It’s become more and more clear over the course of several years that there is a disconnect at the heart of Newcastle United. It’s nominally a football club but somewhere along the line there’s been a separation from what the aims of such a club should be. It’s plain now that the focus of the club isn’t on achieving sporting excellence. It’s not even on being the best it can be within the operating parameters publicly specified by the owners.
The world was told a long time ago that the club had to pay its own way, that there would be no capital outlay by those in control. With the amount of money pouring into Premier League clubs, that hardly necessitates hardship or austerity. If a large proportion of the spare cash available to the club was used to improve the staff both on the coaching and playing rosters, there is no reason why we shouldn’t expect the club’s fortunes to take a dramatic upturn. Players of good quality coming in to fill obvious gaps in the squad. Regular comfortable top-half finishes and challenges for European places, with a squad able to handle serious attempts to do well in the cups, all of this would be possible. I for one have no yearning for a sugar daddy in charge. If Newcastle did it right I’d be very happy with no capital outlay.
Anyone can see that particular pipe dream isn’t what’s happening. The club has a sub-standard head coach and his coaching staff have shown no sign of improving a single player in years. Never mind missing the odd piece in the jigsaw, the entire squad is one big gap. Rather than improvement year on year, if anything the playing situation gets worse. All the while profits are posted, and the club’s cash account fills and fills and fills. No attempt is made to use the money the club generates to improve its on-field performance. The focus is two-fold. Firstly, Newcastle United is a cash-cow for another business therefore spending must be cut as far as is possible without jeopardising the easy money that comes from participation in the Premier League. The people running the club are so incompetent it looks like they won’t even be able to pull that off this season, though there’s still a chance they may fluke survival yet. Secondly, the club is used as a means of raising the profile of the owner’s main business, via the medium of the free advertising he awards himself. As a tale of sporting endeavour, Chariots of Fire it ain’t.
The disconnect goes deeper than that though. John Carver, the head coach, is in the middle of overseeing the club’s worst run of form ever. His CV shows nothing which might explain why he was handed control at a Premier League club if you ignore his address. Right now it seems like his major draw for the club was that he didn’t have much of a bus journey to the training ground. He was the less talented assistant to someone who should have been sacked 4 times as Newcastle manager before he finally jumped ship and quit. Taking that into account it’s no surprise he’s incapable of solving the problems which were already evident when he took the job. If he had any ideas on how to do that surely he would have mentioned them at some point between rejoining the club in 2011 and now. Carver has been giving the impression of a man who’s ready to snap for some time, but no-one has been prepared to put him out of his misery so far. Now he’s begun to lash out, at both the fans and the players. Newcastle made a PR effort to defuse the trouble caused by his slanging match with fans around the dugout at the Swansea home game, but no amount of media massage is going to repair the damage of the public criticism of his own players after yet another defeat at Leicester last weekend. Maybe he was right to say some weren’t trying. Maybe he was right to single out players for cowardice in getting themselves sent off as an easy way out. But having said that, there is nothing more certain than that those players won’t be busting a gut for him from now on. Attacking your own players usually signifies the end game for any manager under duress, a last cry of public defiance when anything they do has ceased to make any difference. Generally they might as well go outside and roar at the weather for all the good it’ll do them. Carver even said himself the players might not be listening to him any more. He has lost his dressing room now, if it could be said that anyone on an 8-game losing streak hadn’t done that already.
A club then, who have become separated from what a club should be. A manager who has lost his connection with the players, unable to motivate or organise them. Finally, fans who traditionally are unwilling to act to alter their club and prepared to turn up virtually no matter what appear to have reached the point where all that changes. Protests, match boycotts, and season ticket cancellations feel like they’re gaining traction. People have had enough of being taken for granted, their opinions ignored, and antagonised by those who should be ensuring they are enthused. The first effective protest movement among Newcastle United fans in years has sprung up within weeks. With 3 games to play though, Newcastle are only 2 points away from the bottom 3. After only 2 home games of protest, now it seems we need to abandon our protests and pull together to save the club from relegation. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told the owner can do anything he likes with the club. It’s his, and we don’t have a say what happens. Nothing we do can have an effect on the club anyway as they are reliant no longer on gate receipts but on the money coming in from TV rights. Well, the disconnect between club and fans means I no longer feel responsible for saving the club. Let the Sky millions roar the team home. Let the bulging cash account suck a goal into the Gallowgate net when it’s most needed. If the players need inspiration at a vital moment, let them look to Mike Ashley laughing uproariously as fans sing he should get out of their club. I’m out; let them sink or swim without me, for the near future at least.