It feels like Mike Ashley has gripped both of Newcastle United’s wrists and, whilst jerking its hands towards its face, is saying ‘stop hitting yourself’.
With no Newcastle player investment at all since January 2013 and, I’d guess, no intention of investment, he needed to recruit a fall guy. Joe Kinnear came in to take the flak for buying nobody in the Summer and then, spookily, departed just after the January transfer window with a sum total of a loanee in and our best player out. Great!
Remember when we went mental after Craig Bellamy scored against Feyenoord?
Ashley does exactly that whenever he sees Newcastle’s balance sheet. He scans it slowly until he sees that it shows no transfer fees going out and, with us safe from relegation for another season, his investment is also safe. He then pulls his T-Shirt over his head, runs down the office and slides on his knees, destroying a water cooler in the process.
We should apologise to Mr. Ashley really; we’ve been brought up on goals and excitement, not sound fiscal performances. We should scrap going to games altogether and just turn up on a Monday afternoon to hear the financial results read out over the tannoy. Then, we should all react the way we did when Phillipe Albert scored the fifth against Manchester United in 1996 whenever a slight profit is announced. Who needs to beat Sunderland once in a while when you’ve got a free Sports Direct brochure (that you’ve actually paid for but didn’t notice)?
For me, it’s never been about winning the league or watching as an open top bus goes by with some silverware glinting in the late May sunshine; mainly because I’ve never seen that happen. It was all about Shearer wonder-goals, Beardsley’s jinks, a Laurent Robert blockbuster, a Ben Arfa flick, or those last five minutes as you nibble at what’s left of your fingers, watching our 1-0 lead threatened as the opposition take their sixth corner in a row.
I’ve never seen us win anything, so sitting in mid-table with nothing left to play for isn’t the issue. So why does nobody seems to care what happens to us for the rest of the season? Ashley doesn’t. The players don’t seem to. Pardew might if his job depends on it, but it seems like it doesn’t because he’s doing as he’s told like a good little employee.
Ashley hasn’t been spotted at a game for ages, much like many real Newcastle fans who have gradually become detached from the emotions that used to prevent them from sleeping the night before a game. Now, they can barely be bothered to look in the newspaper the next day to see how many goals we lost by. Pardew is a puppet in all this – not allowed to bring anyone to the club and having to sit by as those who are under contract leave for a lot less than they’re worth.
If we finish 17th, so what? If we finish 7th, so what? By Ashley’s rules, anything above a top 6 finish and we’d have to start spending money that we don’t have! Don’t dare get to a cup final – or even the fourth round in fact; the fans will start thinking about the ‘S’ word. Ashley doesn’t even want to start dealing with that after that 5th placed finish and all that extra paperwork he had to do as a result.
Has the abuse we’ve directed at Ashley had the opposite of its intended effect? Instead of driving him away, is he now out for revenge? Have we deliberately lost the last few derbies? Have we reached safety and are now deliberately losing all our remaining games? How else can Ashley protect his investment and punish the Geordies at the same time?
Whatever’s happening, it’s worth knowing that one of the bookmakers is offering odds of 6/1 on Newcastle finishing in the bottom ten of the Premier League this season. Sounds like a licence to print money to me.