It isn’t very often that I venture off the highway of football to enter the arena of art criticism here on NUFC Blog, but this is one of those occaisions and I am actually more qualified. Having been a figurative artist, a designer and also an art dealer in a very modest sense, I hope I can give a reasonably informed opinion without getting too carried away.
As you might have guessed from the photo accompanying thus piece, my current musing has been inspired by the recent unveiling of the Alan Shearer sculpture. Named ‘Local Hero,’ it is the second by local self-taught sculptor, Tom Maley for Newcastle United. It follows Maley’s Bobby Robson tribute of 2012, though it was actually commissioned by former NUFC Chairman, Freddie Shepherd before that in 2007 at an alleged cost of around £250,000. There is almost certainly some kind of club politics behind the nine year delay in its unveiling but that is not what this story is about. (more…)
Could it be that Steve McLaren’s future depends on what happens on Saturday? After we play Chelsea we have 17 days without a game and that might be the ideal time to change managers.
Of all the things Ashley’s bad at when it comes to running a football club – and there are many – one of his worst is his management of managers. His reluctance to change managers at the drop of a hat is not a bad thing in itself, but only if you have the right manager in the first place and, with the possible exception of Chris Hughton, I’d argue he hasn’t picked the right manager for Newcastle United since he bought the club.
Well, in the seven seasons we’ve been in the Premier League since Ashley bought the club, our average finishing position has been 12.57 (I’ve not counted the season in the Championship) and in the seven seasons prior to Ashley buying the club our average finishing position was 8.14. That might not sound like a huge difference but before Ashley we were, on average, a mid-table team who sometimes flirted with Europe whereas now we are, on average, a mid-table team who sometimes flirts with relegation. And of course in 2008-2009 we did more than merely flirt with relegation – we kissed it, fondled it and knocked it up behind the bike sheds.
The misery inflicted on us can’t be entirely blamed on managers of course. The players we’ve bought, the players we’ve sold and the ethos and sentiment of the club all had a hand in things. But football managers play a key role in the grand scheme of things.
Let us think this thought in its most terrible form: existence as it is, without meaning or aim, and yet recurring inevitably, without any finale in nothingness: “eternal recurrence.”
Friedrich Nietzsche – The Will to Power
I quoted the great proto-existentialist philosopher there because it seems such a perfect summary of all that Mike Ashley has to offer Newcastle United fans, in the past, the present and in the future; existence as it is, without meaning or aim, and yet recurring inevitably This includes the humiliation of being lied to and treated as fools on a regular basis, and paying hundreds of pounds for the privilege in many cases. Mike Ashley’s latest alleged overhaul is just as superficial and dishonest as the previous ones, which is why everything coming out of the club must be so strictly controlled. In his hubris, Ashley still hasn’t learned that a Premier League club the size of Newcastle United has to be like Rolls Royce, not Sports Direct. The faces might be different, but the thinking which has taken Newcastle United nowhere is still the same, recurring inevitably. (more…)
By his own admission, Rangers’ current caretaker head coach, Kenny McDowall, has been told not only that he has no say in the players they sign, but also that he will only have a limited input into team selection too.
According to McDowall himself, he has been ordered by Mike Ashley and his henchman at Rangers, Derek Llambias, to play ALL of the five new Rangers players (Vuckic, Ferguson, Bigirimana, Streete and Mbabu) on loan from Newcastle. Speaking in an interview at Rangers’ Murray Park training centre, McDowall, who wants to leave at the end of the season said:
“When I was given the job I was told players incoming and outgoing wouldn’t be my responsibility. I take the team and coach the team and I am more than happy to get on with it.”
Which is hardly news to both Rangers and Newcastle United fans. However when pressed on whether he was obliged to play them, he dropped his bombshell, replying:
With Mike Ashley’s recent attempts to take over at Rangers, and specifically his problems with the Scottish FA for having an interest in both clubs, it has often been said recently that Mike Ashley would be willing to leave Newcastle United so he can take over Rangers completely. There have been several hypotheses put forward for why he might do this
Champions League exposure for Sports Direct?
One which makes no sense at all is that Ashley would be willing to sacrifice Newcastle United and the English Premier League to expose his cheap sports goods in that great league of leagues, the Champions League. This would be once Rangers get through the small formalities of getting promoted back to the Scottish Premiership and then beating Celtic to win the Scottish Premiership title. This one is a complete non-starter though as there are two crucial things the proponents of this hypothesis have overlooked.
1. As both Newcastle United and Rangers fans should know from previous European competition, Rangers or any other side are only allowed to display advertising for their shirt sponsors and kit sponsors. There could be no pitch side hoardings or anything else emblazoned with cheap Ashley brands like Sports Direct, Firetrap and all the rest. Only UEFA sponsorship partners are allowed to advertise in both the Europa and Champions League competitions. (more…)
There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
Said Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and so it was with Newcastle United when they missed football’s greatest tide, leaving themselves bound in the shallows and miseries of mediocrity ever since.
