Like many of you reading this I have a kind of morbid fascination with the e-mails sent out by Newcastle United FC. Oh, it’s just me then? I’ve recently been getting missives from Barrack Road into my in-box punting season tickets. Its job done for me as I haven’t wriggled free from the season ticket hand-cuffs just yet but that’s just down to laziness on my part. I know it will be a pain in the neck for me to get tickets on a match by match basis and tickets for aways – so, on that basis alone, I’ve decided to keep my season ticket. There is no other reason.
It also seems as though Newcastle United’s er, marketing department (I’m not even sure if they have one to be honest) can’t find any other reason for a supporter to buy one, other than that they exist, they are on sale and that’s about it. I tell a lie, they did mention in an e-mail last week that if you buy a season ticket, you are therefore guaranteed to get a ticket for the Tyne & Wear Derby match. I checked at the bottom of the e-mail to see if this wasn’t an elaborate hoax put out by a Mackem with a sense of humour, but no, it was genuine and a fixture we have been torn apart in for the last two seasons was being used as a pitch to sell tickets to us. I did laugh at that one. Then I decided to sit in the garden for a couple of hours staring silently into the middle distance until I was persuaded indoors by the promise of a stiff drink!
Newcastle United can think of no single reason for a supporter to buy a season ticket other than that they are selling them. There is no vision of attacking, entertaining football, no star players to seduce us into shelling out our hard-earned money and no call to arms to get behind the club because we all want the same things and we want to go in the right direction. Nothing like that! There is not even an unconvincing claim we might enjoy it. Nothing at all! It’s nothing other than a desultory, electronic shrug of the shoulders and a hope that many of our switched off fans will sigh, say oh, okay then and for old time’s sake buy one in the certain knowledge they will regret it before August is out. There is more fun in buying a ticket for a raffle when the seller won’t even pretend there is a prize.
Unsurprisingly then, the story is circulating that season ticket sales are hugely down on previous years. Deadlines have been extended as they never been before in the modern era and the claim made by the club at the last Fans Forum that renewals were down by a standard 6% seems like so much coming out of St James’ Park to be completely false.
Our comrades at The Mag have examined the stadium plan and made the guesstimate that attendances for home games next season could fall below 40,000. I have no way of confirming or contradicting that but intuitively, it feels right. Over the last few years there has been a trickle of support away from United. You can tell when we play the likes of Man Utd, Liverpool etc. because they are in our end, buying up corporate packages and other seats in a way that was inconceivable a decade ago. It now seems the trickle threatens to turn into a flood as supporters just cannot face turning up and watching players with their ambition to get a move somewhere else up the food-chain play for a club that has no other ambition than to exist and for a manager with little credibility. There may well still be some naïve fans out there who believe this is (a) not really the case or (b) well, they don’t mind anyway or (c) something about the virtues of blind loyalty and whistling to keep themselves cheerful. But the received wisdom amongst most supporters is the club has been hollowed out and is a meaningless enterprise in maintaining TV revenue. The club is completely detached from its support, its community, has no goodwill and is utterly isolated.
Sadly, those left to notionally keep things ticking over on Barrack Road have neither the capability or the inclination to even begin to grapple with the unprecedented morass the club has sunk into.
In this last week a further two players have left United or are on the point of doing so. Both Mehdi Abeid and James Tavernier will head for pastures new. Abeid will return to Athens to make his move to Panathanikos permanent and James Tavernier has joined Wigan. I wish them both well. Those two players represent more failure at Newcastle United. It is little more than two seasons ago that coaches at the United Academy were buzzing about Abeid, talking about his massive potential and the manager involved him in training with the first team. After a successful season in Greece on loan, he’s now out the door, another player whose promise has remained unfulfilled. Another player who will not progress into the first team!
Since the end of the season, Shola Ameobi, Dan Gosling, Mehdi Abeid and James Tavernier have left United. As we know Yohan Cabaye left the club in January and Loic Remy as well as Luuk De Jong ended their loan spells with us as well. Incoming has been a kid from the Spanish Second Division and a player who could not nail down a place in the Sunderland first team.
Right now, on numbers alone a weak squad has been weakened.
It is hardly a state secret to comment that Hatem Ben Arfa, Sylvain Marveaux, Mapou Yanga Mbwia, Gabriel Obertan and Steven Taylor aren’t wanted by the manager. Decent money would get Davide Santon away back to Italy and the vultures are starting to circulate over Tim Krul and Mathieu Debuchy.
