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Opinion

Newcastle United five year plan – Then the reality

1 year ago
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I heard the term ‘Five year plan’ for the first time in a good while yesterday, it invoking hideous memories of the Newcastle United five year plan that NUFC supporters once had to endure.

In 2008, our club was a shambles, with Mike Ashley surrounding himself with the unpopular Dennis Wise and no-marks like Jeff Vetere and Tony Jimenez.

Casino boss Derek Llambias had recently been installed as chairman and the ambitious Kevin Keegan (back at the club for a second spell as manager) had been quickly disposed of.

Yes man Joe Kinnear was chosen to replace King Kev, with all of the aforementioned soon becoming dis-affectionately known as the Cockney Mafia.

Newcastle United were deservedly relegated in 2008/09, then Chris Hughton became permanent manager after a fine start as caretaker boss in the Championship the following season.

We went back up to the Premier League as Champions in 2010 and it was around about this time, that Derek Llambias first started talking about the cunning ‘Newcastle United five year plan’ for our club.

After a sound start to life back in the EPL, which included hammerings of both Aston Villa and Sunderland at St James’ Park and an away win against Arsenal at the Emirates, Chris Hughton was ruthlessly sacked in the December.

Llambias’ friend Alan Pardew was hurriedly installed as his replacement, then at the end of the January 2011 transfer window, Mike Ashley sanctioned the sale of our best young player Andy Carroll to Liverpool, even laying a helicopter on to take him to Merseyside.

To say I was becoming suspicious of this ‘Newcastle United five year plan’ would be an understatement, especially when Shefki Kuqi was brought in as a free agent, to somehow replace Carroll.

The pre-season of 2011 saw the arrivals of Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba, both of these players hitting the ground running in the 2011/12 season.

With Cabaye perfectly partnering Chiek Tiote in midfield, Demba Ba started freely plundering goals, and with the addition of the phenomenal Papiss Cisse in the January 2012 window, the club went on to finish fifth in the EPL, securing European football.

Mr Llambias had a new saying now and began calling our top performers ‘purple players’.

The ‘Newcastle United five year plan’ seemed to be back on track but a distinct lack of ambition in the summer 2012 transfer window helped lead to Newcastle United having a desperate 2012/13, only eventually reaching safety when winning the final NUFC away game of the season at QPR. The European Thursday nights were continually churned out by Pardew as an excuse for the poor league form and I began to wonder, what was the point in qualifying in the first place?

Not a single first team signing was bought in for the entire 2013/14 season, covering two transfer windows, only loans for Loic Remy and Luuk de Jong.

This helping to ensure relegation struggles the next couple of seasons.

Alan Pardew left for Crystal Palace during the 2014/15 season and was replaced by John Carver on a temporary basis.

At the end of that season, Ashley gave a rare after match exclusive, rambling on about ‘shutting stable doors before the horses had bolted’ in the future.

Steve McClaren became Ashley’s latest patsy and Newcastle United were then relegated again under Mike Ashley at the end of the 2015/16 campaign.

That good old ‘Newcastle United five year plan’ had been nothing but a smokescreen for and our supporters had been taken for a ride.

After a 2-1 home defeat against West Brom on Monday evening just gone, it was interesting in the aftermath to read Sunderland supporters deliberating on the merits of their very own ‘Five year plan’, apparently set up by their Director of Football Kristjaan Speakman.

There was a 50/50 split in mackem opinion, of whether their club are leading them up the garden path and just content to chug along as a sustainable Championship club.

They seem to be smelling the coffee a bit quicker than some of us were under Mike Ashley.

There are similarities between Sunderland’s current situation and ours around a decade or so ago, even if we were / are in different divisions.

They seem to have an owner in Kyril Louis-Dreyfus who runs a tight ship, their fans constantly being told that the club are now debt free.

Dreyfus also seems surrounded by shady characters and shareholders who are not averse to selling off their better players. They have recently replaced a manager who got them promoted out of the third tier after four long seasons.

There is no doubt that Sunderland and their supporters revelled, scoffed and rejoiced at Mike Ashley’s shambolic running of Newcastle United.

There are also some Wearsiders who actually thought we didn’t appreciate Ashley enough.

Well you really should be careful what you wish for because as they say, ‘what goes around, comes around’.

Don’t talk to me about ‘Five year plans’ anymore. We now have owners who want to fast-track us to the top as soon as they can.

HTL

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