Alan Shearer

Toon’s season to get up and running!

Pre-season ends now...apparently!

Pre-season ends now…apparently!

What can we say that hasn’t already been said about our calamitous start to the season? Propping up the rest of the league Newcastle United finds itself in an unenviable position. With Macca all but conceding that the pre-season targets of a cup run and 8th place finish all but extinguished, sights are now set on maintaining our Premier League status – and that’s only after 8 games!

For what it’s worth, I think we will stay up this season, and that the long trail to survival begins in earnest this weekend with a much needed win against Norwich. 3 points against Alex Neil’s impressive newly promoted Norwich side would provide a welcome tonic for what has been a rubbish few months which have culminated in the crushing news that first choice keeper Krul will be sidelined until the end of the season. Whilst a win won’t suddenly get Krul back between the sticks, it would certainly create breathing room and provide a platform from which we can launch our revival.

With fellow strugglers Sunderland and West Brom facing off against each other tomorrow this would be an opportune time to take maximum points and heap the pressure on one (or both) of these two teams who will most likely be facing a relegation scrap themselves. If Sunderland were to take the full 3 points this weekend, not only does the pressure to beat Norwich mount, but so does the importance of the derby game next weekend increase (even more so!) –  effectively making it be a relegation 6 pointer.

Those that know me know that I am not one for optimism when it comes to Newcastle United. I generally think we will lose most games, and that our chances for any semblance of something resembling success are zero until we rid our club of Mike Ashley. However I genuinely do think we will win this weekend. There have been glimpses of positive play from our lads with Mitrovic, Perez, Mbemba and Mbabu particularly impressing against Chelsea, and the 1st half away to City. Furthermore, Norwich are fairly poor defensively meaning that the need to start with 2 up top, or at least both Mitrovic and Perez on the field, is paramount.

If, on the other hand, we fail to win (or worse) tomorrow, then the Sunderland game becomes a “must win”, and given our recent form against the Mackems, as well as the Sam Allardyce factor, I am not putting my money on it. A defeat against Norwich would be horrendous. Defeats against Norwich and Sunderland would be catastrophic.

Tomorrow’s game against Norwich has not quite reached “must win” level just yet. However, we must not lose this one!

Sceptics should now be proud of the fans

Fans to be proud of

Fans to be proud of

As everyone will be aware of by now, there was a protest march before the Liverpool game calling for change in Newcastle United, and I am delighted to say that it passed without incident and that every fan who showed up acted with dignity, which is something that each and every one of them should be commended for.

Over the course of the week I read a number of comments from Newcastle United fans who were sceptical of the march, claiming that a gathering of Newcastle United fans could lead to trouble, inappropriate chanting, and hooligan-like behaviour. Well, the fact of the matter is that this false perception of our fellow fans is just that. Newcastle United fans are honest people, and just like the 52,000 who showed up to give their wonderful support to the lads during the game yesterday, the 1000 fans who had joined in the march yesterday (numbers courtesy of Northumbria Police) are good honest people who simply want change in our club.

The marchers were in full voice throughout the march, with chants lauding club legends such as Shearer, Keegan and Robson, coupled with calls for change within the club. There was also a silent white hankie protest as the march passed the Milburn Stand which was followed by all, and was quite an eye-catching spectacle. Also seeing many fans along the side of the road applauding, and even joining in with the march is a sign that there are more out there, perhaps waiting to see if Time4Change develops further before pledging their support.

If we are to succeed in trying to come up with a workable alternative to Mike Ashley, this silent majority needs to make its voice heard. Yesterday can be seen as the first step in trying to give you all a platform, we just need you to join us in our fight to reclaim our club.

Other criticisms such as, ‘having a march will have a negative impact on the team’ have been roundly dispelled as well, given how well the team played yesterday. Maybe the march even had a positive impact on the team… 😉

The important thing to take from the march yesterday is that we have a fan base that I am incredibly proud of, as we all should be. Take comfort in  the fact that there are people out there who feel as passionately about the club as you do, are willing to try to do something to effect change, and will conduct themselves in the right fashion in order to achieve it. All they need is your support and help. Will you give it to them?

