Archive | December, 2010

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

9 Dec

 

Reaction to the Pardew news from Freddy Shepherd:

 “Perhaps I would have done the same as Mike because football is business and business is business and you have to go with what is best for the business even if it does not sit too well with the fans.”

The problem with NUFC. The problem with football generally. The antithesis of how anyone with any sense of the importance of sport should think. Lest we ever begin to think Ashley is some new breed of corporate villain who ousted a bunch of benign Geordies. Unscrupulous bastards, it seems, can come from any part of the country.

Taken from www.nufc.com; one of the scant beacons of hope still associated with my football club.

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Are You Experienced?

8 Dec

ever get the feeling you've been absolutely raped?

Premature as it may be to begin the back lash before all the hyperbole has calmed down and the deal is finally done, saving an unlikely (but not impossible) u-turn, it seems Alan Pardew will become the next in a long line to grasp the poisoned chalice that is management of Newcastle United Football Club; and thus become the sixth manager of Mike Ashley’s four year tenure.

Frankly, media report that the deal was done (or at least influenced) around the poker table are too depressing for me to even begin contemplating; though previous accounts of ‘favour loans’ to Latin American agents based on YouTube clips set a fairly nadiral precedent. Basically – unconscionably – it’s probably true.

But that aside – for now – Pardew’s appointment under the club’s own stated requirements is baffling. It seems that even Ashley is unable to keep up with the movement of his own moving goalposts. For, whilst ostensibly searching for ‘more experience’, we seem destined to end up with a manager who has managed four clubs, only one of which is anything like a regular fixture in the Premier League – West Ham – and they are hardly a template for what we desire of NUFC!

Aside from leading out the losing side in probably the best FA Cup final ever, what ‘experience’ has our newly appointed gaffer got? Well, he presided over Charlton Athletic getting relegated (and look where they are now). Yes he won a couple of promotions, one into the Premier League, but Hughton has that experience too. And what Hughton has that Pardew seems to be lacking, is experience, albeit as a coach, at a so-called ‘big club’ (Spurs).

Pardew most recently presided over Southampton’s languished stay in League One, and albeit that he was handed a debilitating point deduction, failed to get them out of the quagmire. If, worst case scenario, we go down next season, and he is still at the helm, will he have the ‘experience’ to bring us back up, and handle the inevitable fan pressure and despondency that accompanied our last relegation? Hughton did; I fear Pardew would not.

 But most worrying for me is the turmoil and antagonism with chairmen at both Reading and Southampton. With our current ‘colourful’ owner being less than easy to get on with, and with yet more turmoil and contestation from disgruntled fans already threatening, what price another sacking by the end of this season? The ‘old boys’ anecdotes from around the blackjack table will only get him so far; apparently five games without a win is all it takes for Ashley to convert you from ‘contract-renegotiated-at-the-end-of-the-season’ to ‘we-need-to-part-company’.

I know that such a negative and hopeless diatribe is less that helpful at the beginning of yet another ‘fresh start’ for this club. I know that I should be trying – once again – to, if not put a positive spin on yet another inept appointment, then at least be saying ‘right; let’s please just get on with playing some football now… please. No more circus, no more scandal – just give this manager some time’. But I’m just tired. I’m tired. I’m tired of the lies, the back-handed compliments to fans and discarded managers alike, the under-handed ‘favours’ and deals, the duplicitous double-speak, the incomprehensible decision making, the lack of clear and permanent goals for the short, medium and long term to improve the fortunes of this club. I’m tired and, at this point, I’m finding it hard to gear myself up for yet another inevitable disappointment.

I finish with this final despondent point. In 2008, Ashley got rid of a manager (Keegan) who, whilst his appointment had been met with derision and suspicion, had managed to convince the majority of NUFC fans that he was doing a decent job and that, given time, could prove to be a prudent choice. In 2008, the replacement was met with destructive, yet totally justified, fan protests that destabilised the club and gave the new incumbent – a bizarre, left-field appointment (Kinnear) that asked significant questions about the selection criteria – no chance whatsoever of success; and so it proved. In a perilous position, the club flitted between a mentality of ‘play-it-safe-and-we-might-stay-up’ and tokenistic rashness that pandered to the most infantile depictions of Toon fans as rose-tinted ‘we’d-prefer-to-loose-four-three’ morons with a messiah complex. Enter Shearer. Exit Shearer.

Neither position worked (or more correctly, the bi-polar flitting between the two didn’t work), and we were relegated. However, the Championship flattered us because we started well, and a number of clubs came to St. James’ with a definite mentality of ‘at least will have a grand day out at a huge stadium’; we were allowed to be promoted, and I don’t say this to belittle Hughton’s achievements (look at the Boro), but we were never tested, and so the assumption that we were dead certs to go back up at the first attempt was never fully questioned. We were just ‘too big’ to be in the Championship.

