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The Fish

George Caulkin's new piece

275 posts in this topic

Time for explanations after Newcastle’s summer of nothing
George CaulkinSeptember 05 2013 13:09PM

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There is a common misconception about those encumbered with the glorious, barbed birthright of supporting Newcastle United and it is encapsulated in one tedious word: ‘expectation’. It is a failure of language and of comprehension, one which ignores an exasperating history of unfulfilled potential, the bursts of momentum, betrayal and mismanagement and deep rumbles of yearning.

 

You hear it a lot. “Blimey, expectations are so high up there, aren’t they?” the battle-scarred say with a shake of the head, as if yet another cock-up can be explained away by the frustrated desire of fans and not their own inadequacy. And it is true that, even now, after all the countless nicks to the soul, the rhythm of a North East week is still shaped by football, creating its own form of pressure, but expectation does not cover it.

 

This is not an attempt to analyse or speak for those who follow Newcastle – much of this will apply elsewhere – just a brief aside en route to a wider point and a small plea for context. There is no assumption of success at St James’ Park, because how can there be? Hopes rise and fall as the team do the same but, amid all the near-misses, the only reasonable expectation is that if things can go wrong, they can be relied upon to do so.

 

Which is not to say that a sense of ambition is misplaced. When your stadium holds 52,000 people, when your club’s turnover is in the world’s top-20, it does not seem outrageous to wonder why your team cannot compete. As Kevin Keegan once said in these pages “I want people to dream about their football club. They should, we should all be dreamers at heart,” and daring to believe from time to time is part of the Newcastle way.

 

They do not expect trophies, because a lifetime tells them different (it would be nice, obviously). The last few years have demonstrated a remarkable tolerance for torture and still they turn up or others come forward to turn up in their place. Perhaps they expect a bit of pride, that the ethos of a region built on heavy industry is reflected on the pitch. It does not seem like such a lot to ask.

 

What should not have to be endured, what they should not have to expect, is the deluge of bulls*** which has drenched Gallowgate this summer. After two or three years of sustainability, self-sufficiency and stability, making a decent fist of being a serious, sensible proposition, it was almost as if Mike Ashley could no longer restrain himself; about time for another jab to the groin, another reason for loathing to replace dreams.

 

Mistakes are excusable (I would say that, because I make them all the time), but repeating them is less so and treating your customers like dunderheads is simply contemptible. The return to Newcastle of Joe Kinnear, a man indelibly associated with their relegation in 2009, who tarnished the reputation of a great institution even as it plummeted, was a breath-robbing act of disregard and one which feels like self-sabotage.

 

If the idea was to destabilise the manager and chief scout, then it worked. If the idea was to create a vacuum at the top of the club at the very time when reconstructing confidence should have been underway, then it worked. If the idea was to decimate the efforts of Derek Llambias to promote an alternative narrative at Newcastle – solidity and team-building – and one which fans could understand and relate to, then it worked.

 

If the idea was to thwart painstaking plans to sign new players, then it worked, because it is not as if the targets Newcastle approached during the close-season were the product of Kinnear’s knowledge. Plans were in place, ready to go, which is not the same as saying they would be implemented, but even so. If the idea was to let conspiracies breed, then it worked. If the idea was to save a bit of cash, well, that one was a triumph, wasn’t it?

 

The worst aspect of all this is not a dearth of activity in the transfer market, but an ingrained disrespect, both to those who pay to watch the team and to some of those paid by the club. Had a bad season? Ransack departments, slash costs, lose good people, with little understanding of the mayhem it causes. Stick Joe in there, that’ll sort things out, he’s a good bloke is Joe, he’ll show ‘em. Risible.

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And, by Christ, don’t bother explaining any of it. By all means, let Kinnear take the airwaves to spew out that familiar blend of inaccuracy, exaggeration and mispronunciation, to muddle things further, to cast everybody onto the back foot, but do not speak yourself. Ashley may have a ‘do-things-differently’ mantra, but not to the extent of behaving like a human being. Why is football so allergic to just talking, normally?

