Now that the World Cup is over, my liver feels like it has run a marathon a day for the past month.

I thought it was a very good World Cup overall, typified by the final. An own goal, a terrible goalkeeping mistake, a couple of quality finishes, a pitch invasion inspired by a punk band and a ridiculous refereeing decision made even more gripping by watching the referee watch it on TV ten times so he could decide to make the wrong decision. Gogglebox eat your heart out, expect to see Scarlett Moffat refereeing a game near you soon.

To be fair to the referee, it is one thing to make a split-second decision based on what you do or don’t see, it is another thing to hold your nerve when you are surrounded by a team of self-proclaimed superstars telling you to go to VAR. The old mantra of “it’s not worth it, he won’t change his mind” has been replaced by “gang up on him and he’ll change his mind.”

Then when the VAR referee tells the on-field referee that he needs to watch it again on TV, the man in the middle is probably already wondering what calamity he has missed. In the case of the World Cup Final, the referee missed a bloke accidentally handling the ball as an attacker a foot in front of him ducked under the ball. If VAR ever comes to the Premier League, that’s another twenty penalties a season against us for Manchester City et al.

newcastle united

‘VAR: Can you ask Pep how many penalties he would like today please?’

In the end I think that the best team won, Croatia and Belgium valiant losers and England did as well as anyone could have hoped. At least England can look forward instead of back and know that if they can produce midfielders in the class of Modric and Rakitic, or attacking players like Griezmann and M’bappe, in the next four years then they can go a step further. Without that class, effort and organisation will only take you so far. Which is pretty much where Newcastle United are at this stage of the summer.

It was a positive when the club signed Kenedy on loan for another season. Now United are in exactly the same position as they were at the end of last season, we just need to catch up on all the teams who have improved. Kenedy individually was a huge boost to the team last season and is very welcome again this season, even if his quoted price-tag of “not free” proved to be too much for a permanent transfer to happen. It was nice to hear his rambling signing on speech as well, he meandered in the interview as much as on some his runs last season:

“Everyone likes the movie (Goal) and because there is the connection with Newcastle, I was asked about that a lot. But it’s a beautiful history and now I know already more about the club. I’m more familiar with it and I have been learning more about it during the close season.”

Brilliant, I’m not going to tell him GOAL wasn’t a documentary. I have contacted a couple of agents to see if we can get some more beautiful history by showing Stormy Mendy, Purely Bellerin, I, Diego Costa and Get Courtois.

newcastle united

‘Get Courtois: You’re a big man, but you’re out of shape’

For me, the joy of the incoming Kenedy was tempered by the sale of Mikel Merino to Real Sociedad for about £10million.

I am aware that the player both supposedly wanted to return to the region of his birth, and was hardly in the team in 2018, but I still feel that it was a bad deal for Newcastle United. The club’s transfer strategy, if it has one, is often said to be based on signing younger players, improving them and selling them on for profit and this is something like what Rafa Benitez suggests is also his policy, the probable difference being that Rafa wants the player to see a step up being Real Madrid rather than Real Sociedad.

In the case of Merino, not only did the club not make a profit on him, the £10million release clause in his contract seems ludicrously small if the club paid roughly £9million for him, but it looks like the low release clause suggested they were already aware that he wasn’t going to improve at Newcastle. By the time the club had paid the huge agents fees when they bought him and paid the agents involved when they sold him, they probably lost money on the deal. I can’t see what sort of transfer strategy that is, buy a promising young player, hardly play him, sell him on and lose money. Perhaps the old SAFC transfer blueprint was faxed to the wrong office.

Whoever is to blame for all of that, apart from the financial side of the deal, Merino was also good cover for our central midfield pairing who were excellent for the second half of last season. Even if they amaze us and keep that form going for the whole of next season, Shelvey and Diame will still need a rest, still get injured or suspended. Throw in the apparent wish of the only other central midfielder at SJP to leave this summer, which the club must have known about when they sold Merino, selling him looks even more odd. Perhaps the club will surprise me and buy a top class central midfielder to replace Merino but I have my doubts, it looks to me that all they have done is sold one.

newcastle united

‘Mikel Merino: Basque home, we’ll be thinking about you when you are far away’

For now, it looks like the World Cup was simply a no man’s land between the trenches at SJP, with Rafa Benitez on one side and Mike Ashley on the other. Many fans I know are with Rafa, a few stick up for Ashley, some sit in the middle just wanting to watch a club try and play football.

This week it seems that the Christmas Day Pipes of Peace have gone quiet and the bombs are starting to fly again. Rafa says there is no money, “every penny” means nothing and he must sell to buy. He talks of a willingness to stay and of offers from Spain rejected, sometimes with absolute focus and fact, at other times just tittle-tattle lacking real clarity as to what he is trying to say, perhaps on purpose. The club’s Ministry of Plenty talk of contract extensions refused, a willingness to discuss terms and highlight financial stability with back-slapping and high-fives but rarely trumpet the on-field improvement of the club through investment.

