Is there an unhappier football club anywhere in Europe than Newcastle United? Yes, there may be clubs in greater difficulties than United right now but for sheer, unremitting gloom, depression and stomach churning furstration, Newcastle United will take some beating.
I couldn’t be arsed to leave the readily available flow of Irish stout in one of our fair and noble city’s fine hostelries on Saturday and the great company I was with couldn’t be stirred to head towards St James’ Park either. My season ticket remained unused in my pocket. Having barely missed a home game for 30 years+, I’ve now missed two in a week. Jesus Christ man. The worrying thing is I have missed nothing and I feel no guilt at not being at those games. Like many, I’m numbed by the whole head-fuck of Newcastle United.
Everywhere I looked on Saturday, talking about Newcastle United with its embittered, betrayed followers there was almost total disaffection with the club. Mike Ashley is sitting on top of a powder keg of discontent that is threatening to turn into a vast exodus from the stands. I bumped into several like me, season ticket holders who just could not bear to be inside St James’ Park for what was an entirely predictable defeat to opposition that can barely be described as top drawer. We couldn’t even be bothered to move to a nearby bar to watch it on a dodgy channel. I’m in the Direct Debit scheme for next season’s feast of football but I really can’t imagine me heading up the hill to The Gallowgate again this season and next season just fills me with dread.
It would appear however that the defeat to Swansea followed the same familiar pattern. The word is out that there is almost a complete lack of application from our players. Carver may rail at criticism from Philip Neville, Jamie Carragher, Michael Owen et al but he will have a little more difficulty dealing with club legend Alan Shearer’s acid criticism of a lack of effort. Although Carver and the club deny he swore at angry and upset supporters on Saturday, I think I know who I believe and it all bears the witness to a man who is painfully out of his depth and who is completely unravelling in front of our eyes. The man thinks we think Ashley has done a great job? Please someone take the shovel off this bloke. He has offered to speak to supporters about what he’s trying to do – I can pretty much guarantee that if I asked the Media Department for an interview with Carver, I’d get short shrift. I won’t even bother.
Can the club win another point this season? I really don’t know. I can’t see anything but a defeat at Leicester on Saturday coming and it fills me with dread that the team of cowards in our ranks is sleep walking to relegation. It’s even more depressing when I hear some supporters wishing that relegation to happen as it might mean the beginning of the end for Ashley – how in God’s name did our straightforward love for our football club become so distorted?
There are some who are calling for more boycotts of the club’s home games and I can’t say I blame them. I’m not even sure they need to be organised to be honest. What is on show is so mind-numbing that many are just voting with their feet in any event. The club’s support, so stoic, so staunch for so long has just reached a critical mass and can’t put up with any more.
And the club’s response? Slash the ticket prices in the apparent thought that it might be shit but at least it’s cheap. In so doing they are also convincing many long-standing season ticket holders that their paid-up front commitment is having the piss taken out of it. I’ve not done the sums just yet but it seems like being a season ticket holder is a more expensive way of watching the club than taking advantage of the range of offers to get bums on seats. It’s a mad strategy symptomatic of a dysfunctional model for running a football club.
I’m told the 34th minute Red Card protest as organised by the Ashley Out group was a success. When that was happening I was sitting less than a quarter of a mile away, glum-faced, staring at a pint of the black stuff.
I look forward to more protests. There has to be more done to keep the momentum built over the last week rolling and make Ashley just find a buyer, sell on good terms and allow our club to be re-energised. Obviously the sooner the better but we need to dig in for a long war if it requires it.
Those behind Ashley Out have struck a seam of discontent and it needs to be mined and action needs to continue.
So, what is the club’s response? It is going to bring forward the Fans Forum. Well, let the church bells ring throughout the sunlit uplands of Tyneside, you have sorted it all out Mr Charnley, you absolute genius.
Honestly, if it wasn’t so tragic you’d piss yourself laughing. The Fans Forum? Please. Now don’t get me wrong, there are doubtless some well-meaning people involved in it but as an effective means for dialogue the way it operates would embarrass a North Korean secret society. The club selects which fans sit on it, questions are submitted in advance, no supplementary questions are allowed to quiz whatever bull-shit story the club prepares in response and the club decides who to ban and who can report on what has gone on otherwise it will ban anyone who provides their own account. It is pitiful.
Fair play however to those who wrote to Charnley and demanded a meeting with Ashley with what I am presuming will be an opportunity to get some answers to what the man is doing to our club. If Ashley refuses to attend, so should they. They have drawn their line in the sand and they should stick with it. They should also publish their own account of the meetings and now be afraid that if they do they will be banned. That’s no way for a relationship between fans and club to operate. The club should also respond to the Newcastle United Supporters Trust’s and the Football Supporters Federation’s letters seeking explanations for NUST’s expulsion.
Bottom line however is if Ashley refuses to attend so should the fans.
A rumour also reached us that United’s Head of Media, Wendy Taylor is for the off, possibly re-joining Alan Pardew at Crystal Palace. I can’t say I blame her if it’s found to be true. She will likely get a big pay rise and at Palace she will likely be working in an environment less likely to turn her into a nervous wreck. I’ll be intrigued to see who gets a leg up into the post. Lee Marshall? Nothing would surprise me.
It’s not only members of the executive team preparing to do the off. I’d imagine Krul, who looked exceptional three seasons ago but who has been poor for eighteen months might think his career will best be served elsewhere. Janmaat would be insane to resist the blandishments from other clubs and I’ll drive Sissoko to the airport quite frankly. Colo’s commitment to our cause has been questionable for some time and there are others whose contracts are nearing their end. When was the last time United offered anyone an extension on their deal? Cisse, Tiote, Jonas, Sammy and a host of juniors all moving towards the exits.
What is going to happen in the summer?
Who knows the answer to that question or what division we will be in.
These are the darkest of days.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
And another thing ….
How Fair Does Sports Direct Play? – The Telegraph Click here.
You may be interested in why Newcastle United have paid Sports Direct £3.5m.
The Secrets of Sports Direct – Channel 4, Dispatches, 8pm