This is a rather personal post and one that I’ve had in my head for some time now, it needs liberating, it’s a letter that I’d like to send to a certain Mr Mike Ashley.
(To feature like Steve, send in your articles for our website to [email protected] – all views those of the author etc etc)
The Chairman, owner etc of Newcastle United Football Club, of which I’ve become rather fond over the years. It remains my closest link to the city of Newcastle, which for a number of years was my physical and spiritual home, so, here goes…
Dear Mr Ashley
Or may I call you Mike, as I feel I’ve come to know you a little since you took ownership of the club. Not close, I have to admit, but still despite your reluctance to talk to me (or indeed anyone outside of the boardroom or very intimate circle), I still feel I owe you a letter to at least pass on my views.
I know business isn’t so tough in the world of Sports Direct and I’m the first to agree that what you’ve built there is yours to be enjoyed as the fruits of your labour. However, when it comes to a famous traditional football club in the north east, it seems that sentiment doesn’t get in the way.
It’s not the way you’ve recruited unsuccessful managers – or indeed removed popular achievers like Kevin & Chris. Occasionally as fans, we’ve actually agreed with you (Big Sam) but, more often than not, you seem to have ploughed on regardless with appointments (Dennis & JFK, Alan Pardew and latterly John Carver).
Most of us remember the early days after you’d bought our beloved club. The heady drinks at the Emirates, the scarf around the neck, underpants shots and purchase of Coloccini (the love of my life??? – only for 90 minutes on match days though!) – what larks eh?
And then? It all seems to have turned sour, sadly. Financial management fooled us all for a while and we were impressed with the hard negotiation over Andy Carroll; not so with Yohan (but maybe he had something else in sight – actually wanting to win a trophy or two?) and the disappointments of waiting until transfer deadline day to finish with err…………nothing.
But, and it’s certainly a big BUT…it’s your money and it’s your advertising space now, rather than a magnificent cathedral on top of the hill in a fabulous Georgian-sculptured city centre.
Comedy has featured very heavily in your period of ownership – including Leicester away (twice!) – and we give some thanks to the light-heartedness of removing the St James’ Park sign in the middle of the night (thank god for social media eh?). We also howled over the Talksport interview with your returning ‘director of football’ (and the new tiny molluscular signing, Shoal Ameoba). Further jolly japes included a well respected and highly liked new sponsor – Wonga.
One of the saddest aspects of the last few years isn’t what’s happened on the pitch, it’s been what’s not happened off it, and that clearly has a massive influence on so many people.
As we write today, the media have now got the message about the running of the club – that’s of course when they can actually get into a press briefing. They have a grudging respect for financial stability (although I believe the sword of Damocles hangs over the club in the form of a personal loan) but now see how much bitterness and colic is at the centre of a once-admired and loved club.
When the nationals start to question the very essence of the club there must be something very wrong.
Indeed, it’s not the lack of trophies that lies at the heart of our concerns as fans. We’ve endured lack of significant on-field success since before you were born. It’s actually the heart and the soul of a once-proud club and a region that takes pride in something that WAS its own. Not now.
Now is the time of zero-hour (or 90-minute) engagement; of angst, of hurt and of a total lack of belief and hope.
Hope – it’s one of the key words in the DNA of human beliefs.
With great skill you’ve taken that away from all those who are proud of being a black ‘n’ white fan. I bet at this stage you’re thinking: “Self pity, it’s my money and my club” & “I didn’t build a successful business by whinging and moaning” or words to that effect.
So, what I’d really like to say is very simple and clear. Give us the leadership that you clearly have in buckets in your other businesses (not with the same methods, mind – we’ve already had too many zeros this season). Here’s my thoughts/ideas if I was as brilliant a businessman as you and had enough money not to worry about where my next meal is coming from:
- Love what you do in relation to the football job or give it up as too stressful
- Tell us that you really do like the Geordie fans and try just a little to win us round
- Find a new sponsor asap (or before they run out of money) and make them one we can be proud of
- Find someone (I’m willing to apply) to run the club, who loves it, has business acumen, dedication and a free will to….
- …encourage the manager to try hard in the FA Cup, League Cup and, not as John said on Saturday, spend time with the teacup (I guess you’ll be fining him for all those he broke in the dressing room eh?)
- Keep the good things – reciprocal agreements with other clubs on away tickets and the reduction of season ticket prices (even if the members’ prices continue to rise each season ;))
- Give the Fans at Y(OUR) club something to be proud of. I don’t believe for one minute you would not love to be sat at Wembley watching the team play.
- (self indulgent hope/dream) – Give someone like Klopp the job at whatever price, tell him it’s a three-year project and hand him enough money to do it
It’s probably too late to get back onto the Christmas card list of at least 50,000 people, but it’s not much fun getting none. I hope (that word again) that you or your band of advisors can see the real opportunity that exists at Newcastle United because, for the first time, I can see signs of real restlessness. I’ve been a season ticket holder for many years and despite all of the previous disappointments (and there have been many) I can honestly say that this is the worst I have ever felt, the most soulless season and perhaps the tipping point.
So, that’s what I’d like to say and for many of you reading this then I understand that you might say, why bother?
Football is a passion for many, but in a city like Newcastle, as Che Guevara once said:
“It is not just a simple game, it is a weapon of the revolution.”
What do you think?