The Careers Guidance Imbecile at my school seemed to think that as I knew the difference between a house and a bus shelter, and had an Art “O” Level, then making coffee eight hours a day was obviously the ideal career move for me.
I suppose I could just about cope with the incessant calls for coffee, and the automatic assumption that I was able to make a scale model of a church using nothing but a Frosties box and a tube of Uhu, but I think what finally convinced me that this was probably not the job for me, was the three days in December that I spent standing on an estate in Heaton, in the dark, in freezing sleet, holding a bloody pole upright, wearing a pair of slip-on shoes.
Maybe I should clarify. I was the one wearing the slip-on shoes, not the pole, and the pole was the surveying kind, not the bricklaying kind.
There was also this never ending line of old biddies popping their headscarved heads out of their front doors shouting “How, sonny. Are ye from the coonsil? Cos me boilas knackad an ahv hed nee hot watta for a fortneet!”
In all honesty, the deciding factor was probably the fact that I was just making 20 quid a week, paying 7 quid tax, 5 quid board, 2 quid to get to work and back, and had a 10 quid a week drinking habit. Aye – Maths was one of my other “O” Levels.
So where, you may well ask, are we heading with this?
Ever since that first job I have always felt sorry for those forlorn souls that you see out working on the streets standing in the pouring rain. I’m pretty sure they are not wearing slip-on shoes but I feel sorry just the same.
Living in the UAE there are lists of other individuals that I feel sorry for too.
The guys on the side of the road in 45 degrees of sweltering heat walking around with bin bags picking up other peoples garbage.
The labourers in the same heat on the building site. The guy that I see every morning as I go to work rummaging through the skip at the end of our street, trying to find something worth selling.
You feel sorry for different people for different reasons.
I feel sorry for the Mackems, because, well, truth be known, they just don’t know any better, and had the cards been dealt differently they could have been born 12 miles up the road and, comparatively, have been royalty.
I also have to admit to recently feeling sorry for Mike Ashley.
Yes, we all know what a complete cock he made of himself when he first arrived on the scene, but slowly and surely, he’s been improving his image. Getting a little better at it.
I once caddied for a professional golfer in an international competition. In the absence of anyone who knew what they were doing he was lumbered with the first person who came along who knew the course. Me.
A few holes into the game he caught me looking at the face of his of his 6 iron as I was putting it back into his bag.
There was a small area, about a quarter of an inch round, worn away on the face of the club, where he had hit the ball, time after time, week after week exactly in the middle.
As I marvelled at how anyone could do that he said “Archie, this is my office. This is what I do day in, day out. If I couldn’t do that I’d have to get a different job.”
So what do you do? What’s your job?”
I replied “I maintain Air Traffic Control Systems”
“All sounds a bit technical” he replied “I could never do that”
Turns out he couldn’t play golf either. He came dead last and dropped off the European tour the next year.
Among the many things that I have never been, and therefore do not feel qualified to comment on, (apart from a professional golfer) is a football club owner, and I have to say that I find it staggering that so many of you reading this article have so much to say about it.
Yes, the Keegan and Wise thing wasn’t well received, but he paid the price. He tried to redeem himself with a bit of local hero stuff, but Shearer didn’t manage to save the day.
When we went down he kept paying the big salaries and we were back up the following season- and, oh, of course, Chris Hughton got all the credit, but let’s be honest – that team would have strolled back up even if Kinnear was still in charge.
He’s piled a hundred and odd million into the club interest free, and we complained when he used the Toon to advertise his own company.
We whinged when he replaced Hughton with Pardew, then bugger me, if Pards didn’t get us into Europe.
We accused him of being cheap in the transfer market when he brought us Ben Arfa, Tiote, Ba, and Cabaye, and even 9 million for Cisse didn’t really appease us.
He pulled off the most outrageous deal in British footballing history, selling a knobbled Andy Carroll – a player with six months Premiership experience and a penchant for falling off barstools – to the bindippers for 35 million. And we bitch that the management “went back on their word”.
