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APRIL 2016




E-MAIL: WEBSITE: EDITOR: Michael Martin DEPUTY EDITOR: Gareth Harrison ART & DESIGN: Glenn Ashcroft & Michael Martin ILLUSTRATIONS: Marc Jennings PHOTOGRAPHY: Matt Flynn, Colin Ferguson & Carl Haynes

McClaren is He Any Good?.............. pg62


TBAWE...................................................... pg6

The Real Spain...................................... pg74

WEBSITE: Glenn Ashcroft & Michael Martin

Rafa Benitez - Dare to Dream......... pg10

Paying the Price................................... pg76

The Rafa Rant.......................................... pg13 Toon Spotting........................................ pg16

Steve McClaren The case for the Defence.................. pg78

A Loveless Marriage............................. pg20

O Rei......................................................... pg84

Rafalution - a Kopites View............. pg24 New Direction....................................... pg28

Steve McClaren A Story By E-Mails.............................. pg92

Mitro on Trial.......................................... pg32

Postcards from the Edge................... pg96

Room at the Top................................... pg34

60 Second Season............................... pg98

McClaren’s Tactics................................ pg40

Brian Eno, Normans, Electric Shocks and Billy Ocean..... pg100

Editorial.................................................... pg4

Geordies here, Geordies there......... pg44

COPYRIGHT: All items(c) true faith. Not to be reproduced without the prior permission of true faith. STATEMENT: This is NOT an official product of Newcastle United FC. NOTICE: All views expressed are the views of the author and do not always represent the views of true faith. CONTRIBUTIONS: All contributions to true faith are welcomed, encouraged and considered for publication - letters, articles, photos etc.

A Whole Different Ball Game.......... pg104


Can a Leopard Change its Spots..... pg56

Hughie Gallacher Remembered..... pg107


NUFC - Norwegians Would.............. pg60

David Ginola - Le Magnifique......... pg108

La Transición........................................... pg64

Rafa Benitez timeline......................... pg116


Feel Every beat...................................... pg67

The End.................................................... pg120

© true faith.

Adam johnson - A Verdict................. pg50

OUT: 25 MAY 2016

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Welcome to tf 125. Since we published the last issue of this fanzine more than enough has happened at United to fill ten issues but we’ve tried to cover everything in these pages and apologies to our design lad Glenn who has almost been driven to distraction by the content he’s worked so hard to lay out for us all. Thanks again, mate. Let’s be honest Steve McClaren was never anywhere near a good appointment for United and as many of us predicted he crashed and burned in the Premier League after being sacked in the Championship less than 12 months ago. McClaren’s complete failure is one thing but his appointment and the tf 4

tf 125 April 2016

nature of his courting by Charnley and Carr says everything about them and the club we have become under their lamentable stewardship. I doubt any supporter would have appointed McClaren but they bent over backwards to get him to SJP. To the surprise of no-one in particular he failed miserably and as we reflect on the club’s status as a Premier League club we can say categorically there has been absolutely no progress whatsoever over the last twelve months and arguably matters have regressed.

back in France on loan (like Cabella a year previous), Wiljandum has looked good in flashes but rarely away from home, Mitrovic has laboured, Shelvey has shown moments of quality but not enough to have had a meaningful impact and Mbemba looks like he might have the makings of a decent central defender. Saviet and Doumbia brought in during a desperate January have provided absolutely nothing and who can say why either was signed when we have so many gaping holes in the first team.

In the last two windows, United has invested heavily in Thauvin, Wiljandum, Mbemba, Mitrovic, Shelvey, Townsend, Saviet and Doumbia. Thauvin is now

The club is light at left-back, centre-half and is painfully in need of goals. Therefore it is bewildering Carr and Charnley with £80m at their disposal should


squander such riches on inadequates when we are lacking in so many key areas. Gross incompetence doesn’t begin to describe it. Another of Ashley’s rare utterances hardly instilled confidence when he once again threatened not to sell up but again insisted he wouldn’t put any money into United, denied he had anything to do with the running of the club and was insouciant about the prospect of relegation. Thanks for that Mike. In the background several current and former members of the club’s leadership have been appearing at an Employment Tribunal brought by Jonas Guitteraz whilst the recent Fans Forum hardly got any detail on

questions related to an academy and training facility that was promised an upgrade almost three years ago. Ashley is continuing with plans to build on Strawberry Place in a move that will remove any potential to extend the Gallowgate or provide any income for United at a time when numerous clubs are seeking to extend and move to increased stadia. What the club has got absolutely right however is Rafa Benitez. However, his appointment shows every sign of being far too little far too late (McClaren should have gone at the latest after the debacle at Stamford Bridge) but if we somehow manage to stay up and persuade the Spaniard to stay with United, him assuming complete control of Newcastle United, then we have a chance of moving forward. The ludicrous Head Coach model involving Graeme Carr (whose recruitment has holed the club under the water) and the faintly ridiculous position of Lee Charnley as Numero Uno on Barrack Road has to be ripped up and those two have to be removed from authority at Newcastle United. They have been disastrous. What United desperately needs is real

What the club has got absolutely right however is Rafa Benitez. However, his appointment shows every sign of being far too little far too late (McClaren should have gone at the latest after the debacle at Stamford Bridge)

football expertise and that is unquestionably provided by Benitez. But it also means strategic executive direction as well. The right football executives need to be recruited too. What would greatly help is if Ashley decided enough was enough at United, sold-up and concentrated on pulling Sports Direct back from the brink. He knows he’s no good at United and quite simply he faces ruining our club and eventually losing tens of

millions if he continues his bone-headed stewardship of our beloved Newcastle United. Until our fate is definitely known however this season, we have to do what Newcastle United supporters have always done through all of the bad times we’ve had together and that is to support the club with every fibre of our beings until we are either saved or doomed. Any rebellion or insurrection can wait until we know what’s what.

Thank you for giving us your time reading this fanzine. The last issue was by far the most widely read edition we’ve ever published and concrete evidence that the free digital format is the one to ensure our growth and longevity despite the sentimentality I hear about the hard-copy formats of yesteryear. We all love how massive true faith has now grown as a supporters’-led publication but it would be great to fill its pages with reports of good times. One day eh? Our day will come. Keep On, Keepin’ On…

Follow Michael on twitter

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thru black & white eyes 06 Feb - A welcome performance and result. Let’s be clear though. West Brom were awful. Proper rank. Newcastle United away from home rank. Still they’re safe and we’re not so it’s a crucial win after Wednesday’s shambles of a performance. Great goal from Mitrovic who could have had four. He and we had to settle for one. We’re out of the relegation zone and smiles allround as we left SJP. A good atmosphere in the ground. Like the West Ham game, it’s worrying that we seemingly can only score brilliant goals but concede all sorts. Tiote looked like he picked up a knock – he is more important than most realise. Still, three points and another dominant home win. 10 Feb -   A lot of patter from the manager this

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week about having a real go at Chelsea and playing ‘without pressure’. The last manager to talk like this was Carver before Man City away last year. That didn’t go well. That didn’t go well at all.With the break coming up and further breaks to follow, there is very much pressure in my opinion not to get stuffed again. I don’t fancy three weeks stewing on a defeat, so I presume it should be the same for the players and staff. 12 Feb - McClaren saying plenty in his pre-match presser about ‘fixing’ our away form. Honest from him though I’m not sure what else he could say, we’ve been so bad under him and Carver. Quite simply this squad is used to getting hammered away from home. I want to give McClaren the benefit of the doubt but I was at Everton.

The players simply didn’t know what they were doing. None of them. The manager has tried loads of different players and formations away from home and we still can’t score. Chelsea have been on a good run under Hiddink, but draw too many games. I’d take 0 0 now as we can’t score away from home. We can’t even create. 13 Feb - He’s got to go. 3-0 after 14 minutes. 5 conceded away from home AGAIN. At Man City we tried to be compact but ferocious on the counter. Didn’t work. Against Palace he went alll out attack. Didn’t work. F**k knows what we’ve just done there. Whatever it was, it hasn’t worked. That’s 8 conceded in two games away from home. It should have been 18. There’s no way we’ll pick another point up against

any side in this league away from home. It’s a fact. 7 away league goals this season. Worst in the football league. Damning. He needs sacked. Won’t happen though, will it? 16 Feb - He’s still in a job and the team are off on holiday for ‘warm weather’ training as we’re out of the cup. It’s all pointless. He’s taking us down. 18 days between games. They better turn up at Stoke and run them off the park. 21 Feb  - Best part of the year so far. The team and the manager are away and can be ignored by most excluding Chronicle journo’s who have little option than write about not a lot. 01 March  - The team are back and McClaren is in a weird mood pre-match. He’s on about NUFC being the most ‘frustrating’

team he’s ever managed. Odd one that. Was it not more frustrating at Derby County where his side were exceptional for a year, and then pathetic for 7 weeks, costing him his job? Or Wolfsburg who were Champions of Germany just a year earlier than when McClaren was sacked with them in the relegation zone. How about England? At least NUFC have been consistently awful under him. Either way it’s Stoke and Bournemouth. Most people want 6 points, 3 would keep us alive ad any less is relegation. 02 March - So we’ve been beaten by Stoke. We didn’t have a shot until the last minute and once again we’ve failed to score away from home. Sunderland’s draw has put us 2nd bottom of the league. Bournemouth won again and should really put us to the sword on Saturday. McClaren should be sacked tonight but it won’t happen. Charnley and Carr have backed him for too long and too heavily. I don’t even think beating Bournemouth will keep us up. We can’t score away

from home. We can’t score against Sunderland. After Bournemouth the next four games contain three away games and Sunderland. It is simply a must win game but then what of McClaren. Beat Bournemouth and we probably go down as he’ll stay in a job. Draw or lose and we’ll probably go down anyway. The Damned United. 04 March - Steve McClaren is in denial. Angry exchanges with Craig Hope of the Mail shows that he’s pretty much done. Storming out of the press conference accusing journalists of all sorts is the start of it. He’s done. He knows it. The players don’t listen to him. The job was always too big for him. The game tomorrow will only go one way. The spirit of West Ham and West Brom will need to be summoned but I don’t see how McClaren comes back from this I know it’s just a press conference but his behaviour was that of a man who knows the players aren’t good enough and don’t listen to him. He knows.

