Ashley

What’s next for NUFC?

Will his departure change NUFC's fortunes?

Will his departure change NUFC’s fortunes?

After an extended break from updating this blog I thought the recent departure of Alan Pardew to be just cause to flex my writing fingers to give a brief update on my stance as to what this actually means for the future of Newcastle United. Not that anyone cares of course.

Let me start off by unequivocally stating that Alan Pardew’s departure will have no meaningful impact on the way Newcastle United play football, or the long-term direction the club is heading in. Anyone expecting Frank de Boer, Rafael Benitez or even Michael Laudrup to take on the top job in North East football will be bitterly disappointed when the new ‘head coach’ (Ashley is not giving the new man the top title by all accounts) comes into Toon. In different circumstances men like these, and hundreds of talented managers like them across the globe would have been delighted to take on a project such as Newcastle United, which then begs the question, why won’t they come? Anyone familiar with my line of thinking will know the answer to this – Mike Ashley. We’ll get to him in a minute.

Quite frankly I’m surprised that Pardew left the club because under Mike Ashley he had a job for life. He may not have been the flavour of the month in the fans’ eyes but he was working at the biggest club he’ll ever work for and had relative job security compared with Crystal Palace who go through more managers than I do hot dinners. My guess is that even Pardew had had enough of having his hands tied behind his back. He’d had enough of taking the flak for Mike Ashley’s constant failings at the club, and he’d probably had enough of the scripted s**t that he had to roll out every pre-match and post-match press conference about how “we was a fret” even after 90 minutes of never hitting the target. Don’t get me wrong I am not absolving Pardew of anything, this man robbed a living while he was manager of Newcastle United and will (rightly) go down as one of the worst managers we’ve had in living memory (yes, even worse than Sam Allardyce and Graeme Souness in my books) and not only that, but the very fact that he was complicit in Mike Ashley’s running of the club negates any possible sympathy that could otherwise be evoked for him. The man is charlatan, a snake oil salesman and he will be found out for the pathetic manager he is when he inevitably relegates Crystal Palace this season and I for one am delighted to see the back of him. However, nothing is going to change.

Alan Pardew’s departure from the club will not signal change for Newcastle United. You may think I am being negative with this prediction but I am afraid it will (most likely) be the case. Mike Ashley has had his fingers burned when it comes to managerial appointments in the past; he chose the popular options of Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer – these appointments did not work due to Ashley’s own failings but his own lack of control over these iconic figures played a part in that. He then chose a safe pair of hands in Chris Hughton, but the fact that Chris believed a lot in player power meant that Ashley couldn’t keep him in the job, especially when his cohorts i.e. Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan and Jose Enrique were calling for better bonuses it was clear that their respective times at the club were always going to be short-lived. Finally he appointed from within his own circle of trust in the ilk of Joe Kinnear (twice) and Alan Pardew. It is through this model that Ashley has had the most stability (despite Kinnear’s short reign as both manager and Director of Football) and don’t be surprised if it is through this model that Ashley appoints again. The list of friends Ashley has in the game is short, however, with only the like of Dennis Wise, Glenn Hoddle and Terry Venables of any real repute, and I’d doubt any NUFC fan would be happy with any of those appointments for a myriad of reasons.

So that leaves Ashley with another option – appoint from within the club. Save for the fact that Colo hasn’t got his coaching badges, I’d have bet my bottom dollar that he was going to be the next manager at Newcastle United. He successfully ostracised and seen off the likes of Yanga M’biwa and Hatem Ben Arfa, all the while protecting the manager and by extension, Mike Ashley. Considering that only 2 years ago he was looking a way out of the club himself, this indicates a marked turnaround and is a demonstration of how much individual power he now wields at the club. Forgetting the fact that he is now a shadow of his former self and would no longer be starting but for the fact that centre half is a position we are stricken in, Colocinni is a man to be wary of looking into Newcastle United’s near future.

The most likely candidate for the job comes down to a choice of 2; John Carver or Peter Beardsley. Carver and Beardsley represent men who were previously held in high esteem at the club, but through their association with the Ashley regime are now no more than bought and paid for stooges. If Ashley appoints either man as ‘head coach’ the majority of fans will be delighted that a “Geordie lad” has the top job, while some of us will see it for what it really is – a continuation of Alan Pardew’s sterling (!) work at NUFC. Mike Ashley wants minimal fuss and a smooth transition. He doesn’t want to indoctrinate a new man into how he does things, he wants someone who knows his model of running a football club already, which is why my money is on either of these two being the next manager.

These are worrying times for NUFC, especially considering that Ashley has been gazumped in a struggle for shares at the club formerly known as Rangers. To my fellow Newcastle United fans I say this, be careful what you wish for and beware the Ides of March.

