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Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United – It’s Not A Democracy It Is A Dictatorship

7 years ago
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This week has revealed much about the current regime.

The appointment of Joe Kinnear has oddly clarified many things. Kinnear is clumsy with the media, cannot pronounce player’s name and is still burning with rage at the media, but we all knew that already.

The real clarity has come from seeing Mike Ashley play his wild card, giving everyone a glimpse into how he plays the game. Even long suffering Newcastle fans, myself included, have been caught out by his strategy. He has revealed that he is not only unafraid to shake up the pack (we knew this already of course) but that nobody is beyond the cut, himself excluded of course.

It’s anyone’s guess how Pardew felt when he heard the news of Kinnear’s appointment being blurted out and I can only imagine what Graham Carr thought as he heard the news that he too would be reporting to Kinnear. Carr, a man who has worked tirelessly scouring the clubs around the world, learning hundreds of players’ names and scrutinising their profiles in fine detail to find players for the team he loves, now answering to a man who does not have the courtesy to learn even Cabaye’s name – a player that has not been out of the news for the last few weeks.

But it would be more interesting still to know how Llambias felt. Outwardly, he was a close ally of Ashley’s, continuously being asked to support unpopular decisions and justify them to the media (on rare occasions). There are suggestions in the press that he did not fully support the Kinnear appointment – perhaps the first sign of disharmony with Ashley. For that, he finds himself out of a job, and although this was on the surface a voluntarily move, the nature of his departure can only lead to the conclusion that Kinnear’s appointment was both a shock and to his displeasure.

So what have we learnt this week? Well nothing about Joe Kinnear that we did not already know. It is easy to caricature Kinnear the football professional and forget he is Joe Kinnear the man. At a human level, I can only feel sympathy for him. This is a man that has struggled to find himself in the footballing world for a decade and has fought with serious health issues and personal tragedy. On a professional level I feel pity for him. I can’t blame him for taking the job but the evidence strongly suggests this will not end well for him or indeed anybody. Already, the pressure has shifted away from Pardew, after last year’s dreadful season, and on to Kinnear who has been in the job less than a week and has managed to alienate almost everyone. Perhaps this is Ashley’s master plan. Already I have warmed to Pardew like a lost child to a parent; familiar, stable, knows what day of the week it is.

What we have learnt is that Ashley is truly ruthless. Ruthless in a way we had barely glimpsed. Forcing Keegan out, sacking Hughton, renaming St James Park, it all seemed to suggest a bloody mindedness. But the undermining of his closest ally at the club is perhaps the biggest shock of all. Nobody is spared. Ashley is not running a democracy, he is running a dictatorship. He is the captain; he steers the ship, he drops the anchor, he wields the sword, and tragically we will all sink with him if it goes down.

We have also learnt that Ashley is blameless, in his eyes. His desire to add an additional layer of scrutiny to new signings suggests that he blames, at least in part, the transfers that have been made under Pardew, Carr and Llambias. Why else would you add Kinnear as a ’sanity check’ against any request to sign a player. It is not the lack of signings and investment that caused the problems last year, it was that they were not good enough.

If Ashley thought a lack of investment was the problem then, presumably, the cheque would be open and players would be flying through the doors. And presumably if he blamed Pardew he would be gone in a flash. Somewhere along the way, Ashley has reached the conclusion that all three of his senior managerial staff at the club take the blame. If this was the conclusion, is Kinnear, a man that barely knows his own footballing history, the man to perform the checks and balances and put things right?

Finally, we have learnt that Ashley is angry. Very angry. Seemingly, those that have angered him will pay, including those close to him if he wishes it so. With this I can at least concur. I was angry too last season as we capitulated at home to Sunderland, to Liverpool and to so many others. Those wounds still hurt but Ashley is in a position to make someone pay for them. Apparently he is angry and blameless for any failure, therefore there is only one conclusion he can draw – others must pay.

Perhaps we have learnt he also cares. But much like the lost child, Ashley is lashing out in all directions, blaming everyone, seeking revenge. He is lost because they changed the route and didn’t tell him, not because he took his eyes off the destination.

I will start the season in August as I always do; blindly full of hope, passion and a sense that things might just go right this time. Perhaps this is how everyone starts a new season, Ashley and Kinnear included. But both should be aware that if things start badly on the pitch, where it matters, it will not take long for things to implode. This week’s uproar is just a tremor.

Kinnear should take note of what has happened this week. Today he may be Ashley’s new confidante, tomorrow he may be hung out to dry. And Ashley should also take note. He may own the rights to the club, the stadium, the brand that is ‘Newcastle United FC’, but he does not own the heart of this city nor the fans that make it beat.  While Ashley may think he is blameless, that is not a judgement he is allowed to make. There is only one Newcastle United and it is not the contract he has hidden in a safe in London. There is nobody on the board that can fire Ashley but it is by the people that are Newcastle United he must be judged. So far, it’s not looking good.

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