Ashley's Legacy - Putting NUFC In A Mess And Disappearing!
Ashley put us in the mess we are in ... then disappeared off the planet for four months!
He tried to sell up ... and bugger off and leave us in the shit.
No buyer ... so we've got to put up with him!
First, the good news (and, given last weekend's results in the North East, that sentence was not easy to type). Newcastle United are in a mess. On face value, it might not sound like particularly good news, but there is a context here. Is there anything worse than being in a mess? How about being in a mess and not knowing it? Or, more pertinently, being in a mess and ignoring it?
Newcastle are both too good to go down and too bad to stay up, but embracing reality has never been a theme of Mike Ashley's tenure at St James' Park. It is exemplified by a failure to bolster a squad which was already short of quality and numbers when he bought the club and by (rare) public statements which have utterly misjudged the gravity of Newcastle's long-established decline.
Exhibit A: Ashley in Newcastle's matchday programme on December 28th: "If, like me, you like a gamble now and again, then what price a flutter on us reaching that top six?"
Exhibit B: the team's performance against Hull City on Saturday. Brittle confidence, no guile, few options and, after the sales of James Milner and Charles N'Zogbia in the last two transfer windows - forget the circumstances - no pace.
As previously written here, Ashley is now impotent. Unless he takes steps to bring in a(nother) temporary manager - and the club are adamant that, as things stand, it is not a realistic possibility - he has little power to alter Newcastle's situation. He cannot make signings (even if he wanted to), and has no ability to rouse players. All he can do is watch and squirm.
It is the players who matter. On too many occasions this season, they have melted away in the face of adversity - and it cannot be denied that in spite of all the distractions, they have underachieved - but all hope is not extinguished. In the boardroom it may be different, but there are individuals within the dressing room who accept the perilous nature of Newcastle's position and are steeled for it.
Nicky Butt recently gave an interview with Football Focus, only a small portion of which was shown on television (the full 13 minute version can be viewed here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/football_focus/7943614.stm). While he spoke about his own career, the midfield player also gave the most candid appraisal of Newcastle's tribulations from anybody within the club in recent memory. It is well worth watching. Butt admitted that Newcastle have "gone backwards in the last couple of years," that they "need someone to come in and change the whole club," that "stability" was a fundamental requirement. He surveyed his side's results. "We think we're too good to have to work hard," he said. "You can't do that in the Premiership. You've got to give 100 per cent in every game."