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End of season (almost) review

The boredom of mid-table obscurity

The boredom of mid-table obscurity

Well the season  is, thankfully, almost over. In years gone by, no matter how poorly we had performed, how disappointing our cup runs had been, or how pathetic our league finish was, I always mourned the passing of the Premier League season, and looked forward to the next one with gusto. I must admit that this is the 2nd year running that I am longing for the end of the season and willing the start of the next one to never come.

To some this will seem like an alien concept that is quite unfathomable, to others I will be putting words to how they already feel, but genuinely I am going to try to be as objective in my analysis of our season as I possibly can…who am I kidding? It was shite. Even the times when we weren’t quite as shite as we are now, we were still relatively shite. We relied heavily on 2 key players; Cabaye and Remy, neither of whom will be lining out in black and white next season, and without them, the true nature of how shite we are was exposed.

Amidst the plethora of pathetic performances we did manage to nab some excellent results and even some half-decent performances, so I will pay lip service to those now before launching back into my tirade – Liverpool at home, Chelsea at home, Spurs away, Manchester United away, Hull away (despite Nut-Gate) are all results worth mentioning. While we escaped from White Hart Lane following a miraculous Tim Krul master-class, and nicked 3 pts at Old Trafford in a season when even the likes of West Brom and Sunderland are winning there, the shine is taken off it somewhat. The reality is, we’ve had a mediocre season, and have been saved by the mediocrity of others coupled with performances from players who are either no longer here, or will no longer be here. Not exactly the stuff of dreams now is it?

There are some who will look at me and think I am on a different planet, “But we’re 9th in the league! How can that be a bad season?” To them I say it is not about where we have finished in the league, rather it is more about how we’ve finished there. At the start of this season, following our horror show last time out, would I have accepted 9th? I would have thought it an improvement yes. However, when one considers that at Christmas Newcastle United were sitting on 30 points – 6 points behind Liverpool, level with Spurs, 2 points ahead of Manchester United and a massive 20 points ahead of Sunderland – it becomes quite clear where the source of frustration comes from. An opportunity was missed in January to kick on and turn what has been a relatively bland season into a great season. The sale of Yohan Cabaye was an apt demonstration of what Mike Ashley intends to do with our club; secure safety before January, if that has been achieved then flog your best player and muddle on through to the end of the season. So yes, we are 9th in the league. So what? 9th isn’t a trophy. 9th hasn’t excited the fans. 9th couldn’t keep Yohan Cabaye from wanting more. What exactly is 9th? Nothing. Interesting to note, that with one game left we could still finish 10th. Top 10 means bugger all to me.

I’m not going to dissect the god awful run of form Newcastle United have been on since Boxing Day, we’ve all experienced it, and got riled up about it so I’m not going to raise it to the fore. Nor am I going to mention the blatant stupidity of Pardew for nutting David Meyler other than to say it is testament to the lack of class the man has as well as the unwillingness of Mike Ashley to part with his prized mouthpiece. The only thing I am going to say about the 2nd half of the season is this – expect more of the same next season. There are those praying that this awful run of form will see Ashley sack Pardew, or that when Remy leaves Ashley will splash the cash for next season. Think again. The squad we will start next season will no doubt be lesser in quality than the one we started this one with, with returning loanees paraded around “like new signings”, and with Shola inevitably getting a new contract to “lead with his experience” as he’s a real “goal-getter” (3 goals in 53 appearances since Dec 2012 would seem to question that logic…) and we will be told how we couldn’t get anyone over the blasted line, which is more like an insurmountable mountain to NUFC. We will also be told how we cannot financially compete with the likes of Southampton, and the goalposts on how many players we are after will change depending on the wind – Pardew says 3/4 this transfer window, Lee Charnley says 1/2 per calendar year – who do you believe? I am no soothsayer, or some form of mystic. Any NUFC fan who has a memory spanning longer than 12 months will know that we’ve heard this all before. The club doesn’t even put any effort into their lies any more because they know we will readily gobble it up without question..

Thankfully, at our last home game of the season, thousands of fans joined in with a walkout protest to show their disgust at the regime and show them that not everyone is willing to gobble up their lies. Thousands more applauded their efforts and stayed to provide a toxic atmosphere aimed at Ashley and Pardew. These people deserve our praise, but likewise so too, do those fans who have already voted with their feet and abstain completely. These fans, many of whom are former season ticket holders, and die-hard Mags, deserve to be commended. A special shout goes out to the fine folk at the Mike Ashley Out Campaign. They literally voted with their feet by putting on a protest march back in October, as well as providing a constant presence at home games all season (even in the pouring rain) and engaging in some self-deprecating humour with their “Magical Misery Tour” which saw an open-top bus parade for our fiscal security as a facetious look at how Ashley is running the club. They have taken a lot of flak from a lot of people all season, simply for doing what they think is right by our club.

