Drifting without purpose, the Marie Celeste of Football – 52000 lost souls. That is Newcastle United.
We have all read many of the ever growing number of articles criticising the Mike Ashley regime. This criticism includes an apparent unwillingness to invest in players, Alan Pardew’s managerial ability and the lack of motivation in the team, culminating in relegation form for most of 2014.
Newcastle United, an oxymoron if ever, seems unique as an entity in not wanting to have a vision to share with players, fans and the world at large. This lack of identity and basic goals is at odds with any aspiration to build a successful organisation with committed employees (the squad) and customers (the fans).
My focus is the fans’ perspective. Like fans the world over we are a reasonably knowledgeable lot and can appreciate strengths and shortcomings. But our overriding concern, from my perspective, is that we have no context. We don’t know what our club is really trying to achieve.
So we are left with observing a secretive owner, a manager of questionable ability and a demotivated team. The climate in the stadium is becoming increasingly toxic and it is hard to visualise any end of season successful re-building programme (whatever that means) with Pardew at the helm. Why would high potential players want to come to NUFC other than to play in the Premiership, earn decent wages and put themselves in the shop window? Like us, they know that, at the moment, there is no future.
Contrast Liverpool’s owner’s determination to hang on to Luis Suarez with Mike Ashley’s zeal to sell off our talent without any indication of what he expects from our once great club.
Against this background you have to laugh at the journalists and pundits who talk of the unrealistic expectations of The Toon Army. How many clubs, without a domestic honour for nearly 60 years, would fill their stadium almost to capacity for most games and have the 10th largest attendance in Europe. We stand out in the Euro league table as the club with no trophies.
I’ll watch the Champions League and feel as much affinity with Bayern and PSG as I do for the notionally English teams with their foreign owners and smattering of home grown players. But we do have a bond with the English Team’s fans. And maybe it’s this bond within our own fanbase that really keeps us going.
So where do we go from here? I guess that most of us will continue to bitch and moan about the regime and its zero transparency. We’ll keep going to St James’ amid dwindling attendances. We won’t mobilise a boycott because it is too difficult and big Mikey is impervious to pin pricks, though we all know how thin skinned he really is.
It amazes me that the oligarch or sovereign wealth funds didn’t find their way to Newcastle, a one club city with incredible local and worldwide support. When Man City were beating us 4-0, with nearly 10 minutes to go, can you imagine St James’ Park emptying like The Etihad. No, we would be like Liverpool, celebrating with the team at the very end.
So what would get us onside until we get the owner we deserve?
A clear purpose and sense of direction from the club
A manager that inspires
A team that gives everything and tries to entertain
For the fans to be regarded as an important stakeholder
Not too much to ask for this sinking ship of souls?
(The ship is famous for having been discovered on 5 December 1872 in the Atlantic Ocean, unmanned and apparently abandoned. Mary Celeste, with a history of misfortune, was said to be “cursed”.)