By the time you read this, Newcastle United may no longer be the property of Mike Ashley. Let’s hope so.
Michael James Wallace Ashley has spent the last 10 years trying to convince me he is insane.
Someone (Einstein, according to many) said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Well, Mike Ashley has done the same thing repeatedly for a decade, and to no one’s surprise, is getting exactly the same results.
The lessons never seem to sink in. He buys cheap, and for the most part, gets what he paid for. If one of those players turns out to be better than that, he sells him. He’s been doing it for years. And lo and behold, here we are facing relegation once again.
This season, his insanity has taken on a new dimension.
Think about the team that was relegated in 2016. It featured Wijnaldum, Townsend, Janmaat and Sissoko. If you knew nothing about football, but you knew that that team wasn’t good enough, logic would tell you that you’d need a better team to survive next time you got the opportunity. If you were then informed that – in your absence – all the other teams had been given even more money to spend, you’d have to conclude that your team would need to be better still.
Yet we have a team that has very few players of note. When was the last time one of them was persistently linked with a move away? Who is in the football gossip columns as a target for a Premier League, Spanish, Italian or French side? Who are we scared of losing now? I can’t think of anyone that fans are desperate to keep in the way they were with Carroll, Cabaye, Townsend et al.
I’m not having a pop at the players. I believe they are trying to do a good job. But their self-confidence and their belief in their colleagues seems to be eroding with every performance. Rafa can only do so much, and I cannot agree with any fan who thinks we can do better than him. But hard work and discipline will only paper over the cracks for a while. We need quality.
I wish I had a pound for every time a manager or pundit says a team “just lacked that bit of quality”. It’s a cliché, but in our team’s case, it’s valid.
A Manchester-dwelling mate of mine got me posh seats at Old Trafford, which meant I had to behave myself for fear of getting him banned. And when you watch a game rather than react to it, you see a lot more. The main thing I took out of that game was how much better manure’s passing was than ours. Obviously, Pogba was head and shoulders above the rest of the talent on display, but as a rule, most of their passes ended up with one of their players, on his favoured foot, and in a position where he could run on to it, or use the space he was in. We gave it a good go for most of the game, but too many of our passes fell short, or fell behind a player, or just ended up with an opponent.
That’s what I mean when I say we lack quality. Things like that make a difference. I don’t think manure are a great side, but they did for Newcastle with the quality of their passing. I dread to think what Man City will do to us. They are the best passing side I have seen in the Premier League.
So, here we are with a week or so to go before the January 2018 transfer window opens, with a man Einstein would class as insane in charge of the budget.
He seems unwilling or unable to change his behaviour, even though it must be clear to him that this make us odds-on favourites to get relegated again. And medical opinion is almost entirely unified in its view that there is no cure for insanity.
All we can hope for now is that someone – be it Amanda Staveley or Mike Ashley’s Secret Santa – puts him out of his misery and takes the club off his hands, and quick.