05 March - I left the ground early for the first time in years. Maybe ever. A shambles of a performance from everyone involved at NUFC. Relegation is confirmed to me unless a miracle happens. McClaren signed his suicide note with the selection of Riviere in a 4 4 2 to match Bournemouth. The first time we’ve played that formation this season. As with most things the manager has tried, it didn’t work. I left early when we scored. I cheered the goal and then the horrible feeling came across me. I didn’t want to equalise. I actively wanted Newcastle United to lose that game. There could be no come back for McClaren. No point to cling on until Leicester. Forget the manager and the coaching staff though. The performances across the park were an utter disgrace from 1 – 11. Only Shelvey comes out with any credit. He must be devastated he made the move here. 06 March - Every paper has McClaren sacked. Every one. Nothing from the club. He has to go, of course he does. Nothing from the

club though. The North East is glued to twitter 20 hours a day. The only question is ‘who’ will replace him. Something missed from yesterday, Sunderland let in a 92nd minute equaliser against a 10 man Southampton. Two points thrown away. Two points which could have buried us as we’d have been 4 points behind them (assuming we lose at Leicester) going into the derby. Massive, really. 08 March - ‘Limbo’ doesn’t do this justice. McClaren has taken training two days in a row. Obviously he nor anyone else at the club is talking to the media. The brief to journos has been they won’t sack him until a successor is found. Moyes and Benitez are the favourites with the bookies. I’d walk over broken glass for either, but think we’ll get neither. Why would they work under Graham Carr? Why would they get relegated? I’m worried we’ll get no one and be stuck with McClaren to eek out a slow relegation. I promise myself to stay off twitter until a new manager is announced. tf 7

thru black & white eyes 10 March - Steve McClaren is sacked as Head Coach of Newcastle United. To be blunt – it started terribly, tailed off a little in the middle and then finished even worse. Lee Charnley and Graeme Carr should never be in football again if this is the calibre of their decision making. They chased McClaren in early 2015. He allegedly said no three times to the job. He was then sacked by Derby County, the second tier’s 8th best side. How was this ever good enough for Newcaste United, Europe’s 12th best supported club and 19th wealthiest? What were they thinking? What a mess this once great club finds itself in. I don’t buy the patter in the media about ‘poor Steve he’s been treated disgracefully’. He’s made a very good living out of being sacked. He’s been playing the game. He lives for the payouts. No Guillit

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type acceptance he’s doing more harm than good. All about the ££££. Ashley has allowed the lunatics to run the asylum just because they’re nice to him and here we are. Pardew. Carver. McLaren. Newcastle United, everyone. 10 March - OR IS IT? Newcastle United is now Rafael “Rafa” Benítez Maudes is now manager of NUFC. Get in. Mourinho aside there simply wasn’t a better out of work manager the club could have recruited in world football. The man was managing Real Madrid this season. REAL MADRID. Now he fancies us. He fancies Newcastle United. Is no head coach. He is a manager. Our manager. If anyone can keep the disparate set of losers, it’s the born winner, Rafa Benitez.

11 March - Still buzzing. Rafa will be in charge at Leicester, so I’m going. He’s everything we’ve always needed and more. If he keeps us up, and he is backed financially, and allowed to sign his all players, we all know how it will pan out. There is little time though, so Rafa has had the players in training pretty much since he landed in the North East. A football man who does his talking on the training pitch. 12 March - The fixture list hasn’t been kind to our new manager. But he knew that taking the job. Leciester is practically a defeat and the derby is..the derby. Then Norwich away and then Southampton away. WHY WASN’T HE APPOINTED AFTERTHE CHELSEA GAME! Realistically Norwich away will be the first time (after an international break) where we may see any real

improvement, but I’d love to be wrong. 13 March - Much better. Leicester are going to win this league and we matched them. We denied them space. We made them waste time. We made them play. Compare and contrast to Everton away. Chelsea away. 11th and 12th in this league as it stands. We couldn’t make a game off either. So after 48 hours to make this team look not just interested but competitive is testament to what we’ve got in the manager who could just keep us up. More of the same please, Rafa. 14 March - Got home from Leicester due to typical gag road closures. Home by 3 30 up at 6am for work. Therefore forgot to realise it is DERBY WEEK this week so everyone panic. 15 March  - Benitez isn’t

panicking, so I’m more clam. 16 March - Please don’t lose lads. A draw will do. A win probably keeps us up, but please don’t lose. That might be too much for even Rafa to do anything about. 17 March - Sunderland fans begin their weekly trawl through NUFC twitter and true faith to try and find evidence that the ‘mags are obsessed’. Sunderland message boards prepare to pretend not to read stuff on true faith, then rise up in fury when they eventually have to admit reading true faith. Sunderland fans get in touch with us all to tell us how we’re all obsessed. They search us out, specifically to tell us. true faith Podcast downloads in Sunderland go through the roof. The match preview on true faith is debated furiously on Sunderland social media and message boards. They’re all dead angry at how obsessed we are. JohnyFTM73 on twitter and his mates MarkFTM + PeyterFTM all conclude Newcastle fans are obsessed and they can’t understand

why we’re talking about Sunderland on the days leading up to a match with them. MartynFTM agrees and FTMmackemKev claims that he’s never heard of Newcastle. Or something. Two lasses from Sunderland wearing t-shirts about Newcastke in some capacity wear masks of horses because that’s they’re the mags and that’s what they do. Horses. JanineFTM and LaurenFTM proudly walk into NE1 with horse masks. Horses. Remember the horses. And FTM. Have to order the masks three weeks in advance and lie to work about why you’re getting them delivered as they have to be signed for. Not obsessed though marra. That’s them. Sunderland only sell out at home (if they even do that) against one team each year. The team they all hate and talk about, but not the ones they obsess about. Horses and FTM. We are Sunderland. 18 March - If you’re a Sunderland fan and sitting frothing at the mouth please STOP READING TRUE FAITH – it’s not

meant for you. 19 March - Going to have to start worrying about the game now. Injuries AGAIN plaguing us. Colback going to have to play left back so Sissoko going to have to play left wing to protect him. No Colo for the derby (again) so it’s a toss up between Lascelles and Taylor. I don’t know. I really don’t. 20 March - Phew 21 March  - Didn’t really deserve anything. Got something. This is a new order under Benitez. Not loads of positives to take but yet again we stayed in a game after going behind. I know that sounds weak but under McClaren it simply didn’t happen bar Spurs away. Playing badly and getting a point is a huge change in fortune. We had to play like Brazil (the good version, not them now) more often than not just to get a point under the former manager. It’s almost like we’re turning into a proper football team…. 22 March - What the actual

f**k is Mike Ashley doing on my telly again. The one time we DON’T want to hear what he’s got to say he’s on again. Talking mostly about his sinking sportswear store. However his comments on NUFC neither really told us anything we didn’t know or added any value to our current situation. 23 March - Mike Ashley has regrets over buying NUFC. We have regrets about that too Mike. 24 March  - The club is in court with fan favourite Jonas Guitirez taking them to an employment tribunal. The outcome is TBC as I write this but Pardew has been on the stand stating that Yohan Goufran, Sylvain Marveaux and Vurnon Anita (?!) were supposed to take his place in the side. That went well, didn’t it Alan. I always knew Anita would make a craacking left winger…..not that I’m saying he’s lying or anything, but it’s a strange version of the truth ALEX HURST - FOLLOW ALEX ON @tfalex1892 tf 9

I’m pretty sure I speak for the majority of my mates that the past nine years of Ashley’s stewardship of NUFC has turned emotions from wholehearted support to anger and most recently apathy and downright boredom with it all. If you had asked me even 2 years ago whether I’d have skipped a match to take part in a Demo against the owner I’d have said a strong no.


DARE TO DREAM! That’s why my 40 year old cynicism was getting the better of me. Never in a million years would I have thought Benitez coming to NE1 was ever possible. But such events have happened in the clubs history and now we  have leading the good ship Gallowgate the most successful manager ever to have come to NE1. If we can leave behind the question as to why the calibre of such a  manager now rather than at any time in the past 9 years and look at why Benitez is here and what he can actually achieve, given any possible  constraints both financially and structurally. In many ways I draw comparison between tf 10

now and January 2008, or even 1992. 8 years ago Kevin Keegan returned amidst so much euphoria and good will in a move Ashley thought would play well with the support.  Benitez’s arrival is more to do with necessity given our precarious  position but both men are magnetic figures and charismatic. Perhaps Ashley thought this was of primary importance rather than being just being Charnley’s preferred lackey. Keegan once offered the position  simply couldn’t resist it and I suspect the same is for Benitez here. There is the Liverpool/ Newcastle connection too. Similar cities and  clubs it is often said. To a degree as I would suggest Bilbao is surely our sister city in that respect but there’s another article for another day. In short, the ability to carry support and players

is a shared trait. Something about Newcastle-UponTyne would have appealed to Benitez as a proud working class post-industrial city. He would have also seen  something of Naples (the Italian Liverpool in every single respect) and Valencia (proud of its difference from Barcelona, never mind Madrid.) in  us. Peter Embleton’s TF article on Maradona and Naples a while back illustrated perfectly the burning passion for Calcio, just as it burns  away here in the North East of England. His time at Liverpool made him a Red Merseyside great. His time at  Chelsea was a scarring experience. I suspect that England for him is unfinished business. Chelsea and Man Utd are in transition so does he see the potential of NUFC moving up to them if not ahead of them? Was a Derby head to head versus his pal Allardyce too much to turn down, even  given its only one match? For a number of reasons managing in England gets his ticker going. His family are settled

west of the Pennines. He likes the control of being a manager in England which is his title at NUFC and not of Head Coach which is an important point. Read this cracking article by Sid Lowe on why he thinks Benitez came to NE1. The other point I want to cover which leads nicely into what Benitez can achieve is what he has been promised by NUFC in terms of control and funds. If he has been promised control of backroom staff, scouting, transfer policy and the rest of it, surely he was more likely to come. That’s what we hope rather than more of a short term bit of fun for him to try and avoid relegation and then walk if it doesn’t all work out. I’m still mystified why a man with such pedigree would work under the  incompetent cretins which run United! The thought did occur that Ashley has brought him in so that if we do escape relegation, Benitez is a selling point of the club and thus is easier to sell on. So having said that what can Benitez actually achieve?

