The ability to take a step back and have a completely objective view on the club you love has to be one of the most difficult things to do as a football supporter.
I think when it comes to Newcastle this applies even more so.
Our fans have such an emotional investment in the club. When the club or board do something to let you down you react with all the hurt, anger and frustration you would if it was a close family member who had done you wrong.
Minutes after the window closed, like many who write about Newcastle, I felt the urge to unleash the rant to end all rants. Being a fan who had given benefit of the doubt and supported the board over the past couple of years I felt as hurt and let down as anyone. It’s not often I show that much faith in anyone or thing and I was genuinely gutted to see all the good work get wiped out at the final hurdle.
I have resisted the urge to write anything for the last couple of days, taken some time to reflect, polished off a couple of bottles of whiskey, strapped a Derek Llambias mask on the dog and gave out shite to him. You know, the usual!
There has been more than enough people expressing their frustrations and insight on the latest goings on. I wanted to write something a bit different, coming from a standpoint of a fan who had shown faith, stayed positive and truly believed the two we needed would be delivered. All said and done have those that took that stance been made to look a bit daft for doing so.
The statement I stood by time and time again during the transfer window was not one of an Mike Ashley lover. Far from it in fact. All I was doing was merely giving benefit of the doubt until the window closed. Now that it has, it is still a question that remains. Who deserves it….
Does Alan Pardew?… Opinion differs. Some say he is part of the problem. No more than a puppet to relay the propaganda and empty promises. Others say he is in the same position as fans and is doing his best in a difficult position. Stuck in the middle of fans and board. Unable to voice frustrations at the risk of being made another casualty.
Some say if the latter is the case and he wants to hold onto any credibility with the fans he should go against the board and, maybe, should walk on principle.
All of the above opinions have merit. My personal opinion is that, unlike some other managers we have had in the past four years, he knew the situation when he walked in the door. He knew his power and influence only went as far as man management and in terms of transfers recommending players. Nothing more.
Should he walk for being let down? Upon reflection I don`t think he should and I hope he doesn’t. The main reason behind the thinking is that I believe he is actually doing a good job. The constant change of manager has not been good for the club. It has gone on too long and we need stability in the management and coaching staff for both players and team to perform consistently.
I am willing to give him benefit of the doubt. I do think he is in a difficult position and has been let down just like the fans. I think he will be annoyed but will believe in the players he does have and his own abilities. I think fans should too, I think as time goes on more do.
I think in the future we should only judge Alan Pardew based on the performance of the team and with that his ability to maintain the great spirit among our squad. It is clear to see in every game we have played so far he has made tactical changes which have resulted in an improved performance and in the end, a positive result. A better manager than a lot gave him credit for, is respected by the players and is getting us results. End of the day that is what matters.
Next up Mike Ashley. Benefit of the doubt? Again opinion differs. There has been a lot that have hated him for a while now. Just as many who think he is doing a good job as owner. I think since the failure to get a striker it has swayed a lot more the way of people against having him as owner.
I do believe however there are those who see him as no more than a money man, myself included, and it is Derek who runs the show. Taking that to be the case there is no more that needs to be said on it. At this stage it has been done to death how Mike has been good for the club in a financial sense. I don`t think that has ever been in question, even by those who hate him.
What has been in question however is his knowledge of the game and his willingness to spend. Knowledge of the game is an easy one in my opinion. His is extremely limited if one exists at all. There are many owners of clubs with no football background. Many who may not even have the slightest interest. This does not automatically make them the wrong person for the job. I personally agree with the opinion that he is the money man and nothing more. He has put a business plan in place and is consistent in its application.
As far as willingness to spend goes it is a tough one. Although with my objective hat on I do understand his plan and policy as regards spending. The prudent approach is a good one in theory and in application for the most part. Where I am conflicted on this subject is as a fan, even as an understanding one, I really wish Mike would let loose just once. One big signing on a long term deal up front and it would have complimented all the other great signings we have made over the past couple of years.
Conclusion to benefit of the doubt on Ashley is to be perfectly honest, I don`t know. As I said I am conflicted. While I am deeply disappointed he did not fork out £15m for a top quality striker a part of me still says, well he did sanction £10m at least.
If I’m going to stay consistent in my opinion that he is mainly a money man then I have to say that, although gutted, I do have to give him benefit of the doubt to an extent. As unpopular an opinion as that may be right now believe me it is hanging by a thread and is largely dependent on what comes next. Which brings me onto Derek Llambias.
Benefit of the doubt? Until the window closed I had said that I did give him it and believed he would deliver. For the most part he did. The amount of money spent was a non-issue to me once we got the quality in we needed.
