Comment: Mike Ashley plays Catch 22 with Newcastle fans
I have little doubt that the cunning plan laid out on behalf of Mike Ashley by his PR chief Keith Bishop, is to force the Newcastle fans into a classic case of Catch 22.
The supporters cannot win either way.
Shelve the protests and Mike Ashley has quelled the sizeable pressure momentum that had built up on both him and Sports Direct, or continue protesting and then be the easy scapegoat if relegation did happen.
To this end, Mike Ashley and his PR guru have had the minions hard at work, sending out the message that everybody has to be in it together…time for protests is sometime else….relegation must be avoided at all costs for ALL our sakes.
Tuesday saw yet another example, with Bobby Moncur once again wheeled out by Ashley in the Chronicle to tell us that we need to put differences to one side and ‘mistakes’ would be addressed after the end of the season.
Another popular expression put out by club officials is having a ‘post-mortem’ after the season closes.
All sounds reasonable…that is if you forget just what happened exactly two years ago.
The end of the 2012/13 season saw United desperately fighting the drop, only saving themselves in the second last match of the season away at QPR. Sounds familiar?
Back then we were told similar stuff, with summits planned between Mike Ashley, Derek Llambias, Alan Pardew and Graham Carr.
We were told everything would be looked at; what had gone wrong, how it should be addressed, then a plan put into action with player recruitment and so on, to correct the shortfalls that had been exposed that season.
The season finished and we waited, press sympathetic to the club continuing to put out messages of addressing problems, plans being put in place and on we go.
Claims were made of meetings/conference calls happening between Mike Ashley and the likes of Llambias, Carr and Pardew but nothing made public, or any clear message of what exactly was happening to make sure the near disaster of the season just ended, wouldn’t be repeated.
Then on 16 June 2013 Joe Kinnear appeared on the radio telling everybody he was the new Newcastle United Director of Football. How we laughed.
Three days later Derek Llambias resigned his post via an appearance on Sky Sports, rather than doing it through the club.
Eventually the club made the scarcely believable announcement that they weren’t going to replace the Chief Executive who had been running the club…not until 10 months later was Lee Charnley promoted to the post of MD.
‘Sorting out’ the near relegation problems, then basically became a combination of silence and increasingly bizarre behaviour from Joe Kinnear as he used his telephone book containing the number of everybody in football, to buy…nobody.
So to recap, Newcastle United reacted to near disaster in 2013 by telling us all that everything would be addressed and lessons learnt. The action then amounted to buying no players, not replacing the CEO who resigned and an appointment of JFK to Director of Football.
Two years later and the second half of the season has seen the manager walk out and then not replaced, players sold and loaned out in January when we were short of numbers and quality, nobody bought. Chaos has followed and a plummet towards the relegation zone, once again we are told that everything will be sorted if we get through to the summer safely.
How can anybody have any faith when the club cry ‘wolf’ yet again?
Apart from emotionally blackmailing fans, the contribution of the club to fighting relegation has been to release prepared statements in the names of Charnley, Coloccini and Carver (his was spoken) which all basically just tell us to support the team or else we (the fans) will be to blame.
Mike Ashley hasn’t even bothered going to matches once relegation became a possibility, Saturday saw his PR guru Keith Bishop in the Directors Box but no sign of the owner.
The Fans Forum want to have a meeting ASAP with the club to address the problems they see at NUFC and not unreasonably they think it is essential that Mike Ashley is there to give the meeting credibility, with only 12 days to go until the end of the season there’s still no confirmation that this meeting will take place.
We are told what we have to do (blindly support the team) but we are told nothing of how these ‘mistakes’ by Mike Ashley and his minions will be tackled.
Can you honestly say you believe that a credible plan will be auctioned this summer?
I’m not advocating protests/boycotts if West Ham becomes a game that Newcastle need something from. However, I do think that for there to be any semblance of belief that things could change, Mike Ashley has to take a significant step towards the supporters and start treating them with some respect. Especially in the case of the official NUFC Fans Forum whose members are after all handpicked by the club themselves.
I remember over the course of last summer speaking to a number of Newcastle United’s most fanatical and longstanding fans who were on three year deals that had came to an end. To try and guarantee they kept hold of these supporters, the club had offered them a five year attractive deal but with the condition you couldn’t pull out during that time.
Longstanding supporters were being pulled both ways, totally depressed by the situation at the club but with matchday such a big part of their lives they wondered if they could really drag themselves away from what is for many the central focus of their social lives.
I wonder how those fans feel who committed to the five year deal, to have been served up this season not only dreadful football, but also to be subjected to the shocking state of affairs off the pitch. Particularly when they are trapped/tied in for another four years of this with no hope of escape.
Many of us laugh about the idea of Joe Kinnear returning for a third time but how can we say the possibility is ridiculous, when Mike Ashley did it back in 2013 after his embarrassing behaviour the first time around as manager?
At the moment everything surrounding the club just feels rotten and if Mike Ashley selling the club isn’t an option then a minimum for most will be massive changes have to come about underneath his ownership.
I find the likelihood of credible replacements for both Lee Charnley and John Carver, as well as ambitious player recruitment this summer, as less likely than the return of JFK to run the club single-handedly.
The AshleyOut.com campaign took the right route by not planning anything for the West Brom match and letting matters take their own course, anything else would potentially have been divisive and made them an easy target for both the club and lazy fans who were looking for a scapegoat to blame instead of those who are really responsible.
Apart from those who think relegation is the best route forward in order to remove Ashley, the way forward for most is surely a win over QPR making the Premier League secure and then a clear message to Mike Ashley on that final day of the season against West Ham.
The 3rd best supported club in the UK (10th in Europe) this season, 18th most valuable in the world (Forbes ratings) and 19th biggest turnover (Deloitte), yet it is still deemed too dangerous to try and win a cup match.
Something has to change.
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