Amid the fairly mundane pre-season friendlies the past weekend, one result stuck out like a sore thumb. Leyton Orient 6 Newcastle United 1.
With less than two weeks until their first league game, no new players brought in and still no permanent manager at the helm what exactly is going on at the Toon? It was only a friendly but the problems at the club obviously go much deeper. It is no secret that Mike Ashley wants to sell the club, yet despite allusions to the contrary no bid seems to have been made. A consortium headed up by former Liverpool star Steve McMahon had expressed an interest however this week they pulled out citing a lack of communication and response from Ashley.
It’s hard to know what to make of Ashley. He has obviously made an absolute pig’s ear of running the club, however, his past shows that he is an astute businessman. It seems he wanted the prestige of owning a club like Newcastle without any of the hard work it actually entails. As far as the fans are concerned the sooner Ashley goes the better. Unfortunately at the moment he does not seem to be going anywhere.
Ashley’s willingness to sell the club is supposedly the reason why he is reluctant to appoint Alan Shearer as full time manager. It is also a sign that he does not care about the club or its fans. Appointing Shearer would give the Newcastle public a big boost before they start what is undoubtedly going to be a difficult season. Chris Hughton, while undeniably a good Coach, is not going to get Newcastle promoted.
Then again, neither will the players. If a Premier League club could have its pick of Newcastle players, who would they actually want? Steven Taylor. Obafemi Martins on a good day. Joey Barton if he remembered he is a footballer not an ultimate fighter. It is not very likely that Martins, Jose Enrique or Jonas Gutierrez will look forward to a cold Tuesday night away at Scunthorpe or Barnsley. In all fairness Shola Ameobi should score plenty of goals at Championship level whilst Steve Harper is a more than able goalkeeper. However there is a real dearth of quality in other areas of the team. When Kevin Nolan was at Bolton he was tipped for England recognition, when Damien Duff was at Chelsea he was the best winger in the Premier League, Alan Smith was going to be the next England No 9 when he was at Leeds. Now Newcastle cannot pay teams to sign them.
It is ironic that Newcastle were defeated so heavily by League One opposition in the same week that 33 000 supporters turned up for a charity game for Sir Bobby Robson’s cancer foundation. The callous decision to sack Sir Bobby in 2004 is arguably where Newcastle’s decline started. Graeme Souness, Sam Allardyce and Joe Kinnear have all been unable to replicate the success the former England Coach achieved during his five-year spell at the club.
So what is actually going to happen at Newcastle this season? If the club is sold quickly, a new manager is appointed and a few canny signings are made, Newcastle will soon be favourites to get promoted back to the top flight. What will be worrying the Toon Army is the other scenario. The scenario where Ashley fails to find a buyer, no reinforcements are brought to the club and Shearer ends up back on Match Of The Day. What will become of Newcastle then? Perhaps they should ask their opponents from this week’s dour goalless draw – Leeds United.
Quote of the week goes to Sedan defender Paul Baysse who said that he would sign for Sunderland because “The wages in offer at Sunderland are 20% bigger than the ones offered by West Ham and Blackburn. And I am attracted by it.” Whilst ridiculously shallow at least he is honest. Perhaps John Terry should have followed suit. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org