Sunday, 28 September 2008

Dragons' Den

Hello, my name is Mike and I'd like £400 million pounds for....

Well, for what exactly? A team so dispirited that it rolled over and played dead against a mediocre Blackburn Rovers; a captain who sounded on MOTD last night like he's clinically depressed and the mogadon has taken over; a backroom staff that are as threadbare as the squad, a set of 50,000 fans who are now so apathetic that they have lost all passion and have stopped turning up, even though they have paid for their tickets...

Somehow Mike, I think that you are going to have trouble offloading this, especially if Peter Jones starts to question you about the figures... Seeing as it looks like you didn't understand them when you bought the company in the first place.

I'd guess these five, along with some Indians and (probably) some Nigerians would say "I'm out" and send you on your merry way.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Ich Bin Ein Geordie

Its a crisp, sunny morning in the North West of England and I've spent most of it musing about one of my heroes, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, a man who managed to combine a supreme intellect with  a charismatic leadership style in order to change not only the face of the US in the 60's but also the face of the world.   

He also gave one of the most influential speeches of all time, whilst standing the shadow of the Berlin Wall he criticised the newly erected dividing line between West and East Berlin by declaring "ich bin ein Berliner" It might have taken another 30 years for the wall to come down, but the speech was a landmark in terms of the idea of freedom, specifically in terms of movement, but also in freedom of thought.   As an aside, its another of his speeches that stays with me... and is just as relevant today as it was in 1961 (Obama please take note)

"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."

Now - back to earth with a bump.... NUFC have just appointed a new 'leader' - Joe Kinnear. Marvellous... A man who was managed to get a small club - Wimbledon to the semi-finals of the FA cup and is largely credited with putting Nottingham Forest into the doldrums that they are in now.  If I get one more text about Vinny Jones joining as training coach I'll scream... I'm even starting to think that Ashley is creating his own version of the cast of  Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels at SJP.  But I'm not going to fall into the trap of the 'evil cockney empire'... Doh...

Anyway, back to Kinnear, have described him as our very own JFK... not because he bears any resemblance to the man described in the first couple of paragraphs, but because when anyone hears that he's been appointed as our manager, the reaction is "Joe F***** Kinnear???"  

The club have said that he's going to be in charge until the end of October, and he's already alluding to Keegan and Shearer being parked around the corner for when the new owners arrive. But I wonder if this is the case?  To stretch the analogy above a little further, this smacks to me of appeasement. Time will tell. 

In the meantime NUFC continue to grab the headlines of all the red-tops (and many of the others).  As Phil McNulty has commented
Newcastle is a circus, a soap opera, a black comedy, a farce - but it is never dull.
Of course, we've all known that for ages, but at least Spurs should be grateful to the club... Its providing a welcome distraction to their woeful under-performance... But then again Ashley is supposed to be a Spurs supporter... Doh - there I go again. 

Anyway, apparently there is something going on at 3.00pm today.... on a field in NE1, with a group of visitors from Lancashire. I wonder if NUFC come away from that with 3 points then the press will start to hail the NUFC JFK....  I doubt it.

BTW - I've avoided the grassy knoll/dugout comparison, I'll wait until he leaves for that one. 

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

What the El?

Just finished watching Newcastle getting thrashed 2-1 by Spurs on the telly. A few words spring to mind; gutless, clueless, passionless, hopeless, spineless, leaderless, and ultimately meaningless. Here endeth the match report as Newcastle stumble out out the Carling Cup, like adolescent boys who have sipped their first bottle of cider and are pretending that they don't feel sick. All bluff, bluster and bravado that has ended in tears.

The latest round on the made up paper rumour mill is that a Nigerian consortium is preparing to buy out Ashely ( I can see the "Abuja* Mafia Out" banners around SJP in the near future). Still, if it is true then perhaps Oba Martins might hang around for longer than when the snowdrops start to come up in my back garden.

The other rumour is that Terry Venables is going to add Newcastle United to the following list
Crystal Palace, QPR, Barcelona, Spurs, England, Australia, Portsmouth, Middlesbrough and Leeds. The radio is reporting he will be a temporary manager for about six weeks... Great, should just about be relegated by then.

*Apparently Abuja is the capital of Nigeria and not Lagos... See, tis an educational blog as well...

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Dark Days

Ho and indeed Hum....

The week of madness continued :-   
Wednesday saw stories of Ashely and Wise hawking the club around the middle-east, with no success, so he took refuge in a bar...
Saturday - saw the team "hammered" at Upton Park.  Comedy defenders matched by disinterested strikers
Sunday - Andy Carroll, one of the young 'prospects' at the club accepts a police caution for common assault on a woman in the centre of Newcastle.  