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Q&A With Time4Change

Fans group Q&A session

Fans group Q&A session

Today I stumbled upon a rather interesting piece in the True Faith fanzine posted by Michael Martin, editor of the site and it was in reference to the upcoming protest march on the 19th October (morning of the Liverpool game).

Anyone who has been following my comments, would know that I’ve been made aware of the protest march, but I must admit to knowing little else about it, and the nuts and bolts of what they stand for.

The article in True Faith today contains a Question and Answer session with the organisers of the march. So for all of you who want to learn a little bit more about the Time4Change fan’s group, the purposes of the march and their intentions, then I would strongly recommend taking a few minutes of your time to go through these questions and answers.

TF:  First things first, why do you want supporters to join a protest march before the Liverpool game?

T4C: We have felt the utter frustration, like many other fans, at the way the club has been run by Mike Ashley. Some of the complaints have been well-rehearsed: The sacking of managers, the changing of the stadium’s name, the Wonga deal, and the puzzling re-appointment of Joe Kinnear as director of football.

What is of real concern to us now is that repeated club statements appear to suggest that it lacks direction, ambition and is failing loyal fans who have put so much time, loyalty and money into supporting the team. The club has been through bad times before, but since finishing in fifth place, the club has revised and budgeted it’s targets down for two consecutive seasons. At the same time it has said it regards cup competitions not as a priority, but as a chance to run the rule over our very small squad of reserves.

We contend that something fundamental has changed, and that the club has now admitted it has little intent to attempt competitive football. The potential of the club not only remains untapped but maybe diminishing as the club identity and brand has been consumed by Mr Ashley’s pursuit of his other ‘main’ business interest.

Time4Change believes that something needs to be done, to say ‘enough is enough’. A meeting was called through certain social network groups and it was democratically decided that a lawful, properly organised march would be a start.

We have been granted permission for this by the police and city council.

We hope this will give the opportunity for all fans and supporters groups to unite and express their concerns at current policies and showcase our solidarity and shared hopes for a better future.

The Liverpool fixture was chosen for several reasons. Firstly, it has significance as being a high-profile game which in the past has created some terrific football matches. Not too long ago it would have been regarded as a game between equals. Last season saw us capitulate in a way that shocked many fans.

Liverpool is also a good example, via the Spirit of Shankly group, of what can be achieved when fans get together to pursue a peaceful campaign for change. We have been in contact with SoS and have developed a relationship. They have sent us messages of support. In this spirit of “football first”, we have invited Liverpool fans to join the march. The game will also be shown live on BT Sport and it will generate inevitable media interest.

This is a chance, right at the outset of our campaign, for everyone who has pride in the club, the city, and the region, to show what Newcastle United means to us all.

Is there a better way of showcasing how much we care and crave ambition by marching peacably together, then showing our support by backing our team 100%?

TF: What do you think a protest march will achieve?

T4C: We are not naive enough to think that one march will suddenly make Ashley pack up and sell up. The march however can be very significant symbolically, especially if it manages to unite the fans. Just as it has on a small-scale during the organisation of this march, it’s a wonderful way of bringing people who had not previously met, together, and realising that we share so many things in common and can gain strength in unity.

If Ashley has been successful in anything during his reign it has been his unerring ability to divide and conquer the supporters; be it the fragmentation of the singing section in Level 7 that led to tensions elsewhere in the ground with other fans, or his ability to create amateur accountants out of passionate football fans. Ashley has even used his cronies to conduct character defamation campaigns against legends Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer. We wonder how Sir Bobby Robson would have fared if he was alive today, for there is no doubt in our minds he would have spoken out against the club’s so called ‘plan’.

This is why we hope the march can re-invigorate the whole campaign for change in the running of the club so that the fans and the city can be reconnected with it’s heart. We feel this is the first time in almost 5 years that the need to do ‘something’ is overwhelming and we hope the march can channel the frustration and anger felt by fans and convert it into a positive movement for change.