While Leeds, Portsmouth and even the mighty Rangers have all demonstrated what happens when a club is badly administered, Ashley turned Newcastle United into possibly the most solvent club in the UK and we complain that he hasn’t spent enough.
When he took the St James’ Park sign down and replaced it with Sports Direct, we showed the world what we were made of by spray painting it back on again. Now that the letters are officially going back up again we are bitching again about how.
He has negotiated an 8 million pound a year deal for some company to have their names on our shirts, a feat that many said he would never achieve, and now, because we don’t like the sponsor we are trying to convince everyone that he is in league with Satan.
The fact that we now have our beloved SJP name back counts for nothing.
It’s not just the fans either. The media also take every shot that they can too.
Suddenly the media claim that the excessive interest rates that Wonga charge is an issue for Muslim players, as Shariah forbids the concept of interest. For those who do not know, it is the actual concept of interest that Islam forbids, not the amount, so for all those players who proudly wore the shirt when it was festooned with the Northern Rock and Virgin Money logos, I somehow doubt that Wonga will be a cause to boycott the name. Islam, by the way, also considers gambling to be “haram” (forbidden) but the other half dozen teams in the Prem sponsored by Casinos and betting houses don’t appear to be getting the raggy end of the pineapple for their involvement.
Wonga (and of course Ashley by association) now stand accused of preying on the impoverished by focusing their sponsorship in the poorest of regions, by apparently forcing their high interest “payday” loans on people who cannot afford the repayments.
Personally I’d guess that the average bank has a higher repayment failure rate than Wonga. In an area which is supposed to have the highest personal bankruptcy rate in the country (25% as opposed to the 20% national) is it Wonga’s payday loans that are forcing people to declare bankruptcy, or possibly the mortgage, car, furniture and holiday loans that the average punter takes out just before he’s laid off?
Apparently a Newcastle councillor recently suggested that Mike Ashley should be asked if he would accept the interest rates offered by Wonga, and if not, then he shouldn’t have them sponsoring the shirt. A bit of nonsensical hypothesis – I somehow doubt that Ashley, a billionaire entrepreneur, will be trekking off to Wonga looking for a payday loan.
There is also something beautifully ironic about complaints being lodged against Ashley regarding Wonga, when Ashley himself has ploughed a hundred million plus into the club INTEREST FREE.
Of course, Wonga are a bunch of reprobates compared to that fine upstanding pillar of the banking community that once adorned our shirts. I refer of course to none other than Northern Rock, who, thanks to their dodgy practices, recently went down faster than a Quayside hooker.
Not too far off topic here I seem to remember that little was said when Scottish and Newcastle were the shirt sponsors, and of course, the dog itself, Newcastle Brown Ale. In a region where alcohol was worshipped more than religion (we had 7 pubs and one church in our village and guess which was the one that was always empty) where were the naysayers then? Where was the objection to the blatant encouragement of the regions working men to indulge? When I say “indulge”, of course I mean “indulge out of their skulls”.
Last season, for some inexplicable reason, it seems that we managed to get through a 40 week season without the exploits of our entire team being splattered across the front pages. We seemed to forget how much we hate Ashley and Lame-arse, and let’s not forget that we weren’t flocking for the cut price membership deal for Pardew’s fan club either. And look what happened. Europe.
This season we were all at it from the go – a wish list of unobtainable transfers and talk of Liverpool buying so many of players that Ashley was going to have to lay on a whole fleet of helicopters if they were to make the deadline. Of course it all turned out to be pure fantasy.
A mate summed it up quite nicely. He knows nothing about football – he’s a Man U fan.
He said: “ Idon’t understand. You complained when Ashley put the naming rights up for grabs and renamed the stadium. You said he’d never get any takers. Now he’s got 24 million in the bank and you’ve got St James’ Park back, and you are all bitching again . What is it with you Toon fans?”
I explained it to him as clearly as I could – “I have no idea Pete.”
Note from Toonsy: This is more than likely going to be Archie’s last article for us as he heads of to pursue other avenues. Personally I’ve enjoyed all of them andwish to thank him for his efforts and wish him good luck in the future.