from the Keegan debacle in 2008 is to cover his tracks with greater care rather than change his behaviour. There does appear to be a job about to become vacant at West Ham and it is common knowledge the weird Tories that run the Hammers have an admiration for our favourite Spaniard. Whether the combination of Rafa’s clear unhappiness at being lied to by Ashley, his appalling treatment by a couple of go-fors would combine with West Ham’s readiness to buy our manager out of his contract remains to be seen but it is the undetonated bomb the club is going to be sitting on over the next few weeks.
Rafa no longer speaks of a long term project at United and a lot has soured in this calendar years transfer windows so there is a likelihood Rafa could walk if West Ham want him as much as we think they do. There’s no way Ashley will stand in the way of a troublesome though gifted manager. That is when the balloon should go up but who knows if it will?
We’ve long discussed here the inability of our support to organise and commit itself to any course of action. Anyone with any experience of our support on social media will confirm its head-banging stupidity, pedantry and ignorance. That I expect will be another occasion when as a collective entity, our supporter-base will once more fluff its lines. Me? I’m out of all of that stuff now and leave it to others. Attempting to do anything to organise our support is about as inviting as sticking your head out the window of an Inter-City 125 at high speed. There’s none more vicious our support can be than against its own. Believe me, I know.
Anyway, we will be organising the first true faith Press Forum at the Tyneside Irish Centre on Thursday 7/Sep/17 at 7:30. There is a stellar cast of football journalists who have been covering Newcastle United in painstaking detail for more years than we care to remember. For the record, here are the turns:
George Caulkin – The Times
Louise Taylor – The Guardian
Luke Edwards – The Telegraph
Mark Douglas – The Chronicle
Martin Hardy – The Independent
Simon Bird – The Independent
Craig Hope – The Mail.
These people are the journalists closest the club, who have an insight into the goings on at Newcastle United that average supporters simply don’t have. We will be putting your questions to them about everything under the Black & White sun.
The event is in aid of the Newcastle United Fans Foodbank. All of the profit raised from ticket sales will go directly to the Foodbank. None of the journalists have requested a fee and there is nothing in it financially for this fanzine. The only people who we hope benefit from this event are disadvantaged people in our community in desperate need. We also hope those attending will have an enriched understanding of life at Newcastle United FC under Mike Ashley.
You can get a ticket by clicking here.
There really are a limited number of tickets on sale so we strongly advise you to get a wriggle on to make sure you get yours.
And that’s it.
The next time you’ll hear from me is when the window is closed.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
Michael Martin. Follow Michael on @tfMichael1892