So, for the first time in over 90 years Newcastle United have lost three derby games in a row. Inevitably the blame game has started, but for me there is only one person to point the finger at. Just as U.S. President Harry S. Truman famously had a sign on his desk, bearing the phrase ‘the buck stops here’, so to me the buck stops with Mike Ashley. And of course buck is the operative word. It was an accident of the fixture list that lead to us playing Sunderland the day after the closing of the January Transfer Window, but the fact that we sold our best player, with quite clearly never any real intention of replacing him., on the week before a derby. just about sums it all up. Ashley has ripped the soul out of our great club and I fear that it will never return until he is gone.
Somebody at work commented that the sale of Cabaye was a ‘great piece of business’. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of that phrase. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to see Newcastle United go the way of Leeds United or Portsmouth, even if both those clubs have at least won a major trophy since Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon. A football club does have to be run sensibly. However, it is not just a business. At the end of the day I have no doubt that Nat West bank do some ‘great pieces of business’, but you wouldn’t spend £500 a year to spend 19 Saturday afternoons watching them at work at the Northumberland Street branch would you?
At the end of day, there is one great charge to be laid at Ashley’s door. I remember the likes of Lord Westwood and Gordon McKeag. Incompetent and unambitious they were certainly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they weren’t interested.
Mike Ashley, on the other hand, simply doesn’t care.
And that presents supporters with a dilemma – or two. Firstly, while the heart and soul of the club is being ripped out, while our club is treated as little more than a marketing tool for Sports Direct, helping no doubt to keep the majority of the employees on the despicable zero hours contracts, whilst we are sponsored by a bunch of glorified loan sharks, it is hard to keep caring. You know you should, that it is really our club not Ashley’s but, but…..
If one accepts that under Ashley we will never achieve anything other than Premier League survival, despite having the third highest attendances in England, the second dilemma is what to do about it. Probably the last time we felt as disillusioned with a regime was a quarter of century ago, after the dismal 1989/89 season ended in relegation. Mc Keag was forced out partly by a fans boycott. Now to be fair, there were other factors involved, not least the fact that the club was in a dire finacial situation and there was a potential new owner waiting in the wings, neither of which is true today.
All the same, considering the thick skin of Ashley and his complete contempt for the supporters, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that as long as 50 000 supporters are prepared to pay good money and attend every league game and the astounding amount of television money keeps rolling in, Ashley won’t be going anywhere in a hurry. And as long as Ashley stays in control, we will see a club just going through the motions, whilst he gets as much as he can out it.
Ashley of course is not the only ridiculously wealthy individual in Britain who doesn’t care about the people he is supposed to be caring about. In the last couple of weeks, I have read one headline about ‘Booming Britain’, whilst other right-wing commentators have crowed about the success of the governmet’s economic policy. And what is the cause of such jubilation? After nearly four dismal years, the economic growth rate has finally risen to a higher rate than it was at the time of the last general election in 2010. Marvellous.
It is also argued that the economic recovery, such as it is, is really only based on an artificial housing bubble in the Southeast of England. The kind of housing bubble, which only leads to another big crash, sooner or later, being built on the quicksands of dubious credit. At the end of the day all Osborne’s predictions about the economy, from growth rates to when the deficit would be paid off, have been wrong. And I don’t know anybody here in Northeast England who feels that we are in the midst of a booming economy…
But then what should we expect from a cabinet composed of a bunch of millionaires from the South? Perhaps it is little wonder that they don’t care about ordinary people in a region, such as ours. They don’t need to…and they clearly don’t care any more than Ashley cares about the supporters at Newcastle United. Although to be fair, the desperate situation concerning the flooding in Somerset, on the back of drastic cuts in flood prevention supported by Environment minister and Climate Change Sceptic, Owen Paterson, does suggest that the millionaires in the cabinet don’t care about ordinary people in that county either.
So, we support a football club run by an owner who doesn’t care and live in a country run by a government that doesn’t care. What is to be done? Well, for many the answer is obvious; put it out of your mind and plough a safe course of apathy. As long as you have enough money for a few beers at the weekend and an annual subcsription to Sky Sports, why bother….. Given the way economic and political power is distributed in both football and the country at large, it is not for me to judge anybody who does just that.
However, I can’t accept that there aren’t ways to end the concentrations of power and money, which lead us to having so much of our lives run, or should that be ruined, by a wealthy out-of-touch elite. At the end of the day, as the saying goes, whether we are thinking about Mike Ashley or the present government, we are the many, they are the few. They only have power because we allow them to have it. Our national and regional history is littered with instances when powerful elites were challenged – and soundly defeated – by well-organised groups of ‘ordinary’ people, who often acted in extraordinary ways and crucially displayed a great solidarity. It can happen again.
But it needs a solidarity, which today seems elusive, as long as people are bought off with consumerist individualism, the real opium of the people and allow themselves to be sedated by a national media, which must rank amongst the worst in the western world. Simply complaining and being apathetic can never be enough. The time for organising and challenging the smug elites is surely upon us.
© Peter Sagar February 2014
Find Join Your Local People’s Assembly here:
PEOPLE’S ASSEMBLY MEETINGS NEXT WEEK
Hexham & Tynedale People’s Assembly
Hexham Community Centre,
Hexham NE46 3NP
7:30pm, Wednesday 5th February
Jacqui Jones – People’s Assembly Against Austerity
Liam Carr – Labour Parliamentary Candidate, Hexham constituency
Tony Dowling – chair, North East People’s Assembly
Newcastle People’s Assembly Meeting
TUC Centre against Unemployment,
4 Cloth Market,
Newcastle NE1 1EE
5:30pm, Tuesday 4th February