 

After all those decisions, the treatment of Keegan and Alan Shearer, the toxic presence of Dennis Wise, the sale of Andy Carroll and sacking of Chris Hughton, the renaming of St James’, Ashley’s tenure had reached the stage of truce. People got it, sort of. They may have been more dismay when Wonga were named as sponsors and at other junctures, but at least there was a structure. It has been swept away.

 

That Alan Pardew was required to release a painful statement explaining Newcastle’s summer of nothing was another piece of obfuscation. Should it not have been the man who controls the budget to talk about “the options that were available within our financial means?” Should it not have been Kinnear, the “senior executive in charge of all football-related matters,” who explained what he had been doing? So transparent it barely existed.

 

You cannot blame Kinnear for being appointed in the first place or for stumbling in a task he was always ill-equipped for. It is vaguely tragic. What you can blame him for is the triumphalism and bluff that accompanied it, his claims to know more than supporters, the rhetoric about being able to open doors to any manager (the locks must have been changed). He asked to be judged on his signings and so he has.

 

If there is a meagre consolation – and it can only be that – it is that Ashley must be aware of what an error he has made and if there is nobody willing to tell him directly, it will filter back to him. The theory that Kinnear was next in line as manager is something Pardew has spoken about publicly, but the likelihood of that has surely waned. There is talk in the building that Kinnear may even be eased out. He should be.

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The responsibility is Ashley’s but, as always, others will be left to squirm in the spotlight and deal with it. Pardew was right when he said Newcastle “did the majority of our business in the January window,” – two or three players of quality were being targeted this summer – but he has stated his views repeatedly and on the record. He wanted and pushed for additions.

 

The tone jarred. The reason Newcastle made five signings eight months ago was largely because the gamble of walking away from deals the previous summer had been exposed. The hierarchy admitted their mistake in signing only Vurnon Anita and attempted to rectify it; at the end of the season they addressed the squad and promised to learn from the episode. This summer: one signing and it is not even permanent.

 

For Pardew, it creates a multi-layered problem. Should Newcastle have done better last season? Undoubtedly. Should they do better this time? Unquestionably. He knows that his relationship with supporters needs to be repaired, but his employers have forsaken an opportunity to grasp positivity and it is not easy to generate it from a standing start. When matches resume, he, not Kinnear or Ashley, must find it.

 

There is a more subtle pressure. Through various disputes, Newcastle have retained influential players such as Fabricio Coloccini, Papiss Demba Cisse and, most recently, Yohan Cabaye and, although the cases are not identical, Pardew has played his part. He has cajoled and encouraged, telling them he shares their ambition. Players want to improve, they want competition, they want to challenge and they need to be pushed.

 

Where is that ambition now? If there is disillusion in the dressing-room it can be reflected in performances and, ultimately, it will be Pardew’s reputation that suffers for it. He will not walk away – a caveat is gross interference on Kinnear’s behalf – because he still has a chance, enjoys the job and has a tie to it, but he is being forced to manage with one hand behind his back while he walks on eggshells. And, no, I don’t understand that image either.

 

A director of football was something Newcastle talked about last season. There needed to be proper delineation between Pardew and Graham Carr, the chief scout, and Llambias was not a man steeped in the sport, but Kinnear’s arrival unleashed a maelstrom on Tyneside. The wrong candidate in the wrong post at the wrong club in the wrong city and, as a consequence, everything has regressed.

 

There is fertile ground for the whispers about Ashley’s motivation to sprout, because he offers no counter-argument and it leaves supporters bruised and baffled, put through the wringer one more sapping time, and finding it that bit harder to summon pride. Contrary to stereotype, expectations are scarce at Newcastle, but there is a tipping point and there are some; no more bulls*** and better. Better than this.

 

 

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was just about to post it. He gets it, doesn't he.

 

Was going to highlight a few specific areas, no need though-it's all spot-on.

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Might as well make this a thread for all his articles as they get published, always a great read.

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It's not going to be a quiet season like is it. It's all going to kick off.

 

You're not wrong, I expect Pardew and Kinnear to both be gone, but I'm not sure in which order.

