Thoughts and reflections of our trials and tribulations
Posted on September 1st, 2011 | 37 Comments |
I’ve spent much of the morning nursing a hangover after yesterday’s debacle, and trying to organise my thoughts and come to some decision on what on Earth happened in the past few months.
Like all of you, I’m racked with disappointment, anger, frustration but most of all betrayal. We pay our hard earned cash for the privilege of watching those 11 lads play in the black and white stripes, to sing our heart out and ultimately to support the club we have stood by for so many years. There was one time when hell or high water wouldn’t keep me away from the Cathedral on the Hill that so dominates our skyline and now I’m finding it a struggle to check the news of a morning to find out how the board of Newcastle United are going to insult the loyal Geordie nation.
My daily routine is fairly basic. I wake up late morning, make a cup of tea, come back to my computer and check the usual blogs, News Now and then start checking my emails. Depending on the events, I’ll plan out an article for publication around evening time. During the transfer window, my phone becomes my greatest friend and I often don’t even wait to get on the computer to see what’s happening at this wonderful club.
That routine has been disrupted by something I can only describe as borderline apathy – I simply don’t have the strength to check those news outlets and when I finally pull up that strength, it’s done with a lot of anxiety. Kind of like checking your bank balance in the hope that you have won the lottery and it somehow found it’s way into your bank without you claiming it, and those negative digits are all gone – only you recognise it as a fools hope.
The transfer window has left almost every fan drained of energy and, frankly, sick. We have sold Andy Carroll for a British transfer record but Carroll had one thing that money couldn’t, can’t and will never be able to buy – passion. You will never see Carroll busting a gut to get into the 6 yard box in a Liverpool shirt in the same way he did wearing our famous number 9. You won’t see it because he just doesn’t have the same commitment as he had for us – it’s that simple.
There’s also a point that not many people seem to realise: our strike force was weak long before the departure of Carroll.
When we were relegated, the only striker we sold was Obafemi Martins. Owen, Viduka, Lovenkrands all left (and in the case of Lovenkrands, rejoined) on a free as they were all out of contract. In the championship we temporarily bolstered our forward line with Marlon Harewood on a 6 month loan and Leon Best in the January window for a reported £2m. Harewood went back to Aston Villa, the team that confirmed our relegation to the then Coca Cola Championship, and we were still left with a rather thin forward line.
In the Championship this wasn’t a problem thanks to lesser competition. We saw goals from Caroll, Nolan, Lovenkrands, Ameobi, Routledge, Barton, Ryan Taylor, Steven Taylor, Simpson, Jonas, Enrique, Coloccini, Guthrie, Harewood, Geremi, Ranger and Duff. Lesser competition left for goals coming from all over the pitch – although Simpson’s “shot” was misconstrued as a cross by a certain Dutchman.
Last season – our return to the Premier League – saw us dominate headers, with Carroll reaping the benefits of Joey Barton’s right boot, and Nolan collecting Carroll’s knock downs to rise to the club’s top scorer – but we struggled. Once Carroll left, we found it difficult finding the back of the net and even more difficult to adapt to the loss of the Gateshead born striker.
Arise Leon Best! The man who nobly stepped up to the plate and took on the role of our main goal scorer. Unfortunately his fine run of form was halted by an ankle injury that saw him sit out the last few games but Kevin “Funky Chicken” Nolan rallied his troops and we ground out result after result, falling only at the final hurdle to defeat West Brom and instead finished a mere point from our dirty cousins.
So, hopefully you understand my point: Our strike force has been weak for two seasons now, we just didn’t realise it until the sale of Carroll.
Now that trip down memory lane is over, the question we all need to ask is a surprisingly simple one: Why on Earth we’ve had to wait for that £35m sale to begin looking for a new striker?
The only ‘bolstering’ from the Carroll money is a free signing from the relegated West Ham United – Demba Ba. At West Ham he showed he knew where the net was, signing in January and scoring 7 goals in 12 starts; a record to rival Leon Best’s Premer League statistics of 8 goals in 13 appearances. I have confidence in Ba coming good for us as I had with Best and I don’t doubt he’ll get a hat full of goals this season assuming he gets a decent bite of the cherry.
So our current strikeforce is more or less the same as it was in the Championship – Ameobi, Lovenkrands, Best with the addition of Ba. Ranger probably should be included but given his recent actions, I don’t think he’ll see the pitch at SJP for some time. The glimmer of hope comes with Chris Hughton’s most influential signing and that is Hatem Ben Arfa – assuming he can get a good run of games without injury.
