Friday, February 28, 2014

Question time

So, other than the club's reflections on the latest set of accounts, what else was there of note to come out of the most recent Fans Forum?

1. JFK wasn't solely responsible for the programme notes attributed to him - in reality he "was involved in the drafting of the notes but that the overall messaging was determined collaboratively and could be read as communication from the board". Just as we all suspected, in truth - there's no way that, left to his own devices, he could be trusted to produce something scrupulously profanity-free...

2. A request for more information on JFK's departure met with a terse "no further comment to make", while it was confirmed that filling the director of football role he vacated "would be reviewed in the summer" (with the option of scrapping it altogether presumably also on the table).

3. There was an equally terse response to a fans' representative who, quite reasonably, said "he would like to see the Club attempting to improve the tone of coverage afforded by NCJ Media by ending the current ban": "The Club referred to its comments in the previous Fans Forum meeting and had nothing further to add." Nice to know they're open to dialogue, isn't it?

4. When the issue of revenue raised through Sports Direct advertising in St James' Park was mentioned, it was explained that while this doesn't reduce the debt the club owes to Jabba, it does grease his palms sufficiently to allow him to keep the loan interest-free.

5. The club's apparent lack of ambition was, understandably, a hot topic. It was claimed that "the aim for the Club is always to finish as high up the league table as possible, with top ten a minimum requirement this season". All fine and well, but how does that square with making just two signings in the last two transfer windows, both loans, and selling our best player without securing a replacement? The actions of a club setting itself up to fail - and to hang the manager out to dry.

6. As regards Dreamboat, there was plenty of flannel: "In respect of the transfer, the board explained that the Club did not want to sell the player. However, the player was adamant he wanted to leave. The Club made a substantial bid for a replacement but an agreement could not be reached with the prospective selling club. The Club also pursued other options but particular clubs were unwilling to sell. The board explained that the January window is disruptive for clubs and that there are far more options available to it in the summer window." No mention of the fact that the informal agreement struck with Dreamboat in August meant we'd known of the likelihood of his departure months before it happened and so had no excuse for not having a plan in place. At least there was a hint of regret, if not an outright apology - "The board suggested that if it was to be self-critical, it should have had a young player who could naturally step into the squad as it aims to in all positions" - though of course that compounds the failings of our transfer dealings by flagging up the failings of our academy.

7. While it was explained that the Away Fans Fund was "designed to be spent on the clubs' own fans who travel and the designated away end in their stadium", the club wasn't very forthcoming with details on how the £200,000 we received had actually been spent.

8. Following a suggestion in a previous Fans Forum, Gael Bigirimana has been appointed as our Equality Ambassador, a role which involves working closely with the Newcastle United Foundation and Kick It Out. At least it'll give him something to do, given he currently appears to be nowhere near the first team...

9. The Silver Fox formally pledged the club's support for the Football v Homophobia campaign before the home game with Spurs. A very welcome move - only the previous week I had expressed dissatisfaction and bafflement at our silence on the issue.

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