If you had asked me 12 months ago in this scenario id have said Top 8 as an absolute maximum in the League while harbouring real hope and ambition Cup wise.  All of this is good, certainly better that the crap we have become accustomed to. One word though, Leicester City Football Club. Ranieri  has done a remarkable job in seeing Leicester into the final stages of a Championship race which would be the most surprising success since Aston  Villa in 1981. Not only them but look at how Spurs, though with a more established head of steam and more money, have broken through the space  left by Chelsea and the behemoths from the North West.

Never in a million years would I have thought Benitez coming to NE1 was ever possible.

Is it really that zany to believe Top 4 is possible? My instinct tells me European football and Cup success or at least a proper challenge for both open up as achievable but this depends on a few factors below. First of all, Benitez simply had to have control over his tf 11

backroom staff and at least he has brought in three new staff of his own choosing, all having worked with Benitez previously. This is very important, meaning  that the NUFC boot room is run by him and not imposed or inherited, Cahtro and Smith excepted. It’s not only that but who should run  scouting. Graham Carr is beginning to look out of his depth and although his experience may be good to leverage, I really would demand on a Scout  of Benitez’s choice and wavelength in the summer. What Benitez needs to do is to insist that the clubs investment policy  is firmly geared to the requirements of the First Team. The Club has to finally abandon arbitrary policies on age limitations for example or  “purple players”. That is not to say the club should be indiscriminate on what is spent as all clubs apart from the hugely doped have limitations. Just as important is a proper plan stretching out four Transfer windows  to replace players and also to properly staff each position, rather than rely on players whose versatility is a tf 12

benchmark for a complete lack of footballing prowess. The carry on with Coloccini is the best example I can think of followed by a failure to replace Demba Ba adequately. We  need to recognise when players are past it and replace accordingly. He also needs to choose a new leader. Possibly Shelvey but he needs to  select a commanding lieutenant on the pitch because the lack of leadership in that regard is a weight dragging the team down at the moment. There is a hell of a lot of dross for Benitez to move on as much as bringing new players in and this is equally important as brining new talent in. there are just too many players who are passengers and I’m not only speaking about the obvious names either. Because of this it may take a season or two for Benitez to get his squad looking the way he  wants it to be. It took Robson 1 ½ years to do similar with a  frustrating first full season before 01/02. What is also key is the reality of the relationship that Benitez will  want to have with the CEO and

Board. I imagine he will want to bypass the Board Committee and deal directly with Ashley or at least with a CEO who has a genuine talent in the Footballing business. Surely Lee Charnley’s days at the club and that of Moncur also are at an end. The structure of the club has to meet Benitez’s requirements or he will definitely walk. What we must remember though,despitethesehurdles and tasks outlined  above, Rafa Benitez is a proven winner. He knows how to achieve success in Spain, Italy, England and in Europe. If the club gives him his head,  we will never have a better opportunity since the 90s or even since 1969 in winning some sort of silverware or re-establish United as one of the  top clubs in England and a regular fixture in Europe. Since last Friday, its begun to sink in. It is an incredible opportunity but only if we  survive relegation and if the club starts to behave like it hasn’t since well f**k knows when. That of a proper sporting institution. The future  is unwritten. Please do not f**k this opportunity up.

It is an incredible opportunity but only if we survive relegation and if the club starts to behave like it hasn’t since well f*** knows when

“Alan Shearer (playing for Newcastle) has won 2 x Fa Cups, 1 x League Cup, 1 x Charity Shield, 1x European Cup Winners Cup and the Uefa Super Cup.......He then goes on to manage the Magpies leading them to a Champions League & FA Cup double in his first season at the helm. Then, out of the blue Mike Ashley fires him and brings in Peter Reid as Shearers’ replacement.... How would Newcastle fans feel?”

The Rafa Rant! It felt unusual, something that a football fan shouldn’t do to the new manager of their club before and during his first game in charge. But there we all were, 25th November 2012 at home to Man City, 4 days after the sacking of club legend Di Matteo,   displaying an array of different size banners all with various versions of the same message; “RAFA OUT”. “A tad unfair” ....was one of the kindest accolades we received as the majority of

fans from other clubs took to social media to berate us for not giving the new manager a chance. But why should we have given him any chance at all? One of the things wrong with modern football is that some owners/fans only seem focussed on winning at all costs and don’t give a damn about traits such as loyalty, decency, tradition or the long term view when sacking or employing managers.


Our Only Chelsea Mate!

Ok, so it’s not Rafas’ fault that Chelsea sacked Di Matteo, we can hold those who run the club responsible for that, but there are seemingly endless reasons, in my view, to dislike the man. So why do Chelsea fans hold him in such low esteem? “Fans at Chelsea lack any passion, they have a fickle nature”(professional managers don’t slag off fans of other teams.....that is the fans’ job)

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“I dislike the way Chelsea and Roman operate”(I wonder why he wanted to manage Chelsea? Maybe ££££s?) “I would never manage a side who just bought success” (At Liverpool this man spent £228,600,000.00 on 76 players!) “We (at Liverpool) don’t need to give away stupid plastic flags” (On Chelsea giving free flags to kids at Champions League games.) These are just some of the views that Rafa decided appropriate to direct at Chelsea FC when he was Liverpool manager. An apology (albeit delayed) to Chelsea fans would have helped, but instead he decided to comment on the lack of intelligence required to make a “Rafa Out” banner at his first post match press conference. tf 14

He then proceeded to achieve the 2nd worst defensive record of any manager of the Roman era in his first 16 games, overseeing our exits in 2 cup competitions which we were favourites to win. A 0-0 draw against City in his opening game was followed by a 0-0 against Fulham and a humiliating 3-1 loss at our rivals West Ham. Twice we gave away 2 goal leads against Reading and Swansea and lost the first game of the new year to the bottom club, West London rivals QPR. We, as fans, look to our mangers to be inventive, to make game changing substitutions. A right back for a right back when we were 1-0 down against Brentford and a centre back for a centre back when we were 2 goals

behind against Swansea were a million miles from being remotely inventive or game changing. But Rafa just loves to remain rigid in his formations and tactics game after game, relying on zonal marking which becomes quickly predictable and easy for the opposition to play against. When he left Inter in 2010, he wasn’t employed for 2 years before joining Chelsea(Why?), leaving Inter 7th in the league, 13 points adrift of their rivals AC Milan. His tenure there included fall outs with players and ill advised public outbursts. When he joined Napoli in 2013 they were 2nd in Serie A. He managed just one Copa Italia and left them in worse shape on his departure in 2015. His time at Real Madrid

Rafa just loves to remain rigid in his formations and tactics game after game, relying on zonal marking which becomes quickly predictable and easy for the opposition to play against

is well documented, having a worse record than the previous 4 RM managers at the time he was fired. Amongst his “achievements” was conceding 7 headed goals in 2015 (prior to his exit) which was worse than any other La Liga team. A 61% win rate managing one of the best club squads in the world is laughable. He has all the traits in a manager that are in no way compatible with any real football fans’ ideology of how to play the game, seeming to wash his hands of any blame when things go wrong. Negative results are down to everyone else, yet he praises himself for small victories.    Valencia was a long time ago for Rafa and,

in my view, he has failed to keep up with the Premier League and the inventiveness that is required to succeed as a manager. In modern football he is the type of manager who always prove to be problematic with a squad of players, unaware of how eroded his relationships become with his players. Just read Steven Gerards’ book for examples of this. Jermaine Defoe famously said of Rafa (relating to his desire to totally control him) “Just stick some batteries in me and call me a robot!” In my view he has taken his latest position because he cannot lose. If NUFC get relegated –“well they were going to get relegated anyway” and if they stay up “I am a truly successful manager”.

Rafa cited interference from the boardroom and the structural flaws of the club for his failure at Real Madrid. There isn’t a Newcastle supporter on earth that wouldn’t agree that there are flaws with the current structure and boardroom at their club so why does Rafa think it will be different for him there? Perhaps football club owners would be better advised to employ Mr. Benetiz to serve Tapas to the corporate fans in the boxes than give him control of the players on the pitch. My spare, leftover “Rafa OUT” banners are currently on their way to St James’......I’m pretty sure you’ll need them soon.

in my view, he has failed to keep up with the Premier League and the inventiveness that is required to succeed as a manager.

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ToonSpotting We welcomed long-suffering Hibs fan and all round good lad, Callum Kane to our fair city for the latest hostilities with the mob down the road. Here’s his verdict. Newcastle United 1 Sunderland 1, St James’ Park, 20/Mar/16, KO: 1:30pm, Att: 52,311 It’s the 23rd of January 2016. I’m on the 107Cowgate. com Tour in my home city of Edinburgh. The tour is about the Irish in Edinburgh and particularly the city’s finest son, James Connolly. Tour guide Jim Slaven of tf 16

the James Connolly Society Scotland introduces me to three friendly Geordies Tony Higgins, his son Matthew and Michael Martin and not to forget their Irish mate Cian who had flown in that morning from Dublin. They’re planning to take in the Hibs game later that afternoon. After having a good craic with the lads

during the tour I arrange to meet up with them down in Leith before the game for a few beers. Michael is keen to find out my thoughts on what’s been happening on and off the pitch at Easter Road and like United, it’s a grim story of multi-millionaires and billionaires taking a lend of genuine football supporters.

Callum Kane Follow @callum_kane

It’s during this chat I drop hints to him on wanting to sample the North East Derby. Michael promises to be in touch and that’s exactly what happens.

Pink Lane, which Michael tells me has been gentrified in recent years having had a grittier history. I’m from Leith so I know how that’s gone.

10am on March the 20th a nice sunny morning. I’ve arranged to meet Michael at the iconic Tyne Bridge. We head back into Gateshead to meet his mates Dan and Sean for some breakfast and more importantly, on a day like today, bevy to set us up for the derby. After a few cold Peronis and an average Wetherspoon breakfast we jump in a taxi and head for the city centre. The short journey to St James’ Park is slowed down by the bizzies on horses holding up our taxi. What is it with Geordies and horses?

