Like most of you reading this old toffee I expected us to get wiped out at Liverpool. I just couldn’t see our back-line managing to stand strong against Suarez, Sturridge, Gerrard et al. I’m not really a fan of the three at the back trick but it wasn’t really a three at the back formation at all because our “wing-backs” were hardly bombing on were they? No, it was more or less a five at the back with our midfielders sitting deep as well. I thought it was a very disciplined performance and was working. You need a bit of luck in football and we got it when Skirtel joyously put through his own goal in front of The Kop. Had Gouffran had something about him one on one with Mignolet, the outcome of this game would have been very different I’m sure. Then again, if my auntie had a penis, she’d be my uncle.
I didn’t think we defended those crosses in to the box from Gerrard particularly well and where you look to apportion responsibility is a moot point but surely they were in the area for Krul to be punching away or for a defender to be heading out?
I also experienced a strange sensation after the game and that was agreement with Alan Pardew. I did think the referee had a massive bearing on the game. The first free kick was given incorrectly, there was no contact at all for the kick but the sendings off were an absolute joke. If we are going to see players being sent off in this manner then I’ll look forward to Wayne Rooney, John Terry et al. spending what remains of their careers taking counselling for Tourettes. I am absolutely 100% confident that Steven Gerrard would never be sent off for whatever Shola did or didn’t say to the fat, little self-important prick – sarcasm, for the second yellow I hear? Jesus Christ, man. And then the second red, a foul yes, but no malice and simply clumsy! Again, the kinds of decisions you wouldn’t get against the teams playing the big games that the refs want to be involved with.
And so we finish tenth, mission accomplished, bonuses pocketed. We finished behind Stoke and Southampton. We did nowt in the Cups. I can’t say this was a season of downright failure for United – it was simply the kind of mediocrity that will be dressed up as “stability” by Ashley’s apologists.
Speaking of apologists we heard from Michael Owen last week that a lot of clubs in the PL would regard Newcastle United’s position with envy. He didn’t say which ones of course but I can’t imagine many of the nine clubs ahead of us in the PL casting envious glances up Barrack Road and nor can I see quite a few a wee bit lower in the PL than us being green with envy at the state of our balance sheet. According to Michael Owen, Newcastle United has no debt and is financially secure. Whoever edits (irony klaxon) this nonsense really needs to have a word with themselves because Newcastle United is one of the most indebted football clubs in the PL to the tune of £118m. The money may not be owed to a bank, rather it is to Mike Ashley but debt it is and it is currently acting to prevent the club from changing hands because Ashley thinks a buyer should purchase debt as well as Newcastle United in any transaction. I can see a flaw in that logic.
Not that Owen is alone. I listened to John Anderson get worked up about texts BBC Radio Newcastle accusing, in not too many words, of him and others being easy on United’s loathed regime. Anderson’s response was to invite those texting in with their criticism of his position on the club, to call in but he can’t complain about negative text messages as they are part of the show that he hosts. But Anderson did trot out the shibboleth about financial stability which for any of us with even a modicum of understanding of United’s financial position has us banging our heads off the wall in frustration. Newcastle. United. Is. £118m. In. Debt. Our commercial income has tanked under Ashley while every other club in the PL has improved their own enormously. Our gate money is down substantially under Ashley. That is not financial stability, it is a catastrophe that has only been disguised by the massive increases in TV revenue that our club had absolutely nothing to do with in agreeing. My offer to Michael Owen, John Anderson etc. is to put on a session where the accountants who have offered their expertise to true faith over this last season, can talk them through the facts of our financial status. Then they will avoid talking absolute bobbins about “financial stability”. That offer is on the table to John Anderson and Mick Lowes should they decide to pick it up.
As it happens, I don’t think Anderson is particularly supportive of the Ashley regime at United, I just think his position is stuck in neutral, though that is hardly surprising given BBC Radio Newcastle are media partners of the club, so it is to be expected there won’t be a hard-hitting critique of how the club operates when they are business partners of a sort.
I also read Bob Moncur railing against withering assessments of his character as a club “Yes-Man” and him respond with a claim that he is simply a positive person. That’s all well and good. Personally, I regard it as bizarre that Moncur, so far as I am aware, a club employee, should be paid for his opinion by The Chronicle, a newspaper his employers has banned from covering the club. That is something of a conundrum to me. I don’t expect Moncur to offer a scathing treatise of the shambles on Barrack Road given his status as one of Ashley’s employees. I just find it baffling that he should be asked for it.
Another dark family secret we have at United is Peter Beardsley. He is along with Alan Shearer and Kevin Keegan, the best player I have seen in a Newcastle United shirt. He has given us immense pleasure in the two spells he had with us as a player. This one probably hurts the most. Peter always had the air of the lad next door and having seen him in action with kids at community events I can say he is superb – canny lad personified. However, if half the stuff I’ve heard about his aggressive defence of Mike Ashley are is at various talk-ins then it is another instance why I’m not sure why a club employee is even being asked for his opinion. He is on the Ashley shilling and thus in his debt.
But that is the season over and the atmosphere around Newcastle United absolutely toxic. There will be many of you reading this who have had enough and are ready to chuck your season tickets now. No-one could possibly criticise anyone that did. No-one can make a case to buy one … Newcastle United won’t even bother trying but they will try and sell you club tat every day.
