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Comment: Sack Pardew Protests Sadly Played Straight Into Mike Ashley’s Hands

6 years ago
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I think the Sack Pardew planned protests played right into Mike Ashley and the manager’s hands.

Don’t get me wrong, all my sympathies are with the organisers of the protests but it simply comes down to tactics.

There are various problems in trying to organise any kind of coordinated action by Newcastle fans, with at the very top of the list, there surely aren’t any set of supporters close to United’s in terms of hating being told what to do by others.

No matter how gently or politely it is presented, which is what the Sack Pardew organisers did through the week and on matchday, if anything is organised then X thousand of Newcastle fans will do the opposite, or at the very least make sure they don’t join in.

So even if United had gone ten down yesterday, thousands would have sat on their hands, furious with the way the club is run but not willing to join in with a pre-planned script.

In addition, with something as simple as dissatisfaction with the manager, supporters hardly need to be led in how to react during a match, the ninety minutes has an ebb and flow all of its own.

Ironically, if there hadn’t been the pre-planned anti-Pardew stuff, then I think the vitriol would have been X times as bad as United huffed and puffed before conceding one and then two. I honestly think that this would have sparked such bad feeling and an outpouring of grief/abuse from the crowd, even throwing on an unfit Papiss Cisse would have had ┬ázero effect. The focus would have all been on the manager/crowd situation and I think Pardew would have definitely retreated to his dugout, potentially never to be seen again.

Instead, I think many fans turned up having decided that no matter what they wouldn’t join in with a planned baiting of Pardew, no matter what their inner feelings were, meaning they didn’t react as they normally would to yet another average/poor performance seemingly descending into disaster and still rooted rock bottom of the Premier League with two away matches next.

As a comparison, just look at what happens when things happen organically with regards to the management.

Last weekend at Southampton, you straight away had John Carver kicking off on the spot because he was caught unawares by an anti-Pardew banner…and that was BEFORE a ball was even kicked in that excruciating demolition by the Saints.

After that four goal defeat Alan Pardew was all over the place in his post-match interviews and even refused to face the written press.

Also post-match, goalkeeping coach/oaf Andy Woodman then got into a Twitter argument and abused a supporter – once again caught unprepared and reacting to something he hadn’t seen coming.

So this past week has seen the opposite, a big build up and mass coverage across the media, though the first signs that Mike Ashley was preparing his defences came with an astonishing double-pronged poisonous attack against the sack Pardew protest organisers from the Chronicle/NCJ media. Exactly what the motivation was for this and who was pulling their strings is open to debate. However, what isn’t up for debate is any doubt that this didn’t go massively beyond what could be termed as trying to show balanced coverage.

So Ashley (and Pardew) had an identifiable enemy (sack Pardew organisers) and knew exactly what the fan group was planning.

The battle lines were set and Mike Ashley began showing his cards one by one.

Unlike Southampton the week before, Alan Pardew had been carefully drilled for his pre-match press conferences.

Apologies had been issued on behalf of Carver and Woodman after their embarrassing and unprofessional behaviour re Southampton, no doubt given very strong direction that they would get the boot if they dared move away from the script this weekend.

Then we had Mike Ashley pre-match via Sky Sports saying categorically that he would not sack Alan Pardew, thereby helping to reinforce for many supporters the thought of what is the point in attacking Pardew because no way Ashley will sack him and so we’ll only be hurting the team, and by association ourselves, if we go over the top with the anti-manager stuff.

The club even minimised the target pre-match by not posting anything on Twitter until 1.30pm before the match, giving no room there to help provide something to rally the protesters.

Fans then turned up at the turnstiles having been led to believe by the club that non-abusive protest banners/cards would be allowed in, only for the stewards to be waiting there ready to confiscate anything they could see.

The match kicks off and the ill-advised plan of holding up banners/cards and showing anti-Pardew feeling on five minutes was a dismal flop, the protest leaders naively adding this unnecessary extra strand that was always going to fail, fans not surprisingly being far more ready to do the now usual 17th minute applause for John and Liam, followed by another minute on this occasion for number 18 Jonas.

By making the whole thing a protest group v Pardew, it made it far too easy for many not to react as they would normally do and for Mike Ashley to manipulate the situation.

Of course another weakness that was always there in the protest plan was leaving Ashley himself out of this one, a really bad move considering he is of course the start and end of all Newcastle United’s problems of the present day.

I understand that maybe the [intlink id=”47557″ type=”post”]SackPardew.com[/intlink]┬ápeople might have thought concentrate only on Pardew, as getting rid of a manager is potentially achievable, then move on to Ashley. However, again this is a fatal flaw in the plan as the two go hand in hand, and Ashley clearly needs Pards in the club covering his back and issuing ridiculous statements to divert from his disastrous running of Newcastle United.

I looked up at Mike Ashley smiling away in the stands and it was little surprise to me who was seated to his left.

He may not be recognisable to many fans but it was Keith Bishop, a man famous on the streets of Soho if not the Bigg Market.

Bishop is the PR guru who looks after both Sports Direct’s interests as well as Newcastle United’s for Mike Ashley. He also incidentally handles the PR of Glasgow Rangers (and Leeds United!), as well as the PR needs of David Craig of Sky Sports, another great friend of the Ashley regime.

I bet Mike Ashley and Keith Bishop were having a right laugh at our expense on Saturday night.

It may have been a score draw on the pitch but off it, it was a comfortable win for Mike Ashley and his PR offensive over the best intentions of thousands of Newcastle fans.

Pardew might not have a clue about tactics but his boss is very clued up when it comes to dirty tricks campaigns away from the pitch.

So it is back to the drawing board for supporters, if there is going to be any chance of thwarting Mike Ashley in dragging the club further towards oblivion.

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