Some fans start another action group letting the club know that the force is with Rafa and love is rarely unrequited.

It wouldn’t be Newcastle United without these sub-plots and sideshows. Less than three weeks until the transfer window closes and the Premier League starts. For me, the first seems too close for comfort, the second can’t come soon enough.

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  • Mike Adam

    The section of the article about Merino is spot on.

  • Leazes.

    You said ‘a few stick up for Ashley’…. no you are wrong Nobody sticks up for him,

    You can’t count Trolls in the equation Ben, even though Simon van der Velde quotes this obnoxious trio occasionally, he does it for a reason…to provoke, and that is the raison d’État of the troll….to make people angry first and foremost,

    ….. this trio have plagued United for years and nobody supports them they only support each other under a few names… you tell me one person who has backed Ashley and I’ll tell you which one of the three members of the same family it is.

    I’ve been aware of these creeps for over a decade and I blank them…. they count for nothing…. nil.

    You cant get rid of trolls they keep changing form, and the best thing to do is not to feed them, expend your energy an focus on the issues of the club not the distractions!

    Fleckman’s father has reappeared ‘funlovingexpress’ I think he’s gloating after achieving some success in halting the momentum of the #ifrafagoeswego campaign, I’ve a feeling he’s the one who got through to them, maybe!

    Please don’t give them the credit of being even a small faction…. just ask yourself do you know anyone in real life who is a United fan who thinks Ashley is doing a good job? No of course not!

    • T2

      There’s people who have sat next to me for years at the match who do actually think he’s doing a good job, in terms turning a profit. I’m a not a big fan of the bloke though. I just wish he would communicate more. I think a lot more people would tolerate him if he actually done forums or even done more than his annual interview on sky lol

      • Leazes.

        Do you sit next to John Gibson and SuperMac?

        • T2

          Hahaha no, just a some people that have been going for years. I just wish he’d actually communicate and explain things. I get the feeling he really doesn’t care though. You don’t get to where he Is having feelings ha

          • Leazes.

            What do you want him to communicate?…. there’s a reason that he doesn’t… an asset strip and a club run on a shoestring to promote his brands….. its no secret, the process is almost complete that’s why he has Justin Barnes there, he’s a lawyer dealing in property law and it looks likely that Barnes has or will separated the Stadium from the club and pay back a rent to Ashley as another means of death by a thousand cuts….. small insignificant dealings which have a huge impact on the clubs ability to operate.

          • Elvin Burdon

            Isn’t the stadium leased from Newcastle council?.

          • Leazes.


          • Geordiegiants

            The land is leased from the council, the stadium is owned by the club.

          • FatParosite

            Communicating with anyone not partisan would open Ashley to divulge his intent. This would hasten his exit. So He won’t do it.

        • relaxed

          You do know that you are talking to to the resident troll Monkseaton Magpies don’t you

          • Leazes.

            I’m a dupe… of course it is… how easy he does it!

      • panther

        which stadium do you go to?

        • T2

          St James Park good sir. I try to get to as many away games as I can too.

          • panther

            then you need to have some strong words with these apologists

          • Leazes.

            They’re family.

    • Wezza

      Spot on Leazes, I find it so sad and even disturbing why these brothers and their father choose to troll here and other place so posing as Newcastle fans.

      • Leazes.

        The youngest one Kevin worked for the NHS Manchester pricing prescription service living in Wigan, and conducted a torment of fans on the chronicle site, those of us who who were having a go at the previous chairman Shepherd were the target… he supported the crackers Shepherd as well.

        ….. now he also started up a fantasy football league for the site regulars and one of those people on that board were so incensed by him they reported him to his employer for blogging in work time, the result was he was suspended or sacked, I don’t know which.

        His dad Brian and brother David came onto the chronicle board to have a go at the scoundrel who reported him. They were all members of his league under their real names, thats how I know a lot about them including where they worked.

        And no I wasn’t the one who reported him, but I think that maybe they think I am, maybe that’s why they are here. I’ve always had the same moniker Leazes(ender).

        They’ve been sucked into trolldom by their political isolation.

        • Geordiegiants

          This is fact Leazes? I didn’t know wether to take you seriously.

          • Leazes.

            I’m the target…… ‘fleckman’ named himself as the manager of Spinal Tap because of my perceived association with a heavy metal band.

            Its true.

        • SuperDesHamilton

          If this is true the full family need sectioned

          • Leazes.


  • Geordiegiants

    There is not a single “FAN” that sticks up for Jabba, not one!