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Opinion

It’s not YOUR club it is Mike Ashley’s and I’m not going to play along anymore

4 weeks ago
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That’s it. I’m out!

It’s nothing new for a fan to be so transfixed by football, years gone by it was flicking through the teletext pages (remember that?) and now it’s the BBC/Skysports websites to go to for any fan desperate for news on their club.

It’s so easy to read news in today’s 24/7 media world and immediate news is accessible anywhere, so much so that I received the news that Rafa Benitez was leaving Newcastle United while sat on the toilet. Now there’s an image, but it was a very apt way to find out, perfect place to receive sh.. news.

It was always going to come to pass wasn’t it? It hasn’t even come as a shock. The dethroning of King Rafa and the continuing decline of Newcastle United was always going to happen and only the most optimistic fool or gullible buffoon would have predicted otherwise. It’s not a shock as you could see it coming a mile off. What price that the takeover mysteriously collapses as well?

Many fans have said they’ll stop going but now is the time for people to mean it if they aren’t happy with how the club is ran and I’ll tell you what- I for one WON’T be back at St James’ Park while Mike Ashley is owner.

I’m not in the game of trying to persuade others to do the same, if fans want to go and watch the team fair enough. It’s the ones that say “It’s MY club and nobody can tell me not to support it” which is a familiar line trotted out and it’s perfectly valid although quite incorrect. It’s NOT your club anymore- it’s Mike Ashley’s. He can do precisely what he wants with it (and has) but I’m not going along with it anymore.

I’m now officially like someone who simply comes across a football club by accident or via a friend and takes it to heart, a more passive fan if you like. It’s disappointing but kind of a relief. I will always be looking at the fixtures and hoping for a good result. I will continue to watch games when I can in the pub but it won’t dominate life as it once did. Shifts at work won’t be frantically swapped and rearranged to suit. It’s no longer worth the hassle to get excited about S….s D….t United.

I’ve had season tickets on and off for years due to various constraints and when I haven’t, I’ve made games as and when time and finances allow. That old adage of being ‘nuts’ about something is very true but maybe some need a little bit of reality and clarity.

Nobody would call Newcastle United a plastic club, that’s reserved for clubs without rich history or achievements that go back a century or more, or clubs that haven’t existed for as long as some young fans have been alive.

Newcastle United is so much more than that. Are you listening Mike Ashley? Of course you’re not.

Without recent trophy success, we as supporters latch on to whatever positive comes our way, be it a 5-0 win over the best team in the land, a 3-2 win over the cream of world football, a world record breaking signing to bring a world class, home grown player back home, a returning local elder statesman as manager who had achieved everything in the game.

That’s what fans desire the most if silverware isn’t achievable. Are you listening Mike Ashley? Of course you’re not.

So when a World Class and successful manager comes into our lives, we seize on the situation, we embrace it with all that it offers. Rafa Benitez came to the club because he saw a project, he stayed because he saw a further project develop and was persuaded to stay because of the fans and the fans’ desire to see the project come to fruition. It’s a project that would see the club move on from simply surviving year on year, supporters don’t want that, Rafa Benitez doesn’t want that.

Like I’ve said, we are not a plastic club, far from it, we are actually made more of stone these days with the statues of Sir Bobby Robson, Alan Shearer and Jackie Milburn having more life in them. They bring back memories of former glories, even when we didn’t win anything, the excitement was there, the enjoyment was still evident even amongst the crushing disappointments. But at least we tried. Are you listening Mike Ashley?

This owner seems to relish negativity and setbacks. Pre Ashley, I saw the club find new ways to fail all the time but over the last 12 years of Mike Ashley’s ownership the setbacks and problems have not so much been self-inflicted as much as deliberately aimed for. No sooner has a positive been achieved, a negative rears its head. The only thing that seems planned under this regime appears to be disaster.

Take the positive of Kevin Keegan returning and the subsequent pulling of the rug from under his feet with Dennis Wise and senseless appointment of Joe Kinnear. Take the fan galvanising appointment of Alan Shearer only for him to be shamelessly shunned. Take the likeable Chris Hughton getting the club back up from the Championship only to be sacked and replaced with Alan Pardew. The 5th place finish in 2012 was treated like a disaster for the club with subsequent statements from the club heavily implying that the cups were not to be gone for. Is this REALLY a football club?

You can bet your life it’s not the one I and many others got interested in.

So with that, you can keep your £65 shirts and your 25% increased season tickets in just over a year. I’m not going to urge others to do the same, people can (and will) do what they want. It’s about more than just #Ifrafagoeswego. If a shop owner takes the mick out of his customers and hikes the prices of his products, it would be a foolish person to keep putting up with and come back for more.

Numerous times over the last 12 years the pi.. has been taken out of the club and its fans. Club legends have been embarrassed and club history sh.. on without so much as a thought. If you were to stumble across a step by step process on how to not run a football club and dump on its fans at the same time, the author would surely be Mike Ashley. That is why it seems so deliberate.

Does anyone still harbour hopes of a takeover? I’ll ask you…Who hikes ticket prices, raises shirt prices and negotiates with a manager if they were planning on leaving?

An interesting line in the official club statement reads: “The process to appoint a successor will now begin.” Really? Do you still believe in the takeover?

And so to Rafa Benitez I say this: Thank you for the last three years. You and your team’s efforts to get the best out of a likeable and workmanlike group of players has provided dividends in keeping Newcastle United in the Premier League and re-enforced the belief that we are still an attractive bunch of supporters to work for to try and bring success.

It’s sad that we can’t see this through to a more successful conclusion together and see where we could have got to with just a modicum of ambition. That’s what proper football clubs do and you are now free to find one that will at least try and compete. I think all fans will agree that you at least deserve that.

And to Mike Ashley…

You’ve had many chances at making this club a better club on the field, many chances at selling the club, many chances at redemption after countless mistakes and faux pas, many chances at healing relationships between yourself and the club’s fanbase, maybe not a full recovery but with Rafa you had a massive gift fall into your lap and have shamelessly let float on by. You’re not going to get another one from me.

You can continue to take the proverbial out of whoever is daft enough to keep turning up and put up with the lies and PR. You can pick your next ‘Yes man’ to run the club on a shoestring and help stifle whatever passes for ambition at this empty shell of what was formerly a football club. You can stuff it!

I’m not going to play along anymore.

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