“What we’ve got here is… failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it… well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men….”

That’s a quote from the classic Paul Newman film, Cool Hand Luke, 1967, released back in the days of Joe Harvey. It was used in the opening lines of a classic Guns N Roses track almost a quarter of a century later, appearing in the Use Your Illusion II album in 1991, back in the days of Jim Smith and Ossie Ardiles. The song it preluded was “Civil War”. The words, I’m sure you will agree, are rather befitting.

Once again at SJP we have protests and we have a split. Newcastle Divided is a far more appropriate name for our club right now than United. Sadly, it’s nothing new for a club all too familiar with football civil war.

(To feature like Jack, send in your articles for our website to [email protected] – all views those of the author etc etc)

In my line of work I deal with something called “purpose”. In simple terms it’s defining what the business is there to do. For example, the purpose of the police is to catch bad guys, the purpose of your barber is to cut your hair and the purpose of a barmaid is to sell you alcohol.

It might sound too simple but you’d be surprised how many companies aren’t clear on what their purpose is.

Let’s kick that debate into football. The purpose of Man City is to win trophies. The purpose of Chelsea is to win trophies. The purpose of Arsenal is to make the top 4 and be frugal hence there’s a similar, although much posher, argument at The Emirates as there is on Tyneside.

Indeed the purpose of most football clubs is to do as well as they can in their sport, measured by how far they progress in the cups and where they finish in the league. And that is where NUFC are torn in two.

The fans expect the club to do what it is intrinsically there to do: compete at football; try to win things, finish high up the league. This should be the DNA of any sports club including Newcastle. However, it is not the purpose of the owner. Make no mistake; Mike Ashley isn’t a failure. On the contrary he has achieved with merit what he sets out to achieve. He has achieved his purpose. The quarrel is that his purpose is to use NUFC to increase his personal wealth.

In short he sacrifices the football ambition to line his already bulging pockets and we think he should sacrifice a hundred million or so to have a bash at trying to compete.

So who’s right? Well, surely the fair response is that we do not expect him to plough his own money in to get NUFC punching above their weight but likewise we expect the money the club generates to be reinvested so it does punch its weight and doesn’t become impotent like it has now. You don’t have to subsidise us but don’t fleece us either, Mike.

So the club and the fans are split but the fans then split again as to how to tackle Ashley.

Personally I think each person’s decision needs respecting.

But there’s a plastic storage unit in my spare room with a load of Moordale boarding cards, a travel club membership from 1989 and countless tickets and programmes and souvenirs dating from the mid-80’s, including those for venues as far apart geographically as they are in the football world.

Cup tickets for Hull, Peterborough and Tranmere reside alongside cup tickets for Juventus, Feyenoord and Milan.

There’s a Champions League ticket with Barcelona’s name on, side by side with an Anglo-Italian cup game at Grimsby. It’s funny looking back that we drew with The Shrimpers and beat Barcelona…

But those souvenirs haven’t been added to since my 2009 season ticket, a programme from an away game at Middlesbrough and a ticket stub for Anfield were filed away.

I haven’t set foot in the place I used to love for 6 years now.

Let me take you full circle. Spoiler alert!

Cool Hand Luke is about a man who refuses to conform to life in prison. He goes toe to toe with the Prison-bosses. He doesn’t win; indeed it’s the death of him. But he refuses to accept what the boss tries to force upon him.

Maybe that’s something you all have to consider when your season ticket renewal lands on your doormat.

  • NottsToon

    Good piece.

  • Corkyjohn

    Great article….

  • prestondave


  • Porciestreet

    A very interesting post, though i’m not so sure it will have much effect on those who make the same mistake week after week and expect the end product to be something different. Each to his own I suppose……..!
    HWTF…………Ashley and Co out……………ASAP.

  • LeazesEnder

    Good post Jack, I wouldn’t let Ashley wash my car….. now there’s a picture to get out of your head!

  • trustedinmk

    An excellent piece I think this gets to the heart of the issue. 
    If you look at how Ashley markets his SD stores they are never going to be seen as the top of the market, quality sports store. They service the discount stack it high and sell it cheap marketplace. But which ever way you look at it SD is a success judged on many business measures – market penetration, profit, cash whatever. Walk down any high street in any town which is large enough to attract the national chain stores and an SD store is likely to be among them.

    And Ashley views NUFC the same way. He is not interested in it being the top of the market by buying and selling quality. He has got to where he is – successfully in his eyes – by taking a view that a lower level of mechandise will provide a better return.

    Two issues with that view:

    1. It only works by everyone involved being worked very hard. The CH4 program last night revealing what we probably already suspected.

    2.Premier league football is an environment that moves far faster than high street retail. What passed as acceptable 2-3 years ago is far below that mark now.

    The upshot is that the Ashley mantra is failing NUFC because those involved are showing themselves to be struggling to make the grade as regards Premier League. And the work rate, as seen by the on field debacle of the past two seasons, is not high enough. If the regime of the CH4 documentaty is to be believed and that is the mentality passed onto the club, players and staff are not going to want to do more than they have to.
    Either Ashley has to realise that you cannot run a premier league football club this way and invests, or we will have to put up with the issues that are becoming all to visible over the past two seasons.
    I am hoping that the ‘relegation’ fears we are now experiencing will make him realise that the risk of not improving the quality on the pitch will seriously risk the financial benefits on it.

    He ‘invested’ when we were relegated last time as he could not cope with us being outside the cash cow that is the PL. Let us hope the fear of losing that again is enough of a wake up call.

  • NicholasDryden

    Arsenal frugal hmm…, how much did Ozil cost?

  • pauljj44

    NUFCTheMag wrap ye season tickets in put this years In the bin you know it makes sense time to stop club milking hard working people

  • Toonbadger

    That is just the long and posh way around,  saying he has killed the club and alienated the fans through GREED and money grabbing. I have better things to do that write all of that. 1 sentence would be enough

  • magpiefifer

    Spot on Jack – I’ve not set foot in SJP since 2010 – and like you am an ex-season ticket holder.I have vowed not to be back until Ashley disappears,however long it takes!!
    We deserve better than this dollop that he’s rationing us with and should stay away until he changes (unlikely or what!) – or,preferably goes.

  • LeazesEnder

    Toonbadger There’s nowt posh about Jack!

  • Philippines

    I loved your book “The call of the wild” but your article here doesn’t really say anything other than “I am disappointed’. The day NUFC become a ‘cheque book’ team like Chelsea or Manchester City, is the day I may finally give up after 51 years of following the toon. (Actually, I won’t but I detest those teams who only get ‘good’ on the basis of money from crooks and sheiks).

  • GToon

    Philippines Its not so much cheque book approach but spending that equates with our status and ambition instead of trying to spend the least amount and still stay in the league.

  • SGM

    You got your purposes all wrong, NUFC is a business thanks to sky  and the purpose of a business is to make a profit by providing a service or commodity.
    NUFC is in the entertainment business and will make money by entertaining, win or loose, easy

  • amacdee

    is in the entertainment business and will make money by entertaining,
    win or loose, easy” 
    Not sure if you realise it but loosing (sic) is not that entertaining but maybe it is for you with your mouth full of …………….