After eventually leaving the taxi on our short walk to the boozer I first start to feel the tension of the lads. Any football fan attending matches and who follows their team all over the country experiences it. You get all these feelings and emotions before any game but derby day brings it on ten-fold. Sweaty hands, agitated, nerves, nausea and wandering around mumbling to yourself - “We can’t get beat of theses bastards today”. I could sense the lads’ nerves as we started to discuss todays match. Dan talks about United’s poor recent derby record. Six straight defeats! Ouch! I can sympathise with his feelings as over

We get to the boys’ usual haunt on match days a boozer, not far from Central Station called The Forth on

my 26 years of watching Hibernian give or take a few seasons, our derby record against the Scumbos (Hearts) has been abysmal. Michael points out that it hasn’t always been like this and they could do no wrong against their bitter rivals for such a long period. I’m staggered to learn Sunderland couldn’t beat United at home for twentyeight years. This is a similar line I’ve heard from the older Hibees I know, regarding our own poor recent derby record. But it’s only the here and now that matters in this game and Newcastle United’s here and now is staring another Ashley-inspired, disastrous relegation in the face. After a few more beers and chats about various football clubs and fan cultures, music, politics and all the other things working class football

I can sympathise with his feelings as over my 26 years of watching Hibernian give or take a few seasons, our derby record against the Scumbos (Hearts) has been abysmal

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supporters talk about. We have a chat about some shared EdinburghGeordie slang words – Radgie, Gadgie, Peeve, Jakey etc. I understand the words originated from the Edinburgh Romany community so it’s possible they travelled up and down the coast and over the border and fell into common useage over many years. But back to the football! I ask the lads if they “would take a draw?” Every one of them answers no without giving it a second thought. I admire that - proper football fans. With KO fast approaching and seeing off my last pint of Peroni we head for St James’s Park. The narrow street up past the city walls is packed and the songs have started “Toon, Toon, Black & White Army”, Rafa tf 18

Benitez and songs about Sunderland’s disgraced Adam Johnson boom out as we approach the superb looking stadium. The Johnson stuff certainly doesn’t bother me I’m not here to look to be offended or take the moral high ground this is derby day and anything you have over your rivals is used to taunt them or get one over on them. Anyway, I’ve sung enough songs about former Hearts nonces, Graham Rix and Craig Thomson over the years – “if you tolerate Rix, then your children will be next”. My ticket is in the Millburn Stand, not beside the rest of the lads in the Gallowgate End. I’m quite happy with this as I can sit and concentrate on the game. As I take my seat I realise why the ticket was as pricey as £55. It’s a cracking view and as good

a stadium I have set foot in. Certainly better than the shithole that is Hampden or the overrated Celtic Park and the dilapidated Ibrox. It’s not as spectacular as the Leith San Siro but then where is? The game starts after a noisy welcome to the new gaffer Benitez. If I’m being honest I never had much hope for the game as a spectacle and that’s exactly how it started. The first 30 was tense and scrappy and with a distinct lack of any real quality. The only action to get the home supporters back on their feet after that rousing welcome for Rafa was a half chance than Mitrovic blasted over. United’s best player, Shelvey was next to go close with a 22 yard free kick that just flashed wide of the post. Sunderland then had a few corners and were getting

The first 30 was tense and scrappy and with a distinct lack of any real quality. The only action to get the home supporters back on their feet after that rousing welcome for Rafa was a half chance than Mitrovic blasted over

some joy down United’s left with Rafa’s decision to play ex Mackem Colback left back looking more and more a mistake as the half went on. It was from one of these attacks down the left Sunderland won a corner and took the lead. The dangerous Defoe pouncing on a second ball and sending the visitors into the break with 1-0 advantage! While enjoying my half time pie and bottle of beer (take note Scottish football) I wondered how the second half would go. I’d gone into the match not really caring who won but I did now hope Newcastle could force their way back into the game. With Allardyce as gaffer I just knew Sunderland would employ every anti football tactic in the book to try and escape back down

the road with the three points. This is exactly what they seemed to try in the second half but United upped the tempo and looked good for at least an equaliser. With 10mins to go that’s exactly what happened. A good ball to the back post was headed in by Mitrovic to send the home fans mental. The highlight of the game then followed as a Geordie who looks to enjoy a pie and pint or five ran on the park to celebrate with his new hero. The game fizzled out with both teams looking happy to have avoided defeat and giving themselves both a chance of avoiding relegation. Over the 90 mins a draw was probably a fair result. With both clubs sitting in the bottom three the old football cliche “The table doesn’t lie” just

about sums it up. If you take away the passionate supporters, impressive stadium and judge it on the players and performances, this was a Championship game in all but name. I hope for the sake of my new Geordie friends, this isn’t a Championship fixture next season. I’d like to thank Michael, Dan and Sean and all their friends for their hospitality. Although I’ve never had an “English team” or will ever have one following Hibernian is enough heartache for one lifetime - I will be back to watch a United game in the future and I really hope Newcastle avoids relegation this season. Let’s hope Rafa can take you to a cup or two and back up to the top half of the PL where you belong.

With 10mins to go that’s exactly what happened. A good ball to the back post was headed in by Mitrovic to send the home fans mental

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The Mirror was granted a rare insight into the mind of controversy magnet Mike Ashley, who instead of reassuring fans to the future prospects of Newcastle United managed to set a worrying tone throughout the interview.


A LOVELESS MARRIAGE! An overriding sense of regret seems to have festered deeper into a feeling of contempt for the club he once sought to have fun with, apparently. Whether new manager Rafa Benitez can cope with both a daunting task to survive relegation, as well as a media offensive adding to the negativity surrounding the tf 20

club remains to be seen. At the time of writing, his team have 8 games to avoid the drop that would see us miss out on riches of a TV deal set to lift every participant next year into an elite group of wealthy clubs. Most would have anticipated a bullish defiance of criticism and more of the same promise that he instigated

under a year ago through a Sky televised interview. Unfortunately we now appear to be witnessing a billionaire bully that dominates the headlines, in a bid to defend his tenure of both Newcastle United and Sports Direct. The promotion of cheap quality has been the success and downfall of both assets for

Ashley, who now relies on employing a PR Guru in the form of Keith Bishop to rescue a desperately poor public image. You can only imagine the regret dawning on Rafa Benitez as he witnessed such an embarrassing defence of the club’s ownership that it would make our back four look credible. Mike thinks his relationship with Newcastle United can be summed up as “wedded through thick and thin, stuck with each other”. It’s not consensual though, is it? Fans never said I do. Despite such a public statement of commitment, opinions of him seem to have not been uplifted by his rather disheartening views. Offering a David Brent-esque perception that, “to get a football club to be the best it can be, you have to get the sun, the moons and the stars to align perfectly”, he also concedes that he had to step back and allow the club to self-manage. He elaborates that his effort to move the sun, moon and the stars was basically to chuck the tea

boy in as Chairman, get the corporate box telesales worker, chief scout and a failed Championship manager to act as a board. Tactically deflecting blame for overseeing such a shambles of a season, or if you will “we’ve had a proper go, but results haven’t been ideal”, Ashley makes known that he has “nil affect” - he doesn’t influence transfers nor pick the team. In fact, the man worth £2.4Bn has stressed that once the club has spent what is in the bank account, they shouldn’t go crying to him for more. Seeing as the account is virtually empty, you have to wonder if he now regards his appointed board as trustworthy to handle the club’s spending moving forward. Pound for pound value was not found in any way for the deals that saw Thauvin, Saivet and so far Doumbia arrive for amounts significant enough to have covered other severely lacking positions. It is a shame that the somewhat upbeat mood born from our Spanish saviour’s arrival has been dampened by an owner essentially gearing

fans up for the miserable prospect of relegation. MP Dennis Skinner described Ashley as a monster, which he said he doesn’t mind - as long as the Sports Direct warehouses he owns aren’t compared to a gulag. It’s a strange concept for someone to appear defiant of criticism, whilst also offering to “box the ears off” Ed Milliband because he called him out for treating his workers poorly. He invited the former Labour leader to spend a week working in his company, judge for himself and then apologise for what he said. It’s not clear if he will offer Gateshead MP Ian Mearns a week working with the board of Newcastle United to evaluate his views but you imagine in both cases they would end up being told they aren’t getting more hours next week then searched for 15 minutes before leaving.

Ashley, who now relies on employing a PR Guru in the form of Keith Bishop to rescue a desperately poor public image.

I would like to know if Ashley considers the irony in describing the accusations over workplace practices from MPs as “a joke”, refusing to be called to tf 21

question in the Commons - then ask if a politician fancies a go at packing socks at his company. Trying to fight this battle of public image and being caught so off balance by the weight of controversy must be a sore moment for the self-made entrepreneur. For so long he has made his money unfazed by the consequences of his approach to business that now he must answer to those he has upset, Ashley is finding himself in need to try and repair the damage. His interviews to Sky and The Mirror have been all about showing a front to MPs, the SFA, Mags and a general public becoming increasingly aware of the toxicity emanating from the discount dictator. The desired effect to assert his authority and calmness to a spiralling situation has not been found. Within a day of giving the interview regarding his Sports Direct business, shares had fallen by 10%. The company rushed to compile a statement offering a more tempered outlook on future returns to the Stock tf 22

Exchange, trying to repair the damage caused by him trying to repair damage he caused. Whether he thinks winding up politicians or telling Mags that we have no choice to be stuck with him will diffuse growing tensions, what is clear is that the owner has given up on football. How depressing to think we used to call for transparency, communication and to muster some ambition now we’re confronted with how it works and what he thinks it seems almost better to not know of how bleak our future may be. Credit to Rangers fans for trying to stop his attempts to control their club, as it was notable to consider when asked if he wanted more shares in them; “I don’t really want to have any influence in football to be honest. Looking after Sports Direct is more than a full time job”. Such a declaration must offer a glimmer of hope to weary spirited fans, hearing an admittance that he no longer wants to be bothered by the responsibility having a football club entails. For

now, in the short time left to save the fate of this club, all must be completely focused on helping our cause. If that means not stealing the back pages for personal gain at the expense of the team, so be it. His PR exercises could end up costing him a lot more than a trip to Westminster. Clearly unmotivated by anything but money it needs to be clear at this perilous point how the reaction to just giving a couple of interviews could cost tens of millions. One thing he did manage to be honest and accurate about was how Rafa Benitez was the man, if there was any chance at all, to keep us up. If he is able to see the opportunity in front of him - to save the club, reinvigorate and rebuild it to challenge where the big money is, then he must ask himself if giving any more interviews is worth jeopardising it. Hearing that he won’t quit should the worst happen provides absolutely no solace to fans - this is a marriage he may find even the most loyal and devoted fans walking away from.

