As many of you will be aware, a motley collection of fan groups angered by Mike Ashley’s mismanagement, repeated dishonesty, a perceived lack of ambition and Newcastle United’s general underperformance on the pitch will be on the march before Saturday’s early kick-off against Liverpool.
On the other side, Alan Pardew in his recent interview with Sky Sports’ “Goals on Sunday” painted a picture of Newcastle United fans as small town, simple minded football obsessives who actually damage the club with overreactions like this, as well as being too financially unsophisticated to understand that Mike Ashley has put over £200 million into the club.
But who is right?
Pardew has suggested that we’re “not in a bad position” but that the fans have unrealistic expectations that the club should be competing with the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United:
“We’re not in a bad position, but we’re not where our fans want to be. Our fans want to be with Man United and Man City. Until we get a Gulf state take us over, or a billionaire from the darkest parts of Russia, we’re probably not gonna be able to compete with them and that’s a fact” said the Silver Supremo.
Ignoring the fact that Ashley is now as rich as many billionaires in “darkest Russia” with a fortune of around £3 billion (making him the fourth richest owner in the Premier league), not to mention the fact that fans of ANY team would want (but not expect) to see their club competing with the two clubs Pardew mentioned, let’s put this in context. Despite having what is estimated to be the eighth most valuable squad in the Premier League (and seventh last season), Newcastle United only narrowly avoided relegation last season. If it happened, it would have been the second relegation since Ashley took over the club in the summer of 2007. In Ashley’s six years at the club it has finished 12th, 18th, Relegated, 12th, 5th and 16th, and are currently lying in 11th. Wanting better than that is NOT the same as expecting to be like the Manchester giants competing for the League title or Champions League places at the very least. It’s an absurd and insulting statement.
Rather, I would say that most fans would realistically expect us to be more like the club who are closest to ourselves in terms of the strength of our squad, Everton. Even in that, Ashley has failed miserably though. In the same period since 2007, Everton have finished 5th, 5th, 8th, 7th, 7th and 6th with much the same resources, and owners who look like penniless tramps next to moneybags Ashley. If that had been our record, I very much doubt there would have been anything like the same rumblings of discontent, though it is about more than that. It is also about the lies over just about everything, and the progressive Sports Directification of the club, whether it’s the stadium, the club’s merchandising (which is now run by Sports Direct) the huge amount of free advertising etc, all of which has affected the club’s finances and boosted Sports Direct’s. Then again, I’m just a daft Geordie who gets a bit lost when it comes to fancy stuff like finances, though just like Pardew said, I never forget to slip on a full Newcastle United kit whenever I pop down to my local Waitrose!
Looking at the other side, a spokesperson for fan group the Newcastle United Supporter’s Trust had the following to say about the march on Saturday:
“It is universally accepted that the greatest asset Newcastle United has is its loyal and faithful fans which help make it one of the best supported clubs in Europe (the 10th best in Europe last season). It clearly demonstrates the frustration that fans are feeling when they feel the need to go to the time and expense to organise a march in support of change in the hierarchy at the club.
“We believe that regardless of whoever ‘owns’ the club, it is right and proper that supporters have an influence in the running and future of the club, preferably via a financial stake in Newcastle United. Supporter ownership of clubs is successful throughout Europe and there is no reason why that should not be replicated at Newcastle United.”
Well it’s hardly surprising that a representative of a fans group should see the fans as the club’s greatest asset, rather than a liabilty who makes life difficult for managers with their over expectation like Pardew. Even in the days of global TV football and huge broadcasting rights deals, fans are still the greatest asset of any club only now it is worldwide. At Newcastle United however, they are completely taken for granted and constantly having their intelligence insulted by Ashley, Pardew (and Llambias before he left).
Reopening the supporter ownership debate is perhaps unwise, though hardly surprising for someone from the NUST after their ill fated attempt at a fan takeover back in 2009-10. It is premature at the very least. If the objective is indeed regime change, is this what any prospective future owners would want to hear before they’ve even registered any interest? I doubt it.
In conclusion, I would say that Ashley’s character flaws are so ingrained that it’s highly doubtful he will change significantly with regard to Newcastle United or anything else. It would have to be a Scrooge like transformation (with or without ghosts) and short of that, things will continue to get worse. If his card isn’t marked, he will get even more arrogant and dismissive of his customers and take us even more for granted. As far as what will work best in changing Ashley’s behaviour, or making him think about an exit strategy, as I’ve mentioned already in this piece, Mike Ashley is all about money, it’s what he cares about more than anything. Therefore, i think it would be best to hit him in the pocket by boycotting the club though some don’t agree with this, feeling it can harm the club on the pitch. It’s a dilemma but I feel that Ashley has already damaged the club more than any boycott can, and will continue to do so if he isn’t checked.
But for the moment we aren’t looking at an organised boycotting campaign, we are looking at a march. Whilst it has it’s advantages in terms of raising awareness, it also has it’s potential pitfalls. If I were from Ashley’s PR army, I would be watching it very closely for ways to discredit it as a lunatic fringe and the organisers should be very careful and scrupulous about this. However, as the some of the organisers have said themselves:
It’s a start!
Sat, 19th October: Gather from 10.30am before the game on Northumberland Road, junction with College Road. Near to Newcastle City Hall.
I have included a new poll to canvass your opinions on the march. It would e great if you could let us know your thoughts. Of course, you can also let us know in the comments section too!