Monday, 27 December 2010

One of our own

Interestingly, Pardew seems to be starting to have an effect at SJP. The logical place to start was with the players (ignoring the decision to take on Steve Stone as assistant coach - personally I think he's been taken on as a translator for Pardew... but, doubt he'll have quite a glittering career as Jose Mourinho) Staying put signs put over the names of both Carroll and Barton, as well as the news that Steven Taylor has just signed at new 5 and a half year contract (hummm... that period of time sounds familiar, doesn't it....). Needless, to say there is no news on how much the contact is worth - but, part of me is really pleased that Taylor wants to stay on Tyneside, rather than moving to pastures new. He's spent much of the last five years being the chest-thumping, warrior.

At times looking like the natural successor to John Terry - all passion, heart and sweat for the cause. A real captain in the making and heart-on-sleeve soul of the club. However, at other times he's looked like the successor to Titus Bramble - slow, ponderous and poor decision making. Also, he's had a a couple of years when he's suffered a lot with injuries - a persistent shoulder injury, along with aggravating Andy Carroll leading to getting his jaw broken, has meant that he's been a bit part player for the past couple of seasons.

I guess he's typical of the ying and yang of many players, some good points and some bad. He's never been afraid to put his head in, either to stop a goal, or to score a few as well. He's given us some fantastic comedy moments - such as the below

He's also been advised poorly, in my view... Paul Stretford ( Rooney's agent) has managed to contradict that NUFC-loving image by driving such a hard bargain during the contract negotiations for his client that Taylor has effectively spent the last 6 months on the transfer list. I, for one don't recall reading about a rush of clubs bidding for him. No doubt Taylor has an increase on the weekly wage - but it has damaged his standing amongst the fans. I wonder what price there really is on that type of public image?

But, ultimately he is one of ours... I'm pleased he is staying, but feel that he has much to prove over the rest of this season. I don't think that he's going to be the next captain of England (or even Newcastle United) but I'll be pleased if he really does stay for the term of this contract. However, I'm not convinced that he will. In the same way that I doubt that Pardew will see out his contract either.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Lack of Class

In my younger days I had a part time job in a print shop. It was a largely un-rewarding job, but I got to play with some new gadgets. I was shown how to do all sorts of exciting things, such as bind documents, use the high speed photocopier and laminate signs and posters. Needless to say binding wasn't much fun (I can recall wrecking one students thesis) and, beyond the obvious, photocopying was dull. However, the laminating machine led to all sorts of hilarity... This included getting various photos enlarged and making them more 'solid' than previously as they became poster sized. I only did one for myself...I can still remember it vividly. Shearer and Ferguson celebrating a goal, with the words "Form is temporary: Class is permanent" emblazoned across the bottom. I think I'd particularly liked it as it was at the time that Shearer was getting a tough time from the English press about him not being good enough to play for Eng-er-lund.

Roll forward 20-plus years and I was reminded of this moniker again, but this time the inverse. Mike Ashley has demonstrated time and time again that he lacks understanding of how to effectively communicate with his 'customers' and the sacking of Chris Hughton was another example of this. As a consumer of brand NUFC, it appeared to me that the football team was getting some stability, that the team - was starting to play like a team. The results were mixed, but it felt like the team was going in the right direction. The key to this was the continuity that had been given by the management team - Hughton and Calderwood appeared to have been doing a good job, with limited resources. As a watcher of the business of Newcastle United, it also appeared that Hughton was doing a fair job, mid-table and regular TV revenue coming in, combined with the asset that is Andy Carroll, being nurtured and therefore his value (both in terms of transfer value and marketing value) increasing.

But, obviously this wasn't enough for the owners of both the business and the brand. The reasons for the supporters as to why he was sacked are spurious. But perhaps the business ones aren't. I'd guess that Hughton was asking for money to shore up the depth of the team, that the money wasn't available or his choices deemed incorrect. From a cost perspective, Hughton will have been a lot cheaper to sack than either Allardyce or Keegan. So, as ever Ashley fails to communicate with his punters and the inevitable conclusion is drawn... he's got no class, and his form is temporary.

As a demonstration of Ashley's temporary form, he got lucky with Pardew's first game. Beating a sub-standard Liverpool team might have looked good on paper. It might have lessened the volume and nature of the protests against Hughton's sacking for that game. But, the cracks are still visible and unless some investment is made in the playing squad Ashely's lack of class with the dismissal of someone who appeared to be a genuinely decent man - and a good communicator; will come home to roost.