The walkout seems to indicate that those who scorned protests in the past, are now slowly beginning to see the ever-growing need for change, and while walking out once may seem like a seismic shift, it is but a drop in the ocean and is one small step in a long journey that us NUFC fans need to travel together if we are to stand a chance of succeeding. But the message must always remain – we can succeed.

Even if you are of the persuasion that fan pressure can achieve nothing and that Ashley will not sell until he is fine and ready, you may be right, but isn’t it worth putting pressure on him? If that pressure makes him sell up a year, a month, a week or even a day before he otherwise would have done then surely that counts for something? A wise man once said that all it takes for evil to triumph is for a few good men to do nothing. Don’t do nothing. Not when our club is at stake.

This article is not really a season review. My articles have not really related to the football side of things, and I haven’t been able (or motivated) to write on a regular basis on the subject of NUFC. To me, this is my own personal reflection of how hollow and empty the football side of things makes me feel. I want to gorge myself on the subjects of transfer speculation, tactical permutations and specific performances but I won’t. Not while Ashley is in charge, because what stands as NUFC is not a football club – not my football club – but rather an empty shell masquerading as Newcastle United.

One day we will get it back.

Who is your ‘Player of the Season?’

NUST

NUST

As Newcastle United’s season comes crashing to a halt in a blaze of glory following quite possibly the worst second halves to a season from any recent Newcastle United team, the question that surely is on everyone’s lips is “Who has our best player been this season?” I am, of course, being facetious, as not many who pull on the famous black and white stripes of Newcastle United are worthy of the jersey.

However, this is one of many questions posed by the Newcastle United Supporter’s Trust in their end of season survey. Among others they ask you to comment on how happy you are with Alan Pardew as manager, with the ownership of the club and whether or not you as a fan would like to see some fan-based ownership model in the future.

In essence, it is a pretty good platform to air your views about all things NUFC at the moment and I know that a fair few of you will have some pretty strong opinions so don’t hold back. If you want to fill in the NUST end of season survey just click this link here

If that isn’t enough to let you blow off some steam, the Newcastle United Supporter’s Trust are also holding an open meeting on Thursday night to discuss the land-sale issue that threatens to lock the capacity of St James’ Park for the foreseeable future. If you want to have your say on what is a key issue for the future of Newcastle United, make sure you come along to the Mining Institute at 7.30 pm 1st May and make your voice heard!

Southampton horror show came as no surprise

Leave, both of you, for the love of God...

Leave, both of you, for the love of God…

I said we’d get a hiding and that is exactly what we got. From the first minute the result never seemed in doubt, and watching it I had a feeling of ‘how many goals are we going to conceded today’. The solid display of Rob Elliot was filling me with some hope that we could escape this game with a 2-0 and be able to scarper northwards with our tails between our legs, but not too badly beaten. Unfortunately, there was only so much Elliot could do, as he was dreadfully let down by the 10 players in front of him in what has to go down as our single worst performance of the season (and there have been some contenders this season) as we failed to threaten the Southampton goal in 90 minutes of football. If we were still playing we’d still not have gotten a shot on target.

Simply put, it was an embarrassment and everyone associated with Newcastle United should be ashamed of themselves.

Southampton are supposedly our nearest rivals in the Premier League, if that is the case what does that say about the utter chasm that currently exists between both football clubs? Not only is there a chasm in terms of quality on the field, but there is a chasm in the way both clubs do business. There is a chasm in the way both clubs develop their young players. There is a chasm in the trajectory of both clubs; one with an ever increasing upwards curve, one with a very predictable downwards one.

Some of the football on show yesterday, from Southampton at least, was mesmerising. It was quick, sharp, fluid. Look at some of the players they had on show – Luke Shaw, an 18-year-old academy product destroyed the ‘world class’ (note the sarcasm) Hatem Ben Arfa who had to be replaced at half time.  Shaw was not the only academy product, with impressive performances from the young full-back Chambers, midfield player Ward-Prowse and of course the ever improving Adam Lallana. Add to this the fact that Southampton’s academy has produced players like Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain and of course, Gareth Bale, it shows that with the right infrastructure, a club can build its future on the basis of their youth products. Something Newcastle United have failed miserably at.

Not only do Southampton develop their own talent, but they do clever business as well. The 11 Southampton players on show yesterday cost less than £20 million pounds, through youth development as well as clever business, with the likes of Boruc coming in on a free, and nominal fees paid for talented players like Jack Cork and Steven Davis. So not only are we being outdone by Southampton in trying to develop young players, but we are also streets behind them in terms of our dealings in the transfer market, despite the fact that there are still some people praising Ashley’s shrewd business in terms of transfers.

Look at the respective managers. While I’m not Pardew’s biggest fan, nor his staunchest critic, he is miles and miles behind Mauricio Pochettino in terms of quality. In every way possible, Pardew is the inferior manager.

