I found myself looking at the official NUFC site today. This isn't something that I do on a regular basis. There are a couple of reasons for this, firstly it is one of the most poorly designed websites that I've the misfortune to visit - a crass amalgamation of random adverts and poor navigation. In fact I've never forgiven them for years ago when to access the site you had to register, the worst example trying to collect a marketing database that I've ever known.
The second reason for not visiting the site is that it tells its own version of the truth that would make even Pravda in its heyday blush. The official NUFC site tells its own version of the 'truth' in a mind-numbing ostrich style - I don't expect criticism of the board or even of players - but when one of the most prominent post-match comments after the Liverpool game was "Reds Star Pays Tribute to Mag-nificent Geordies" its really toeing the party line too far. No mention of the result? Ah, well we only lost 1-5; no mention that the "Reds Star" then went out and got arrested for punching a DJ? Nope, not that either. It must be a lovely world that NUFC.co.uk inhabit - lets just ignore any of the bad stuff and make it another 'good news' day.
The reason I was trawling around the official website (I think there may be an h missing from that last word) was I wanted to find out the name of the Newcastle United Press Officer*. Why? Well, mainly because I want to know what on earth this person does for their wages. It seems to be that the club piles one gaff on top of another. Why is it that other clubs seem to be able to control the flow of information and misinformation from within? I know that Manure do it by Ferguson refusing to speak to a lot of them, which does have the effect of staunching many of the rumours that come from Old Trafford. However, when Allardyce tried it at Newcastle the press just printed whatever they wanted anyway. Wenger sometimes gets a rough ride at Arsenal but overall most clubs seem to be able to keep some stuff behind closed doors and stop misinformation leaking all over the place.
In the leaky information sieve that is Newcastle United the Press Office must spend all its time looking for a plug. This week has been no exception, the diary runs something like this
Sunday: Newcastle get hammered by Liverpool, at home, live on the telly
Monday: JFK hails Given as the best keeper in the Premiership
Wednesday: Transfer window opens
Thursday: Shay's 'solicitor' says that he is despondent and is considering is future at the club
Friday: JFK has a cup of coffee with Shay and declares he's not for sale. Also, ominously, Wenger states that he's not interested in Given.
I fully expect that Given will leave, and I don't blame him. His stock has risen, he's playing some of the best football of his career and he isn't going to win anything at Newcastle. He needs to move if he wants some medals to show his Grand kids (apart from the Inter Toto Cup Winners medal that is). I joked before the Liverpool game that Given was playing for his place.... at Arsenal.
The thing that concerns me is why on earth does the whole charade get played out in the press? I know the argument that its because Newcastle United are a one-club town, but any press office or press officer worth their wages would be able to control some of this... Owen and now Given, it just all adds up to the comedy of a club that Newcastle United has become.
* Needless to say, the website doesn't name the Press Officer - or if it does I couldn't navigate my way to find it.