It would be foolish, however, to ignore the signings – and they’re good signings. Yohan Cabaye, Silvain Marveaux, Demba Ba, Mehdi Abeid, Gabriel Obertan, Rob Elliot and Davide Santon. Cabaye has proven himself to be a perfect combination of Barton and Nolan – a proverbial bulldog on the pitch, not afraid of a tackle and an argument; Marveaux has the first touch of an innocent lady picking flowers in a lush field; Abeid has pace, trickery and bags of potential; Obertan is fast and loves a good build up play and the rest we will have to reserve judgement on.
Likewise, it would be extraordinarily foolish to ignore the players we bid for with mere hours left in the transfer window. Bryan Ruiz from Cheick Tioté’s former club FC Twente who was on the receiving end of a £10.5m bid from Martin Jol’s Fulham and Liam Ridgewell from former Newcastle boss Chris Hughton’s Birmingham supposedly with Nile Ranger going in the opposite direction.
We supposedly had offered Ruiz more money than was offered by Fulham but if that was the case, why didn’t he sign for us? Reports later came out suggesting the NUFC board scoffed at his wage requests and that was the end of that and who knows what happened with Ridgewell. I’d imagine that, like this transfer request, it was simply rejected – although a tad hazy, I’m certain David Craig said that the offer was accepted. We’ll probably never know the true story.
Today, of course, we get news that Alan Pardew is to be punished by the FA – seemingly for requesting that Howard Webb remains unbiased. (Something that would have no doubt seen him stripped of his UEFA license if we were playing Manchester United.) Pouring yet more salt into our already open and lime drenched wounds, we also find out that Mike Ashley is stripping the iconic “Newcastle United” sign from the East Stand.
That last point is an important one. The East Stand is the oldest standing part of St. James Park since the redevelopment of the Gallowgate end, and for as long as I can remember (specifically since the stadium was rebuilt) that sign has been there. There was opposition to the renaming of the stadium and the fact this came out of the blue after such a disappointing final day of the registration period merely adds insult to injury.
There are talks of protests, boycotts and fan meetings and I honestly can’t see any of this helping. Ashley only put our club up for sale because we were relegated – not because of the lowest attendance in our new stint in the top flight against Tottenham Hotspur. A boycott is tantamount to biting the hand that feeds you and given that we’re being fed mere morsels, I’m sure we can all agree that is not the correct course of action.
Those who attended the Fulham game were greeted with cards on each seat encouraging people not to stand otherwise they would be thrown out of the stadium. A friend of mine who attended the Fulham game, and also a Level 7 expatriate, was thrown out after Best’s first goal because he momentarily stood up. Admittedly he was in the process of getting up as he saw Cabaye’s shot but then instinct took over and he shot to his feet cheering.
No “Please sit down.”
Just “Get out.”
And so he was escorted out of the Hallowed ground and instead headed over to the packed Strawberry to drown his sorrows with a pint and watch the match on Sky Sports. Whilst he was there he bumped into fellow Level 7 expatriates who admitted a similar thing happened to them, one of which was told to keep the noise down and were then thrown out after trying to start a chant.
I wonder how long it’s going to be before Ashley takes heed of our slightly southern and smog filled compatriots and hands out letters to season ticket holders requesting they only raise their voice after a goal.
Mike Ashley may be working wonders with our finances but at what cost? It seems fairly clear that the Ruiz and Ridgewell bids was solely to silence fans and hand over justification for them to say “we tried but it just wasn’t to be!”
It’s not difficult to understand if Ashley is putting transfer fees back into the clubs debts and setting aside money for improvements, as seems to be the case, and that is something that I personally support fully – if the running costs need an injection of cash, it’s the obvious source of funding to reach into. Unfortunately, you would also think – and some of you might think I’m talking crazy talk – that it would be the bare minimum removed from the received transfer fee and the rest would go onto incoming players.
Pardew himself has been unusually quiet and who can blame him? Ashley and Llambias are the “dynamic” duo who are at fault here; they hold the cash and therefore they hold the aces. Keep in mind that all Pardew does is tell the board who he wants through the door and then Ashley and Llambias bring them in. Often times the first time Pardew meets his potential players is when the day comes to sign the players.
This is long enough as it is so I’ll leave you with Joey Barton’s parting blow to the owner:
“Nice to see MA [Ashley] and DL [Llambias] come through with their promise to reinvest AC [Andy] money, 59m net profit from transfers in last 5 seasons…..ambition???”
“feel sorry for Geordie nation, them 2 nuggets don’t deserve that club or it’s following. Am sure they think people r stupid.”
“And again it would be left to those magnificent fans to pick up the remnants of their once great football club.”
Well said, Joey.