If I had to guess where both clubs will be in relation to each other next season, I would say that Southampton, following another summer of investment and further development of their blossoming home-grown talent, I would expect them to further close the gap between themselves and the top 7 clubs. Whereas I expect Newcastle United, following a summer of flogging our best players and not replacing them with the requisite replacements, I see us closing the gap between ourselves and those languishing around the bottom of the table.

Football is both a beautifully complex, yet wonderfully simple game. In all aspects, other than increasing profit margins, we are getting it oh so woefully wrong.

Only one man is to blame. If you choose to blame individual player performances, or to slate the manager, you are missing the point. If you think it is futile to take action against Ashley, you are ensuring his stay at our club will be a lot longer than it would have been if you had have opened your mouth against him. Don’t sit on your tod and accept this bullshit.

I expected a hammering against Southampton. Since when is it acceptable for a Newcastle United fan to expect a hammering off Southampton!?!

Big club? No. A formerly big club which now has to re-evaluate everything it stood for. Because what it previously stood for – community values, pride in the region, passion, loyalty. All of these traits are being betrayed and replaced by profit margins and re-sale values.

This is not my club. This is not your club. I am scarcely even able to believe that it is a football club any more but a tacky advertising hoarding for the man who is destroying it. But by all means, keep filling his pockets. Keep buying his merchandise. Keep telling yourself that the next transfer window will be different. It won’t be different.

There will be some who tell you that 9th is a good season, and compared to where we will finish next season it probably is.

Time to take stock and ask – where are we going?

What is next?

What is next for NUFC?

Happy Monday people, as you may (or may not) have noticed, your ‘esteemed’ editor has been lying dormant for little over a week now for a number of reasons. Primarily due to shock following yet another derby defeat, our 3rd consecutive defeat to the Mackems for the first time since 1922/23. On top of that fact was the similarly significant departure of Yohan Cabaye, and the subsequent failure to replace our best player. As we sit in 8th place in the season following a dismal hammering at the hands of title contenders Chelsea at the weekend, pretty much adrift from the European places, and knocked out of all the cups, it would appear to be a decent time to ask – “where are we going this season?”

Many would suggest that sitting in 8th represents progress and stability, and while our cup failings are disappointing, they are forgiveable as we have performed reasonably well in the league. While others would suggest that Ashley has the club exactly where he wants them, not near enough the dreaded European places which so nearly cost us our league status last season, yet far enough from the drop that we could afford to flog our best player mid-season without replacing him.

Regardless of what your perspective is on our season, one thing we surely can all agree on is that our season is now over. The selling of Yohan Cabaye without replacement is as clear an indication of the lack of ambition currently emanating from SJP and the myth that we have a relatively strong squad has been dispelled. The injuries and suspensions suffered in recent times have rendered our paper-thin squad even smaller. We are lacking any form of quality up front, and Tiote’s absence meant that Santon, a supposed left back, had to perform against a Chelsea midfield who dominated Manchester City at the Eitihad. He didn’t disgrace himself, but the very fact that he was thrown in there shows how short of options we really are.

It may seem abhorrent to some fans to even think about protesting while we are in the top half of the table. These people’s thought around the club seem to ebb and flow with every passing result, showing no consistency in their mindsets. We could win every game between now and the end of the season and Mike Ashley will not change the way he runs this football club – he will still fail to adequately invest in the first team. We will still have an Academy that falls short of our local rivals Sunderland (and even Middlesbrough). We will still have an average manager, with average coaches. We will still have poor communication between the club and the fans – despite the fraudulent construct of the UEFA directed Fan’s Forum and the ‘best efforts’ of Supporter Liaison Officer/club spin doctor Lee Marshall.

Results will not change any of these facts. If anything, they will ensure that the club is mismanaged going further. Consider this. Would Mike Ashley have sold Yohan Cabaye had we been sitting 3 points off the drop? Not on your life. If anything, had our league form been suffering, we may have seen 1 or 2 additions to the first team squad. Compare last January’s business to this January’s business and that is the only logical inference. Ashley will spend cash simply to keep NUFC in the league – if that has been assured then the chequebook remains closed. Simple.

What can you do as a fan if you do not like the way the club is run? Well in my last article I informed season ticket holders that if they wanted to cancel their season ticket, they would need to inform the club by the 31st January. By all accounts, plenty of season ticket holders have decided not to renew their tickets for next season, and it will be interesting if one could get a hold of the number of cancellations this season.

If refusing to go to SJP is too much of a sacrifice, you can still stick it to Ashley by boycotting all outlets and retailers within the ground. Do not buy any food/drink, club merchandise, or match-day programmes. It will all eventually add up.

Want to get more involved in activism? The Mike Ashley Out campaign are calling on volunteers to help with their campaign against Mike Ashley. If you want to check out the Mike Ashley Out Facebook page you can find the link here 

Our season is over. In all likelihood, every season from now on could well take on this same pattern. Safe in the league by Christmas, out of the cups before the end of January, while our best players go off to pastures new to win silverware and compete at the highest level. Let’s take some action now, let’s get our bums off our seats and defend what this club stands for. Together we can make a difference.

