“I divvent like to gan there…but the bairn needs new football boots”
The two Newcastle fans who sat next to me on my Metro this morning were not happy.
“Where’s aal the money goin?”
“Ashley is takin us for mugs man!”
“I’ve never even heard of the new lad.”
“Rafa will be away like.”
As we approached Monument station the disgruntled Mags stood up to leave the train and packed a rolled up newspaper into a Sports Direct bag for life. My sympathies turned to frustration.
This conversation will be repeated countless times over the coming days in the pubs, offices, factories and homes of Tyneside. This is the reality of another transfer window under Mike Ashley. One thing is now very clear despite the promises about winning trophies, investment and transfer budgets, to Mike Ashley we are nothing.
We are the pile of old clothes in your wardrobe that you meant to put on Ebay three years ago.
We are the unfinished jigsaw puzzle you slid under your sofa last Christmas.
We are the folded up exercise bike in the loft that hasn’t seen the light of day.
We are damaged goods, not wanted, a burden and a frustration.
We are not worthy of time or investment, we are for sale if the price is high enough.
Kangol, Everlast, Dunlop, Firetrap, Slazenger, Debenhams…. add the once great Newcastle United to the list of brands and companies that Ashley cares little about so long as they are churning out profit. You have as much chance of seeing LA Gear rise from the ashes and launch a range of luxurious, premium, air cushioned, climacool sports shoes as you are likely to see Newcastle United smash their transfer budget and fight for a trophy.
There’s a growing momentum at Newcastle, a wind of change is bringing together various supporter led factions that in previous seasons were drifting apart. Sections of the media appear to be siding with us, the likes of Pete Graves at Sky becoming a little more vocal in his condemnations of the Newcastle board. Newcastle MP Chi Onwurah has also stood up in Parliament to highlight our plight.
To the regular Newcastle fan who buys the shirt and attends the games, there is a feeling of frustration, but also helplessness. Fans don’t want to boycott the games. For many, a matchday is the highlight of the week that their social calendar is programmed around. “Vote with your feet” they tell us, well do so on Northumberland Street not at St James Park.
At the time of writing, Sports Direct profits have fallen and Ashley has forfeited this year’s salary and bonuses. Despite his £2.4 billion wealth and his position of 58th on the Sunday Times Rich List, this must hurt. He won’t miss the extra cash but Sports Direct is his baby, it’s his success story, it’s his Cinderella whilst Newcastle United are one of the many ugly sisters. Our club is his biggest advertising medium. Just look at our stadium, the Sports Direct/NUFC merchandise and the billboards around the ground.
“But the bairn needs new football boots”….. well shop online, visit another sports store, think about where you are spending your hard-earned cash.
Will the above actions result in Ashley going bankrupt and Newcastle being sold in a fire sale to a Russian tycoon who takes us to the Champions League final next season? The answer is no.
Will you be less of a hypocrite than the grumbling Newcastle fan who carries a Sports Direct bag and wears a Karrimor tracksuit…. YES!
You can follow the author on Twitter @DavidMcAvelia