TF: What are the arrangements for the protest march?

T4C: The march is legal and sanctioned by the council and the police. It has been organised and paid for by individual donations and groups giving up their time to ensure every interested fan has the opportunity to exercise their democratic right to march. There are no ulterior motives other than to make the owner and the football world aware that not all Newcastle fans are content in doing nothing.

The gathering point for the march will be on the pedestrianised part of Northumberland Road (next to the City Hall) from 1030am on 19th October and will proceed through the city centre, past the ground, and end at the bandstand in Leazes Park where there will be one or two short speeches before dispersal for the match.

The march has had a full health and safety check, will be accompanied by volunteer stewards and match-day policemen with rolling road closures as it progresses.

Certain groups are getting their own banners made and anyone wanting to bring their own are welcome; all we ask is you keep the slogans non abusive. There is plenty of scope for fans to quote back the regime’s lies and failures without being offensive. If you’re bringing bed-sheets, we ask that you put them through a spellcheck ;-)

Remember, this isn’t a march aimed at hurling abuse at the owner – that will achieve little and won’t look great in front of the watching media. What we want is a good-humoured protest march attended by caring, sensible fans who want to express their hope in a brighter future. We not only want to call time on the Ashley regime but make it known to the wider football world that we want responsible ownership where the fan-base can be respected and consulted. We can only do that by behaving responsibly and by policing ourselves so that others can see we are worth investing in.

TF: How many supporters do you predict will join the march?

T4C: That’s a question we can’t answer! What we can say is that a couple of dozen people, who run websites and social network groups have provided the opportunity for Newcastle fans to show that they care about the club. If you are a season ticket holder who feels helpless or a boycotter who feels disenfranchised, we want you to march in the belief that you can assert your self-respect and pride alongside others. We want this march to be inclusive, encompassing many parts of the NUFC demographic.

There has been press coverage since the papers got wind of possible fans’ action weeks ago, so there’s no doubt they’ll be there. What we hope is that the march is well attended so that they know there is a groundswell of opinion that says fans are willing to get involved in shaping the future of the club.

We can understand people being skeptical about the march and this is as much a symptom of the way Ashley has reduced us down into infighting, as it is to those anonymous people who want to denigrate people in 140 characters via twitter.

In the past, what we have needed most and lacked the most, is faith in ourselves. It’s a simple choice really, if you’re happy with the way the club is being run, managed and funded then stay at home and don’t march; if you are not happy, show you want better and march.

TF: Every time I look, there seems to be a new supporters group being formed (mainly online), tell us about TIME 4 CHANGE – what does it want to achieve? 

T4C: Indeed, there are many supporters groups out there, but we are NOT a new group as such. We stress that we are a coalition of some of the more established one’s over the last few years and as such, will remain independent and do our own things which range from humorous, irreverent looks on the club, to giving match reports and player news to being one issue pressure groups.

As we have stated, the ownership issue is the one issue that unites us all in calling for fan solidarity in a Time4Change. Amongst the groups, it is generally felt that there already exists the framework for positive change at NUFC, via the work the Supporters Trust has pursued since its inception (several trust members are involved in T4C). However, for whatever reason, a lot of this work goes unreported and because of this, their campaign has arguably lost momentum and drifted from the public eye. We hope that the #Time4Change March and any possible movement that grows from it can help reinvigorate and put to the very top of the agenda, the common goals many of us share not only with the Trust, but with football fans in general. It is with this in mind that the Trust have been invited to speak at the end of the march.

In short, if the Time4Change coalition can grow and unite as many groups as possible then it can be a movement which works in tandem with the Trust. If their membership swells because of a multi-pronged approach to affecting change then the long-term goals of us all – at the very least, responsible and accountable ownership – can become nearer reality.

TF: Who are the organisers behind TIME 4 CHANGE? What support do you have?

T4C: In some ways we have answered part of this question in the previous one.

There are no people with any professional or commercial interests in Newcastle United involved in Time4Change, nor are there any people with ‘media profiles’.

