Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter St.James’ Park
In the aftermath of this season’s second Tyne-Wear derby a weather-beaten cynic amongst the throng was heard to wryly quip that never was an end more aptly named than the Gallowgate.
As he trudged down from the cathedral on the hill, side- stepping the infamous horse puncher and his unruly friends raging against the army of HM’s finest high vis wearers, it was hard not to feel some sympathy with the chap. Other less world weary, yet similarly ashen faced attendees amongst the crowd remarked that the derby defeat and the equally shambolic scenes off the pitch throughout the city centre summed up the season their once proud club is having.
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Whilst on the pitch the Magpies were shapeless and lacking in any fluidity, off the pitch just as worryingly mediocrity seems to be gaining creeping acceptability in the stands and in the dugout, all it seems in the name of stability.
Long gone are the days when the LMA manager of the season talked of “fast-paced front foot football”. The post-match wisdom he shared with the congregation of journalists present was that it was the Europa league’s fault, some players were tired, others were not up to speed, the pitch was too green and the sky was too blue.
Thankfully this week the Notting Hill Carnival was absolved of any blame. Alan Pardew, selfless as ever. But we have been here before with Newcastle United.
Pardew’s protestations are eerily similar to those heard at the end of the Souness’ reign, as the clouds began to darken and the injuries piled up. Lest anyone forget this is also the job that paid for Allardyce’s Casa St James’ villa, almost finished off Joe Kinnear, and re-inflicted Alan Shearer back on the television viewing public.
So what is it that makes the job so hard? Is it the fan-base’s fault? Is it the players? Foreigners? Oil Barons? Alex Ferguson? The pitch being so green? Linesmen?
It took Ruud Gullit five months to figure out what was wrong, “there is a curse on this club,” he said. In his post-match press conferences he frequently was heard talking of, “events flipping out of his hands,” and bemoaning a catalogue of injuries, illnesses and suspensions whenever Newcastle lost. At one stage he even brought in a priest to bless St James’ and changed the colour of the socks the club wore to white to remedy matters.
History can testify that none of it worked and this regional powerhouse, with its massive stadium, so often full to the rafters, this club which has broken world transfer records, has had a trophy cabinet which remains gathering nothing but dust since 1969.
While Gullit thought the club cursed, Pardew feels the club just cannot compete. This club which last week was named among the 20 most valuable in the world by Forbes, Pardew feels “can never really fulfil the expectations of the fans” because of financial reasons.
These are the same financial reasons that haven’t stopped clubs like Middlesborough, Swansea and Birmingham City getting their hands on silverware in recent years.
The alternative to the protestations of financial hardship and curses, is a good deal less palatable. Tellingly in my opinion last July, Sunderland and Middlesbrough’s academies were awarded Category One status, while Newcastle were initially graded as Category Two, a situation that had the potential to seriously hamper their ability to attract young English players. This may change at the end of this season but it is one of many things that should make supporters of this club stop and think about their current stewardship.
Then we have the Wonga deal. It’s the best deal Newcastle have had for a shirt sponsor ever, according to Derek Llambias. LLambias has talked about Wonga, and he says they are a cut above a pay-day loan company:
“It seems to be flavour of the month to criticise the deal but you have clubs with betting companies and drink companies.” “Wonga are above the pay-day loan companies. They are the cream of that group.”
“They have not asked us for our database, they are not trying to sell loans to our database, they are trying to show they are a financial institution that is trying to give something back to us.”
“We should be privileged we have a sponsor who is paying fair money and who wants to help.”
Newcastle United, the 20th most valuable football club in the world is lucky to have Wonga sponsor them. Privileged even.
This is the club’s MD and this is how this man sees the football club. Privileged to be sponsored by “the cream of pay day loan companies”.
In his pre-match press conference last week, Pardew thought that the response to the derby humiliation was, “heavy handed”. This is the club’s manager and this is how this man sees the football club.
He sees what was mild criticism of the worst performance against the wearsiders in nigh on 40 years as, “heavy handed“. This is how they see Newcastle United Football club.
A Manchester United supporting friend of mine watched our derby last weekend. The following Monday he said that something struck him during the game. He said that as he looked at the stadium, at the fans and at the players, he said it occurred to him that Newcastle United deserved better.
Newcastle United deserved better than Wonga, better than talk of curses, better than Mike Ashley, better than category 2 academy status, better than poor set pieces and an increasingly static Shola Ameobi.
Perhaps dare I say it better than Alan Pardew.
Newcastle United deserve better.If people have forgotten that, or no longer think that, then all hope really has been abandoned.
Danny has his own blog and you can follow him on Twitter @DanDiego7
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