Cabaye sale represents cross-roads for NUFC

And he wonders why no-one takes him seriously

And he wonders why no-one takes him seriously

Our Director of F*** All, Joe Kinnear has not been well received at Newcastle United, ever since his second coming at the club where he announced himself as wiser than any Newcastle United supporter way back in June 2013. Thankfully, in the intervening period he has refrained from making public announcements, and his dialogue with the fans now comes in the way of programme notes that he certainly has no part in writing, or even dictating. Supposedly, Kinnear was in Germany looking into securing the loan signing of Luuk De Jong, but we have our doubts whether he even managed to get the Tom-Tom switched on. Anyway, childish insults aside, it would appear that Kinnear’s credibility is about to take another knock, as fans were assured that no top players were to be sold in January affording us the ‘strength in depth’ that has been preventing any incomings this transfer window.

Despite these assertions, it was agreed last night that Cabaye will indeed be on his way to PSG for a fee ‘significantly higher’ than the £14 million that they first bid for him. Pardew had repeatedly emphasised how vulnerable non-Champion League clubs are when it comes to keeping their best players (as he always does, funny how Everton’s manager Martinez never showed that vulnerability, in fact they have just signed Baines up to a new contract) and he came out yesterday saying that he was “not confident” in keeping Cabaye, no wonder as he most likely knew at that point that he was faced with a future without his star man.

Of course, the real problem is not Pardew whimpering about how vulnerable we are – after all he has had his fingers burnt by Ashley before when he claimed Carroll was not for sale only for Ashley to flog him when top dollar came in and has done again by selling Cabaye from under his feet – so naturally Pardew will cover his own backside. The real problem is not how useless and ineffective Kinnear is at his job – we all knew he was a borderline alcoholic with tendencies that one would suspect of a dementia patient – so naturally the blame cannot lie with him either. The real issue, and I will repeat this until I get through to the apologists, is Mike Ashley.

The issue is not about Cabaye leaving.  The issue that should be on the tip of everyone’s tongues is why he is leaving. I mentioned the situation regarding Leighton Baines at Everton, easily regarded as Everton’s top man, just as Cabaye was easily regarded as ours. Similar situations in that respect. The speculation surrounding Baines and a possible move to Manchester United to follow his old boss also mirrors the speculation surrounding Cabaye’s possible step up to a bigger club in a European arena as Arsenal were chasing his signature in the summer. Similar situations in that respect as well. Both clubs are (or should be) top 7 clubs, knocking on the door of the big boys, but never quite getting there. However, the manner in which both clubs are run is quite different indeed. While Martinez strives to gatecrash the top clubs and strive for European football, Pardew has already shown his disdain for European competition. While Martinez does not wax lyrical about his top players to try to evoke media pressure and speculation about their futures, Pardew has essentially been pimping Cabaye out to anyone who would have him in his comments to the media. And crucially, while Kenwright has amply demonstrated his ambitions for a club like Everton (regarded as smaller than us not long ago) by offering his key player a brand new contract, Ashley has equally demonstrated his lack of ambition for our club by viewing our star players purely as commodities – every one of which with a price-tag on their head, with Cabaye being the latest of which whose price has been matched.

There are fans out there who will look at a £25 million pound transfer and rationalise it,  and see it as good business. These people will say things like “he isn’t as good as Mata, so to get £25 million quid is a good deal” or “well we only bought him for £4.5 million, so that is a healthy profit” but they are missing the point entirely. Pardew has admitted that our team is built around Cabaye, so the logical inference is that without Cabaye we have no focal point, and are a lesser team without him – obviously. Without Cabaye, we could also see a dip in morale in our squad, especially those who harbour ambition. Needless to say, selling your star player without an adequate replacement can hardly be seen as the most ambitious step can it? Cabaye is also seen as a leader, a spark who can ignite our attacking play. Without Cabaye we lack that creative outlet that we so desperately need.

We are at a cross-roads concerning the direction of our football club. The decision to sell Cabaye gives a clear indication which road we will be going down. Down one route lies a concerted effort to crack the top 6/7 on a year-in year-out basis which would require bringing in an adequate replacement immediately. On top of this we would also need to bolster the squad we already have to demonstrate proper ambition moving forward. Down another route lies perpetual mid-table mediocrity which would be keenly shown by failing to bring in someone of equal ability or better than Cabaye.

Personally, I did not think that we would sell Cabaye in this transfer window. As far as I am concerned Cabaye is of a class of player whom Newcastle United should have labelled as “Not for Sale” – he was our star man, he was our Leighton Baines. The contrast in how Newcastle and Everton have treated their star men in this transfer window is a miniature reflection of the contrast of direction of both clubs.

