Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Lie - Whatever Rafa Wants, Rafa Gets

In 1997 the Austrian director Michael Haneke made a film called Funny Games. It’s horrible.  An exercise in deconstructing Hollywood convention.  Like all the biggest blockbusters it builds tension, puts a family in jeopardy, gives viewers the hope of redemption, but then, every time you’d expect a gratifying pay-off in the form of the bad guys getting their comeuppance, the film winks at the audience and defies them any satisfaction, the sadistic monsters perpetuating the ordeal on their victims just keep it going, worse and worse ,daring spectators to keep watching.  Many refuse.  Walk-outs were widely reported. Indeed, they were the point, the director commented "Anyone who leaves the cinema doesn't need the film, and anybody who stays does".

Every January transfer window is like watching Mike Ashley’s Funny Games. The NUFC support spend a month desperately craving fulfilment, clinging on to every rumour as if there’s going to be some respite from the owner and a moment of relief where we make that big signing on January 31st and live happy ever after.  It never happens, any promises of investment and doing what’s needed are invariably broken, the rug pulled from under us every time, leaving a frustrated and dissatisfied audience.

That might be unfair.  There have been exceptions. Back in 2012 Papiss Demba Cissé was an eight figure arrival brought in with the hope of making a Champions League push, but that was half hearted, Ashley allocated more to loan repayments for himself (£11m) than he allowed the club to spend on transfers.  The push failed.

In 2013, with the club languishing in 16th, £18m was spent on Debuchy, Yanga-Mbiwa, Gouffran, Haidara and Sissoko.  We finished the season in 16th, no improvement, but safety assured. In 2016, with the club languishing in 18th, £29m was spent on Townsend, Shelvey and Saivet.  We finished the season in 18th.  No improvement and relegation assured.

Unfortunately these scant returns from January investment have not taught Ashley that he should value having a manager better than Alan Pardew or Steve McClaren and back him.  Their failures to capitalise have taught him that his default position of not spending anything in January is the correct one.

Newcastle have not made a single permanent signing whatsoever in four of the last five January windows.  Thousands of Newcastle fans tuned into transfer deadline day hoping for the best, but knowing that the club have not made one January deadline day signing in eight years.  They held their nose through the orgy of self-congratulation over grotesque transfer fees on Sky hoping we’d add to Leon Best (2010) and Fabio Zamblera (2008) as the only January deadline day signings in the whole of Ashley’s tenure (total cost £1.3m) but never held their breath.

Haneke re-made Funny Games in 2007, the year Ashley arrived at Newcastle.  It was identical to the original, a shot for shot remake but this time with a glitzy Hollywood cast.  Despite the extra glamour, it was the same story and the same horrifying watch.

Ashley has hired a top class, world famous manager in Rafa Benitez but he’s cast him in the same film with the same script and the same budget. For those of us watching there will be no Hollywood ending, the only question is when will Ashley, Rafa or we walk out?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Lie - Newcastle United Don't Need Any PR

In February 2009, in a meeting with the NUSC Derek Llambias said
“Do we need to spend £200k a year on PR? We did have a PR agency, they’ve just been fired”.
It would seem that the problem wasn't with PR itself, just with who was providing it.  Now that Mike Ashley owns a PR company of his own called Keith Bishop Associates, we can see in the accounts exactly how much has been paid to them.

Keith Bishop Associates accounts, 2017

So, not only was it a lie that the owner didn't perceive PR as a necessary cost, PR costs have more than doubled to over half a million pounds and Mike Ashley owns the company in receipt of these payments.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Lie - Shay Given Forced a Move Out of Newcastle

Whenever a player is sold by Newcastle under Mike Ashley, they are blamed for forcing the move.  If you believe the propaganda Mike Ashley has never wanted to sell anyone.  So it was with Shay Given.

In conversation with NUSC, Derek Llambias said in February 2009:

“We never wanted to lose Shay, we made that clear from January, whatever the price they offered. They came in with £3M and we politely told them to go away. Somehow Shay got it into his head that he wanted to move on because he wanted to win trophies. City then came in with a £5M bid that we rejected but then ...when a player decides they want to go it’s very, very difficult. We offered Shay a new contract that would take him to the age of 39 but that wasn’t good enough. Maybe we could have matched the contract with City, which we just couldn’t afford”.

