We have to switch off the life support system to get rid of Mike Ashley
My first ever Newcastle United game at St James Park was in 1979, when I was 4 years old. We beat Oldham 3-2, courtesy of a late couple of goals from Alan Shoulder. That was a topsy turvy game and, although I didn’t know it then, it was just the beginning of my relationship with one of the more interesting teams in English football.
Over the last 40 years I have witnessed highs and lows…but never have I felt so despondent as I do now.
Before I go any further, I have to point out that this is a club that I love, one that I have spent my life supporting and one that has given me many amazing memories. I am ‘one of us’ but I have had enough. Our club is dying, and maybe we, the supporters, are the life support that needs to be turned off.
The current situation, to me, feels worse than in the late 80s when we had the famous ‘sack the board’ season because ultimately, the board were sackable. Gordon McKeag didn’t own the whole club, and in due course history took us down the Sir John Hall road and all of the fun with King Kev.
This is a very different situation. Mike Ashley is accountable to nobody, he listens to nobody who cares about the club, and as a result the club has been in freefall for years. Deep down, I think even Rafa has thrown in the towel, and he is merely clinging to the hope that he soon has a new boss. Unfortunately, I simply don’t see this happening.
A club with the very real possibility of relegation looming over it, is not worth £400m of anybody’s money. It was Catch 22 this season because, if we had got off to a flyer, then Ashley would have put the price up, and now that we are staring at the Championship nobody will meet an unrealistic valuation that hasn’t come down. You are also dealing with a man who seems to shift the goalposts almost every day when it comes to his demands relating to the sale of the club. It is a tough space to do business. So, if the club is unsellable, what is best for the future of the club that we love?
I find myself more and more drawn to the idea of relegation, maybe even a couple of relegations if it means a clean break from Ashley. He will eventually stop putting money into the club to cover his own deficiencies, below average and over paid players will leave and Newcastle United will no longer be an invaluable vessel for Sports Direct. When that happens he will go.
As long as we provide him with the advertising and the facility to flog his dodgy wares he will not go. On Saturday day, he (Mike Ashley) looked like a man in a panic. He is in a panic because if we go down Rafa will go, and only a manager with very few options would work for him. If that happens we will not jump back out of the Championship like we have managed before and all of a sudden a £400m asset is worth a packet of fags, maybe less. His gamble is backfiring and he knows it.
There is nothing that I would like more than to see Ashley lose everything he has put into the club and the only way that is going to happen is if the club as we now know it dies.
Sometimes in life / business you realise that you have to rip everything up and start again because the road you are on has absolutely no positive ending. This is one of those times.
We don’t have any heroes on the pitch for our kids to idolise.
We don’t have a club that invests in the community.
We don’t have an academy of any note.
Our training facilities are significantly in need of renovation.
The stadium is beginning to show signs of wear and tear.
All that is left is us, the life support. We have been there through thick and thin, with some of us remembering the ‘thins’ very well. I think it was February 1991 when I was one of 12k at a freezing cold 0-0 draw with Brighton in the old second division. Two years later, almost to the day, there was a capacity crowd to watch us batter Brentford on our way to winning promotion to the Premier League. The difference between those two dates? Kevin Keegan and entertainment. We can rise again, but to rise, you have to fall.
What we are now witnessing at Newcastle is not entertainment. It is some of the worst football I have ever seen.
Rafa is doing what he can with a bunch of average players, and the only way to give us half a chance is to slow the game down and make us hard to beat. That is not entertainment and anyone that is enjoying going to the games these days must love football far more than I do.
In every other thing we do in life, if something is not entertaining us, we do something different instead. We have to do the very same to save our club. By staying away from dull, hard to watch football, you will not be abandoning the club, you will be saving it. There are no heroes on the pitch worthy of your time.
If we go down our two best / most valuable players, Lascelles and Shelvey will go. They are players who wouldn’t even have got on the bench in the days of Keegan. That is how far we have fallen.
Nobody wants to see us challenging for honours more than me, but that is not going to happen without a complete reboot at the club – £400m is too much for a club that needs to reboot.
The playing squad is almost worthless and investment is needed almost everywhere across the club. When your computer is running poorly, you reboot it, but you don’t wait around for it to go through the process of rebooting, that would be a waste of time. You go and make a cup of tea and come back when it is working again.
We have to do the same for OUR club. We need to come back when it is working again. So let’s all put on the kettle, occasionally glance to see what progress is being made and when it is time to sit down again, we will know.
Kris Marshall, aged 43 and ready for a reboot.
If you would like to feature on The Mag, submit your article to [email protected]