Whatever numbers anyone comes up with following #BoycottSpurs the conclusion is inescapable, the Ashley Out campaign is unquestionably very much up and very much running. I have heard quotes on the attendance ranging from under 32,000 to 47,000+. One thing is for certain, it was nowhere near the latter and there were huge gaps all over the ground, particularly on Level 7. I’m delighted to see the campaign get started with such a degree of energy and just being amongst the protestors today gave me the biggest buzz I’ve had from Newcastle United for a long while. The images enclosed within this column illustrate the gaps in the crowd. I spoke to one journalist after the game who described the atmosphere as funereal.
This was an astonishing victory. Remember the vast majority of those taking part in #BoycottSpurs are season ticket holders, people who had already paid for their tickets. To knock 15,000 off the gate, from people who had already paid is an astonishing act. It says everything people would do this to make a statement to the football world about how our club is being run. Jamie Carragher knows the score, he knows what is happening at our club.
#BoycottSpurs was a massive success and now it needs to be used as the springboard to yet more sustained action which will inch by inch persuade Ashley to go. I’m prepared for a long war and I don’t think anyone should kid themselves this is going to be a quick win.
Although I enjoyed the spirit and camaraderie of the Ashley Out protest, there were a few moments that gave me cause for concern. The barracking of those who decided not to observe #BoycottSpurs was a little unedifying as was the rudeness some experienced handing out leaflets. In our fight with Ashley, we cannot afford any divisions. We are not each other’s enemies and we cannot allow this to tear us apart. We need to focus our energies on the next stage of the Ashley Out campaign. A line needs to be drawn under #BoycottSpurs and we now need to move on to the next action. Nothing will be achieved by raking over old ground or holding tight to grievances. Pet lips need to be put away regardless of any injured feelings.
Throughout the last week, United handed the AshleyOut.com campaign one reason after
another to redouble its efforts to take the fight to Ashley. I was staggered with the revelation there was £34m in the United bank account sitting alongside the £18m profit declared. “We’re rich but the team is shit” as those on Strawberry Place chanted pre-match could not be more accurate, though that money may end up being fool’s gold if Carver’s hapless team continues to nose-dive down the Premier League.
During the week Carver assured us he had seen the names the club was being linked to in the summer and he was confident investment would be made. Later in the week when rattling through his Phone-A-Friend confessional, he let on he had not had a conversation with Ashley. It would be sad if Carver went further down the bull-shit path. He has continued to tarnish his reputation with a bewildering hostility towards Cancer survivor and all round good-head, Jonas Guitteraz, one of the few whose commitment to the cause on the pitch I would not doubt. You sometimes wonder about the people at our club, you really do!
The Ashley flap was evident with the daily pitch of e-mails punting Spurs tickets, the Box Office’s refusal to let on how many tickets they had sold and the nonsense slipped into the media by United’s PR promising to try in the Cups next season. No-one was being taken in. The patter about moves for Charlie Austin in the summer were somewhat undermined by rumours he will actually be on his way to Southampton rather than NE1. There is eight long years of cynicism that is going to take a lot to peel back.
Newcastle United now has a major credibility problem and it’s not just with its own support. Sunday started very well with news former No.9 Micky Quinn had publicly supported #BoycottSpurs and thereafter his fellow-Scouser Jamie Carragher lambasted Ashley via SKY TV. I hear rumours of Talksport now being on a bread and water diet from United’s media team. Frankly, that is a toothless sanction given the lack of interest in what Yoan Goufrann has to say about anything. All of the national press carried detailed reports on the state of the club and the negative publicity generated for Ashley and Sports Direct will over time begin to weigh that company down. Ratners anyone?
It is my understanding there will be a taking of breath this week after a massive effort over the last ten days to deliver #BoycottSpurs and plot the way ahead. Then the people behind AshleyOut.com will set the strategy and hopefully it will be deliverable and we will all fall behind it.
What I would say, having been around the campaign this last week and a bit, is that leading campaigns of this type is far from easy. In fact, it is very tough. As you might expect 50,000 Geordies all know best and all have different ideas about how to take the campaign to the next stage. I am strongly of the view anyone can do anything they like within the law in my opinion. No-one should be waiting for permission to take forward any action so far as they have the will and the resources to do it – just get stuck in. If you and your mates have a plan to do something, then crack on … let us know and we will publicise it. Don’t imagine you can fire your latest wheeze to us here or others and someone else will do the donkey work. That’s not going to happen.
So then, a great start to Ashley Out, time to forget #BoycottSpurs and for anyone who has
been on the end of any sharp elbows to get over it and start coming together to move to the next stage, which I’m hoping isn’t going to be far away now.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …