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There are stars and there are Newcastle United squaddies

7 years ago

I am feeling slightly ashamed.

Earlier this season, when the pressure was on Alan Pardew, I suggested that the Saint-Etienne coach Christophe Galtier would be a good fit at Newcastle.

Indeed, I had heard on the grapevine that Newcastle had once again approached this man, who is completely comfortable working for owners who like to buy and sell players all by themselves.

At that time, only a month or so ago, I believed there was no way out for Pardew. Despite the damp squibs of demonstrations organised by some supporters, Pardew had clearly not got the confidence of most fans. Some players were not trying.

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I don’t know what has happened since. Neither, it has to be said, does Pardew. But that doesn’t matter. Results are greatly improved.

Our league position is not giving cause for concern. We are on course for a mid-table finish.

So I am sorry that, for a couple of weeks, Pardew lost my confidence. He is not a great manager. He is a decent manager, in my view. He is virtually the only manager in the country who would run our club in the way Ashley likes.

Apparently someone on the BBC has said that Newcastle fans are fickle. I think we are. But of course it is a hard argument to sustain that Newcastle fans are more fickle than fans of other clubs. I couldn’t believe my ears when I listened to some Arsenal fans recently claiming their club would be better off without Wenger.

Wenger is the only great manager in England, these days.

Wenger, of course, would and could never work for Ashley. It is worth restating the point that the problems at Newcastle, which will undoubtedly return once our current run is over, all stem from the lunatic finanical structure Ashley has rigorously implemented.

It is wonderful that Mehdi Abeid is doing so well, and it is disappointing he has been injured, but the crucial question for Ashley is whether or not he is going to be back in the side soon enough for the planned sale of Tiote to proceed in January.

The Evening Chronicle believes the policy of long contracts is paying off. Competing clubs have to pay big money to get our successful stars. Look at Debuchy, replaced by Janmaat. Debuchy is a crock, and Janmaat is a better replacement.

But there is a huge faultline running through that assertion.

Either we lose the stars who deserve to be sold for big money, in which case we lose the services of a player who might make a difference.

Or we keep the stars who don’t attract the big money and keep the services of players who don’t make a difference.

That’s the point. We are a mid-table team. We have no plans to be anything better. The massive sighs of relief around St James’ Park are sighs that we won’t after all have to spend big in January.

Indeed, we might even be able to sell big. Tiote is a proven player. Abeid is a youngster who has recently come good. A well-run club would not be thinking of selling Tiote.

Sammy Ameobi might be on his way too. Marveaux might be on his way back. This might make sense in footballing terms. But the logic is mostly financial. One in, one out. Unless of course it is a striker.

We keep the useless strikers because nobody else wants them. Have you noticed how the players who really make a difference, classy central defenders and top class strikers, are not subject to the same rules Ashley has devised for everyone else?

Mike Williamson, Stephen Taylor, Fecundo Ferreyra, Emmanuel Riviere, are not being herded around the souk like Cheick Tiote and Yohan Cabaye.

There are stars. And there are Newcastle squaddies. We are a smallish club run like a retail warehouse. Newcastle fans deserve better. We deserve a better owner with more ambition. And, yes, I suppose we deserve a better manager than Alan Pardew.

But we’ve got Mike Ashley. All our problems are unchanged. Everything remains the same. We have won a few games. Our run will soon be over.

We don’t want to win anything. We don’t want to finish in the top four. And so we won’t.

I am used to it and I am not getting used to anything else. The pain would be too much.


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