I've said it before, but you couldn't make it up....

Through my door earlier this week dropped a copy of the Newcastle United fanzine, The Mag. Usually its a publication that I devour when it arrives, a refreshing mixture of humour, sharp observation and well-written articles.  Its always had the advantage of being unofficial and therefore hasn't had to toe any party line.  I've only read half of of this edition... It's so depressing that it may as well have the phone number of the Samaritans emblazoned across the front of it.   

It's just got to get better soon - I was asked recently what gift I'd like - with only a moments hesitation I said "a proper manager for the Toon"... and three points on Saturday. Hummm, looks like a wasted wish.

Still, one of the reasons that I love football, is that there is always another game just around the corner.  Wednesday sees Toon v Spurs in the Fizzy Pop Cup.  Seeing as Dave Mason has been at it again in today's Observer - who managed to shoehorn into a 50 word preview article on the Spurs V Wigan game comments about how bad Newcastle are (he's right, but that's not the point) - I'd love it, just love it if we beat them..... Now where have I heard that before???

Oh - I couldn't resist this one... not my orginal idea, but its made me smile this week

Criteria for Newcastle United Owner

1. Must have more money than sense
2. Must be prepared to be disliked by the media
3. Must be a Geordie
4. Must be slightly bonkers

.... therefore the perfect owner for NUFC is...... the ex-Mrs McCartney, Heather Mills.. 

Monday, 15 September 2008

Its all gone to hell in a handcart

How to sum up what has happened in the past four days??? *sigh*

- Friday - Keegan and Ashley meet in London, LMA release a statement that no agreement has been reached between the two... Rumors abound that Ashely is trying to entice Keegan back
- Saturday - The much vaunted protests by the fans took place - including marches, alleged boycotts of merchandise, bed-sheets for posters and innumerable chants of "sack the board" Oh, and Newcastle United managed to loose to Hull City, convincingly and soundly beaten.
- Sunday - Mike Ashely releases a statement (which is now being criticised for being too long) which basically says "I've had enough, I'm off" as a For Sale sign goes up on Barrack Road
- Monday - The club has to release another statement, denying that they've sacked Alan Shearer from his role as Club Ambassador due to the remarks that he's made as a result of Keegan debacle. (Apparently his contract had ended at the end of last season, but hey, why let that get in the way of a made up story - that bastion of press righteousness the Daily Mail was responsible for this one*)

So, what on earth is going to happen next? A mysterious fire at SJP for the insurance money? A take over bid from an Irish Consortia with links to Wearside?.... The rate these few days have panned out then it wouldn't surprise me...

A few thoughts on the past few days

  • I still don't believe the press portrayal of the extent of the protests on Saturday - sure a lot of people are angry, but the woman on MOTD who claimed her "life had been ruined" by Keegan's departure should either get out more, or stop trying to get onto the telly
  • Ashely's statement read well, was very sensible and I actually agree with what he has been trying to do. There is a logic in trying to run the football club as a business, to make it viable and to establish a model whereby the talent is both sustainable and affordable. I don't believe that Fergson, Wenger nor even Keane have a say in each and every transfer that comes in through the door. I don't see how many can disagree with:-
"I want Newcastle to be able to create its own legends of the future to rival those of the past. This is a long term plan. A long term plan for the future of the club so that it can flourish.

One person alone can't manage a Premiership football club and scout the world looking for world class players and stars of the future. It needs a structure and it needs people who are dedicated to that task. It needs all members of the management team to share that vision for it to work.
  • The problem is the way that he's gone about it. Dennis Wise was loathed by many in football because of the way he conducted himself in the past - Leeds. Chelsea, Wimbledon, Swindon... I ask you... never mind what he has done to taxi drivers. He was never going to be popular and there was always a suspicion that Ashely brought in Wise to be the next manager. The statement has come too late to win back hearts and minds - the battle for the hearts and minds had been lost.
  • Who would want to buy the club? The talk of a fans buy-out is fanciful and misguided. It might work for Ebbsfleet United, but Newcastle United is on a bigger scale - that has been at the core of the problem. RadioFive were suggesting tonight that Freddy Sheperd may be 'persuaded' to come back... Spare us.
  • Who will be the next manager? - and who would want to take the job? It looks to me like Chris Houghton for the foreseeable future. But it must be bad, because I found myself thinking that Steve Bruce might not be a bad option.
To cheer myself up over the weekend I dug out an old DVD of Our Friends in the North a mid 1990's TV drama which was loosely based on the corruption scandal surrounding T Dan Smith and John Pouslon (amongst other things). Apart from launching the career of several of Britain's best actors (Christopher Eccleston, Daniel Craig, Gina McGee and Mark Strong) it also portrayed Newcastle to be full of proud but parochial people. That stereotype still exists today, the flames of it are fanned by the press and parading banners with "Cockney Mafia Out" around the ground just re-enforces it. (Its also probably inaccurate seeing as I don't think Ashely was born within the sound of Bow Bells nor is of Italian extraction.)

