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Opinion

I assumed Mike Ashley meant good luck when he said it

3 years ago
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I have had it.

I thought I’d had it before but I hadn’t. Signing one player (after finishing fifth in 2011/12) in anticipation of our Europa League campaign was a joke but I stuck with it.

Installing Carver as manager had me out of love with NUFC for a long time too. Not because we were losing but the players just did not care. I’d had it at that point after years of tripe under Pardew but I blamed the manager and the players, not Ashley.

But this time it’s different. This time we have an ambitious manager who was just this week brushing shoulders with the likes of Alex Ferguson in Nyon.

We have a manager who navigated us to promotion and an incredible final day league win – making a bit of a meal of it on the way – but that’s not the point. I was buzzing.

I thought £100m was far-fetched.

I thought £70m was too.

But considering the summer and winter windows for Shteve, and Rafa’s summer window last year, I expected a solid £50m, and that was before player sales.

It’s easy to look smart, or like a liar, with hindsight but I smelled a rat as soon as details of Rafa and Mike’s meeting in May emerged. The wording of it made it possible, if not certain, that Mike Ashley wasn’t putting any money in, carefully concealing the meaning in the words to make it look like ‘every penny’ was available but negating that, by the fact it had to come from money the club generated – AKA player sales. For a time I shrugged it off as a personal concoction of my own cynicism, fascination with linguistic and a lingering love of philosophical analysis and language games. Surely he’d throw the TV money in. Nope. And we are where we are.

Rafa is meticulous to the point of artistry. He isn’t a Mourinho or a Guardiola but for all the love and furore surrounding Klopp, Rafa is the better manager.

Failings at Real and Inter can’t be discounted, and you could argue Istanbul was more Steve G than Rafa B, but he is certainly an elite manager. And that talent brings with it an ambition and hunger which is as necessary to his being as his trademark goatee.

Our Kev is a cult hero, a legend in his own right, but he’s not at Rafa’s level. When Kev walked I was gutted, but because he walked out before, and because it was early Ashley days, I didn’t see it as anywhere close to a final straw.

It cannot be understated just how far this club has fallen. It pains me to say it. But history aside we’ve been in and around relegation for years. But the descent started far before that. I’m sure that sacking Bobby for his 5th place ‘woes’ put a hex on this club. What’s that, 10-15 years of tripe?

Rafa did not come here to earn the prestige of Chelsea caretaker. He came here for a project. He wanted to replicate Istanbul in the form of a football club, the ultimate underdog, aside from maybe Leeds, Britain’s prime example of a sleeping giant.

I feared he was here for a Chelsea-like pay day at first. He wasn’t. He stayed through relegation. He’s here for the project. And like any craftsman or artist he needs certain provisions to do his job and he’s been denied.

Rafa wasn’t asking to sign Dieto Costa or Ross Barkley, he was asking for SOUTHAMPTON’S THIRD CHOICE LEFT BACK! I understand and agree it was a hard window and I hate the fact we even have to bring money into football. Watching deadline day on Sky last night really hit home that football these days is as much about accountancy, business and politics as it is sport. But I’m a total Communist so of course I hate the vast sums of money being sloshed about gratuitously.

However, we are where we are. Inflated prices, player power and more stipulations than ever from clubs loaning players on game time and assurances made it difficult. But how did Huddersfield and Brighton fare so well?

How did Swansea land Renato Sanches? You can’t tell me that Clement has more contacts than Rafa. You can’t tell me that Rafa didn’t have some decent players lined up for loans. And now you can’t even tell me that we hadn’t shifted enough players.

Hanley, Riviere and SDJ leaving must surely have covered a loan fee and wages of SOUTHAMPTON’S THIRD CHOICE LEFT BACK. Who does the buck stop with? Ashley. And by extension, mini-me Charnley. The lowest paid, illest equipped excuse of an MD at any football club in the premier league.

How is it that we pulled off Shelvey, Townsend et al to try and save our skin last January but couldn’t stump up more than Joselu this summer (who I think is a tidy player btw, but not a Lucas Perez or Michy Batshuayi).

How can Mike Ashley stand there and tell us that ‘from this day forward Newcastle will make our own luck’ and desire a cup or a Champions League spot and also refuse to give Rafa more than a tuppence and a packet of winegums?

Like any rational human being I assumed Ashley meant good luck when he said it. Turns out he was playing games again. He’s certainly made his own luck but the kind of luck you get from walking under a complex grid of indoor ladders carrying an open brolly with mirrors savagely breaking underfoot.

I have no idea why Mike Ashley exhibits the traits necessary to return the club to the premier league but won’t support it in staying there. What the hell is the point?

Is it really as simple as a perfect crossover with his gambling tendency and sports direct business model? Minimising expenditure and taking risks on survival?

Earning the TV money with the minimal amount of effort?

Scraping 17th on £30m spent being more profitable than finishing 11th on £100m. Is it that obvious? Is it that ludicrous?

Were all the Ashley Out lot right? Because now, finally, with an Elite manager in Rafa with plans afoot and contacts aplenty, I can’t make the excuses I could with Pardew and Shteve, convincing myself their sub-standard management deserved sub-standard playing staff.

And now, Champions League and Europa League winning manager can’t even get SOUTHAMPTON’S THIRD CHOICE LEFT BACK. I have well and truly had it.

Both legally and morally the buck stops with the highest power, so don’t give me any excuse that Mike Ashley isn’t to blame because he’s hands off. He is responsible and he is to blame.

I think Rafa will stay but only because he’s looked the Devil square in the eyes and knows the club is doomed without him. For us as fans we now have a pivotal role. We have to show Rafa we’re behind him and support the players as much as humanly possible to drive them on to perform as they did at West Ham, whilst showing our displeasure at Ashley.

I would be in support of an empty stadium but our team deserves more. Sissoko and Colo teams deserved the same treatment as Ashley but a Ritchie and Lascelles team deserves more. We need those Gallowgate Flags to create 20 more Rafa flags and about 10 Ashley Out ones. We need Rafa masks and Ashley Out signs for every fan walking into the stadium.

We have to become a nuisance. We have to disturb the ownership but we must not boo, we must sing the players’ names and create warmth and energy and passion inside the ground.

We have to let the players and Rafa know how much they mean to us but that for them and for us, we’re telling Mike Ashley we want you out of Newcastle United for good.

(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to contr[email protected])

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