In their role as Mike Ashley’s Ministry of Propaganda, Talksport carried a curiously timed interview with Matt Ritchie who has claimed he is bewildered at the unrest around Newcastle United currently. Perhaps he needs to get out more. Or he could speak to Ayoze Perez if he still has his number as he apparently does understand what is going badly wrong at the club. Or even his former manager who has been pretty explicit about everything that is failing at the club. Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer might be able to clue him in.
It really is pretty low however for what passes as the United media operation, perhaps in cahoots with Keith Bishop to be lashing players in front of the media to argue Mike Ashley’s case. The club has been subject to two attempts to take it from Mike Ashley’s ownership this summer neither of which has resulted in success or brought any comment from anyone at the club – we aren’t commenting on what might be have thought to have been a drunken rant down the phone to Martin Samuel, The Mail journalist who you might consider is quite a friendly hack from the Ashley perspective. We know why the club hasn’t been sold – Ashley is imposing onerous terms on a sale and behaving in exactly the same way he has towards rangers FC. That’s just an opinion however.
This strategy acts to compromise a player’s position with supporters. Ritchie is widely liked despite his limitations and ordinarily would have moved on now to a club of his level, probably in the Championship with plenty of his team-mates. But that’s probably because there has been a good spirit at the club over the last three years and bond between supporters and players – with Ritchie being key amongst them. Whoever is arranging this media strategy at SJP needs to think again because a player like Ritchie (like Shelvey and Lascelles previously) will suffer from being identified as an Ashley lickspittle. Ask Alan Pardew how that panned out. It is a silly way to tackle a planned boycott of the first game of the season. It is only likely to inflame feelings.
It was curious Ritchie should refer to his former club Bournemouth as a example of what United needs to do on and off the pitch. Lots of us will look at the position a club with a very modest tradition and support have achieved with real ambition behind them compared to what United has under Ashley. No wonder there is a happy atmosphere around Bournemouth – they are punching way above their weight. Newcastle United is deliberately and cynically being held back.
Players’ agents should not be happy for their clients to be used in this way.
I don’t understand the unrest – I’ve got to be honest. The club’s gone out, spent money. We’re pushing, trying to compete with the teams we can compete with and you have to be real. To compete at the top of the Premier League now is mega, mega money – I think the owner has been honest in his interviews in the press and said he can’t go and compete with them. He’s been upfront about that, and to do that he would have to sell the club. For me we have to all be in this together. I’ve said this since I arrived at the football club – there’s always been a little bit of unrest – but the main thing I took from Bournemouth, and it’s a smaller club I know but everyone was pulling in the same direction with the same philosophy, mentality and desire to help one another. That’s what we need to be here – the fans, the staff and the playing staff – all as one – and pulling in the same direction.
That’s something I’m really passionate about – if we’re all in this together, we can be a lot stronger and we need the fans to support the team, and be with us. I said last season, we played Manchester United at home, and I got a bit of stick after the game because I said the atmosphere wasn’t great but I don’t retract what I said because it was how I felt. After that period of games, the performances on the pitch changed how the fans see it and the atmosphere on the pitch, so it’s down to the players to make the atmosphere good but from the word ‘go’ on Sunday we need everyone together.