To elaborate, in 1997-8, in the early stages of the biggest ever growth in football finances, Newcastle United were the fifth biggest football club in the world according to the Deloitte and Touche ‘Football Money League’ for that season. To make it seem even more unreal when we look at Newcastle United today, they were slightly ahead of Louis van Gaal and Bobby Robson’s Barcelona, who the Magpies had beaten 3-2 in the Champions League at St James’ Park that season. They also made the FA Cup final, after finishing as runners up in the Premier League for the second year in a row and signing the world’s most expensive player in the previous season. However the signs were already there, they also finished thirteenth in the League that season, the club lost some great players, Les Ferdinand, David Ginola, Faustino Asprilla and certainly not least, a 36year old Peter Beardsley. Kenny Dalglish was then sacked early into the next season and things were to get even worse under his successor, Ruud Gullit. (more…)
Most Newcastle United fans are now familiar with the sight of Newcastle United’s PR consultant, Keith Bishop, who seems to have become a permanent figure at the right hand side of Mike Ashley. But who is he? And how did Keith Bishop PR get the job despite being a small celebrity PR company that would be totally out of its depth with a large Premier League club? Finally, what does former Newcastle United managing Director Derek Llambias have to do with all this? Below are a few answers.
First to correct a few possible misconceptions from the local media though.
Keith Bishop PR has been described as “one of London’s most well-known PR agencies” by Mark Douglas in local newspaper, the Chronicle. In reality it is more of a C-Z list celebrity PR outfit than a proper PR company like Bell Pottinger, Edelman, Ogilvy PR and others who are commonly retained by top companies, including large Premier League football clubs. Bishop is more like a poor man’s Max Clifford, more suited to representing celebrity has beens and wanabees than a large Premier League football club. When asked by ‘Features Exec’ in April 2013“Who are some of KBA’s most well-known, or respected clients?” he replied “Newcastle United, Glasgow Rangers F.C., Flavia Cacace, Kristina Rhianoff and a few soap stars!” Other top clients of Bishop are Les McKeown of the Bay City Rollers (he’s still going!), Sven’s ex, Nancy Dell’Olio, Pat ‘the mullet’ Sharp and Lord Brocket from “I’m a Celebrity”, North East Sky Sports reporter David Craig and Gary Newbon. The figures of Keith Bishop PR also indicate it is a quite a small time operation too. Whilst it is true that Bishop can also boast of having Leeds United and Rangers on his books, like Newcastle, they are also something of a PR disaster area at the moment. (more…)
Is Mike Ashley using Giampaolo Pozzo’s selling club network of Udinese, Granada and Watford as a model for Newcastle United, Rangers and Oldham?
To begin at the beginning though, let’s take a brief stroll down memory lane. In the aftermath of Kevin Keegan’s acrimonious departure from Newcastle United in 2008, an under fire Mike Ashley made a statement. In this, among other things, he attempted to outline what subsequently became known as his ‘Arsenal model‘ for the club. In Ashley’s own words:
“My plan and my strategy for Newcastle is different. It has to be. Arsenal is the shining example in England of a sustainable business model. It takes time. It can’t be done overnight. Newcastle has therefore set up an extensive scouting system. We look for young players, for players in foreign leagues who everyone does not know about. We try and stay ahead of the competition. We search high and low looking for value, for potential that we can bring on and for players who will allow Newcastle to compete at the very highest level but who don’t cost the earth.” (more…)
Firstly, I should declare that this piece was originally inspired by another, one of several on Newcastle United’s finances by a brace of accountants who also happen to be Toon fans in the latest issue of fanzine, ‘True Faith.’ It’s a very good read.
Of course, it has been known for quite some time that Sports Direct don’t pay a brass farthing for all the extensive worldwide publicity they get from Newcastle United. This was something which was finally confirmed by the club’s financial director, John Irving, at the first ‘Fans’ Forum’ meeting between representatives of the fans, the club, and sponsors, Wronga.
However it certainly less well known that although Newcastle United have been paid the square root of b*ggerall for all those vulgar signs, they actually had to PAY Sports Direct half a million pounds in 2012-13 as shown in SD’s 2013 Annual Report (page 90 under “Related Party Transactions”). Here you will see that Sports Direct received a payment of £498,000 from “Connected Persons,” Newcastle United Football Club. (more…)
In the piece I ask if they are now in danger of losing their momentum after their first march almost a month ago, which made more of an impact than they might have imagined due to Mike Ashley’s childish and ludicrous overreaction to their little stroll through Newcastle before the game with Liverpool on 19th October.