Friday, May 20, 2005

View From The Away End

For a more detached, distanced and objective perspective, it's over to Pete of Round & White and Watford fan Jez.

(Both contributions were written prior to the news that Kluivert had been released and Hughes had signed for Aston Villa.)

Pete: "The curse of View From The Away End has struck again. No sooner do I receive an email from Ben asking me for my thoughts on Newcastle's season, than the newspapers report that Newcastle are requesting that Craig Bellamy attend pre-season training. Obviously, this was just a ploy to show any potential buyers that they won't get Craig at a bargain price. Nevertheless, it's a good example of why NUFC's idea of staff management leaves something to be desired.

To the long-suffering Toon Army fan, the season has been all about HR problems and apart from the dream of European and domestic silverware that sadly faded away in April, the last 9 months are a long stretch of time that everybody connected with Newcastle will want to forget. The antics of Bellamy, Robert, Bowyer and co. have held the team back, although fair play to Souness who made the best of a bad hand by taking the team as far they did in the cups.

Time to look to the future then. With regards to squad movements this summer, the key issue is finding a suitable replacement for Shearer and possibly for Kluivert who's convinced that he is moving to Spain ASAP. Call me mad, but I think I'd like to see Peter Crouch in a black and white shirt. Another solid centreback to partner Boumsong wouldn't go amiss either, while a new left winger (or even two) would be sensible given that the now semi-naked Robert is likely to leave in the summer, along with Hugo Viana. Personally, I'd like to see the back of the ineffectual Nicky Butt, but I doubt that this will happen.

So that's a fairly large shopping list, but unfortunately, the only substantial rumour I've come across so far is of the Magpies' interest in Juve midfielder Oliver Kapo. Frankly, that's not enough incoming quality if Graeme's promise of a 'challenge to the top three' is to become reality. Frankly, unless he gets the players he needs, Newcastle will be lucky to be challenging for a UEFA Cup place. It's going to be an interesting summer…

Jez: "Of course all of us are a mish-mash. We say we come from here or there but in my view if we took our family trees back far enough there would be a hugely irresponsible fish attempting to fin its way onto land somewhere. If it had been onto 'Celebrity Love Island' it would have found the energy to fin its way back to the more eloquent jellyfish in the brine pretty quickly.

Anyway, if we, in some way, define ourselves by where we’re from by supporting our local team then we don’t have much say in the matter, as it is with me. My Dad hails from London, my Mum from Prudhoe, I was born in Watford. Fate sealed. On the rare occasions our families converged I was intrigued by those who had made what must have seemed like an endless journey. As a child I could hardly understand a word they said (I’m sure the accents and vernacular were tweaked a little for the occasion) but my Uncle Jack, the sort of man who came out of the pits to fight two world wars, would sit me on his knee and talk about the family passion – football.

He must have taken pity on me. You may find this strange but it’s hard to be passionate when you are a Watford fan. We’ve had our days in the sun and some time in the future we’ll get our shades on again, although it will be relative - perhaps a cup run or a push towards the play-offs in a few years – staying afloat is our aim. But my Uncle Jack would speak with absolute passion about Newcastle. The heroes, the crowd, the way of life. It stayed with me, I had to go and see it for myself.

One rainy November Saturday in 1992 It all became clear. St James’s looked like a space ship had landed. Steam, smoke, light and noise was rising from it. For the first time in my Watford watching days I actually wanted the ‘opposition’ to score just so I could hear this murmuring volcano explode. Of course it did, twice. It was then I understood what I was being told all those years earlier, it was the passion of a community united through football.

The ability to view Newcastle United objectively when they have a place somewhere in your heart isn’t pleasant. How can the club in its present incarnation represent the pride and dignity that has preceded it? It pains me to write but there has been such a shift from communion to ego that Newcastle United are having a real attempt at representing in one swoop the whole of the current malaise in football.

A chairman who has no idea of anything but his own self-aggrandisement, like Del Boy without the nous, players who only care about themselves and a manager who would have trouble keeping a straight face if a humorous, self-effacing thought had ever crossed his mind. Perhaps Shepherd is to blame. The man is an offensive fool who should feel like the luckiest person on earth. To chair a club with such history and passion, to represent the interests of the best fans that I have ever heard or seen, he should feel indebted to such greatness. Alas, the rudeness of this disrespectful arse is beyond the pale.

This is exacerbated by his truly awful business decisions. Employing Bobby Robson was wrong but his treatment thereafter was unforgivable. How does he right this? Employ Souness! The man who drained the last vestiges of pride from Liverpool, almost started a riot in Turkey with his childish antics, was so inept at Blackburn that he was in serious danger of taking them down that he should never have been given a job anywhere let alone in football management by one of the biggest clubs in the world. Well done Freddy. Souness was obviously brought in to bring some discipline to the bunch of delinquents Robson had been shooed away from. Souness can’t even bring discipline to his own mind. Leave him in an empty room and there would be an almighty scrap. It’s fine to be a despot when you are as successful as Alex Ferguson, but not when you haven’t got a clue what you’re doing. If Souness was an actor he’d have a bit part in 'The Bill' and would be singled out for guffawing laughter on 'Harry Hill’s TV Burp'.

So now the totally inept Shepherd has announced he wants Shearer to be the next manager. Dear oh dear Freddy. Shearer is one of the best players I have ever seen, but what proven qualities does he have to run a major football club? Well, he’s popular and he comes from the area. Learn from history Freddy, send Alan off for a few years and let him return with some experience. I’m forgetting, that’s a long term view. Shepherd wants to vicariously enjoy the popularity of Shearer by making him manager - would he endure the inevitable bitterness that would inevitably follow this naïve appointment?

As for the players, well at least Kluivert is going, but Given wants out too. More worryingly even Aaron Hughes wants to leave with Villa in the frame. Can you believe this? Aston Villa is now a more enticing club to be at than the mighty Newcastle United.

Things are currently terrible at St James’s Park and they are rapidly getting worse. The ship is rudderless; the only dignity comes from the fans, how long are they going to stand this before they start voting with their feet? Football has a transient nature, what exists now will not always be. The Newcastle fans’ devotion will be rewarded in the long run, but long term plans must be initiated to reap lasting rewards. I can hear the ghost of my Uncle Jack tutting and telling me about the glory days. Days when it wasn’t just the people on the terraces that cared.

Thanks to Pete and Jez for their thoughts.


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