I have my own opinion on what road Ashley will take this club down. What is yours?

Club caught lying – again!

Fans group pleaded to cluv

Fans group pleaded to cluv

The Newcastle United Supporters Trust held their AGM on Wednesday evening – a meeting which I myself was present at. A number of issues were raised during the AGM and a number of various talking points had arisen. Obviously, one of the more pertinent talking points of the night surrounded NUST’s ban from the UEFA directed Fan’s Forum.

Peter Fanning – NUST’s representative on the Forum, and the ‘culprit’ who published the report – made it quite clear that prior to the Fan’s Forum, multiple discussions were held with the Supporter’s Liaison Officer/club spin doctor Lee Marshall and that he was informed that Newcastle United Supporters Trust intended to publish their own report following the Fan’s Forum as they felt they had a duty to accurately represent how the meeting went. Furthermore, the point was made to Lee that NUST felt that the official club minutes would not suffice in this regard. At no point did Lee Marshall demonstrate any displeasure with this arrangement, nor did he state that it was contrary to the supposed protocol that NUST allegedly breached.

At this juncture it becomes a little bit of he said/she said – with the club stating one side of the argument, and NUST stating the other side, leaving the outside observer to make up their own mind as to who is telling the truth. However, where the club get caught with their pants down, hand in the cookie jar telling porky pies is when the Football Supporters Federation intervened in the situation.

A representative from the FSF was at the AGM last night and gave his views surrounding the NUST ban. Needless to say, the words ‘disproportionate’ and ‘heavy handed’ were mentioned quite a few times. However, what I personally found most interesting is the club’s response to FSF’s letter stating their displeasure at NUST being banned from the Forum, and asking for clarification as to why this was the case – having been in receipt of the letter for over 3 months, the club is now denying that they ever received a letter!

What makes this even more laughable is the fact that not only did the FSF representative personally deliver TWO copies of the letter (1 for Lee Charnley, and 1 for John Irving) and not only did Norman Watson, Chairperson of NUST accompany him in doing so, but he also sent 3 draft copies of the letter to various different factions, who can certify its existence in circulation. For the club to then turn around and deny the letter ever existed is a testament to the lengths the club will go to in covering up, deceiving, and misleading not only the fans of their own club, but also national organisations who represent all fans.

Something that is also worth noting is that the representative from FSF liaised very closely with Lee Marshall in the stages prior to setting up the Fan’s Forum, and the FSF rep believed that Lee was in fact trying his best to make it work. Lee had asked the FSF representative to act as an independent observer during the first Fan’s Forum, but interestingly enough, he was uninvited from the second Fan’s Forum.

Was there any correlation between the FSF being effectively banned from the Forum and their letter of displeasure? If so, then that would corroborate the widespread feeling that the club had been in receipt of this letter all along and were lying when they claimed otherwise.

It is not as if we need any more evidence to suggest that the club, and those whom it employs are liars. We see it every time Pardew tells us he wants to win a cup, or that we are trying hard to sign someone. Or whenever Lee Marshall comes out with a fantasy figure to suggest we were the 2nd/3rd highest spenders in the calendar year in 2012/13. We know they are crooks. We know they are liars. We know they cannot be trusted.

It is just saddening when it happens time and time again.

Newcastle’s small squad filled with rubbish

1 rubbish player offloaded. Who's next?

1 rubbish player offloaded. Who’s next?

Newcastle United have a small squad. So any talk of selling any of our players must seem odd. However, there exists, in the Newcastle squad, a class of players who are either so far from the first team, or should be so far from the first team, that their presence in our 25 man squad is an absolute embarrassment which makes a cull of the Newcastle United first team squad necessary at some point in the near future.

The first part of that cull was put in operation with the decision to offload Jonas Gutierrez to Norwich City on loan with the option for them to buy him for £3 million in the summer. Despite loyally serving the club since 2008 I would have to say that he is a terrible player and should have been ditched quite some time ago.

Some might think this harsh but I would hold similar feelings for players like Steven Taylor, Gabriel Obertan, Romain Amalfitano, Sylvain Marveaux, Shola Ameobi, Papiss Cisse, Robbie Elliott etc. So there is a sizeable portion of our squad whom I don’t think will make the grade at our club.

However, we are in somewhat of a quandary as there is a fear that if we were to sell these players, Mike Ashley would not adequately replace them, and this is a concern that I myself would share, which is why I wish to retain these players in order to make up the numbers. While Mike Ashley is in charge we will always have a squad that makes up the numbers, rather than be competitive which is why most Newcastle United fans are reluctant to see any players leave.

