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A Right Of Reply In Rob Elliot’s Absence

8 years ago
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The big talking point this past week was the [intlink id=”41789″ type=”post”]Rob Elliot article on The Mag website[/intlink] which, given that Rob had reportedly criticised Keegan, the fans and Ben Arfa, understandably went viral and provoked a stream of responses from Toon fans on twitter.

However, everyone is entitled to a right of reply, so it’s important to remain open minded before making any firm opinions on the matter, and many comments on twitter shared this view.

It’s been disappointing therefore that so far Rob Elliot has chosen not to use his right of reply and has yet to put his side of the story.  I realise that footballers can’t be expected to respond to every single piece of gossip made about them in the media, but on this occasion some fairly serious claims were made, so my initial hope was that Rob would address fan concerns and put his side of the story as to what specifically was said.

There are several points in particular which I feel merited a right of reply, namely:

1) It was claimed that Rob reportedly said that our level is 8th or 9th.  If any footballer was ever to use the phrase ‘our level’ then in my opinion they need to provide further explanation as to what exactly they mean by ‘our level.

My own opinion is that when managers, owners, and sadly even a few brainwashed players, start talking about ‘our level’ they are simply using such talk to disguise a lack of ambition.  The status quo in football is a fluid concept.  Nothing stays the same forever.  Just look at Liverpool this season.  Just look at Man United this season.  Or look at the rise of the original Wimbledon before they became a franchise and moved to Milton Keynes.

Certain things should always stay the same, such as your name, the colour of your strip, the town you play in or the name of your stadium*, but the ‘level’ of a club changes from season to season and decade to decade.  So any talk of ‘our level’ is fine if you’re referring to a snapshot in time to describe the current state of play, but not if you’re using it as a smokescreen to disguise a long-term lack of ambition.

(* As a ‘hypothetical’ example, I’d be fine with a stadium renaming if it was going to provide substantial income for player investment, but not if it was just going to be a free promotional exercise for a second rate sports chain.)

2) It was also claimed that Rob said that Newcastle fans think they deserve to be in the Champions League by rights.  This is an argument Graeme Souness first hinted at to deflect attention away from his lack of managerial talent, and sadly when speaking to fans of other clubs, unfortunately many neutrals seem to have been fooled into believing this about us.  So whatever Rob Elliot said or didn’t say, he absolutely needs to address this point.  Even if he does it indirectly in future interviews, he needs to help dispel this myth.

My own opinion is that the lack of success under Mike Ashley isn’t the reason for fan discontentment.  Far more important is the lack of ambition.  But there’s also another issue which is far more important and it’s something which Keegan recognised quite some time ago.  Keegan hit the nail on the head when he said the main problem was a lack of trust.  He’s absolutely spot on.  I can accept honest failure.  I actually used to look forward to Newcastle matches far more when Ossie Ardiles was manager than I do now under the current regime.  But I can’t accept a constant flow of absolute intelligence insulting drivel being spouted out by Alan Pardew and Ashley’s other puppets at the club.

Getting back to expectations, the reality is that most Newcastle fans don’t have the unrealistically high expectations of footballing success that many neutrals have been fooled into believing.  We don’t like being lied to, and we love to be entertained, but when it comes to our alleged expectancy of success, the reality is somewhat different from the smokescreen which Souness first created and which others have since perpetuated as a method to cover up for their own failings.

To give a few examples over the years, back in 1998 when Arsenal beat us in the FA Cup final, which set of fans was it that were singing their hearts out as they walked down Wembley Way?  Arsenal had just completed a league and cup double and yet judging by the reaction of both sets of fans, a neutral watching would be forgiven for thinking it was us that had just done the double.

Or a couple of years later in 2000 when we got beat by Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final, did we respond to this defeat by moaning about our lack of success?  No, we gave both teams such an excellent reception as they left the pitch that several national reporters glowingly praised us in the press the following day for our support both throughout and after the match.

So the reality is that we can accept failure far more readily than gullible neutrals have been tricked into believing.  In fact back in 2000 after the semi-final defeat, I remember chatting with a Chelsea fan on the train back to Newcastle, and I didn’t even regard getting beat as a failure.  I was just proud and grateful that I had been part of an amazing group of fans who were lucky enough to witness an excellent match where the players gave it their all and were just unlucky on the day not to get the result they deserved  (And they were actually unlucky.  I’m not using that expression in the excuse making way that Pardew uses it.)

So in reality, there’s probably an argument to say that as a group, we perhaps need to be more ambitious, and in an ideal world I’d like to see all Newcastle players encouraging this view.

3) The reported comments about Keegan and Ben Arfa were arguably the most contentious, but on these issues Rob is in a lose-lose situation whatever his actual opinion is.  He can’t acknowledge that Pardew is a far inferior manager than Keegan as you can’t publicly criticise your manager.  And obviously he can’t publicly claim that Pardew is a better manager than Keegan was as this would open him up to ridicule.  So whatever Rob’s opinion, from a PR point of view the wisest thing to do would be to avoid this issue directly and maybe simply make a mental note to at some point in future acknowledge the magic that Keegan brought to Newcastle.

Finally, one other point which I found very interesting was the fact that Rob reportedly claimed Alan Pardew is doing a great job ‘under difficult circumstances’.

Ignoring the absurdity of the first half of this sentence for a moment, every fan knows what those ‘difficult circumstances’ are, and this is one quote which I’d actually like to believe was true.  It would be nice to think that the players also recognise just how badly Mike Ashley, and his cowardly short-sighted lack of ambition, is holding back the potential of the club.

Anyway, getting back to the original article, footballers can’t be expected to comment on every piece of gossip in the media, but this was one occasion when Rob’s side of the story, if handled correctly, could have been helpful for smoothing over a disappointing situation.  Unfortunately though, it’s looking increasingly likely that Rob has decided to let this one go unanswered.  Of course he’s entitled to handle it whichever way he wants, and whatever his opinions I’ll continue to back him whenever he plays for us.  However, if Rob does remain silent on the story then it would be nice if at some point (such as a future post-match interview), he could, even if indirectly, address fan concerns over the claims made in the original article.

You can follow Emmett on Twitter @NUFCTips

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