Should Pardew be sacked? It doesn’t really matter what any of us think to be honest. It is Ashley who has a decision to make but it will be a difficult one. Ashley will be paying his manager, his staff etc. a bonus for just about meeting the targets set for him by scraping tenth. Obviously, we all know the Cups aren’t a priority for United, so in the cold, joyless corporate manner United operates, that won’t have caused any angst in the corridors of power at SJP. In Pardew, Ashley has his own human shield, a manager who will accept any amount of shite from him, be it a mental appointment of Joe Kinnear as Director of Football, selling his best players and not replacing them, so the value of retaining Pardew, who even Ashley must know he has shafted for the last 18 months is obvious. Weigh in possible compensation for a crazy contract Pardew holds (so, we’re told, I believe nowt coming out of United) and Pardew has a lot to recommend him in continuing at United. I guess what Ashley now has to consider is whether the demands from the majority of United’s support for Pardew to go are so overwhelming, that are so deeply entrenched, his manager is unable to do his job. Ashley will also have to consider the frightening collapse in form this year and the consequences of it continuing into next season. One thing I’d say for certain and that is had the two halves of the season been reversed, Pardew would have been out at Christmas. Only Ashley knows how that is going to pan out.
If Pardew is to be dismissed then it needs to happen quickly and I mean this week. A replacement should be ready to step in now and start building for next season – know which players to go, stay and be signed. This cannot be allowed to drift.
I’ll be honest and say I don’t really approve of the hate campaign that has centered upon Alan Pardew and if this gobshite fanzine has played any part in that, I regret it. I do think on balance he has reached the end of his road at United but I don’t hate the man. I’ve met him a few times, once over an extended period at the training ground when United were having an uncharacteristic period of Glasnost and found him engaging, enthusiastic, committed and enjoying his job. That doesn’t mean I know him well or much at all. I do know he is a man of flesh and blood with a family and I do believe he will be going through some personal agonies at the possibilities of being sacked from the best management post he will likely ever hold in the game. I think its fine for supporters to voice their opinions because that is the game Pardew is in but I draw a line at abuse and vendettas. Mind, the vendettas thing isn’t the sole preserve of our support and a certain newspaper could do well to have a look at its own behaviour in honesty.
I do know Pardew probably doesn’t want to do a bad job. I’ll say he does want to win football matches for Newcastle United and I think he’d definitely liked to have kept his best players and bought new ones. I’d imagine when we finished fifth, he’d have liked to have seen investment in players and I don’t imagine he was delighted with Kinnear being brought in last summer. But unfortunately, under Ashley, he or any other manager the owner appoints will have no leverage with him. Ashley has United in exactly the position he wants them in now. Mike Ashley will never appoint anyone as head-strong as KK ever again. This is the perfect Newcastle United season for Ashley. Pardew has simply delivered on that prospectus.
Mind, I don’t see any problem with anyone taking protest flags to Anfield and wonder what Liverpool FC is playing at preventing supporters from taking them into the ground. I also find it very hard to believe that Newcastle United played no part in this. We’ll never know the truth but I don’t believe a word coming out of Newcastle United.
Last week I had a good chat with Peter Hooton, front-man with The Farm and one of the founders of the seminal fanzine, The End. Peter is also a mover and shaker in the Liverpool FC fans Union, the Spirit of Shankly. The interview formed the Fanzine Craic on the site. I’d say Peter and I share a similar world view regarding politics and how football should be run. Peter was very interested in how the anti-Ashley protests and other action was developing up here and to be honest I felt a little uncomfortable discussing it because I’d shared a view previously that our action was pretty puny to what had happened with the Spirit of Shankly and Hicks/Gillett. I put the phone down feeling a bit better because all of the talk I’ve heard from friends and people writing in here found an echo with what Peter had experienced on Merseyside. They have had the same as us – perceived apathy, petty squabbling and feelings of hopelessness at ever being to do anything about it. A minority of Liverpool fans supported the action and whether the proportions are greater or lesser than what we have had to date, its immaterial, it started with a minority and it grew. Now, I don’t think even the most committed Spirit of Shankly soldier would ignore the role of the Royal Bank of Scotland in exiting Hicks/Gillett from Anfield but those of us seeking to effect change for the better at United and in football in general should take heart from the experience at Liverpool. There isn’t anything particularly shitty-arsed or pissy about our support, it’s the same everywhere. Those of us who want to make a stand and challenge Ashley will have to continue to argue our case with our fellow Mags, use the facts and just keep at it. Those expecting a sudden revolution are going to be disappointed and while we all might hanker for a one-off grand show of dissent that willchase Ashely from the club, it in truth isn’t going to happen like that. I think we need to dig in for a long war – if that’s the right expression.
It is the end of the season but it isn’t the end for true faith – not by a long chalk. We are working on the next issue of true faith, our SUMMER SPECIAL (TF112) which just so happens will be our first issue that we are offering completely in DIGITAL format. It is shaping up to be a beast of an issue. We’ll have more news on what is going to be in the fella nearer the time of its release later this month so stick with us. If you want to avoid the rush and get signed up for true faith, just click here, it’s pretty simple thereafter –
We will also be bringing you coverage of the World Cup, cricket and we’ll be continuing with our Blogs as well.
We’ll be bang into the pre-season and obviously giving our two pennorth on how things develop at the House of Pain on Barrack Road.
But I suppose I should thank all of you lot for sticking your head in here all season as well as buying the fanzine. It’s immensely flattering that you do and overall, the encouragement you give us keeps us going.
Likewise, I’d like to thank all of our many writers who give up their time to produce some of the best football writing from fans anywhere in the country.
If there are those of you out there who would like to join the true faith writing circle, just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’m sure we can put you to work.
Thank you all for your support and as long as we can, we’ll continue to try and inform and entertain.