Friday, December 03, 2004

The View From The Away End

Following his crass comments earlier in the week, the consensus on the Talk Of The Tyne messageboard appears to be that Freddy Shepherd is an embarrassment to the club, and that the fans are angry at both his staggering arrogance and his thoughtlessness in making us the inevitable target of justifiable abuse from other clubs and their supporters. We asked three opposition fans for their verdict on Shepherd's pronouncements.

The participants:
Pete of Round And White
Inspector Sands of All Quiet In The East Stand
Chevington Blue of Portman Road

Pete: "If [Shepherd's outburst] doesn't disturb you as a football fan, particularly as a fan of a lower-division club, then what will? It's a pretty crass and ill-judged statement. My sympathy goes out to Newcastle fans who have once again been reminded that their chairman is a bit of an idiot. I presume that they've been expecting Freddy Shepherd to open his mouth and provide his foot with somewhere to be stuffed for some time now, but he was especially foolish to mention the word 'dog' too, as it's likely to remind (Newcastle) fans of his previous public blunder.

But let's have a look at some of the issues addressed by Freddy Shepherd. To start off with, having 72 clubs below the top 20 provides the latter with the source of future players. Or at least a useful place for them to loan out their future stars to in order to build them up, as well as somewhere to offload them when they're no longer up to the job.

There's also the question of English footballing heritage. Clubs in the lower leagues often have more a more grounded history as well as established links to local communities. The new Emirates stadium is a good example of the growing anonymity of modern top-flight football which for better or for worse is focused primarily on making money. Although being profitable is undeniably vital to a club, the spirit and image of the game plays a huge role in attracting new fans. It is
famously named 'The People's Game', and ignoring this basic rule is simply a bad idea.

Mr Shepherd has also ignored the fact that it is very easy for Premiership clubs to rejoin the other 72. While smaller clubs frequently struggle financially or at least have to watch the pennies, the majority of them do not have the extreme debts that many Premiership clubs now face. I can't see Newcastle suffering this fate at the moment, but in five year's time, who knows what may happen. You only have to look at the much-quoted example of Leeds United to see what a worse-case scenario looks like. Behind the scenes Man City are in trouble, while Liverpool have just announced a record loss of £21.9m at their AGM. While there's no disputing that Freddy's invested a great deal of money (correct me if I'm wrong here Toon fans), that doesn't mean he possesses one iota of business acumen, let alone tact. Something he perhaps also demonstrated during his speech, 'We have a wage bill of over £15m. They are well paid, some of them are over-paid'. That'll go down well with your employees, Freddy.

In any case, I very much doubt that the status of the leagues will change in the near future. I especially can't see the Premier League running the other leagues, partly because they are too elitist and let's face it, would they really be willing to share their precious money?

As for Freddy Shepherd, I still believe that football chairmen should be seen and not heard. His speech at the Soccerex forum has done nothing to change that opinion.

Inspector Sands: "The sooner creeps like Shepherd are driven out of football, the better. The sad thing is that Newcastle's recent performance proves he's clinging on to the bandwagon driven by Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea with his fat arse hanging out of his trousers. If he's in charge of such a big club, how comes they attracted only 15,000 at St James's Park in the early 1990s? Two words, Freddy - 'Leeds United'.

Football's a business, but it's also a community business. Newcastle's success should be inspiring and feeding the grass roots, not fattening his wallet. Of course, the Premier League's such a success, attendances are falling and TV money's tailing off too. I wouldn't trust him to run a piss-up in a brewery. Or a whorehouse. The Premiership needs reforming, and needs attaching more closely back to the league below it so relegation doesn't spell doom, and so the whole competition is reinvigorated. And Shepherd needs to be taken to Newcastle Blue Star, Whitley Bay or Bedlington Terriers - to force him to remember just why people go to football.

Chevington Blue: "I suppose the surprise about Shepherd's latest comments is that everyone is, er, surprised. After all this is the tactless fool that just a few years ago slagged off Geordie women and laughed about how he was ripping off the Toon faithful with cheaply produced replica shirts.

So, as the more savvy in the football world voice their increased concerns about the widening gap between the top sides in the Europe and the rest - and how ultimately the game will implode in upon itself if this is not addressed - good old Freddy just doesn’t give a toss.

This is the same man who also doesn’t give a toss about one of the greatest men in the modern game and is forcing Sir Bobby Robson to take the club to arbitration to settle the outstanding period of his contract.

Despite being one of the richest clubs in Europe on the pitch Newcastle have failed to make the group stages of the Champion’s League for the past two years (sorry!), while off it Freddy has failed to gain entry into the 'elite' G14. And if rumours from Brussels are true, G14 would like to set up an independent league that would ultimately exclude Freddie and NUFC. Now how ironic would that be!

Thanks to Pete, Inspector Sands and Chevington Blue for their thoughts.

If you're not a Newcastle fan and weren't contacted about taking part in this feature but would like to become involved in future, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us an email at


Post a Comment

<< Home