This should not be the case. If a player is not good enough to play for the club they should not be here. They should be sold and then replaced with someone of a higher standard. Simple. I’ve heard some people make ludicrous suggestions that Mike Ashley’s transfer policy is much better than Shepherd’s – we don’t buy expensive players at crazy wages I will grant you that but we still make terrible signings even with the expert guidance of chief scout Graham Carr and what is worse, we refuse to sell them on even when they are proven to nothing but duffers.

Newcastle United’s squad could be faced with a crisis in the summer. Players like Cabaye and Colocinni – our actually decent players – are more than likely going to be on the move in the summer, Shola’s contract is expiring and Loic Remy will be moving on to pastures new after his lease is up. Our pathetically small squad will be even smaller, and still lumbered with the same tripe that currently masquerades as first team players.

Our squad is short of 3/4 quality players as it stands. With the fact that we are going to lose at least 3 players from that squad in the summer it would appear that we would then need 7 first team signings in order to bring it up to scratch and that is without replacing any of the rubbish in our squad. If we were then to sell someone like Marveaux or Cisse, they would then also need to be replaced, meaning that an extraordinary amount of signings would need to be made. It would make sense if 1 or 2 of those signings were made during the January window in preparation for this exodus that we will be faced with but given that we are half way through the January window I am beginning to think that, once more, Ashley is hanging our squad out to dry.

We are regressing under Mike Ashley. We have a poor squad, an average manager and the teams that we should be competing with – Livepool, Spurs, Everton – will be moving forward leaving us in their dust. Unless we begin to operate ambitiously in the transfer market we will always be among the “best of the rest” in mid-table. If you’re happy having a paper thin squad, your season finished in January, no cup run, and no chance of Europe, then perhaps you should give Mike Ashley a call. There may be a PR job waiting for you…

Latest survey is not good reading for Ashley

Quickly losing support

Quickly losing support

The Chronicle has, once more, taken its Big Toon survey halfway through the season to gauge the feelings of its readers on how Newcastle United’s season has been going thus far and how the fans feel about the likes of Pardew, Kinnear and Ashley.

While these results are not a conclusive representation of the feelings of Newcastle United fans, it can be taken as a cross-section of the Newcastle United support and it must be said that the last 6 months have not been kind to Mr Ashley, as the results show.

The last Big Toon Survey was taken at the end of the 2012/13 season, with a surprising amount of Newcastle fans putting their faith in the current custodian of the club. 23.6% of the fans were content, and massive 38.3% were content but waiting for results to improve. While a surprising 29.1% are content with Ashley, only 16% are content but waiting for results to improve.

In the last survey, 6.9% of fans said they were very happy with Ashley and that figure has dipped to 4.2%.

It is in the negative category where results have taken a massive swing however. In the last survey, 20.5% said they were unhappy with Ashley while only 10.7% said it was Time for Change. This time around those figures are much higher with 25.5% unhappy with Ashley’s stewardship and 25.1% now thinking that it is Time for Change.

As I said, many will doubt the validity of these results – probably because they did not bother to fill in the survey themselves – and I agree that they do not reflect the views of every single Newcastle United supporter, but they are meant to act as a representation of a cross-section of the support. With that in mind it would appear that many Newcastle United fans are opening their eyes to Mike Ashley and getting seriously fed up.

It is also worth noting that the survey was conducted before we crashed out of the FA Cup, thus ending our season in January, and if we see another window close without investment, it is beyond the realms to think that many more would become disillusioned with Ashley if that were the case.

Personally I dislike Ashley, I disagree with his method of running the football club. I disagree with the way he treats loyal fans with contempt. I disagree with the ‘Money is my God’ approach he takes to our football club. I disagree with his ‘minimum input, maximum output’ manner of managing the depth of our squad. I disagree with the sheer lack of honest communication that comes from the club. I can safely say that I probably disagree with nearly every aspect of Mike Ashley’s existence in a Newcastle United context.

I look forward to the next Big Toon Survey at the end of the season – which could effectively be taken now because we have little or nothing to play for now given that we have secured our Premier League survival. Ah, the joys of supporting Newcastle United…

Will lack of depth be Newcastle’s undoing?

Missing this weekend

Missing this weekend

The Newcastle United team basically picks itself when we are at full strength. That isn’t because we have a set of 11 players who are on such red-hot form that picking anything other than those 11 players would be sheer madness. No, it is because our bench/fringe players are so lacking in quality that Pardew has no other choice but to pick the same players week in week out – with the possible exception of  M’biwa, Haidara and Anita who could, on their day, stake a realistic claim for starting.

So needless to say, when injuries and suspension hit, some serious shuffling needs to be done, and as is always the case when a settled team has to shuffle around, sometimes cracks appear, as was the case in our FA Cup disaster last weekend at home to Cardiff. Arguably we had a strong enough team on show to win that game, but also in the same token, it could be said that by playing players who had just come through a long, arduous Christmas period, they were dead on their feet and needed to be rotated. Gouffran was one such example.

