So, only one place to start this week and it’s on the touchline at Hull City with Alan Pardew PardewHulland David Meyler. Click here to see what really happened if by the remotest possibility you have avoided seeing it in the media.

First things first, what Pardew did was unprofessional and wrong. It’s bad for the game and it doesn’t present a great image of our club either. He should be punished – most likely with a fine from the FA to go with the eye-watering £100K lopped from his salary (if you can believe what United say, I might be more convinced if the money went to a local charity rather than gave Ashley another opportunity at cutting the costs) and a period in the stands. That’s it.

Describing Pardew’s offence as a head-butt stretches it a bit. The proper head-butts I’ve witnessed (and thankfully there haven’t been many) have usually resulted in broken noses, black-eyes, burst-lips and slack teeth. For those who think this is a head-butt, I wonder where they grew up. This wasn’t a head-butt, it was a bit of bad temper that resulted in absolutely no injury to Meyler, who was able to continue the game. It was unedifying though. I heard BBC attention-seeker, Robbie Savage describe Pardew’s offence as having no provocation. That is just completely wrong. Meyler clearly put hands on Pardew, who was standing where he is allowed to in the technical area. It looked very much to me as if Pardew had attempted to steady himself with a completely non-aggressive hand motion to which Meyler pushed our manager away, with unnecessary enthusiasm. There was a bit of aggression from Meyler. It doesn’t excuse Pardew but it does provide a level of mitigation. It really is a storm in a tea-cup and it should be quickly dealt with and forgotten about.

But that won’t be it by a long chalk. The media love anything like this and while the siren voices of football’s attention seeking fannies are unsurprising, it’s disappointing when club legend, Alan Shearer joins the frenzy, very disappointing indeed and I sometimes wonder if other matters are at play with stuff like this. Then again, I’m now at the stage of chucking stuff at the telly when Gosforth’s finest is calling the artist formerly known as Newton Heath, “United” like the good BBC drone he is threatening to become. Maybe Alan has forgotten this.  Perhaps, if justice had taken its course and not been left to FA expediency around international tournaments maybe Alan Shearer might have had a free summer following Neil Lennon’s disgraceful head butt on the England and Newcastle United captain’s boot.

Is it just me or did you see the trailers for the forthcoming international Rugby thingy before Match of the Day on BBC and see two greet big egg-chasing lumps coming head to head in confrontation as part of the promotion for the tournament and then smile five minutes later at Robbie Savage shrieking about Pardew doing something nowhere near as bad? Hypocrisy? Just make it up as you go along.

Graeme Souness is a bitter, washed up ex-manager whose limitations, particularly in regards to his man-management skills were exposed several times in his career. He has a clear anti-Newcastle United agenda since he was howled out of Barrack Road having been exposed for the disgraceful charlatan he is. I’ll leave the foul-smelling Boumsong deal to one side for this moment. At United, he is in my opinion, the worst manager in the history of the football club, taking what he described as a “pools win” (his description) of a squad he inherited from Sir Bobby Robson and destroying it very quickly. Maybe Souness has forgotten this  which happened on his watch as manager at United and for which he sought to exonerate his players. Well, okay, maybe a manager can’t always be 100% responsible for the players he trains and prepares every day for games in the Premier League. But maybe this is rather irresponsible in the atmosphere of an Istanbul derby? Or this as manager of Rangers.

I could go on. Does anyone listen to a self-obsessed hypocrite like Souness any- more?

Then there is the press. There are good and bad amongst the press corp. and there are a few who are genuine and likeable lads (George Caulkin, The Times, Luke Edwards, The Telegraph, Simon Bird, The Mirror and Mark Douglas, The Journal amongst them. I’ve never met Martin Hardy, The Independent, but I enjoy reading his coverage of United).

But there is without question lots of needle currently between the NE press corp. and United. It is difficult to imagine that there wouldn’t be given the club’s disgraceful banning of journalists in the manner of a North Korean propaganda minister. Could the NE press corp. have been a bit sore at Pardew gesturing towards them at the end of the Villa win last week? Did the incident at Hull give the press lads the opportunity to stick the knife firmly into the Newcastle United manager? He is the only available target they have at a club which can only be unpopular with those who work in the media and aren’t employed by SKY.