Trying to fight this battle of public image and being caught so off balance by the weight of controversy must be a sore moment for the self-made entrepreneur.



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Since his coaching career started at age 26, Rafa Benitez has won the Champions League, UEFA Cup, Europa League, La Liga, FA Cup, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup and Coppa Italia. There are also numerous other titles and awards from his early days with Real Madrid B. Rafa eats, sleeps and breathes football. According to his wife, Montse, on their first date Rafa explained the 4-4-2 formation to her. Rafa’s record stands up to the best of the current Premier League managers and he’s managed a host of top clubs across Europe. As a Liverpool fan I have the utmost admiration for Rafa Benitez as a result

of the success he brought to my club, the bond he created with fans over the 6 year period he was in charge at Anfield and his donation of £96K to the Hillsborough Family Support Group when he left the club in 2010 after numerous disputes with Liverpool’s then nefarious owners. At Liverpool, you could argue that Rafa peaked

too soon. In his 1st season at Anfield he guided Liverpool to a 5th Champions League success in the memorable win over AC Milan and finished runner up in the League Cup. The following season Liverpool lifted the FA Cup in the famous ‘Gerrard final’, set a post war club record by going 762 minutes without conceding a league goal


n o i t u o l a f a R

! w e i V s ’ e t i p o K A

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and only conceded 8 goals in the league at home. Another Champions League final was reached in his 3rd season in charge and if the win in 2005 was fortuitous, arguably Liverpool were unlucky to taste defeat at the hands of AC Milan this time. Sadly, the peaks were never again reached although Liverpool did finish runners up in the Premier League in 2008/9 and continued to break club records. Djimi Traore must wake up every day and say a prayer of thanks to Rafa for allowing him to be a Champions League winner. ‘In Rafa we trust’ was a mantra believed by the vast majority of Liverpool fans, most of the time me included, who knew that Rafa understood our club’s legacy and traditions and, importantly, had added trophies to our cabinet. When Rafa left in 2010 it

wasn’t because the fans had turned on him or felt that he lacked sufficient appetite and skill to make us champions. His departure was largely the culmination of suffering three seasons of mild to severe confrontation with Liverpool’s Yank owners (Hicks and Gillet) who had used external finance, rather than their own fortunes, to acquire the club. The result of this leveraged buyout was that Statler and Waldorf needed Liverpool’s cash to service their debt and repay the banks, whilst Rafa wanted as much money as possible to be able to compete for the best players in the world and build a strong squad to challenge Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal for the Premier League title. Between 2007 and 2010 there was a continual doubt over whether or not Rafa

would be replaced with reports circulating that Jurgen Klinsmann had been offered the post of manager. Liverpool fans marched in support of Rafa and he himself was quite happy to publicly fan the flames of the confrontation by making it clear that the owners needed to invest for success. Despite the fact that Rafa was supported by the vast majority of Liverpool fans, there was only ever going to be one winner in that political power game - the owners. I’m sure this point will resonant with every toon fan. From a personal perspective, only after Liverpool’s brief and disastrous spell with Woy Hodgson did I truly appreciate what we’d lost and reflect on how close Rafa had taken us to the Premier League title and a 6th Champions League

As a Liverpool fan I have the utmost admiration for Rafa Benitez as a result of the success he brought to my club, the bond he created with fans over the 6 year period he was in charge at Anfield

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Trophy. Only now, in Jurgen Klopp, do I believe that we have a better manager than Rafa. When it was clear that Rodgers was going to leave, I was quite happy with the prospect of Rafa coming back to Anfield and other than Klopp I couldn’t envisage too many other suitable candidates. Although this is pure conjecture on my part, I believe part of the reason why Rafa was never in the frame for a return is down to the fact that FSG knew that a large proportion of fans still loved Rafa and he would use this power base to again attempt to exert power over the owners and publicly question their model of football club

management. I must confess that I never thought Rafa would consider becoming manager of NUFC. Rafa is a born winner with a honours list as long as his arm and could, arguably, have waited for an offer to materialise from a more successful team (i.e. competing in Europe). I can understand him wanting to take on a challenge and prove his excellence after his ill-fated spell at Real Madrid. I cannot honestly envisage the relationship with Mike Ashley being anything other than a disaster. Rafa will want complete control over signings, will not have

a framework or set of conditions imposed on him and he’ll be quite happy to publicly disagree with Mike Ashley if the situation requires it. Who amongst you honestly believes that Ashley will accept this? Newcastle United presents an interesting challenge for Rafa. If he staves off relegation he’ll rightly be recognised for the brilliance he undoubtedly has. If he brings any trophies to St James’ Park he’ll have achieved a feat not repeated since 1969 and he’ll cement his position in history. I genuinely hope that he brings success to a group of fans who desperately need some cheer. C’mon the Toon.

Newcastle United presents an interesting challenge for Rafa. If he staves off relegation he’ll rightly be recognised for the brilliance he undoubtedly has.

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Has it ever been so black and white for the Black & Whites? Avoid relegation this year – no matter how painful, how scrappy, how fortunate the escape transpires to be – and there is a genuine chance of building something none of us has thought possible as we’ve witnessed the castle crumble, brick by brick, these last 9 years. Fail to do so – plummet instead into the shadows of the second tier and spend perhaps years navigating the ascent – and the light that was sparked by the miraculous arrival of Rafa Benitez on Tyneside will dim beyond all recognition. The tunnel may never have looked darker.

New Direction In the simplest of terms, this is what we’re currently faced with. The laborious, floundering expedition that has been the 2015/16 campaign has finally reached this treacherous fork in the road, where one false step could see us plunge helplessly into the dashing waves below, just as easily as a safer path guides us to a glorious, reliefdrenched summit. Two starkly different outcomes, both of which will carry immeasurable ramifications and likely define Newcastle United’s fortunes for the next half-decade. So, fairly serious stuff, then. And, as always, there seems to be one man at the centre tf 28

After almost a decade under Ashley’s disastrous rule, Newcastle United finally finds itself in the possession of a truly topdrawer manager. This being Newcastle United under Mike Ashley, however, it’s not as simple as merely giving the man the space to do what he’s done at elite clubs all over Europe and wait for the good times to roll. That would be far too easy. Instead, the most arresting figure to walk through the door since Sir Bobby Robson is confronted with what may well turn out to be an unsalvageable situation, already too close to the precipice and too broken by years and years of

neglect and poor decisions. Time will only tell on that front. What will never be as clear as the two roads that lie before us now, however, is just how and why Mike Ashley has brought us to this point. None of us know what Ashley is thinking. All we can do is use the evidence available to us, and apply what history has taught us about his motivations and his fears, and how they have driven the decisions that have led us to yet another brink. Has he finally had enough? Has even he tired of the sycophantic yesmen who, while ostensibly affording him the easylife he so seems to crave

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in the boardroom and in the running of all of his businesses, have actually consistently guided him towards the mire of the bottom end of the table, year after year? Annual relegation battles, it seems, really weren’t in the job description; he made it very clear during that remarkable chat to the Sky cameras at the end of last season that he had no desire to repeat that ordeal again. Yet, here we are. Mike Ashley is many things, but he’s not an idiot. Repeating the same mistake time and again while expecting a different outcome is a fool’s game, and perhaps it took McClaren for the clouds to finally lift and for him to see, as the fans have for so long, that using a band aid for a broken neck will ultimately snap you in two. The Pardews, the Carvers and the McClarens have never been anything other than false illusions, and the monkeys have predictably given us little more than peanuts. The



Benitez would suggest this infuriatingly patent fact has finally struck home. Willingly or not, he’s already conceding ground to Rafa and breaking the model that he’s clung to with ironfisted paranoia since our last demotion; here’s a man he cannot bully, who will not accept a role as ‘Head Coach’, who isn’t so dazzled by the glare of a shiny topflight job he has no right to that he blindly acquiesces and muddles through his mediocrity until the wheels inevitably fly off. This could signal a brave new world in which, assuaged by the presence, credentials and gravitas of a man who clearly knows what he’s doing, our commander-in-chief re-sets the table and allows a football p e r s o n to start shouldering the football decisions. Imagine! The evidence w o u l d suggest

that he’s tried everything in his Management-101 handbook at this point, or from his perspective at least. He tried to be the pint-swilling banter boy in the away end with the hardcore in the very beginning. He brought in the fans’ favourite to replace the odious Allardyce, and then again to try and rescue the day when we never truly believed relegation could claim us in 2009 (of course failing to realise how his own staffing of key positions from the off had brought us to our knees. In under 3 years). Burned so badly as he was after that demotion, the years afterwards saw him suffocate the club completely and transform us into the penny-pinching, soulless, jobsfor-the-boys shambles that we are today. The only problem is, that approach hasn’t worked either. 3

The only problem is, that approach hasn’t worked either. 3 relegation fights in four years has seen our lamentable stock drop even further and no matter which way you spin it, even he can’t deny that those false economies just aren’t adding up

tf 29

relegation fights in four years has seen our lamentable stock drop even further and no matter which way you spin it, even he can’t deny that those false economies just aren’t adding up. After last season’s Houdini manoeuvre on the last day, yet another strategy came into play: whilst never visible to supporters or onlookers, by all accounts Ashley handed over the reigns completely during the illfated McClaren era. Perhaps, in the wake of the ferocious outpouring of venom against him as we lurched towards disaster last year, this was a futile, desperate attempt to absolve himself of any blame, futureproofing himself against another inquest when the inevitable happened. Not a bad idea, in theory, but of course the numbskulls at the controls were still faithful to his parsimonious, small-minded agenda, and couldn’t run a topflight football club if their lives depended on it. Yes, investments were made, but the psychological impact of tf 30

the boss essentially being on extended leave can’t be underestimated. How damaging to the motivation and commitment of those brought in and those who had seen it all before, to ultimately report up the chain to a figurehead who had given up the ghost? Of course the eye-watering wages should more than compensate for this, but this sort of indifference from the top down breeds failure and delinquency throughout the ranks, and as we’ve sadly seen time and again, on the pitch. Do you subconsciously relax, just a little bit, when your boss is nowhere to be seen? Doesn’t really matter if I’m 5 minutes late, does it? These unbidden, lazy inclinations can quickly pervade the entire group. When the place reeks that badly of decay, I’d imagine it’s hard to ignore. An unwelcome presence Ashley may be, but regrettably, he’s all that we’ve got.

on options, almost baffled by the wholesale failure of each previous ploy. Famed for his love of gambling, the potential Rafa redemption may well represent his final roll of the dice. If we pull this off, that’s when things will get really interesting. Fail, and I’ve no doubt he’ll revert to type. But survive, and just maybe common sense could prevail. There can be no sleight of hand when it comes to succeeding at this level, and after nearly a decade of botched blueprints, maybe he’s finally found the magic formula. If Rafa is allowed to manage – and the hideously inept ‘board’ pay due punishment for their crimes – NE1 could finally seem sunny once more.