“Once they came in with a £5M bid we then looked at their team. We tried for their right back, Michael Johnson, Elano on loan to get the deal that suited NUFC. Unfortunately it was difficult. We got £5.9M plus add-ons, not paid until 1st of July. We asked Man city for £15M thinking they would just go away but they got away cheaply, was it good business on our part? Not really ‘cos we never wanted to lose the player cheaply”
 But Shay Given has now sert the record straight in his autobiography.  Here's the extract as printed by The Chronicle:

Eventually, me and Michael Kennedy had a meeting with Mike Ashley about what the future held. It was at the manager’s office at the training ground and Llambias was there as well. I was willing to listen to what they had to say but ultimately I left it all up to Michael. This is what usually happens with contract and transfer issues, the player leaves it in the hands of someone they trust. I went out of the room soon after the meeting had begun and returned to the car. Michael was back out, sat in the passenger seat, soon after. “We’re not staying,” he said. “That was not a serious offer in any way, shape or form.” Mike Ashley had told Michael the deal being proposed but it was considerably lower than what we were offering new players at the time, who were coming in on huge long-term contracts that would secure them for life.

My deal did not do that and just confirmed what I already suspected – they weren’t going to pull out the stops to keep me at the club. I was prepared to stay for the rest of my career but, ultimately, I was in my prime, a potential Premier League winning team wanted to sign me and Newcastle did not give any impression they wanted to chase silverware. The sad thing was I’d placed serious, long-term roots down in Newcastle, my children were in school there and I would easily and happily have stayed forever.
How much did they really want to keep me though? How much did they want to be challenging? Did the boardroom care about keeping their most loyal players? In a word, no.

In the end, with me unhappy at what was going on and the lack of ambition shown by the club, a gun was put to my head. They said they would not allow me to leave unless I signed a transfer request. By making me hand in a formal written request, it meant they could waive 10 per cent of the fee I otherwise would’ve picked up after moving. With the fee being around £6-8m, it effectively meant I was waiving £600,000 to go.

It says everything that they were more keen on saving themselves £600,000 than they were keeping hold of a player who had given his absolute all for the club for over a decade. I’d literally spilt blood for Newcastle, pushed myself hard every day, even when times were so tough and quality players were leaving by the second.

The least the club could’ve done, in my opinion, is prove I was wanted. Instead, they were more interested in the transfer fee than they were me – a proven Premier League player, a dedicated team-man and a good professional. If they were letting me go, and they were more than happy to let the likes of Milner go as well, what does that tell you? It tells me that the economics of the club were a bigger priority than success on the pitch. That saddened me a lot then and it saddens me a lot now.

It all then happened very quickly. I didn’t have chance to say goodbye to the lads, say goodbye to the staff at the training ground or even clear out my stuff. Fair enough, that’s life. I just wanted to get out and get playing again and move to a club that was going places. It was a fresh start and a chance to go again. I could’ve signed the deal offered and lived on Easy Street but I knew we wouldn’t have been challenging for anything anytime soon. In the end, it came down to the January 2009 deadline day. They had to get it done quickly to hit the Europa League cut-off. What really pi….. me off – and one of the reasons I’m doing this book – is the way the club treated me after I ‘demanded a move.’ The club was leaking stuff against me, left right and centre, telling the media: ‘We couldn’t keep him, unfortunately, because he forced us into the deal with his transfer request’ when, actually, it was the club that made me sign it in the first place.

They made it sound like I was holding them to ransom and that poor little Newcastle were being stitched up by just another greedy footballer when, in actual fact, I wanted to stay – but only if Newcastle gave me a competitive contract and, by doing so, proved the club had big plans for the future.

The way the club portrayed me was a disgrace and the money it cost me wasn’t – and isn’t – the issue; the issue was I’d given nearly 12 years of my life to that football club, given everything.

They’d quadrupled what they paid for me and when it came down to it, they couldn’t care less about me, the future of the club or the direction it was going in. To then read in the papers that I was effectively the one ‘desperate to go’ made me so mad.

In one press conference, Joe Kinnear said, “We bent over backwards to try and keep him at Newcastle United and offered him a longer contract to stay at the club. He has been with Newcastle United for a long time and has been a great servant but he felt the time was right to move on and so, realistically, we had no choice but to reluctantly agree to allow him to make this move.”

Hang on a minute…

Not only did the club play bulls… politics behind my back, claiming it was all me, after I’d gone, they were no better. All it would’ve taken was for them to say, ‘We place on record our thanks to Shay Given for his service to this football club.’

One sentence would’ve done me but no, I got nothing. I was hurting at the time and, to be honest, I’m still mad because it could’ve been dealt with a million times better. Not 10 times better, a million. As a player and as an individual I deserved so much more than that. I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye to the fans and the club hung me out to dry in the media. The odd time I’ve been out in Newcastle since I left, I’ve had a few negative comments about me leaving and it kind of angers you, you know? Maybe this chapter will set the record straight and help dispel a few of those myths about why I left; at least they will get my angle to the story.

The club gave me everything but I gave the club everything back in return and, thankfully, it will be around a lot longer than Mike Ashley will.