I really like George Caulkin, he’s an excellent writer and moreover, he’s a good man but I have to say I gagged on his tweet of a photograph of SBR, which I’m sure was intended to say SBR would never have behaved like Pardew and comment upon falling standards in the game. Now, don’t get me wrong, SBR was a fantastic manager for us, I wished he’d followed KK into the SJP dug-out in the mid-90s and if he had maybe the modern history of Newcastle United would have been somewhat different. Who knows? What I do know is SBR was a man with all the faults and foibles of many others. He carried himself well but he wasn’t perfect and it ill befits the media and us as supporters to buy into this growing deification of the man. A number of things about SBR’s time at the club have been conveniently brushed under the carpet and I say that not because I’m seeking to denigrate a great football man but because people shouldn’t be compared to an airbrushed image of perfection, a Gallowgate Ghandi rather than a real man. This mawkish sentimentality towards Bobby Robson doesn’t sit comfortably with me and I must stress I had the greatest respect for him, even if I did end up on the end of a furious tongue-lashing from him on one occasion. You shouldn’t dish it out if you can’t take it and all that.

Then there were claims from Luke Edwards, another good lad and good writer that Pardew’s job was on the line and noises in the United boardroom weren’t positive for the manager in the immediate aftermath of the game at Hull. Well, as Luke will no doubt concede, like every other journalist, none have the ear of Mike Ashley and he is the only man who makes the big calls at United. As for the United “boardroom” that can only refer to Irving and Charnley, neither of whom would have the authority to sack the manager. So, where that story comes from, I couldn’t say.

Where United have done well is in the way they quickly responded to events. Pardew apologised quickly and to his credit, Steve Bruce, a man not exactly with a happy relationship with United on any level, was gracious enough to accept it. Fair play to him! The club statement detailing a warning to Pardew and the £100K fine was swift, even if it did smack a little of news management and damage limitation to the fannies creating a media frenzy.

Pardew will be punished by the FA as well. Doubtless there will be a hearing and some faceless suits will give the manager a warning as to his future conduct and he’ll be banned.

The level of the ban will be interesting to observe and tell us much about the FA’s priorities. What is higher in the FA’s priorities – a gesture of grave offence to the Jewish communities of Europe and an ugly symbol of continuing anti-semitism in one of its Premier League matches or dealing with an under-pressure manager, who momentarily lost his head and for which no enduring harm has been done? This will be very interesting indeed.

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From sort of sticking up for the manager, to now taking him to task for some of the bollocks he talked last week! If you didn’t know it by now then you really haven’t been paying much attention in honesty. According to Pardew, the club finances are in good shape and there will be investment in the summer – we are supposedly chasing Champions League quality players. No, don’t laugh. This is a follow on from Pardew’s patter just over six months ago that we couldn’t compete with Norwich, Swansea and didn’t have the budget of Southampton.

We also hear there will be a clear-out at the end of the season and its obvious for some players they have no future in NE1. A period of rebuilding is forecast. I am going to make a prediction. I think we’ll get to the end of the summer transfer window in 2014 and Mike Ashley will again be in profit from player-trading. The pay-roll will have dropped as well. I laughed last week when I heard Pardew talking about his kitty for the simple reason that nothing the manager ever says ever comes off. We are told players won’t be sold only to see them flogged and we are promised replacements will be sourced and purchased and they are not. Whether the manager is himself being misled by Ashley or is conniving in the whole enterprise is something we can all speculate upon. A fool or a knave? You decide.

In all honesty, I’m not really bothered about how much we do or don’t spend. All I’m interested in is the strength of the squad. If we were to bring in half a squad of likely lads who had progressed through the academy into the first team and didn’t spend anything, I couldn’t give a shit. In fact, I think I’d be delighted.  It’s not a pissing competition about the money that gets spent. However, it is a bit much when Pardew talks about “not having Qatari money” to spend. We know that but we also know no Premier League club has less of a net spend on players in the last five years than Newcastle United FC. That is the reason we are shit scared of qualifying for the Europa League and why we have no ambition to compete in the Cup competitions. That’s why we can’t have a good go at the Champions League places and get amongst Everton and Spurs – clubs I’d say we are at least the equal of in terms of profile, support and income (real and potential).

To be fair, where we are in the PL on the budget we have is not to be sniffed at but only two months after that disgraceful FAC 3rd round exit to Cardiff at SJP, continued cry-arsing about the Europa League and losing three derbies on the fucking spin within ten months doesn’t have us in the best frame of minds. Throw in the sale of our best player, Yohan Cabaye with no replacements lined up by the spectacularly incompetent Director of Football, Joe Kinnear (happily now departed from this parish) and our list of grievances is long and justified. I’m also sympathetic to the view Pardew is not getting the best out of players from players like HBA, Cisse and Marveaux. But eighth in the PL isn’t a crisis.