His recent comments indicate he’s aware that he’s a man desperately short

Just how different could things be? Over to you, Mike.

Getting away with it every year will without doubt blow up in your face at some point, and this year of all years, it seems he desperately doesn’t want to tackle that blaze.

Not a bad idea, in theory, but of course the numbskulls at the controls were still faithful to his parsimonious, small-minded agenda, and couldn’t run a top-flight football club if their lives depended on it

It’s safe to say that unlike Chancel Mbemba and Georginio Wijnaldum, Aleksandar Mitrovic has divided opinion amongst Newcastle United fans since his arrival in the summer. Some sections of the United faithful believe there is promise lying within the youngster, whilst others are already fed up with the forward, despite his brief time in the North East. But if you ask me, you shouldn’t write off Mitrovic just yet. Personally, I’ve been impressed with him since he joined the club. I’ll be the first to admit he isn’t perfect and he will need a good deal of coaching but

the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to giving the lad a chance. The cons and the frustration After signing in the summer, it’s fair to say Mitrovic raised eyebrows with his first

couple of performances. Two silly bookings in his first two games brought his temperament into question and when he was sent off for a rash challenge against Arsenal in his fourth game, many believed his time at


Newcastle would be shortlived and unsuccessful. He was described as lazy and likened to Mario Balotelli. To add to this, despite an upturn in form as of late, the amount of golden chances Mitro seems to miss is a worry. Numerous times this season the Serbian has found himself in a position where it seems harder to miss and yet he hasn’t stuck the ball in the back of the net. Reasons to be hopeful There are more reasons to be cheery than gloomy, however. Despite Graham Carr’s shortcomings, I believe he may have un-earthed a true gem in Mitrovic. Let’s remember that the lad is 21 years of age and has time on his side when it comes to putting his weaknesses behind him. Even in the past few weeks there has been signs of improvement from the youngster.



At the time of writing this, Mitro has five goals for the club and some have been of fantastic quality.The way he controlled and finished the half-volley against Norwich was Shearer-esque and his calmness when putting the ball past Ben Foster against West Brom shows that he tf 32

can find the net when he really wants to. Let us not forget that this man scored 28 goals in 51 games last year. No matter how poor the quality may be in Belgium, it takes more than luck to score that many goals in a season. Another big positive for me is the passion that Mitrovic shows. No matter whether it is a tap in or a stunner, the goal celebration that follows always seems to be one drenched in euphoria. You wouldn’t see Loic Remy or Saido Berahino celebrating an NUFC goal like that in my opinion. In addition, that passion is starting to be channelled in the correct way. Those silly fouls and booking that I mentioned earlier are a thing of the past and since his dismissal against Arsenal, the forward hasn’t received a single card.

He is now using his build and temperament in the correct way. Also, there may be a statistic that makes fans think twice about doubting Mitrovic. It took Alan Shearer 36 games to hit four league goals back when he was the same age as Mitrovic and the Serbian has surpassed that figure in only 13 appearances. It doesn’t stop there either, as Mitrovic is currently scoring a goal every 2.4 games, in comparison to Shearer’s one goal every 3.4 games when he was 21. Why the boy needs support Despite Mitrovic’s goalscoring record overseas, there is still the need for an proven and clinical finisher in NUFC’s side. It is yet to be seen as to whether Seydou Doumbia will be the long-term solution to end Newcastle’s long run

without a proven goalscorer. Also, as good as he is, Ayoze Perez is not an out and out striker and I feel is best used playing off the front man. For this reason, if Mitrovic starts finding the net more often, I feel these two could become a formidable duo upfront together, especially considering how well Mitrovic seems to hold the ball up. That may partly be the reason Mitrovic has received so much stick from some of the NUFC faithful. All the weight of scoring big goals is being put on this young lad’s shoulders and if Mike Ashley and his puppets had actually managed to buy a permanent striker in January, this may ease the burden on the youngster.

Another big positive for me is the passion that Mitrovic shows. No matter whether it is a tap in or a stunner, the goal celebration that follows always seems to be one drenched in euphoria.

Let’s hope he turns out to be the nutty number nine that we can all adore. tf 33

The way Premiership clubs are structured makes it difficult to see who actually wields the power at the club. This is particularly the case where there is foreign ownership. I have tried below to unravel the path to power at each PL club to give you some idea how the individual and the club compares to Lee Charmless and NUFC.

Arsenal: Ivan Gazidis was a lawyer and the Deputy Commissioner of the American MLS before becoming Arsenal’s Chief Exec in 2008. In doing so he took over many of the responsibilities previously carried out by former vicechairman David Dein. One would have to say that compared to Dein’s period at Arsenal, Gazidis has overseen a relatively fallow period by the Arse’s standards. However, he does have a football (okay soccer) background.

Newcastle, the power very much resides with absentee chairman Randy Lerner, who has set severe restrictions on the way the club operates, after a period of relative largesse under Martin O’Neill.

Aston Villa: Tom Fox was formerly Chief Commercial Officer of Arsenal and before that Chief Exec of the NBA Asia and Senior Vice President of Gatorade. He was appointed CEO of Villa in 2014 and has overseen a deterioration in performance leading to their imminent relegation this season. However, like

Chelsea: Marina Granovskaia, one of Abramovich’s inner circe of advisors, runs the show at Stamford Bridge after taking over from Ron Gourlay in 2014. Before Gourlay it was Peter Kenyon who pulled the strings, and he, in turn, had been poached from ManU. She doesn’t carry the title of Chief Exec but

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Bournemouth: Chief Executive is Neill Blake, the son-in-law of Eddie Mitchell, who was part of the consortium which took over the club in 2009. He was appointed Chief Exec in 2010. Given he has overseen a period of unparalleled success at Dean Court, he must be doing something right.

she does run the football side of the business. It was she who was responsible for recruiting Mourinho to Chelsea and oversees contract negotiations with the players. Crystal Palace: Phil Alexander is one of the few former players in a senior management role at a PL club. Mind he only just qualifies, after playing a solitary substitute appearance for Norwich City in 1981. However, he has a record of playing at a high level in non-league and managed Bracknell Town for two years in the 1990s. Everton:  Robert Elstone is the brother in law of Mick McCarthy and is a qualified accountant who previously worked for Deloitte where he acted as an advisor to leagues, clubs and sportsrelated organisations. He was also involved in the creation and branding of

WALLACE WILSON Follow @WallaceHWilson

However, like Newcastle, the power very much resides with absentee chairman Randy Lerner, who has set severe restrictions on the way the club operates

the Scottish Premier League and a similar role in Greece. He moved to BSkyB as Director of Football Affairs in 2000 before returning to Deloitte as a director in 2004. He joined Everton as Deputy CEO in 2005 and was appointed Chief Exec in 2008. Leicester City: While there are a number of relatives of the Chairman, Khun Vichal Srivaddhanaprabha, at the top of the club as a result of the ownership, the Chief Executive Officer is Susan Whelan, a Board Director of King Power International, who own the club. She has been CEO since 2011and has executive responsibility for all aspects of the club’s day to day management. She won the RTE Irish Businesswoman of the Year award in 2012. Liverpool: Ian Ayre is an interesting sort. He left school at 16 to join

the Royal Navy and then undertook various roles in Asia, eventually becoming CEO of Pace Systems. Returning to the UK he became Chief Exec and Chairman of Huddersfield Town before moving to Premium TV, a subsidiary of NTL, who briefly had television rights to the PL. He later moved to Malaysia, where he became CEO of Total Sports Asia which included Total Sports TV. He was head-hunted by the Hicks and Gillette consortium which took over Liverpool in 2007 and became their Commercial Director. The Fenway Sports Group confirmed him as their Managing Director in 2011 and he was promoted to CEO in 2014. It was Ayre who implemented the Transfer Committee in 2012 which has been widely criticised and apparently sidelined under Klopp’s tenure. Most recently he has been heavily criticised for a proposed increase in season ticket prices which led to an walkout of 10,000

fans led by the Spirit of Shankly group. The club and Ayre later issued a formal apology and reversed their decision. Manchester City: Ferran Soriano is the CEO of Man City, New York City FC and the A League’s Melbourne City FC. Between 2003 and 2008 he was Vice President and General Manager of FC Barcelona where he also acted as interim CEO. He was appointed to the ManC job in September 2012.