Its time we all moved on. This has gone beyond a joke, its now painful. Stoppit....

* I've never yet manged to read a full copy of the Daily Mail - I occasionally come across a copy, start to read it, get to about page 5-7 stumble onto some xenophobic, sexist or royalist (usually Diana related) comment. This causes me to tut and leave the paper wherever I found it. Is it just me?

Friday, 12 September 2008

Protest Song

A week of chaos has ensued, from the last week of chaos - no clarity in terms of leadership, no sign of the new messiah and worst of all Newcastle United are still a laughing stock.  Its now got so bad, people have stopped taking the piss and all I get is sympathy from Manure and City fans. As the bard of Salford once said : - 

That joke isn't funny anymore 
It's too close to home 
And it's too near the bone 

Its got so far beyond a joke that people are really angry - two weeks have passed and the emotional attachment to Keegan hasn't diminshed.  Tomorrow is going to be interesting.  No doubt the media will skew and manipulate, but there will be some sort of protest before/during/after the Hull game. The media will show the window lickers who have been enticed by the prospect of gurning on TV - but underneath it all is a groundswell of option that what has been happening at the club isn't right.  I have a view that Keegan was too 'last decade' for modern, big business football, but I'll expand on that in another post, in the meantime there will be an emotional reaction at tomorrows game. 

I wonder if Mike Ashley has made a big misjudgement.  The recent PR has reminded me of Gerald Ratner, when he said his product was crap - and as a result a multi million pound buisness went down the pan.  Ashely's mistake hasn't been on that scale, but the fans do think that he hasn't treated his punters with respect - therefore the groundswell seems to be to hit him where it hurts.... in the pocket. 

Still - as Michael has said - support the club, not the man.

Howay the lads

Friday, 5 September 2008

Skin Deep

Well, the messiah has gone, long live the new messiah... Whoever he may be.

The three days of indecision have finally come to an end with Keegan resigning - despite what the media say, no doubt with a large pay off and a gagging clause to stop him saying anything too damaging to the club.

He's claiming that he's been prevented from managing and he's lost control over the 'managing' part of his role. Which are exactly the same reasons as Curbishley has given for leaving West Ham earlier this week. Both claiming that they have lost control over who is bought/sold for the team. No doubt with Keegan much of the problem will have been with him needing to stamp his authority onto the club, (have a look at previous post for my wittering on this before) a power struggle with the directors has led to him throwing his dummy out in the grand manner.

Why does any of this matter? I'd be willing to bet it matters a lot to the guy in the photo (I took this at Everton last season and have been waiting for an appropriate occasion to use it), not only does he care for the team so much he travels to the games, shells out for a season ticket but he has also wanted to show his loyalty to the team he loves (note, not follows, loves) by paying a large sum of money to have the club crest indelibly imprinted on his back. That's the passion that football can engender and its why it matters who is in charge of your team.

Part of the problem at Newcastle United is that we don't really know who is in charge (although today has given us a fairly big clue...) Keegan was brought back by Ashley as an antidote to the dour Allardyce and Keegan's charisma is part of why he has been successful and why the reaction is as strong as it is that he's gone.

As ever, sum it up perfectly:-

While the mass media see this purely as messiah departs, it seems that many fans (correctly in our view) are less concerned about KK disappearing than they are about the shambles he leaves behind.

The key question for me is what will Ashley do next for a manager? Dennis Wise or Alan Shearer - invidious or populist - cheap or expensive...

Like I said, never a dull moment.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008


On a day when Manchester City become the richest club in the entire universe (apparently Newcastle came 2nd in that race... always the bridesmaid...) Newcastle decide to re-brand themselves... Newcastle DisUnited...

Pick the bones out of this statement:-

Newcastle United can confirm that meetings between members of the Board and manager Kevin Keegan were held both yesterday and today.

Kevin has raised a number of issues and those have been discussed with him.

The Club wants to keep progressing with its long-term strategy and would like to stress that Kevin is extremely important, both now and in the future.

Newcastle United values the effort and commitment shown by Kevin since his return to St. James' Park and wants him to continue to play an instrumental role as manager of the Club.

For the avoidance of doubt the Club has not sacked Kevin Keegan as manager.

Two words spring to mind "laughing" and "stock"

Never a dull 'un