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The club presented its latest accounts to the secret society aka the Fans Forum last week. This is where the real smoke and mirrors stuff goes on. We’ll have a right good look at the latest numbers in the next issue of true faith (TF110), when the qualified accountants, who have volunteered their services to the fanzine and vis a vis the support, do their thing. But this is my uneducated take on what was presented to us last week:

(i)            The claim made by the club that Mike Ashley has provided United with an interest free loan has been proven to be false. Ashley gains an interest which can be measured financially from that loan (caused in large part to his own incompetence) in the form of free advertising all around SJP, the training ground and even on some club merchandise. The annual value of that exposure is estimated to be around £8m by the club. That seems a conservative estimate to me.

(ii)          The provision of the free advertising, we are told is exactly the same amount as which might be provided through an interest payment on that loan. Convenient that.

(iii)         The provision of free advertising will never reduce the debt owed to Ashley.

(iv)         There is no intention to write-off the debt. To be fair, no-one could reasonably expect that but there are other options such as converting the debt into equity as has happened at other clubs but that wasn’t even a question that was asked.

(v)          The only way anyone could buy advertising at United is to pay Ashley £129m, the amount of his outstanding loan to United. No-one believes that is going to happen, so previous explanations that the Ashley businesses getting advertising for nothing were acting as a show-case to attract other businesses including the stadium renaming farrago are now exposed as completely untrue.

(vi)         Similarly, the claim that Ashley has never taken money out of United is also exposed as false. The club’s own accounts detail he previously took £11m out of the club and that last year, there was a plan to take out £18m. Taking money out of United is very much on the agenda.

We are told the club’s commercial and gate revenue is of strong importance to United. However, the club’s commercial income has reduced by at least half since Ashley took over in 2007 and there is no explanation for that. That is United being asleep at the wheel. Running costs may have been slashed but I wonder if that has meant the club has lost the infrastructure to generate commercial revenues as a result. You know a bit like a tradesman raising money by selling his tools but then later being unable to do any work?

The importance of the commercial revenue may be of importance but it is secondary to allowing Mike Ashley’s companies to have free exposure in the most watched league in the world as de-facto interest.

The news that Joe Kinnear’s column in the programme was ghost-written is hardly an earth shattering revelation. However, it does expose the habitual bull-shitting that comes out of United when this column was previously heralded by United as Joe’s opportunity to outline his vision and strategy for Newcastle United going forward.  I know, I laughed as well.

I also have something of a concern about comments about leaving the potential appointment of a proper Director of Football to the summer. I may be being unduly anxious but I’d have hoped we’d have had someone in place doing the business before the World Cup and having the club in a correct state of readiness for the 2014/15 season.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

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Amidst all of the brouhaha, moral panics and faux-outrage of those in the media about Pardew’s indiscretion, the team put in a great performance from front to back at Hull. Krul may have been at fault for their goal but he kept us in it earlier in the game and there was a liveliness about us which has been absent for the post-Cabaye period. I’d feared the worse on Friday evening when I heard Capitano Colo was out of the team and travelling to Argentina due to a bereavement but the team did the excellent support at the KC Stadium and manager proud. We haven’t played as well as that since West Ham (a) in January when Yohan put in something a virtuoso performance and signed out with a beautiful goal.

I may be wrong but have we at least matched the highest number of away wins we’ve ever achieved in a Premier League season? I don’t recall us being so successful on the road previously. That is to be celebrated.

It’s to be hoped we are now over our winter slump and ready to finish as high up the PL table as we possibly can. The wins over Villa and Hull have put us on 43pts at the beginning of March and we should be at least looking to get comfortably more than 50, 55 points before the end of the season and give us something to be positive about. That is the only thing we have left to play for.

Nothing this coming weekend as we know all too bitterly well but 4-1 away at Hull will keep us warm.

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After having a little pop at the press lads, hopefully, respectful and measured, I feel as though its only correct to draw your attention to two good pieces of writing from NE-based journalists this last week. This from Scott Wilson in the Northern Echo is a good piece of writing. Click here to have a read. Likewise this from Mark Douglas, The Journal is a worthwhile addition to the debate around our club. Just click here to have a look.

Have a great week.

 

Keep On, Keepin’ On …  TF_INITIALS_LOGO