2010 seems to be following, worryingly, this already-ploughed furrow. Hughton, despite reservations at the beginning of the season, was doing a decent (not great) job. His sacking will be met with vitriol from the terraces. His replacement will not be given a chance, and will (I fear) be given short shrift. Will we then be left with clutching at straws? How many messiahs do we have left in reserve?

If – and I know this is too early to say, but I’m at a very low ebb, and quite a nihilistic mood – we get relegated again, the veneer of being a big fish in a small pond will have vanished. Many more of the clubs in that division will treat their games against us as possible wins and we will struggle. And will players like Barton, Nolan, Carroll etc stoop to another season in the Championship? A quick bounce back will not be as likely, and then where? It’s only a short trip to Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds United, Charlton Athletic.

Experience? We’ve experienced this before.

The Circus is Back in Town…

6 Dec

… and the latest manager to be kicked prematurely from the world’s-shittest-merry-go-round, Chris Hughton, has more cause than many in recent memory to be disgruntled with the decision.

Right; cards on the table. This is a very early reaction to news that, even with NUFC’s (at its current ‘custodian’s’) apparent delight at pointing the shotgun directly at their own feet, came as a total shock to me, so it may be a little garbled. But the main point is not a contentious one, and will no doubt be repeated by all and sundry in the coming weeks. Why on earth cause more drama? Just when the dust of relegation/ promotion seemed to have settled, just when the chants for the fat cockney bastard to get out of town had subsided, just when the big top seemed to have been packed away for the foreseeable future, we give the nation’s press another opportunity to make the club the laughing stock of English sport. Again.

Was Hughton the best manager in the Premiership? No, of course not. For my part, I thought he was too hesitant in making substitutions, he seemed to put far too much faith in certain players (Jonas) and not enough in others (Ranger – despite the new contract, didn’t get enough game time). But NUFC are patently not one of the better teams in this league. Despite the 5-1 against the mackems, despite a remarkable win at Arsenal, and a commendable draw against an admittedly sub-par (and pretty unlucky) Chelsea, we were still relegation material – not through any fault of Hughton’s, just because the premise of ‘last up, first down’ is still so prevalent in the Premiership.

That we were (until the frankly poor performance at West Brom.) level on points with the Baggies and Blackpool means that we were holding our own – we were where we should be, if not higher. This fact is made clear by the fact that there has not been a sniff of sacking around the Hawthorns, nor at Blackpool (except for Holloway threatening to fall on his own sword) and rightly so. Christ, even with Liverpool’s (for them) terrible start, even with the often tumultuous West Ham rooted to the bottom of the table, even with Wolves struggling, none of these clubs have even hinted at a sacking – so why have we?

In an interview with radio 5, former assistant coach Colin Calderwood hinted that there must be a replacement ready to fill the position – although his justification for this was that it would be insane not to have someone in mind. However the club statement concluding with ‘the search for a replacement begins now’ doesn’t quite fill me with confidence.

OK, so the notion of getting someone with ‘more experience’, to manage a team now playing with the big boys makes sense (to someone who is an idiot) – but who, realistically, are we going to get. Martin O’Neil has turned the job down the last time it was offered – so too did mark Hughes, Steve Bruce, ‘Arry Redknapp – everybody. We had to resurrect Joe Kinnear (who, all joking aside, I actually thought was dead) last time – what barrel will we have to scrape this time?

Basically, as everyone can see, this is the worst sort of knee-jerk reaction from someone who not only clearly doesn’t understand anything about the logistics of running a football club (this has been demonstrated time and time again) but who, I am beginning to think, is cynically causing chaos to court the attention. I really think that Ashley was getting bored of not having NUFC the main topic of footballing debate, so has orchestrated another crisis – no press is bad press, right?

If the club haven’t got someone in place (an apparently all bets are off on Alan Pardew – a though which I can’t even bear to consider at the moment. Yes, he has experience; but of basement management and relegation and I know that’s the situation we’re in just now – but come on!) then I really despair because, in our quest for experience, we will, in all likelihood, have Beardsley and Stone – two men who have never managed at first team level – leading out the team against Liverpool. The game against Liverpool is surely one that we are not expected to get anything from (although I think we could), so why not wait until after this game, whilst putting the feelers out for a replacement, to sack Hughton – that’s if you feel you have to sack Hughton, which frankly is ridiculous.

So the depressing upshot of all of this is that the great work that Hughton has done is all unpicked at the first sign of…. what? We’re not bottom of the league, we have had some good results. Alright, some bad ones too, but the team will inevitably take time to (re)adjust to the pace of the Premier – Hughton’s main plus points were not his ‘experience’, nor his tactical acumen, but the fact that he made NUFC – as a media story – quite ordinary. A good result here, a bad result there, just a regular team looking to grasp at some sort of stability. Yet, once again, the carpet has been pulled from under our feet. Roll up, roll up, ladies and gentlemen, for the most frustrating show on earth!