A third PL win on the bounce for Newcastle United puts us on twenty points from twelve games played, eighth in the Premier League (at the time of writing) and a mere two points from fourth. That is satisfactory. The win over Norwich looked like it could have been a canter at various stages but similarly we spent the last ten minutes with that familiar sense of fatalism we specialise in on Barrack Road.
The game against Norwich brought none of the fanfare the bravura results over Chelsea and Tottenham did but the three points have the same value and we all know the meat and potatoes games with teams like those from Carrow Road are the ones we should be winning to cement our progress in the PL. Thankfully, the banana skin Gareth spoke about in his Norwich match report was avoided, we won the game and we can breathe easy this week.
I think we have a tough assignment this coming Saturday against West Brom. The Baggies have a decent record against us and if we are to record another win, we’ll need to be at it all game. I do see us switching us off on occasion against the lesser lights but personally, I don’t see Steve Clarke’s team as a team to be ranked alongside Hull or Sunderland. They are far better than that.
The team will have to be fully committed if we are to get a fourth win on the spin and the last thing we can do with is any complacency, which I think I’ve seen in Pardew’s teams previously. However hard the task will be on Saturday, were we to be on 23 points from 13 games (shit, I done it haven’t I?) at the end of November that would be a great haul and put us in a strong position to kick on through December, over the demanding holiday period, get into the New Year at the half-way stage and take stock of what we need to do.
At a proper football club, namely not one with Joe Kinnear as the Director of Football and Mike Ashley in control, you would be forgiven for hoping that those in charge would be looking to strengthen the squad while we were doing well, take advantage of the wind in our sails and use the results and form of the team as a selling point to good players. But Mike Ashley, I think we know has another agenda altogether. Last January’s spending spree, such as it was, was blind panic at the prospect of relegation and from what I hear, Ashley was far from impressed at having to break into the Newcastle United biscuit tin. Perhaps that more than anything explained the sudden exit of Derek Llambias, who well, might have been growing into the job and starting to think about football. Who knows?
We pretty much know that the limit of Ashley’s ambition is to keep us on the TV gravy train and use the global popularity of the Premier League to advertise his companies to potential customers – for FREE! With United looking like they might not have to do much to preserve that PL status in the second half of the season, then so the opportunity to sell key assets – Krul and Cabaye in particular, becomes less of a risk. The manager doesn’t want to be in the Europa League because it stretches him and his squad (which won’t receive any investment on the back of any qualification because it doesn’t generate much money to make it worthwhile to the owner) and John Irving (Finance Director) has let on the Cups aren’t a priority for the club.
So then, the stronger position we will be in at the opening of the transfer window in January, the greater the likelihood we’ll sell players and the less likely it is we’ll sign them.
Such is the cynicism Mike Ashley brings to Newcastle United Football Club.
I had to laugh at the reports of Joe Kinnear’s programme notes, boasting he had agreed a new Bonus Scheme with the players and it’s based on them finishing in the top ten. I don’t know which is the more laughable, the idea of Kinnear writing his own programme notes or the notion the Director of Football appears to think it is a landmark achievement United has agreed something which is the norm at just about every other club in the country. He’ll be wanting praise for not losing his mobile phone next. It’s debatable if Ashley will want to pay out those bonuses but I’d imagine no-one from the manager upwards would want to qualify for the Europa League. God forbid we were to win the FA Cup (I know, I know) and qualify that way.
Still, watching Newcastle United winning football matches and playing decent football has its pleasures, even with this goon in charge – just don’t go getting any fancy ideas about sustained progress and all of that. Have you learnt nothing? Ashley has had those opportunities before and turned the other way. He hasn’t changed and he will continue pursuing his agenda, which we all know now, isn’t the same as ours.
I’m constantly taken back to that interview I did with Chris Mort, five years ago and the then Chairman declining to answer my question: what does success at Newcastle United, look like to Mike Ashley?
It wasn’t exactly something from Frost-Nixon, was it? But he wouldn’t answer.
I’m happy never to visit the Sports Direct website, so I’ll rely on second hand reports that Mike Ashley aka Sports Direct News has been happily punting our players to all potential buyers lately. In particular, Tim Krul but also Yohan Cabaye. Both are amongst our best players but are probably approaching their peak market value and so Ashley will want to sell. This is what Sports Direct News is all about. This is what Mike Ashley is all about. Sports Direct News is as much about sports journalism as the 56in waist trackie bottoms he sells in his manky shops are about the Olympic legacy.
What NUFC.DIRECT is all about is quite another matter. I can quite understand the club wanting to kick questions about NUFC.DIRECT into the long grass of the Fans Forum at this time of the year (Christmas prezzie buying season), should what many suspect to be true, namely, a company owned completely by Sports Direct is diverting money away from Newcastle United and into a company owned in large part by Mike Ashley. That might be in full or in part or nothing at all but no-one at the club is responding very quickly to what are legitimate questions about the sale of club merchandise.
Where is supporters’ money going?
That is not an unreasonable question to ask but I’m not holding my breath for an answer.
In the meantime, I’ll leave it to you to decide whether to spend your money at a company owned 100% by Sorts Direct with no information where your money goes.