It was Ayre who implemented the Transfer Committee in 2012 which has been widely criticised and apparently sidelined under Klopp’s tenure

Manchester United: Ed Woodward is another chartered accountant (common theme here). He began his career at PriceWaterhouseCoopers before joining JP Morgan & Co. In 2005 he advised the Glazers on their takeover and was given charge of their commercial and media operations worldwide. He is credited for ManU’s success in tying up lucrative tf 35

sponsorship deals and almost tripling the club’s commercial revenues within seven years. After the retirement of David Gill, he was appointed as CEO in 2013. He has been accused by many ManU fans of being a pawn for the Glazers and prioritising financial success over club performance. He has also been criticised for repeated failings in the transfer market. Newcastle United: NUFC do not have a Chief Executive. Lee Charnley took over as Managing Director from Derek Lambias in 2013 at the age of 36, after previously being the Club Secretary. He has been a Director at the club since 2008. During the Freddie Shepherd era he was understudy to Russell Cushing, the Company Secretary, whose main job seemed to be to hold John Hall’s coat. Charnley has previously held a position with the Newcastle United Foundation and a string of other positions within the club. Following his appointment as MD, a tf 36

Chronicle source said “He never puts his head above the parapet and he doesn’t get involved in the politics. He’s been at the club a long time and he joined when he was only a young lad. He likes to keep in the background”. Truly a man who has risen without trace. Norwich City: Norwich’s Owner and Chairman (Delia Smith and Ed Balls respectively) have tended to garner the headlines at Carrow Road but the Chief Exec is David McNally, who previously worked for Fulham and Celtic following a career working for a number of blue chip companies. As ever, it is difficult to understand who is pulling the strings but at least they have long-standing fans in the Boardroom Southampton: Gareth Rodgers was appointed CEO in March 2014 after a period as interim Chief Exec following the departure of Nicola Cortese, who had held the post for five years, during which time

Southampton climbed from League One and made significant profits from player sales. Rodgers was promoted from the position Chief Financial Officer at the club having arrived from accounting firm Deloitte. Stoke City: Tony Scholes is the Chief Executive but Chairman Peter Coates, who owns Bet365, is the man who makes the big decisions. Scholes manages the day to day operations of the club, including negotiating player contracts, having joined the club in 2004. He was a former director of the Football League and spent six years as Chief Exec of Preston North End.  Sunderland: The Adam Johnson affair threw Margaret Byrne into the limelight, a position she obviously didn’t find comfortable given her decision to resign after the media focused on what she knew prior to the case going to trial. Ironically a lawyer, she stepped

The Adam Johnson affair threw Margaret Byrne into the limelight, a position she obviously didn’t find comfortable given her decision to resign after the media focused on what she knew prior to the case going to trial.

up to the post from her role as Legal Director and Company Secretary at the SoL, replacing the previous incumbent, Steve Watson (no, not that one). She was appointed when only 31 by Niall Quinn who pointed out that she had already been responsible for buying and selling players as well as contract negotiations. So we have a lot to thank her for. Swansea City: It’s pretty clear who is in charge at Swansea. Hugh Jenkins is both Chairman and Chief Executive as well as being a significant shareholder. He was part of the consortium that ousted the then owner, Tony Petty and, with the backing of the Swansea City Supporters’ Trust, he was appointed Chairman in January 2002. Since then he has turned the club’s finances around and overseen promotion to the Premier League as well as trophy success, winning the League Cup in 2013. He has also shown the ability to be decisive when

necessary to the extent of sacking Michael Laudrup and appointing Garry Monk because of the damage uncertainty over the former’s future was causing to the team. To t t e n h a m Hotspur: Daniel Levy is a director of ENIC International, which is controlled by billionaire Joseph Lewis. He replaced Alan Sugar as Chairman of Spurs in 2001 after ENIC bought a controlling interest in the club. he had previously been a director of Rangers in which ENIC also held a significant stake. Since 2001 he has appointed and sacked a number of managers George Graham, Glenn Hoddle, David Pleat, Martin Jol, Juande Ramos, Harry Redknapp, Andre VillasBoas and Tim Sherwood before finally striking lucky with Mauricio Pochettino. While doing all this he has established a reputation as a tough negotiator (he wouldn’t sign off the Townsend deal without speaking to Ashley directly

- monkey, organ grinder etc) as well as overseeing the proposed move from White Hart Lane. He is not universally popular with Spurs supporters but he has been a Spurs supporter since he was a child and commands respect across the League as a shrewd operator. Watford: Owned by the Pozzo family (he’s come a long way since Happy Days) and as a result the locus of power is sometimes difficult to find. However, the main directors are Raffaele Riva (Executive Chairman) and Scott Duxbury (Chief Executive). Duxbury resigned from a similar role at West Ham after the arrival of David Gold and David Sullivan at the Boleyn Ground. although it was reported that the situation was engineered by Karen Brady as a costcutting exercise.The Pozzos are known for using their control of Granada CF and Udinese Calcio to move players from one club to

...he has established a reputation as a tough negotiator (he wouldn’t sign off the Townsend deal without speaking to Ashley directly

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another. However, they have invested in Watford FC and overseen a rise to the Premiership, albeit sacking managers for fun on the way. If they ever fancy getting rid of Quique Sanchez Flores we should be first in line. West Brom: While Mark Jenkins is Chief Executive, the power at the Hawthornes is wielded by Chairman Jeremy Peace. He took over the club in 2002 after a disagreement between previous chairman Paul Thompson and then manager Gary Meson. By 2007 Peace had acquired more than 50% of the Baggies’ shares. Another strong personality who is seen as a tough negotiator, the butting of heads with Daniel Levy over Saido Berahino has been very amusing. West Ham: Another different model with two Chairmen (David Sullivan and David Gold), a ViceChairman (Karen Brady), a Chief Financial Officer and a Managing Director, tf 38

Angus Kinnear. It seems as if Kinnear manages the day to day operations but Sullivan, Gold and Brady take the important decisions. Love them or loath them, Gold and Sullivan are long term Hammers and have engineered a brilliant deal to take over the Olympic Stadium while tax payers pay for it. This should generate much higher revenues and allow them to compete with the bigger clubs. Middlesbrough: I thought you might also like to have a look at the ‘Boro. We all know that Steve Gibson is a long-term Boro fan who formed a consortium which saved the smoggies from liquidation in 1996. He is also Managing Director of the international tank container services company, Bulkhaul, which is one of the UK’s top private companies. He plays a hands-on role as Chairman but the Chief Executive is Neil Bausor who is responsible for the day to day running of the club after Keith Lamb

stood down in 2011. Lamb remains a non-executive director. As you can see from the above, most of the postholders have significantly more experience and credibility than Charnley. Those that are on a similar level have reduced influence within their club, managing day to day operations rather than deciding on strategy and managing recruitment and departures. In herms of structure, the idea of a committee to decide on transfers with a head coach to train them on seems to have failed wherever it has been tried in this country although it is a model which has had some success abroad where a different culture applies. Ashley needs to take direct control and stop hiding behind the office boy or appoint someone with sufficient stature to do the job and challenge him when it is required.

Love them or loath them, Gold and Sullivan are long term Hammers and have engineered a brilliant deal to take over the Olympic Stadium while tax payers pay for it

Options: Garry Cook: Previously CEO for ManC between 2008 and 2011. Before that

he worked for Nike. Thaksin Shinawatra recruited him and his first task was to find a replacement for Sven Goran Eriksson. He signed up Mark Hughes but admitted he had got it wrong over the Thai’s suitability to own a Premier League Club (after he had left, naturally). However, he did oversee the recruitment of Vincent Company and Pablo Zabaleta. He was kept on after the Abu Dhabi take over and managed the spending spree which followed, although how much of the money was wisely spent is debatable. For every Carlos Tevez there was a Sylvinho. Cook eventually dismissed Hughes and replaced him with Roberto Mancini who brought City their first league title in donkey’s years. He resigned in 2011 after insensitive email allegations towards a player’s mother. Peter Kenyon: Before becoming the Chief Exec of ManU in 2000, Kenyon was Chief Exec of sportswear firm Umbro. He was largely responsible for persuading Alex Ferguson to stay on at the club after he originally announced his intention

to retire in 2002. During his time at Old Trafford the club expanded their global appeal and became more financially stable. Despite previously proclaiming himself a life-long Manc he moved to Chelsea under Abramovic leaving in October 2009. The Guardian implicated him in breaches of third party ownership regulations in 2014. Ron Gourlay: Another previous Chelsea Chief Exec who formerly worked for ManU and Umbro. He held the post for five years up to October 2014. David Dein: Former vice chairman of Arsenal and the Football Association, Dein currently currently spends much of his time touring prisons and schools as a public speaker. He was President of the G14 group of European clubs between 2006 and 2007, making sure that Arsenal’s voice was heard. He was also president of England’s ill-fated 2018 World Cup bid. In terms of Newcastle he was vice-chairman of Arsenal between 1983 and 2007 and took an active

role in the transfer of players and contract negotiations as well as the move to the Etihad Stadium. Players brought in during his watch included Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit, Marc Overmars, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie. He was also responsible for the recruitment of the then little known Arsene Wenger in 1996, under whom Arsenal have won the league there times and the FA Cup six. He left Arsenal in 2007 citing ‘irreconcilable differences’. Nicola Cortese: Italian banker who oversaw a successful period at Southampton during his five years as Executive Chairman up to 2014. While at St Mary’s there were a number of approaches from Italian clubs for his services, all rejected. He sacked Alan Pardew - I would say that qualifies him for the job on this basis alone! None of the above are squeaky clean in terms of their background but I am not including Derek Lyingbastard in this - surely we have a bit more selfrespect than that.

Cook eventually dismissed Hughes and replaced him with Roberto Mancini who brought City their first league title in donkey’s years

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Twelve hundred words for you here on Steve McClaren and tactics. I’m writing this precisely four hours since the Bournemouth “game” ended in total humiliation for everyone in black and white, particularly the manager.  By the time TF 125 hits your phone/tablet/PC/laptop I really hope this is a piece dedicated to the serious tactical failures of our former manager. 