This is in effect, an attempt by concerned fans at a grassroots level to provide the opportunity for other fans who are extremely concerned by the club’s direction to come forward and march in solidarity and hope. To this point there have been no open mass meetings and therefore we aren’t imposing upon fans a full agenda of protest as we don’t have the mandate to do so.

As we are a coalition of groups, we all have a different amount of people who ‘follow’ our groups via the social networks and as we have progressed others have come forward and offered their support. Significantly, The Newcastle United Supporters Trust has offered their support and agreed to circulate details of the march to their mailing list and totally understand why this is taking place. We are gaining endorsements; but what we need is for the fans to turn up on the day to show we all really care about the club and want to see it progress.

TF: Some supporters are wary of joining protest movements because previous supporters’ protests have been perceived as being poorly organised and embarrassing. How will TIME 4 CHANGE be different?

T4C: This protest is properly organised and we have faith in the fans who attend to conduct themselves in the right manner. We appeal to all fans to come forward and march to ensure that it is successful.

The only previous mass supporters protests we can recall in recent times were in the aftermath of the Keegan resignation in 2008 at the Hull City game, when quite understandably, there was much vitriolic anger. But most of these were NOT officially sanctioned. This created a somewhat toxic atmosphere outside and inside the ground that day.

We think the climate is different to 2008. What we want is a successful, incident free march and then everyone who is attending the match to go inside and make it one of the best atmospheres worthy of a top fixture. We have given guarantees to the police that we will not organise or call for any protest that will contravene the stadium rules or break the law.

However, we do want to make a point in front of the cameras and the watching millions. With this in mind we are calling for fans to take to the match white handkerchiefs (even serviettes/paper will do) and upon the teams entering the pitch prior to the kick off, waving them in the air to signal that we are ‘calling time’ on the Ashley Regime. This as you know, is a simple form of protest usually practiced on the continent to signal fans disapproval. After that is done, we want everyone to back the team all the way.

This simple form of visual protest will be reliant on many people, whom for whatever reason, did not make the march, but gives everyone the opportunity to show they too think it is time for change.

This ‘white hankie’ protest would show the TV audience that the fans do have a valid voice and opinion but also that they refuse to turn their backs on the team. It is this passion and untapped potential that we hope one day will appeal to more responsible and receptive investors. This is something that could grow and carry on into further games, home and away. It costs virtually nothing but is symbolically and visually significant.
TF: What happens after the march?

T4C: Many people say ‘be careful what you wish for’ – ironically it was something Freddie Shepherd said when Ashley first sniffed round the club, but we should not be afraid of the future! To ensure that we get responsible and cooperative ownership in the future, we believe that fans have to be organised and have a coherent voice.

The March can be but a starting point in getting people together again, but let’s not forget there is a framework already in place, ready to be built upon.

We can’t make too many bold predictions as to where T4C goes from here, because in reality it depends on those who actually come forward and are willing to be proactive. There are all sorts of possibilities that could spring from this, but certainly within the group of people who have organised the march, there is a hope that this can be the start of a concerted coordinated campaign to put fan power and regime change on the agenda.

We have faith that we have provided, via the march, a sensible alternative for fans to show that we have had enough of being taken for granted and exploited.

We hope the readers will join the march on October 19th and show that we not only deserve, but demand, our voices to be heard. It’s Time4Change at NUFC. United we can do it!

Signed, Chris McQuillan, Duncan James, Brian Hall and Graeme Cansdale (on behalf of #Time4Change)

Personally, I agreed with the idea of a march, but I found that after reading this Q and A, I have found a firm resolution that this is our best starting point with which to effect change. The idea of creating solidarity among fans once more after being divided over the past few seasons really appeals to me, and I would hope it appeals to a lot of other fans.

What do you think? Is the march a good idea? Will you be attending? Has this Q&A shed some light on Time4Change? I’d love to hear your views.

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Southall slates Pardew. Join the queue!

Not liked by Everton legend

Not liked by Everton legend

I’m not in the business of promoting what former players of other clubs say about Newcastle United. However, when someone like Neville Southall speaks, you listen. The former Everton goalkeeper played nearly 750 games for Everton, won 2 First Division titles, as well as 2 FA Cups. So it is fair to say, he knows a thing or two!

