Well firstly I’d like to say thank-you to Lee Ryder from the Evening Chronicle. His attempts to get some dialogue going between fan and board deserve credit.
Secondly I’d like to say that whilst I may not agree with some of the answers to the questions I genuinely feel that there isn’t much more that could have been said. I find some of the answers disingenuous whilst, some of them fair enough and some of them not fair enough.
I guess the only way to analyse these questions is to look at each one specifically. Remember, this is purely MY reaction to the questions. I’m not a mouthpiece of the fans and don’t claim to be so if you disagree with my reasoning then fair enough. Just try not to be a cock about it and keep the personal abuse to a minimum.
If you have already done so you can read the full questions and answers by clicking the following blue hyperlinks.
Q.1 – Where’s the money that was pledged to be reinvested in the squad after the sale of Andy Carroll gone?
My reaction: This is the answer that I feel is rather disingenuous. I admit that they said all along that the money would be kept within the club, but I also think it’s now folly to say that the money is still there after the event.
We also got the bit about free transfers incurring costs. This is fair enough and few can deny that this actually happens although it doesn’t explain much at all. Mind you I never expected then to go into detailed facts and figures, which is why I was shocked to see them reveal that a 10th placed finish would give us a wage/turnover ratio of 65%. For a numbers geek like me it gives me something to work on.
Q.2 – Why is there such a lack of communication with the fans from Mike Ashley and his board?
My reaction: They answered by countering with the fact that every time they do speak they get criticism for it. This is fair enough in my book. At least they admit that is was because of their own actions that things have gone this way.
At the end of the day, much like what has happened with the answers to these questions, people will criticise. People shouldn’t be prepared to ask questions if there is a chance that they won’t like the answers in my opinion.
Q.3 – In 2009 you outlined your plans for the club at a fans forum. Can you give us an update on how you see our position now against that plan and if it has changed? What is the long-term plan for Newcastle United?
My reaction: The club say that they have a target of top ten this season and then for sustainable growth beyond that. This is fair enough in my book. They then go on to say that the club is on a far sounder financial footing than what is was. In short there is nothing new in that answer.
Q.4 – Can you justify why it took seven months to pursue a striker before failing at the eleventh hour to secure a signing?
My reaction: This is one that I feel that they have skirted around a little bit. The deals may have fallen down late in proceedings, but they still had seven months to do some business and still left it until transfer deadline day. Why?
Q.5 – Public opinion on Tyneside from large sections of fans is that they no longer trust statements coming out of the club after several empty promises. What assurances can you give fans that they can believe what the club tells them?
My reaction: They answered this themselves really when they said:
“We don’t feel we’ve made empty promises. Sometimes in these situations it’s impossible to win. If we say nothing we are criticised. If we state our intentions and they are not realised, we are criticised.”
In a way they can’t win, but then in a way they’ve brought it about themselves. They know that. they’ve admitted it. On that basis I don’t know what else they can do.
Q.7 – Given that level 7 was deserted in some parts at the Fulham game, is there any reason why those who want to sing can’t all be sat together rather than upsetting fans who don’t want to sing, which appears to be the problem in the Strawberry corner? What has caused the club to fundamentally change its stance to standing in the stadium?
My reaction: This is something I’ve said all along. There has been no change on standing. For years, and as a result of the Hillsborough disaster, standing has not been allowed in football grounds up and down the country and St James’ Park is no different. In fact if you cast your minds back to the Championship season you will do well to remember Middlesbrough reducing our away allocation because of our fanbase opting to stand.
Q.7 – Many fans clamoured for a marquee signing on the striker front. Are those days gone and can we expect more continental-based players coming in January, if any?
My reaction: I don’t get this one. I think it played straight into the hands of the board. I can’t recall many people wanting a “marquee” signing and most people recognise that many Marquee signings have let us down in the past.
What was asked for was a striker of sufficient quality that would allow us to improve. However, the wording of the questions means that we got the standard “the days of marquee signings are over” which in all fairness is somthing we knew all along anyway.
Q.8 – Are you concerned about the 10,000 drop in attendance and that fans are either not renewing season tickets or have headed to support local non-league teams instead?
My reaction: The upshot of it is that they aren’t concerned, yet, which kid of mirrors my own view on the subject. However they have said they are watching and will take steps should they see a pattern emerging.
Knowing this board they’ll probably knock a stand down rather than reduce ticket prices. I jest of course…
Q.9 – Is Mike Ashley considering putting the club up for sale?
My reaction: The answer was that Ashley isn’t looking to sell, unless there is a silly money bid from somewhere.
In short there is nothing here that I didn’t know anyway.
Q.10 – Newcastle United has the third highest attendances in the country, Sky TV and income from merchandising, plus a lower debt position than many in the EPL. Why in terms of player recruitment can Newcastle not compete with smaller clubs like Stoke, Fulham and QPR?
My comment: Essentially this was a “no comment” and a statement that they are committed to their business plan and will follow it through.
Not much more I can add on that really. Time will tell I guess.
Q.11 – Are you aware of fans’ disgruntlement with the away ticketing policy given the Toon Army are amongst the most loyal fans in the UK, and will you consider reviewing the policy?
My reaction: I still disagree with this even though I’ve always held a membership anyway so it doesn’t really affect me. However the minority of fans that acted like bellends at Darlington have brought this about and have ruined it for those who don’t have memberships. Actions have consequences.
Q.12 – Alan Pardew said he was 100% convinced he would get a new number 9. What changed?
My reaction: Again this is something that I’ve said all along. People claimed that Alan Pardew was lying whilst I insisted that he was just relaying what he had been told. This is confirmation from the board that they were confident about a striker. In that scenario it seems that Pardew was just relaying what looked to be happening and was not trying to deceive anyone.
Q.13 – Why was Joey Barton allowed to leave for free and join a club that could be considered to be a rival in the Premier League?
My reaction: This is basically an admission that the club wanted rid. He wouldn’t sign a new deal and then set about lambasting the board. Nobody would pay any money for him so the decision was made to let him go for nothing.
I still think it was a bad decision but, as Derek Llambias says, Joey has got the deal he wants, the board have got rid of a problem and everyone is happy, aside from the fans and presumably Alan Pardew.
Q.14 – Many fans now consider us to be a “selling club” after the departures of Nolan, Enrique, Carroll and Barton. How do you respond to this?
My reaction: Personally I’ve never considered us to be a selling club anyway. Enrique wanted to go, Nolan wanted more than he could get here, Barton and the board fell out and we received stupid money for Andy Carroll. Like it or not there are mitigating circumstances involved in the departures of all four of those players.
The real test is from now on however. I’m assuming that as we become more financially stable we’ll be able to resist cashing in on players and that it will take silly money to buy players from us.
I’m not overly disappointed by these answers in truth. I never expected much else if truth be told and believe that they have said what can be said. Overall I’m happy enough with them.
For those that aren’t happy, what did you expect? I got criticism for predicting that the answers would be what we know already, but it seems that some are unhappy with what they’ve got in the shape of answers. The nuts of it is, don’t ask questions if you may not like the answers. You won’t get hurt that way.
I’d like to know what else could have been said? I mean at the moment people are proving Derek right when he said earlier that essentially there is no point in communicating as people don’t like what is said anyway and it just attracts criticism. On the evidence of today, and I really hate saying this, but I have to agree with him.