I have two dogs. One’s called Titus Charles, the other is Shola. Stick with me. I am going somewhere with this!
Titus is a Japanese Terrier type thing, called a Shiba Inu, and can best be described as not playing with a full deck, or a sausage short of a BBQ. In a more modern parlance you might say a Swan Vesta short of a riot. Of course I must stress that we didn’t know of his intellectual deficiency when we named him. I just wanted to stress that in case Titus Bramble’s lawyer is reading this.
In our old house Titus would run up three flights of stairs, turn around at the top then come tearing down them like someone had rubbed Ralgex on his little ginger sphincter, and then SPLAT! He’d hit the wall at the bottom of the stairs at Warp Factor 5.
All of our floors were tiled so you could hear this little canine Riverdance unravelling. An event referred to in our house as “Clickety Clickety Thud!”
The thing that concerned us however was that he would do this five or six times in quick succession, and after each thud he would lie there dazed for a while, before getting to his feet and heading back up the stairs again.
He only stopped when he was either too tired, or too dazed to walk back up the stairs.
Wasn’t it Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results?
It’s a bit like us with the transfer window. Here we are sitting waiting for the biggie. Waiting for today’s equivalent of another Alan Shearer or Michael Owen to be unveiled.
Remember how happy we were then? Isn’t it a shame we don’t mention them both in the same breath any more?
And guess what? Clickety Clickety Thud! Here we are again, surprised, not so much by hitting the wall at the bottom of the stairs, but more by the fact that it hurts.
No big spending. No big stars. Yet.
And we shouldn’t really be surprised, because while other managers are heading off to Harrods looking for talent with a bag full of crisp new fiftys, Ashley is sending Pardew shopping with an Argos card and a discount voucher.
I’m sure by now we all appreciate the requirement for this frugality. Not because it has been explained to us, but more because we’ve figured it out ourselves. Even maybe been through it ourselves.
As a youngster I had a mortgage, a Car Loan, a Bike Loan, Credit Cards, Store Cards, Bank Loan and an Overdraft. I was in debt up to the eyeballs, but jeez, was it fun. OK there was nothing in the bank at the end of the month, but back then that didn’t seem to matter .
Now that I’m a little older (it’s all relative) the mortgage and the car are paid off, any use of the credit cards and the overdraft is settled before the interest kicks in, and I seem to have a lot more money available. Yes, of course I’m older and earning a bit more, but not throwing money down the shitter every month in interest payments is the difference between just getting by and being comfortable.
And I’m sure it comes as no surprise to hear this didn’t happen overnight, but enough of the less than subtle lecture about money management, and how it will make us a better club.
There was a time, not so long ago when we expected, and even deserved, so much more during the transfer window. So why is it that we can no longer attract those considered “La crème de la crème”, and more often than not end up with from the “clotted cream” end of the dairy range?
Obviously there are a number of contributing factors at play here, not least of which has to be lack of “available” funds. I can already see the comments coming in about that one. By way of establishing a simple definition I’d say, if Ashley wants to spend it, then it’s “available”.
Could it be that we are not “big” enough? Well we already covered that in a previous article.
Another factor to be considered has to be the three stooges – Curly, Larry and Mo. That dynamic trio of Ashley, Llambias and Pardew. There was a time when great players were lining up to work under the likes of Robson, Dalglish and Keegan. Ok Kenny may not have produced the goods but he was still a legend. “Pardew Kinnear and Roeder” just doesn’t have the same ring.
I’m not having a dig at Pardew here, I actually think he’s doing a decent job within the constraints of his remit, but he’s certainly nowhere near being the draw that Keegan et al were, and his case is not being bolstered by those above him with what many of the fans perceive to be their “screw the fans” attitude.
If the personality and track record of your manager were going to be deciding factors then I would say Pardew possibly just has the edge over Roeder and Kinnear with only Wolves’ Mick McCarthy being a lesser “Motivator”. That leaves an awful lot of others above.
So what else hinders our progress? Lack of perceived ambition perhaps?
I say perceived because behind closed doors we may have a master plan comparable with that of Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein combined, but nobody knows about it because nobody is telling us.
I can’t help thinking that Hitler might have made a great Football Manager. With him it was all attack, attack, attack, and he was in Europe five years in a row, before finally being eliminated in the group phase in 1945.
Let’s not confuse ambition with success here. Hitler was ambitious, just not successful.
Maybe it’s the Language. A lot of foreigners (Spanish, French Welsh, etc) have enough trouble getting to grips with English, but having to then master Geordie on top is, let’s be honest, beyond a lot of footballers.
From my own point of view I would suspect that the biggest hurdle when it comes to attracting quality players has to be location.
St James Park – the Hallowed Turf – that Geordie Fortress, is almost in bloody Scotland!
Most foreigners (and a lot of Southerners too) think that Mel Gibson still carries out raids during weekends and bank holidays, and we surely have to be within range of his marauding, blue faced, kilt wearing, willy waving hordes.
And the local derbies? In London you get Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs. In Manchester at least you get United or City. How about Liverpool or Everton?
If you come and play for Newcastle you get to go to visit the Mackems or the Smoggies. Or on a bad year, both.
Difficult to figure out why they are not all tearing up the M1 as we speak.
If that’s not bad enough we are actually further away from London than Sunderland. I mean, while going past Sunderland has always seemed to me to be one of the better things to do with it, it has to be a bit of a bizarre concept if you are coming from the south. A bit like going “to Hell and beyond!”
There was a rather comical article published a couple of years ago that suggested that many of the WAGs actually limit their other halves’ options when it comes to transfers by telling them where they might, and definitely will not, consider moving to. In this modern world of equality, feminism and wimpy footballers I would never even dare suggest that there is anything wrong with that.
But be honest, if after a hard 90 minutes, for which you’ve just earned 50 thousand quid, you can’t pop into Nobu or Cecconi’s after a game and “be seen” with the other A-List stars, then what‘s point of it all?
This probably explains our enthusiasm for signing youngsters. Get them up here and acclimatised before they get a taste for the clubs and restaurants.
So if you can get past all that what about the weather?
The first three times I took my beloved (sorry , that’s the missus, to most of you) to Scotland it was snowing. But there again, it was probably my own fault for having the audacity to go in the middle of August.
The North East is generally considered to be a good few degrees cooler than the South West, making it less desirable to those southern continentals and SSSs .
I use the word “cooler” because it makes it sound like we are comparing the Maldives to the Canaries, when in actual fact Finland to Siberia would probably be more accurate.
As we’re talking the difference between breaking into a sweat and losing body parts to frostbite, maybe “colder” would have been a better word.
Taking all the above into consideration isn’t it a bloody miracle that we ever manage to persuade anyone to join us at all?
No, not really. We have, and can fill, a 50,000 seater stadium almost every other weekend with screaming fanatical Geordies who live and breathe the Black and White, so unless you are fortunate enough to be being chased by either Man U or Arsenal, nothing else compares.