Outside the first team picture it is likely Haris Vuckic, Shane Ferguson and Sammy Ameobi will join Tavernier and Abeid in the United departure lounge.
I may be premature but a weakened squad now possesses more unwanted players than at any time in the manager’s time at United.
The task of rebuilding United to be at the position it was in even at the beginning of last season will be mammoth. The prospect of improving it, I am afraid to my eye, looks completely out of reach.
Lee Charnley, looking every inch this year’s Joe Kinnear, just with less swearing and fewer lost mobile phones has thus far, failed to secure the deals of Remy Cabella and Clement Grenier despite them having been “monitored” for at least 12 months and been subject to various bids over two transfer windows. We have just watched Bafetimbi Gomis, a player we laboured over and failed to sign for most of last summer, join Swansea City on a free transfer. I may be typing this up in blissful ignorance but nothing seems imminent. As we watch other clubs seal deals and push on with business, we are trying to convince ourselves the window isn’t really open for us because the World Cup is ongoing. This, to me, appears to be an exercise in self-delusion.
Newcastle United, as things stand, is sleep-walking into a disaster next season.
It’s not just season tickets we have punted at us through the wonders of e-mail. Thankfully, I won’t read an exhortation any longer to suspend my musical tastes and go and watch the Kings of Leon play some dull-arse, derivative US rock shite at St James’ Park but the desire for me to buy club merchandise from Newcastle United seems strong. That’s unlikely to happen any time soon. I won’t be buying a club shirt in any event but even for lounging around the house or rare visits to the gym I think I could wear something that didn’t possess with it the immorality of our club’s loathed sponsors.
Wonga was in the news last week and for those that missed it, I enclose the following links:
The company our club has elected to allow onto its shirt and elsewhere now faces the potential of legal action against it having constructed a series of lies to those being pursued for debts. They are morally repugnant and I think of many of the indignities Ashley has forced upon our club, the taint to our club’s iconic Black & White striped shirt is amongst the worst. I can’t look at it and feel revulsion when I see it worn by adults. Children obviously know no better.
It is entirely possible that local people, residents of Newcastle and the wider NE region have fallen within Wonga’s clutches and I find that repugnant. I also have little doubt that this news will have barely raised a flutter of concern at Mike “Zero Hours Contract” Ashley or his Barrack Road lackeys. They seem to have little appreciation for the damage Wonga does to the reputation of Newcastle United or even the “brand” of the club across the world.
I do not doubt for one second Wonga will continue to be the club’s sponsor and I don’t doubt they will continue to sit on the Fans Forum, despite (hopefully) imminent legal action whilst the Newcastle United Supporters Trust, who have funded events such as this –
remain ostracised on trumped up, petty charges. The club decline to reply to letters from the Football Supporters Federation on the subject. Newcastle United has absolutely no class whatsoever.
It seems those in positions of authority (such as it is) operate to a dubious moral compass. Newcastle United requires a thorough fumigation from top to bottom.
I am sure for those of you who are enjoying the true faith SUMMER SPECIAL (tf112) you recognise the familiar feel of the thing from our hard copy days but also appreciate the additional content and bells and whistles that we have added in what is a 169 – page issue.
Our SUMMER SPECIAL is the biggest ever club fanzine anyone has ever done around Newcastle United and to my knowledge, anyone has ever done elsewhere. But hopefully, those of you reading the SUMMER SPECIAL will agree the quality is at the usual high standard.
After quite a lot of thought, we have decided to bring out TEN issues per season starting in August. Each issue will be a minimum of 100 pages. But even though that adds to our costs and our workload, we will not be increasing the subscription charges.
Ten issues of true faith over the whole of next season starting from 8Aug/14. 100-pages per issue.
the current SUMMER SPECIAL (169 pages)
access to an archive of 30 back issues of true faith.
We are at the early stages of this whole new DIGITAL adventure and we know it is going to grow and grow in this current season and thereafter. There is absolutely no doubt about that.
The DIGITAL format allows us to publish bigger issues and more regularly. It allows us to publish more well-crafted and written content from supporters and offer even greater analysis. And it allows us to do it far cheaper than we could have ever done in hard-copy format.
We also believe our service to you has improved enormously too – every reader will get immediate access to the fanzine at the same time and at the same cost, no matter where you are in the world.
Have a great week.