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Newcastle United: What Would Rocky Do?

8 years ago

So Newcastle United will retain the services of a manager who has clearly lost the support and confidence of huge swathes of Newcastle fans.

Clearly mid-table mediocrity without the inherent ‘risk’ of Europa league fixtures suits Mike Ashley just fine and therefore Alan Pardew fits the bill perfectly.

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They also reiterate that the Premier League remains the priority and the cups are seen as something that is detrimental to league form. This made me think about the examples cited, namely Wigan and Birmingham.

Wigan Athletic achieved 0.85 pts per game prior to their first FA Cup match and 1.15 pts per game after their cup run had begun.

Birmingham City achieved 1.1 pts per game prior to the start of the FA Cup and 0.88 pts per game after their cup run had begun.

So what does this tell us? Well not a lot actually! The sample size is far too small and could simply be random variation, rather than any defined pattern. What I would say is that the ‘analysis’ from Newcastle is fundamentally flawed and far too simplistic. As such, their conclusion that cup runs are detrimental to league form is not based on any facts whatsoever.

This leads me to consider the motivation behind these conclusions. I see two alternatives, both of which are extremely concerning for any fan of the club.

Option 1

Nufc do not employ any experts in data analysis whatsoever and base business decisions on half truths and received wisdom. This would put us at a fundamental disadvantage to pretty much every other Premier League club, as anyone who has read any of the myriad books on data use in football would be able to testify.

Option 2

Nufc know full well that a cup run isn’t necessarily damaging to league form but are dismissive of the cups anyway! My opinion is that this means they either have a staggering disregard for their customer wishes, or even worse, a malicious contempt for our wishes and a desire to eradicate any joy for supporters.

As I say, neither option is palatable for any fan that wants to see Newcastle at least try and punch our weight in the English game. So what is to be done as a fan?

Well one of my favourite films is Rocky IV, I know purists prefer the original but for me the one with Ivan Drago, the big Russian, is the guiltiest of pleasures.

My favourite scene is during the fight when Balboa has been getting his arse handed to him for the first few rounds before landing a lovely hook and cutting the Russian. His trainer yells in Rocky’s face, saying, “You cut him, if he bleeds he can be beat!”  Meanwhile the big Russian describes Rocky as, “a little piece of iron.” This succinctly shows a change in the psychology of the battle with the seeming underdog showing the unstoppable bigger more powerful opponent that they can be hurt.

I think this is a good analogy for Nufc fans. Ashley is like Drago, seemingly invincible and steamrolling all of us NUFC loving Balboas but he bleeds and can be beaten. How do we do it? Well I think a continuation of the atmosphere against Cardiff from the get go next season is a must. Imagine continued and sustained berating of a manager who in the eyes of the majority of fans has no integrity whatsoever and an owner with zero ambition or warmth toward the biggest asset his club has got.

I believe it would affect league form and most players would be looking for an exit strategy. I relish the thought of the ice running up Ashley’s spine as we hit the bottom of the league before Christmas. Ashley would be faced with a stark choice – continue the direction of travel and experience relegation, sell up, or change policy.

Relegation hurts but we have been there before and we will survive again, I believe it would hurt Ashley more, as his cash flow and advertising takes a hit. Selling up would hurt Ashley too, as again he would lose his advertising and would be unlikely to recoup his full investment. The final option would necessitate some reasonable investment and genuine ambition in the cups.  Faced with the alternatives I would wager that Ashley would be brought to heel by the fans and you would see a full strength side out in round three!

Of course we fans could just continue to congratulate ourselves about our incredible loyalty while continuing to be bent over by Mr Ashley….your choice!


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