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Opinion

Newcastle United, Mike Ashley, NUFC fans and short-termism

2 months ago
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One of the best examples of short-termism available for all to see, is Christmas.

A long protracted build up to . . . not very much at all. People you never see for months on end suddenly want to get together ‘because it’s Christmas’ and this is hugely annoying.

Society is a sea of mad rush and panic for over a month, with people often over spending without half a clue what to buy, desperate to get things sorted for the big day and then, the second you get past 4pm on December 25th, BANG! It’s over and everything goes back to normality after the New Year.

So here we are arriving at another Christmas with Newcastle United, a club never far away from turmoil and a fanbase consistently and justifiably up in arms with the way owner Mike Ashley has ran the club over the last 13 years. But could everything at this point be merry and bright?

In a word- ‘Yes!’ Bet you weren’t expecting me to say that.

Take a moment.

We are in the top 10 at Christmas with a Geordie as Manager/Head Coach and a Geordie leading the line up front. We have a couple of young Geordies in the squad and a pretty solid defence and goalkeeper. Even our neighbours down the road have played their part and imploded with the Mackems just as likely to be relegated from League One as being promoted from it. Even the Smoggies are in relegation trouble in the Championship. Happy days!

Sadly, that’s were the positives start and end because sadly another great example of short-termism is Newcastle United and in particular, Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United.

On the face of it, everything indeed looks quite reasonable.

Victories over Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, West Ham and the good draw against Manchester City show a pretty picture going into 2020. No really, it does. They are results that would be lauded at any time in our history and should be regarded as such and credit MUST go to Steve Bruce for overseeing them.

Credit too must go to the players. Jonjo Shelvey in particular has stepped up and is our most valuable player over the course of the last few games, coming from a place where you would quite happily have flogged him this coming January based on what he was contributing a few months ago. My worry with Shelvey is we must hope it’s something tangible and not a short-term, flash in the pan success, as sadly we’ve seen it him before.

Another area where short-termism is visible, is in Head Coach Steve Bruce. He’s never been one to stay at a club for long, nor has he ever been headhunted by a club looking to build something. The fact of the matter is that he usually has a honeymoon period, a good run of form/results and then the inevitable happens. The fact that he tends to walk before he is pushed is commendable but merely masks the failing of the appointment in the first place.

Mike Ashley through accident or by design has stumbled across two managers in his time owning Newcastle United who he could deem as the perfect fit. Regular comparisons between Bruce and former manager Alan Pardew still remain stark and clear. Both are more than happy to sit down, shut up and coach the team. They have little or no say on transfers and generally issue statements in press conferences that are either untrue, a massive bending of the truth, or exist in bulling up the owner.

In 2012 the league was poor and Pardew’s Newcastle capitalised to a great degree, even Pardew himself has stated that that side overachieved. We finished above Chelsea AND Liverpool that year so his statement is quite a fair and surprisingly honest reflection from a man who has built a reputation for being the exact opposite, even bordering on arrogant in the face of very little to back it up.

The more worrying trait that Bruce and Pardew have is that they usually have promising runs and even tend to do reasonably well until the inevitable collapse when results drop off, usually to an alarming rate. These periods of relative success are short-term and the dark periods tend to be the norm.

This season we have Manchester United, Arsenal AND Tottenham trying to outdo each other in the mediocrity stakes and whilst it’s highly likely they will finish above Newcastle, their collective failures lowers the standards for others to capitalise on and finish in a slightly artificial position. That is why Newcastle are currently ninth and it’s a direct parallel to 2011/12.

Credit must go to Steve Bruce as well as the players for digging out a number of results so far this season but let’s not dress things up to be what they are not.

Performances have been rotten both statistically AND on the eye. A defensive attitude held over from the previous manager has bore fruit but it’s rather more worrying under the surface. This season, minus the goal threat of Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez, we look far less likely to score goals aplenty and save ourselves on merit. And we weren’t exactly prolific last season.

Seven times so far this season we have totalled possession 30% or under and the team more often than not don’t register more than five shots on target (three times not a single shot on target). This is completely unsustainable long-term and only adds to the evidence of short-termism. You can’t rely on nicking results forever. It certainly seems that playing well in fits and starts is paying dividends this season in the Premier League.

What I said at the start about not being too far away from a crisis is still very real. I’ll stop short of encouraging fellow fans to enjoy what we are witnessing as that would be a very big stretch and many of our fans won’t be conned by what they are watching. This is why attendances are down and why 10,000 half season tickets have been given away by Mike Ashley. A freebie to boost visual supports for his retail empire? You bet it is. It’s also more short-termism. What happens when tickets have to be sold on merit next summer?

I’d ask supporters to appreciate where we are for as long as possible as it simply won’t last, for as soon as some teams in this league get their acts together our own shortcomings will not be masked like they being right now.

At the start of the season I stated that I thought we would survive as there is a lot of dross in the Premier League. With the season reaching the halfway point it would take a dramatic drop off in results for us to be in relegation danger this season and for that we can at least be temporarily thankful this festive period.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all Newcastle fans.

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