This was never going to be an easy start to the season for Newcastle United.
Little investment, yeah, that’s the side of the fence I’m shuffling on, and the almost bizarre, delusional nonsense from Richard Keys, Andy Gray, Dennis Wise and Shola, have turned shuffling into standing still, aghast. The Newcastle United PR machine has managed to take a decent finish last season and turn it into anger and disillusionment.
I’m not worried about the character references we’re getting from this lot. I maybe should be, but I’m relying on the common sense of most football fans to remember what Dennis Wise did during his time here (his players have not really gone on to do a Tomasson, have they?) and the less said about the former Sky pair the better. My granny used to moan endlessly at the telly, no matter what was on, and I think she did this because she quite liked the confrontation she could have with some squares on a screen. Keys and Gray… everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it doesn’t mean people will believe you.
The worry among the Newcastle fans after last season’s finish, was that Ashley would use this as the ultimate excuse not to bother splashing the cash.
We expected maybe more than the dribble we’ve had, particularly in comparison to other clubs. The outlay versus income argument is certainly an interesting one, but if football boils down to a balance sheet, then everyone is stuffed. Everyone. What worries me is that Ashley cannot seem to see the value in Newcastle United, and by reluctant implication, Sports Direct, as ‘successful’, other than simple exposure on TV.
Spinning the budget as Ashley, Bishop and their pundit chums are so keen to do, you’d think we were trying to sign Lionel Messi.
Their failure to understand how much something costs, in this case, footballers, is to ignore the basic assumption that all clubs now make: you’re an English Premiership club, so you’ve got loads of TV money. Ashley knows how much footballers cost. What happened to buy the young potential and sell it on at a massive profit? He doesn’t even seem bothered about that anymore.
This matters because now that the season has started, and we’re looking at how the new lads fit together, we should also be planning ahead. His PR Pundit Pals say things to attract attention now, because they need the publicity. They need people to react to them, as it validates them, at least to themselves and their employers. But Ashley is a businessman; he surely understands and looks for growth. The risk of investment. He should surely be forward planning, or getting someone to help him to do so. Maybe he has; maybe the plan for the players is simple: don’t get injured, knackered or suspended.
Which leads us to their roles, as outlined, drilled, and coached by Rafa.
If we had more points from the first three Premier League games, where would the tactics discussion be? The players at Rafa’s disposal seem to be doing exactly what Rafa wants them to do. So far, it’s been hard for teams to break us down.
Unlucky against Spurs? Following the plan against Cardiff and Chelsea? It definitely isn’t pretty but it’s not the possession stat which interests Rafa.
Is it inevitable that there will be a moment of class or genius from the big teams, enough to say, stuff it, let’s have a go? By saying we haven’t got the players, what does that do to their confidence? Or is their confidence coming from a 10th place finish, and their role fulfilled?
Meanwhile, Ashley and the fans of other clubs who think we’re delusional may well continue to spout their received wisdom and lazy clichés. That any publicity is good publicity. It’s all in the spin.
You can follow the author on Twitter @georgestainsby