Mike Ashley is no good for Newcastle United. We can split hairs here and there but we all know or we should know, Mike Ashley offers nothing other than joyless defeatism, a complete lack of ambition and a desire to do little else than have Newcastle United stay on the Premier League gravy train and help pay down the debt the club owes him. A debt caused by his own lamentable failure to conduct due diligence in 2007 and his own devastating lack of competence in running a major and cherished sporting institution since.
No vision, no plan, no commitment, no love, no dreams, no passion … about as much of the joy and spirit of sport at Ashley’s Newcastle United as there is in one of his awful shops.
The club is going backwards. Don’t let one decent result or even one season fool you – Newcastle United is on the decline under Ashley, falling further and further behind, drifting like flotsam. When Alan Pardew tells us we can’t compete with Southampton, Swansea and Cardiff, there is something going badly wrong.
When John Irving tells a fans forum the club, which emphatically has no chance of winning the title neither places any priority on competing in a cup competition and the manager expresses relief we aren’t burdened with competing in the Europa League then there is something of a perversion of sporting endeavor at the heart of our club. When Irving attempts to convince supporters St James’ Park is plastered with Sports Direct logos because no-one else wants the space in a stadium in the most watched football league in the world then you know there is a massive rabbit off.
Frankly, when Joe Kinnear, the Director of Football describes Newcastle United as a well-run club, to borrow a phrase, satire is dead (apologies to Tom Lehrer).
The only thing that matters at Newcastle United is Ashley getting enough of his money back before he sells up and cuts his losses. I’m not sure how much more of the Geordie spirit can cope with this no matter our legendary stoicism.
If the last six years have proven anything it is Ashley isn’t interested in building anything at Newcastle United. When opportunities come his way at United, he spurns them and we’ve seen that from the feel-good factor following Keegan’s appointment as manager to the lamentable failure to invest after we’d finished fifth to the most recent debacle of appointing Kinnear as Director of Football. He is consistent. There is no dream. No hope for better times. It is all about him putting right, possibly the biggest, perhaps only mistake of his stellar business career. Putting right means him getting his money back. That is the only plan.
So, will a march through Newcastle city centre herald a bright new future, set Ashley packing for the hills? Of course it won’t. Anyone who believes it will needs to be sent off to a home for the perpetually bewildered.
So then, what exactly is the point?
For me, it represents an opportunity to express dissatisfaction with how our club is being trashed by Mike Ashley.
In the first instance, that is all. That’s it. It is an expression of discontent. It’s one I expect to be completely ignored by Ashley because he is insulated with the privilege of the super-rich of not being held to account for his actions or even be open to question.
But that doesn’t matter. This is for us. This is for us to express discontent and that on its own is enough, is worthy and right. This is to highlight to the football world, this isn’t right.
I have taken some convincing myself. I’m tired by it all. I wish it was different. I wish I didn’t have to think about going on marches about a bloody football club for God’s sake. But I think we know this is more than a football club. It’s part of us, an expression of our civic pride and the cap badge of our Geordie identity. And it’s being trashed – Newcastle United is having the life sucked out of it.
There are more than enough people who are skeptical, cynical and who don’t see the point. Those people are defeated. I understand that. Some of my best mates fit that bill perfectly. They aren’t bad people – they are good people, excellent supporters with Newcastle United running through their veins. You aren’t a better Black & Whiter if you do or you don’t take part in this march. There should be no divisions. They need to be persuaded this is the right thing to do. Hector and harangue them and they will tell you to fuck off.
Not that I’m not wary because I am. This has to be dignified. No goons in fancy dress and no-one acting up for the cameras and making arseholes of us all for the amusement of the watching nation. It just has to be well-behaved and dignified. The signs are the organisers have taken steps to ensure this is properly orchestrated having consulted the council and the Police. Well done. The attention-seeking goon squad needs to give this a wide berth, please.
I am also wary because I’m aware there are those who love nothing more than being in the public eye for their own ends and pursuing their own agenda. I’m not the only one who will not share a platform with these people or those around them.
But what would be more of a joke is this march not being supported. What are your objections? It might not work? Well, you are being asked to walk from the City Hall to Leazes Park not ride horseback through the Valley of Death with the charge of the Light Brigade are you? It’s hardly a massive commitment is it?
If it’s a well-supported march, you did your bit, if you didn’t … then why not? Too cool to get involved in stuff like this? Leave it to someone else (a club motto in the making that one). Fancy a pint more? Can’t be arsed. Be honest with yourself, why aren’t you on the march?
I’ve had this debate before with my mates – all excellent, time-served Mags but like so many others – completely de-politicised and immune to any pleas from me to go to supporters’ meetings and all the rest of it. They will spend hours lamenting the running of the club, angry and all the rest of it but get them to do anything that doesn’t involve just going to games and you are on a hiding to nowt.
There are others, those who wear their fingerprints off on keyboards opining on forums with lots to say in the online world and little of action in the real world. If I sound a little bitter, it’s because I am to a degree. I’ve done far less over the years than many others but Jesus Christ, there are people, good Mags or not, who have plenty to say about what other people should or shouldn’t be doing but have not tried a leg to make something happen themselves. That’s pretty much most of you reading this isn’t it?
There’s me just gone and alienated the readership – D’oh!
The march and the white hankie protest at KO can be a spectacular failure and a symbol of our collective apathy. Or it can be an affirmative gesture of discontent.
That’s why what comes after the Liverpool game is so important. This has to be the start of an action which is focused on continuing to highlight what Ashley is doing to our club but also to involve the strength of our support behind the wider campaigns in football for supporter representation and ownership of football clubs, reduced ticket prices, safe-standing and all the rest of it.
That action has to be well-organised, disciplined, democratic and plugged into the Newcastle United Supporters Trust and the Football Supporters Federation as well as other supporters’ groups around the country.
It’s the way of the modern world to want instant results but quite honestly, there should be no expectation of that with this campaign just as there isn’t with any other.
It could be a long hard, tedious campaign with no prospect of success. That sounds a bit like supporting Newcastle United doesn’t it?
I don’t speak for Time 4 Change. Truth be told bar one meeting and an exchange of e-mails I know nothing about the individuals who have brought it together. I think they are well-meaning but I can’t vouch for them. It could be a disaster, I don’t know but I think on balance there is something to be gained from it.
Fingers crossed, support the march.