Others are also asking questions too as well. Your humble gobshite fanzine will take some credit for that but it should be shared also with our comrades at The Mag, who like us have been checking the numbers and been finding some data that runs completely against the grain of what various employees of Newcastle United have told us.
Alan Pardew recently claimed they were “trying to grow the club”. Well, that seems to be the exact opposite of what is happening with commercial income down by half on Ashley’s watch.
In his programme notes (I know, don’t laugh), Joe Kinnear claimed we couldn’t compete with Tottenham because of their strength in agreeing commercial deals. However, before Ashley bought United, our commercial income was greater than Tottenham’s. Please don’t trot out the London thing to us, Spurs are in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the country, let alone London and potential sponsors aren’t buying into North London, they are buying into the global reach of the Premier League – you can get that on Tyneside as much as in a ropey arm-pit on the Seven Sisters Road.
There is also the question of the near half a million pounds which Newcastle United paid to Sports Direct as detailed in the Sports Direct 2013 Accounts.
What was that for?
That would suggest the club is doing a bit more than “washing its own face” as Derek Llambias claimed it needed to do and somewhat calls into question the truth of that strategy given we are giving prime advertising space to Sports Direct and I suspect other Ashley-related companies in the most watched domestic league in the world, for absolutely NOTHING at all.
Any tax experts out there who can shed any light on whether all this free advertising is a taxable benefit? I do think Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs may have an interest.
If you are interested in a bit more about the finances of our club, then you should get your hands on our latest issue. You can get it here or go one better and take out a subscription as we’ll be looking at more of this stuff between now and the rest of the season. Those of you with a preference for taking your reading material on i-pads, tablets, lap-tops etc can get a digital subscription here too.
My heart sank last week when I read Coloccini cry-arsing on about wanting to go back to Argentina. I’ll put my cards on the table – our Capitano is one of my all-time favourite players over the time I’ve spent clicking through the turnstiles of SJP. He is the best defender I’ve seen and that includes Moncur, Albert and Woodgate. I’ve purred at the intelligence of his play, his at times effortless interventions, the calmness he generates around him and his professionalism. Yes, I want curly hair too (to be honest, any variety would do) but I think the time is coming to let him have what he wants, because we can’t have a club captain moping around with a face like a smacked arse not wanting to be here. Particularly, as we have a central midfield player of much the same mind. I think I’d prefer to see Colo now go at the end of the season and for the club and he to part on good terms. I think in the long term, we can benefit from having a fondly remembered ex-player in Argentina with a strong connection to St James’ Park, if you get my drift. I’m not really interested in the lurid gossip about the reasons for Colo wanting to go back to Cordoba. I’m more interested in what is right for the club but also in preserving the status of a player (who if we are honest, isn’t the same lad he was 18-months ago). In the meantime, I’d like to see Colo fully committed to Newcastle United, staying fit and healthy and giving us those Capitano performances that have made him the best centre-half at Newcastle United in my lifetime.
There’s an excellent chance that Colo will be turning out at the World Cup for Argentina. Cabaye, Debuchy, Sissoko and Remy I’d imagine will be strong contenders for the French team and who knows were HBA to learn how to play for the team and be a professional on and off the park, he could join them. Whether that plane to Brazil will include Gouffran is a moot point but to the podcast listeners out there, I can now reveal, Yoan is NOT shit. He has been grafting for our just and righteous cause and I’d hope his industry would bring international recognition but I think he’ll have his work cut out to get into the side. I’d love to see them all go though. Likewise Tim Krul, even if Ashley hasn’t sold him in the meantime. Tim is an adopted Geordie, he’s grown up here on and off the park and he’ll go with our best wishes I’m sure. As will Shola Ameobi, always a Magpie but now one of the Super Eagles and playing really well. I made him our Man of The Match against Norwich. The Fenham Eusebio divides opinion like no other player I’ve known but he’ll be the only Geordie in Brazil playing in the World Cup whether for Nigeria or not. His status in the squad has been obvious for some time and although he struggles for fitness his physical presence makes him difficult to cope with – anyone notice John Terry shitting himself any time our man went anywhere near him when Chelsea were last at SJP?
When thinking about the number of our players likely to be at the World Cup next summer, I try and put the modern football cynicism to one side and remember the school boy football fan I still have inside me and yes, frankly, its mint to see our lads playing in the World Cup.
We need you to do some voting.
First up, for the umpteenth time of asking, we really need you to vote for us in the Football Supporters Federation’s Awards under the Fanzine category. You can do that here. You could always give your fellow Mags a nudge to do the same as well.
We’re delighted to be on a shortlist of six to get national recognition but we are up against previous winners: United We Stand (Man Utd), The Square Ball (Leeds United) as well as the highly respected and long-running Sunderland title, A Love Supreme. I’m absolutely certain they will be in with a strong shout.
So, we need your vote.
We’ve started doing some readers surveys as well because we want to know what you are thinking. One of our long-standing writers and TIFOSI gadgie Steve Farrell is looking after the survey stuff for us and he has Part One of this season’s carry-on available now. You can vote here.
Steve will start compiling the results and do a write up when he can drag himself away from his Bon Jovi record collection (I am not bloody kidding by the way) and that should hopefully become a monthly thing when we’ll ask you about Newcastle United and other football-related matters of the day.
So, we need your vote.
Have a great week.