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It's not going to be a quiet season like is it. It's all going to kick off.

Caulkin doesn't seem the type to be swayed by 13-16 year olds on twitter giving 'false' impressions of how the fans really feel.

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If you haven't already people should check out True Faith's latest podcast as Caulkin is a guest on that. :up:

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Caulkin doesn't seem the type to be swayed by 13-16 year olds on twitter giving 'false' impressions of how the fans really feel.

Cracking journalist IMO, however all the local journos took a barrage of abuse last week and IMO they've jointly decided to go on the offensive against the regime / Kinnear. (I don't have a problem with that btw, as futile as it is).

 

Are you on twitter yet btw?

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Cracking journalist IMO, however all the local journos took a barrage of abuse last week and IMO they've jointly decided to go on the offensive against the regime / Kinnear. (I don't have a problem with that btw, as futile as it is).

 

Are you on twitter yet btw?

 

of course he isn't. he's not 13-16!

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Cracking journalist IMO, however all the local journos took a barrage of abuse last week and IMO they've jointly decided to go on the offensive against the regime / Kinnear. (I don't have a problem with that btw, as futile as it is).

 

Are you on twitter yet btw?

I am as it happens, you can find me at @youmustbefuckingkidding#haddawayinshite

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Cracking journalist IMO, however all the local journos took a barrage of abuse last week and IMO they've jointly decided to go on the offensive against the regime / Kinnear. (I don't have a problem with that btw, as futile as it is).

 

Are you on twitter yet btw?

Caulkin has always been against Kinnear's appointment, he's always been fair and balanced without losing the passion.

You're unsurprisingly, talking shit to swim against the current again.

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I am as it happens, you can find me at @youmustbefuckingkidding#haddawayinshite

I am as it happens, you can find me at @youmustbefuckingkidding#haddawayinshite

:lol:

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Caulkin has always been against Kinnear's appointment, he's always been fair and balanced without losing the passion.

 

Nobody wanted Kinnear, but there's definitely been a sea change of tone IMO over the last few days.

 

Chronicle, Times, Mirror & Telegraph have all gone hard hitting together. They're all mates and I would guess have discussed a united front to avoid any one of them facing a singular ban.

 

Just my opinion though so don't get too upset. :)

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Nobody wanted Kinnear, but there's definitely been a sea change of tone IMO over the last few days.

 

Chronicle, Times, Mirror & Telegraph have all gone hard hitting together. They're all mates and I would guess have discussed a united front to avoid any one of them facing a singular ban.

 

Just my opinion though so don't get too upset. :)

 

Pretty sure you were calling for us to give him time, despite the rest stating that he is not the man for the job. I think the reason that the papers have released articles slamming the regime is that the closing of the transfer window is a handy date in the diary against which performance can be appraised.

 

Cracks me up when you say anything akin to the final line by the way.

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Pretty sure you were calling for us to give him time, despite the rest stating that he is not the man for the job. I think the reason that the papers have released articles slamming the regime is that the closing of the transfer window is a handy date in the diary against which performance can be appraised.

 

Cracks me up when you say anything akin to the final line by the way.

The final line is cos you get more upset and go ott. I've told you about this before. My opinions are my opinion and not geared to wind you up.

 

As for anyone employed by the club I would usually always give them the benefit of the doubt first.

 

As for the press, the change in tone towards Ashley has definitely geared up in the last few days and is not just an end of window moan.

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The final line is cos you get more upset and go ott. I've told you about this before. My opinions are my opinion and not geared to wind you up.

 

As for anyone employed by the club I would usually always give them the benefit of the doubt first.

 

As for the press, the change in tone towards Ashley has definitely geared up in the last few days and is not just an end of window moan.

and I've told you that you're bonkers if you think you actually bother me. This is just theatre, dahhhhling

 

Why? If the club were to employ Jeffrey Dahmer as head chef, you wouldn't voice your concerns?

 

... It's geared up in the last few days? what, like since the window closed, the journalists formed their ideas and committed them to print?

:lol:

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Good read. Fertile and profound. Winter is coming.

What's that chancer got to say for himself like?

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