Eddie Rutherford, Head of facilities at Newcastle United, has had a multi-part interview with the Chronicle published this week. In it he defended the club from mounting social media focus by supporters on the cleanliness and deterioration of St James Park.
Following the interview many have had their say on whether he put up a satisfactory argument and whether or not the complaints about the stadium have been excessive.
Less discussed, it seems to me, was how much Rutherford agreed with supporters about the training ground, he repeatedly made the case that improvements are needed, that everyone knows that, but that the club simply will not fund it.
It was over a month ago when Newcastle MP (and supporter) Chi Onwurah presented her petition to parliament asking for “action to prevent unscrupulous football club owners from exploiting the clubs”, her concern that Newcastle United specifically was failing to provide “investment in players, training facilities and community engagement” and further “that the owner Mike Ashley has not made this support forthcoming.”
Mike Ashley strenuously denied this.
In a letter to the Secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright complaining about Onwurah’s petition, Ashley argued “Our training facilities have improved significantly during my tenure. They are fit for purpose and very clearly do not have a negative impact on performance.”
Rutherford, in his interview, has contradicted this view and agreed with Onwurah and supporters.
He said “we know we need a [new training] building long-term” adding “it’s common knowledge we have plans for the training ground” and “we have one pitch outside we want to upgrade – there are plans” also there are ” lots of things we want to do and the same at the academy.”
Not only does he disagree with his boss and think that improvements are required, he goes further and accurately identifies the cause of the delay in making those improvements and it’s exactly what supporters and Onwurah have said all along.
It’s five years since the club obtained planning permission for work at the training ground and Rutherford is blunt about why that work has not started “If I say I want all this money to do everything I want to do in one go, I’m not going to get it.”
Being resigned to the fact that necessary improvements will not be funded by “the board“ only serves to emphasize the point made by Chi Onwurah in her petition and makes a lie of the statement Ashley made in his letter to Jeremy Wright. It’s satisfying to have people in leadership positions at the club publicly recognise this.