Southall has been scathing in his criticism of the excuses that Newcastle United manager makes up for defeats or poor performances, and I am delighted that someone else has agreed with me on this score. Alan Pardew is embarrassing in post-match press conferences after a poor performance. Instead of telling it like it is, which more often than not would be “We waz s**t” he reverts to tired old clichés and wafer thin excuses, and Southall, like us, has had enough. This is what Southall had to say,

I have doubts about the manager. Alan Pardew makes excuse after excuse when they lose.

“Even before they played Manchester City he was blaming Yohann Cabaye because he was supposedly on the verge of joining Arsenal.

“He’s one of these managers who writes notes. I don’t understand why managers need to write notes. Can’t he remember 45 minutes of football?”

He was less than critical of the Newcastle United fans though. This is what he said,

“I always loved playing Newcastle. It was always a game I looked forward to because their fans were brilliant. They turn up whether the team is top of the league or bottom of the league.

“The team have always played the right way. They’ve had some brilliant players and managers, Kevin Keegan, Alan Shearer, Bobby Robson – even if he couldn’t get your name right, he was brilliant – one of the best in the history of British football.”

I’d go even further by saying that we have one of the most loyal fan bases in world football, but while a lot of Newcastle United fans see their loyalty as a sign of strength, I happen to take a different view. However, there can be no doubting the passion with which Newcastle United supporters follow their club, I just wished it translated into better match-day atmosphere as St James’ Park has been embarrassing for quite some time now.

When you’re home support is being drowned out by Hull City fans. You’re in trouble. That’s another discussion for another time though.

What do you think? Is Southall justified in his criticisms of Pardew? What do you think of Pardew’s post-match comments after a poor performance? I’d love to hear your views.

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Former Toon legends hit out at club

Holding back the enemy

Holding back the enemy

The current state of Newcastle United Football Club is upsetting for all fans. From the working class 9-5 who lives for his weekend fix of football, right up to former players who used to represent the club and still count themselves as fans.

Following Steve Harper’s testimonial on Wednesday night, a few of these former players shared their opinion on how they felt about some of the decisions that are being made at the top, and needless to say, they were not impressed.

Rob Lee was among those who shared his thoughts, and he was particularly scathing about the decision to appoint Joe Kinnear as the new Director of Football by saying,

“Kevin Keegan sold this club to me when I joined. If Joe Kinnear was speaking to you, are you going to join this football club. I’m not so sure….. They aren’t coming. Players don’t want to join Newcastle anymore.”

Former Toon striker Andy Cole accused Mike Ashley of “lacking ambition” and that some of the decisions that were being made at board level were “upsetting the punters”

Finally, record goal scorer Alan Shearer, who had a brief spell as manager of Newcastle United in 2009, said that he felt that the 1996 team that almost won the Premier League title under Kevin Keegan was “the best any Newcastle fan will see in his lifetime” but added that the club should aim for either the F.A Cup or the League Cup, stating that “the fans here deserve it”

What is also interesting to note is that a few former players have went a step further in their criticisms of Mike Ashley. Rob Lee and Faustino Asprilla have recently been seen endorsing the Mike Ashley Out Campaign and are among other high-profile former players who have been very critical of the owner. Others include John Beresford and Robbie Elliott who have taken to social media to vent their displeasure at Mike Ashley following the poor summer transfer business by the club.

Surely Mike Ashley must be concerned about the growing tide of discontent among Newcastle United fans, especially now that high-profile former players are coming out and being so vocally critical of the Newcastle United owner. Questioning his ability and ambition in such a public way will only give movements against him more momentum and validity.

Personally, I think this club will never have any shred of ambition until Mike Ashley is out of this club. If you are of the same mindset, and you want to lend your support to a movement that is designed to see Mike Ashley removed from our football club then I suggest that you follow @Mike_Ashley_Out on twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with the groups developments and see how you can support your football club in a truly meaningful way.