By the second last day of the window, with the signing of Davide Santon I was thinking thank god my faith has been rewarded, only one more to go and it is the one we have been waiting for. Granted this role and signing was always going to be the most important. I did not want to see big money spent on someone who would not fit the bill. I genuinely thought some of the names we were after didn’t fit said bill, with Modibo Maiga and Mevlut Erding being the main two.
There is a lot that can be argued in an attempt to justify why a striker was not bought and with the statement released by Derek he tries to do that in saying that we were not going to take a knee-jerk approach to this one, even at a late stage regardless of need, and that our transfer policy is clear, among other things. I understand that and expected what was said so much so that I could have written what he said myself a couple of days ago.
The fact is that as much as he may try to justify it this was unlike last January where there was genuinely not enough time to secure the signing. As so many fans are saying; we have had eight months in which to find and sign this player, and from someone who has given benefit of the doubt and supported the boards decisions over the past two years, there is absolutely no defending this one. It is gross incompetence on the part of Derek Llambias.
In terms of transfer dealings basically it is his responsibility alone to secure signings. Graham Carr spends half of his time in Europe scouting talent for us. Alan Pardew recommends from these who he wants. Ashley sanctions how much he is willing to spend. It is then up to Derek to get the player signed.
I would have a certain amount of sympathy if it was one name alone he had to work with. I would understand if time was not on his side as in January. Taking into consideration the business we have done and fees paid to have £10m odd at your disposal and not get a striker is inexcusable. Fact is there is no excuse this time, no benefit of the doubt, and no faith in him left.
In my opinion what Ashley needs to do as soon as possible is to dismiss Derek Llambias as soon as a fitting replacement can be appointed. In order to restore any tiny element of respect in fans eyes, and from a personal standpoint be given the benefit of the doubt until January to put it right he needs to do something.
To be honest if it was up to me he would have got his marching orders at one minute past eleven. It goes beyond signings. I have defended the boards way of doing things on numerous occasions but have always said communication with the fans was a major issue.
Again this falls on Derek’s door. He is responsible for the day to day running of the club. He releases the statements and when he can`t get Pardew to relay what he has told him he is the one who has to speak to the fans. This happens all too little. When he does it is either premeditated propaganda or quite simply put, lies. I don`t think they are lies to start but continuously not following through on intentions makes it empty promises at best. He says all the right things but his actions don`t back it up. He is unfit for the job and even with supporters such as myself has blown one chance too many.
I think in the aftermath of this window a lot of fans feel the need to voice their frustrations and take action. As I have said before I don`t think taking it out on Alan Pardew or using the match days is the best method of getting the point across. I would much rather see the team get the support they deserve and every fan gives them continue. My fear is with impending fan action if it is carried out in this way it will only serve to destabilise new players and affect the team as a whole with a knock-on effect on the results of the team resulting in a great start going to waste.
I also don`t think boycotting games is the way to go for the moment. I don`t generally believe in protests as they can be largely ineffective, especially calling for an owners head. I do however believe it is an option to be looked at as regards the removal of the Managing Director. If carried out in the right fashion and used in conjunction with a widespread effort via social and print media, supporters clubs etc Derek Llambias could be either removed or forced to step down in the near future.
It also would answer the question of whether Mike Ashley is to be trusted or not once and for all. The fact that he does not communicate with fans and hasn’t for a long time has caused animosity towards him and has tarred him with the same brush as Llambias. Truth be told he has never spoken publicly and was known for this long before his dealings with Newcastle. It is very hard to gauge a man who carries out business in this way. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he is not to be trusted.
By carrying out a campaign against Llambias and calling for an MD who knows the club, city, fans and most importantly football, we can very easily find out where Mike Ashley stands once and for all. It is not an attack on him. It is a reasoned and legitimate call for the sacking of an MD for not doing his job well enough, not even close. If Ashley responds in kind, does away with Derek and appoints an acceptable replacement in fans eyes, he in my opinion has bought himself until the end of January to deliver the final piece of the puzzle.
If he doesn’t and ignores the fans wishes, even when the call for heads to roll doesn’t include himself, it is pretty obvious that he is no better than Derek and should not be given any benefit of the doubt or be trusted to be looking out for the best interests of this club.
Let me finish by saying I do believe we have a good team and squad there still and will do well. I just think that we are now very reliant on Hatem Ben Arfa staying fit to have a strong push for top half. I didn’t really want to comment too much on the team as there are other articles that cover it.
This is all just a reflective opinion on the decision makers based on a range of emotions in a difficult few days for a Newcastle fan. I maybe wrong in my thinking but would welcome any thoughts.