Saturday, 28 February 2009

Effective Communication

Apologies for my tardiness, I've been away for a few days and also managed to do what every English person abroad does - get food poisoning, hence my lack of recent posts. Mind you, I was slightly surprised to be suffering from the dicky-tummy syndrome when I'd ventured as far abroad as Scotland... They really are taking this independence lark onto the next stage now.

I opted for the train to Glasgow, which was a rare luxury for me, letting miles and miles of countryside whip past the outside of the window without any of the stress of having to get to a place at a particular time. I managed to do civilised things like read all of the Sunday paper in one go and even read some fiction (although the line between news and fiction is increasingly blurred). There were a few downsides, the odorous man who got on the train at Preston, the closure of west-coast route for the way back meaning that the journey was extended by an additional three hours, and the tea at a thermo-nuclear temperature, but that was far outweighed by the joy of people watching.

One example of this was three guys who got on the train at Edinburgh, laden with cans. The discussion started before the train left the station about football, and they didn't stop for breath until they got off at Newcastle. By eavesdropping it was apparent that they were Hearts fans, they were going to SJP to watch Toon v Everton because they wanted to see a Premiership game (lads, you picked a duff one 0-0 and a dull game), they hated Rangers and knew loads about all European football. The think was that these weren't teenagers playing out a latest fad, one of them was in his 50's and the other two were mid-30's. It's easy to be glib and suggest that football stops them talking about the 'real' things... but the passion that they had for 22 men kicking a mock pigs bladder about the pitch was enormous.

This week on the NUFC front has seen more of the Llambias charm offensive take place - an reduction in the season ticket costs, a interview with the local radio station (and available as one of those new fangled podcasts... Whatever next!) and finally an admission that the debacle with Keegan has hurt the club, the management and the team. No doubt, it will also hit the finances of the club in the longer term as well. Its taken six months for this admission, no doubt the board tried the 'if we ignore it, they'll go away' approach, but there was no way that would work, then they tried the 'if you don't like us we'll leave' approach... Which also failed. So, now its the 'ahem, sorry about that' approach. He had the good grace to admit that the PR was naive - but that just showed the lack of understanding. Too little, too late... damage has been done, and I'm not sure its repairable. Trust has gone.

Contrast Llambias' and NUFC's stance with what has happened at Aston Villa this week. They trek to Moscow with an under-strengh team and get dumped out of the Uefa Cup. Needless to say the 300 Villa fans who shelled out to follow their club felt more than a bit duped. Villa's response? Invite all those fans to attend a dinner at the club, meet O'Neill and the players and they've immediately diffused any negative PR. Simple isn't it?

Footnote to my Glasgow trip - check out a new band Skint and Demoralised. Great songs, great lyrics and a great night out.

Saturday, 14 February 2009


Somehow it feels appropriate, it being Valentines day, to be talking about affairs of the heart. However, these particular affairs are managerial and corporate ones, rather than any type of love interest. As JFK falls under the knife for a triple heart bypass, he joins a lengthy list of unfit NUFC staff in the treatment room. Its probably the least surprising 'injury' of the whole of the season.

For all his legion of faults, JFK does wear his heart on his sleeve (no pun intended), he shows his emotions (just ask the Daily Mirror journalist) and no doubt this all adds to the pressure. He's not a spring chicken and he had a past history of heart trouble. So, when the reports came through last week that he'd been taken to hospital prior to the WBA game, all sorts of alarm bells started to ring in my head (maybe that's tinnitus though). I also would guess that the club has had some inkling of this - why else did Colin Calderwood turn up at SJP a couple of weeks ago? It may be just my suspicious nature, but he was appointed first team coach... If so, what has Chris Hughton's role? His job title may be Assistant Manager, but it didn't make sense to to me at the time. After this weeks news it all has become so much clearer.

Perhaps the club should be congratulated for showing some foresight, some secession planning. Or maybe they just got 'lucky'. There has also been some other media deflection this week, with Llambias, the Managing Director making his first set of prouncements. I've complained about the poor media relations in the past, and maybe this is the first steps to try and do things properly. Perhaps, the twelve bore has been removed from the foot of NUFC for a while... I just hope that that the club remember that its still loaded.

In the meantime I read one of the best posts about the state of NUFC from a national journalist that I've seen in a long time - have a look at this, if you haven't already seen it. I agree with (just about) every word.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Weakly round up

I've been away for most of this week, so I've been watching from afar, which has provided a useful distance to evaluate the ahem, comings and goings at SJP.

Firstly, there was the derby match. There was a fantastic gathering of the clans in front of the TV at my house. Favourite Nephew brought Favourite Niece with him, to match her first game (and she admitted that 'it was ok' - high praise indeed from a 13 year old. Additionally, Erin saw her first Toon game, well, when I say saw - she slept through it as only a one-month old can. The thing about having few youngsters dotted about the place is that its fairly effective at keeping the expletive count low... Which is only slightly inhibiting. That said, I was busy roundly berating Taylor when he fell over in the penalty area, chuntering something like "You ejiit, you'll get booked for that" as Howard Webb pointed to the spot...

I enjoyed the game in an odd way, for many of the wrong reasons; the mackems didn't win, it was good to see the team play as a team for once, Newcastle seemed to have a bit pace and purpose for once, Gutierrez was the best player on the pitch, Bassong is looking like a real defender... I also couldn't help thinking that if that sort of performance had been given at Eastlands, we'd be 3 points better off as City couldn't have coped with any sort of sustained threat. Oh, and one of the best moments was the TV camera panning around the corporate boxes, and settling on Shearer, lustily belting out the Blaydon Races. Indeed he is a fan.

As the rest of the week fluttered on, the transfer window shut not so much with a slam for Newcastle but with an apologetic click. Given and N'Zogbia leaving for destinations in the North West, and Nolan and Ryan Taylor moving the other way along the M62. It's interesting that both Given and N'Zogbia have both taken departing swipes at the club. Given complaining that the last 6 months has been unpleasant (Shay, at least you haven't parted with any cash to watch games, try it from the terraces.) Whereas Charlie Zog joined a long list of French players at Newcastle who failed to settle and then flounced off in a huff with a few well chosen words of disappointment. Charlie, I hate to break it to you, but Ginola, Distin, Bernard, Boumsong, Charvet, Domi and even Louis Saha have all beaten a path over the Tyne Bridge, only to shortly leave in the opposite direction very quickly. Welcome to a long list.

The final newsworthy item was that Keegan has blamed his speeding on the A69 on the Toon as well. What will Newcastle get blamed for next?... Nah, I'm not going to answer that one, it'll probably come true.

Today its the Baggies, away. Another, must win game... relegation 6 pointer... and all the other cliches that Sky will trot out... Lets see... Howay the lads