While the likes of Lee Charnley and John Irving, in the latest Fan’s Forum on Monday, intimated that the team on display was strong enough to win the FA Cup game against Cardiff, I personally disagree. I looked at the areas in which we rotated – Rob Elliott came in for Tim Krul, Steven Taylor came in for Mike Williamson, and M’biwa came in for the injured Colo. Santon moved to right back in place of the suspended Mathieu Debuchy and Massadio Haidara replaced him at left back. Papiss Cisse replaced Loic Remy up front, Anita came in for Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa replaced Shola. As I said before, with the exception of M’biwa, Anita and Haidara, the other replacements were simply not good enough, and will never be good enough to provide sufficient depth for a Premier League side.

Rob Elliott is a decent understudy, but is Championship level at best. He performed well enough when called upon last season in place of Tim Krul when he was suffering various different injuries and he seems like a model pro. However, he is no Harper/Given. He is no Krul/Harper. Newcastle United have a history of having quality understudies in nets and unfortunately Elliott, while good, does not seem like he will ever make the grade in the top flight.

Papiss Cisse is an enigma. Despite scoring 13 goals in his first 14 games for the club, I have had to come to the conclusion that he is simply a poor striker who no longer deserves to be at this club. While he may have scored last weekend, it was a rare, and rather bundled goal. His only other goals this season have come in the League Cup against Leeds, and a gift, quite literally, from the penalty spot against Stoke in the 5-1 victory a few weeks ago. Some argued that it was a dip in confidence that did it for him, due to Demba Ba being preferred up front on his own, and Cisse being farmed out to the right-wing, and when Cisse was played down the middle, the goals would come. I even believed that story myself, but alas it was a false prophecy. 8 league goals last season is testament to that fact. He makes poor decisions, makes poor runs, is not clinical enough in a one-on-one situation and has no other redeeming features that could possibly make him a decent option for the team. His hold up play is non-existent, lacks any aerial ability whatsoever, and unless he is firing on all cylinders, like he was when he first signed, is an absolute liability. As things stand, Shola Ameobi is higher up the pecking order than wor Papiss, and when that happens, you know you’re out of favour. Papiss Cisse will never make it at this club and I hope the club sell him and replace him with someone who could actually give Pardew a few selection headaches due to the options they bring to the team. As it stands, Cisse is giving the fan base a collective headache with his sheer inability to do anything of worth.

However, it is in defence where I worry the most. Mike Williamson has come from nowhere this season and has made himself No 1 centre-half this season. While I will continue to dispute that he is not really good enough to be considered our best centre back, I must concede that on form, this is indeed the case and long may it continue as he has been nothing short of a revelation this season. What has complemented this partnership is the return to some semblance of form of Fabricio Colocinni. He still remains a shadow of his former self, but alongside Williamson we have seemed to have found a combination that works well for us. With the emergence to stardom of right back Mathieu Debuchy we also seemed to have unearthed another gem this season. So you can imagine how worried I was last weekend – following the injury to Colo and the suspension of Debuchy – when I saw Steven Taylor lining out at centre back and Davide Santon lining out at right back.

Let me put this in unequivocal language. Neither Steven Taylor, nor Davide Santon, should be let within 10 miles of a Premier League defence. Steven Taylor is clumsy, lacks concentration, cannot hold the line to save his life, and is an all-round buffoon who reminds me of the heady days of Bramble and Boumsong *shudders*. Davide Santon lacks any of the attributes required of even the most basic, bog-standard Premier League full-back. He has no spatial/positional awareness. He fails 9/10 to close down the cross. Lacks any strength in the tackle. Has no aerial prowess. Needs constant guidance to hold the line, and isn’t even that good going forward from defence into attack, and when he does (and inevitably loses the ball) he takes forever and a day to get back into position. All of this is when he is playing in his preferred left-back position! He is even worse when he is playing right-back!

I am not even going to broach the subject of Hatem Ben Arfa in this essay because my feelings on him are akin to my feelings on Santon, and have been for some time. I feel that some of our fans are more lenient in their assessments of these 2 because they can do pretty things with the ball at their feet. Well I am sorry. I care more about what a player brings to  the team, than what he can do for his own ego.

As we head into a very difficult game on Sunday, against a side brimming with confidence, and brimming with goals, I fear the worst. Our midfield and forward line picks itself due to lack of depth, and we can pretty much guess which four will be lining up in our defence on Sunday (albeit the permutations may differ) and that fills me with dread. I would be amazed, and impressed if we escaped on Sunday with a clean-sheet and unless something is done either in this transfer window, or at the very least, the summer transfer window to rid our squad of some the inept mediocrity that is plaguing it – I haven’t even begun to lay into Obertan, Marveaux and Jonas! – and replace it with young, hungry, talented players who could actually provide something for our first team, I think we will be looking at mid-table and early cup exits for a long time to come.

Negative? Yes. Wrong? Not on your life.