ALEX HURST follow @tfalex1892

McCLAREN’S TACTICS I’ll not head to SJP again under McClaren this season.  It’s the second season in a row I’ve made such a promise due to management.  My season

ticket went unused for 2 of the last three home games last season under John Carver before I returned for the West Ham game. It’ll be the same this time, though I’d predict relegation well before the final game of the season if the man remains in charge while you’re reading this.  I try not to be arrogant, and many mags are in the same boat with other commitments etc, but I’m simply too busy a person to have my time wasted by Newcastle United.  Let’s think back to the summer.  Time flies when you’re having fun so think hard, as it’s been dreadful since.  Steve McClaren’s “honeymoon” period lasted a week into the new season before Swansea tore us to shreds (inspired

tf 40

by a certain Jon Jo Shlevey). But the blue print had been laid.  Despite various patter from the manager and his assistants about playing  two strikers.  Indifferent pre-season performances and results were offset by the Manager as irrelevant details as fitness was the priority.  Fair enough.  I’ll always point to the 9 game winning streak Spurs recorded in pre-season under Juande Ramos about a decade ago when discussing preseason.  Spurs sacked Ramos 9 games into the season with Spurs bottom of the league, so pre-season form doesn’t really matter.  Then again McClaren was taking over a team who were literally the worst in the Premier League in 2015 to date so maybe scoring some goals and keeping some clean sheets might have been worth something after all. Pre-season was exclusively played, frustratingly, with the same failed formation

Pardew and Carver proved was pointless. 4-2-31 was what McClaren stuck his hat on, despite largely the same group of players proving they simply couldn’t work with that system, the previous season. McClaren however had a full pre-season (despite the mental waste of time trip to the USA) to implement his ideas with a new coaching team.  As a supporter, it was the clean break required from the previous ‘coaching’ team and hopefully fresh impetus and ideas would lead to a greater understanding between the squad playing the chosen, failed, formation. There was to be a tactical change though.  McClaren was to introduce a possession based game which involved the two ‘holding’ midfielders collecting the ball deep and keeping the ball to play a more attractive, substantial game.  The idea (similar to how Gateshead played when

I saw them the season I went to Wembley) was that your centre halves split when your goal keeper has possession, pushing your fullbacks high up the pitch. The 4 ‘attacking players’ would also push up the pitch and your two holding midfielders support the centre backs (now on opposite flanks of the pitch)drop into the space in front of goal.  Get it?

comfortable defeat and ten men. The issue with having two ‘defensive midfielders’ that you want to play out from the back with, is that sometimes they will have to defend.    McClaren decided Colback and Anita were his two men for the job, yet neither could defend.  Neither could carry the ball – they’re the same player trying to do the same thing. 

Well the players didn’t. To be fair it started OK against a Southampton side who had played in Europe on Thursday.  The performance was good.  The passing slick and while we didn’t create loads – we looked like a football team.  Then the problems started.  The main issue with trying to play out from your goal keeper is that if teams press you high up the pitch, things can go wrong.  And they did.  In our second game Swansea made us look sloppy and pressed and hassled United into a

The issue with having two ‘defensive midfielders’ that you want to play out from the back with, is that sometimes they will have to defend.    McClaren decided Colback and Anita were his two men for the job, yet neither could defend. As the games and the defeats piled up, and confidence plummeted.  Colback and Anita started to get in the way of defenders and we ended up having a back 6 and then miles up the pitch the immobile and tf 41

stranded front 4. It didn’t work. A disastrous exit to Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup and a defeat to Watford (who again, pressed us high with due reward) made McClaren’s new tactical masterplan look totally at sea. Chelsea came to SJP and for the first time this season (9 games in) McClaren ditched the tactical set up and the possession football he had been working on since June. Realistically this is where it all fell apart.  We eventually picked up wins after this point, but here was Steve McClaren, tactically bankrupt in October.  It wasn’t just his fault.  Winjaldum is an eye for goal and quality, but his contribution is often minimal.  Bar five games this season he’s been pathetic.  He can’t play in behind and he can’t play on the left.  What is his position in this side, in any formation?  Sissoko has infuriated despite the tf 42

usual signs of promise with Janmaat. Perez is a striker, a forward, but is forced out wide to accommodate Winjladum. Paul Dummet offers nothing beyond the half way line so all of our play goes down the right side.  Mitrovic lacks quality and discipline.  We had no pace at all in the team. 

didn’t work. At Palace it was even worse with our outnumbered midfield being torn to shreds on the counter attack. At this stage we were still pushing the full backs up high.  Zaha and Bolasie ran riot as we were humiliated to the national media’s delight.

McClaren’s solution was a 4 4 1 1 formation. Simple, but more effective.  It still didn’t really work.  There were signs of life until the week where McClaren should have really been sacked.  Leicester and Palace stuck 8 goals past United in a week, where no one really knew what they were doing. Tactically both games were a mess.  Leicester just ran at us hard and we crumbled.  If there was ever a game to play on the counter attack and stick 5 in midfield, it was this, yet McClaren like many managers at this point, paid Leicester no respect and tried to ‘take the game to them’.,  It

As the season progressed there has been little movement tactically from the manager. 4 4 1 1 seems to be what he’s going for but different players have been put into different positions. The arrival of Townsend, Shelvey and Saivet (plus Tiote briefly appearing for a bit) saw no tactical change from the manager.  There isn’t really a plan.  Away from home I actually cannot tell you how we set up.  Regardless, if you’re reading this and Steve McClaren has not been sacked, it’ll be back to 4-4-2 in the Championship from next season.

We eventually picked up wins after this point, but here was Steve McClaren, tactically bankrupt in October.

Long standing true faith writer, Tony Higgins who regular readers will recognise from his Real Spain articles has his first book out now. Travel with Tony through the und ergrowt h of Spanish football and life for only ÂŁ4:99. Only in digital format.

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It’s about 6:30am on a dark and parky Saturday morning in late January and I´m at Newcastle Central station to meet a few likeminded souls. We are heading to the match; however, we are not travelling south to Watford (Newcastle’s opponents) we are heading north to Edinburgh and the game between Hibs, who are flying high in the Scottish Championship, and St. Mirren.

Tony Higgins

GEORDIES HERE, GEORDIES THERE... Hibernian FC 3 St. Mirren 1 Easter Road, Att: 10,160, Scottish Championship, Saturday 23rd January 2016 Score: 3-1 After a short one and half hour train journey we arrived in the Scottish capital and headed off to the Grassmarket, where we had arranged to meet our tour guide from 107cowgate. com. But this isn’t the usual tartan, whiskey and castle sightseeing route of Auld Reekie. No, today we are undertaking a tour around the early haunts of an Edinburgh born revolutionary socialist,

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trade union leader and a political theorist amongst other things, whose name was James Connolly. Connolly was born in the city in 1868 and grew up in Cowgate, an area given the moniker Little Ireland due to the amount of poor Irish immigrants that inhabited the slum dwellings. He is most famous for being a leading figure during the Dublin Easter Rising, in April 1916, and his subsequent

execution by the British government in Kilmainham Gaol. Nevertheless there is a lot more to the man than that, a great thinker and writer who fought doggedly for the emancipation of the poor and whose worldview was definitely formed in his formative years on the mean streets of Cowgate. Connolly´s parents had come over from Ireland to Scotland in search of a new life and to escape hunger and poverty, only to end up in what was basically an Irish ghetto without much sanitation or basic amenities and a place where disease was rife. The

Irish were treated very badly in those times and were viewed in some quarters of the city as being no more than sub-human, life would have been very tough for the young James. He left school at eleven and ended up doing a lot of different jobs which included working in a printing shop (this was to come in handy in later life). He also literally followed in his father’s footsteps, basically shovelling horse shit for the local corporation. By the age of fourteen he’d had enough and did what many young lads without much hope do… he joined the British Army. He served in Ireland and it was there that he got involved and knowledgeable about land issues. However, after a few years in the army, which he apparently hated, and upon news of his imminent

posting to India, he decided to desert. Eventually he returned to Edinburgh with his sweetheart Lille Reynolds, whom he had met in Dublin, and this period is when his involvement in Socialist politics really took off. Connolly not only became involved in Socialist organisations, he actually founded some and was involved in the fledgling days of the Labour Party, meeting from time to time with Kier Hardy, the first Labour Party leader. After a few years back in his home town, for both economic and political reasons, he decided to move himself and his young family to Dublin, where he found slums even worse than in Edinburgh. James later travelled and lived in the United States and at times, lived in both Belfast and Dublin returning occasionally to his home city. As we

meandered around the streets it was easy to feel transported back in time as our excellent guide, Jim Slaven, expertly described what life in the city was like during the life and times of Connolly. Of course on a trip like this football is never far away and it was amongst the slums and the poor of Cowgate that Hibernian Football Club was founded by a Roman Catholic priest, Canon Edward Joseph Hannan, in 1875. Canon Hannan was the Parish Priest at St. Patrick’s church in Cowgate, the same church that James Connolly was baptised in. In fact the club was almost called St. Patricks instead of the Latin name for Ireland, Hibernian. James Connolly in actual fact was a well-known Hibs fan and in 1906 wrote in a letter from the USA, I am in absolute ignorance of what is really going on

it was amongst the slums and the poor of Cowgate that Hibernian Football Club was founded by a Roman Catholic priest, Canon Edward Joseph Hannan, in 1875

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in the Labour movement. The only information I got lately was when a little Scotchman in the shop told me that “the Hearts were in the final of the Scottish Cup; they knockt hell oot o’ tha Hibs.”I felt very much depressed..” The idea of the club was to give young Catholic men an outlet that might stop them indulging in the demon drink and Canon Hannan also thought that through football the Irish could integrate more into Scottish society. This wasn’t easy at the time and the club once received a letter from the Scottish Football Association saying “We are catering for Scotsmen, not Irishmen”. Ironically, Hibs bitter rivals, Hearts, provided their first opposition on Christmas Day 1875, hence defying a rule not to play Irish teams, Hearts won 1-0. Around that time Hibernian was quite a common name for clubs with Irish heritage, for example Dundee United tf 46

were originally called Dundee Hibernian and on Tyneside there was a club in the 1890s known as Jarrow Hibernians. In fact a former Magpie Chris Duffy, who played with Colin Veitch in the 1907-08 Newcastle United championship winning side, played for Jarrow Hibs. Duffy’s parents were both from Ireland and he was born in Jarrow, a town that also went by the name of Little Ireland because of the influx of Irish during that period and beyond. Jarrow Hibs

were formed by the RC order the Marist Brothers, like Glasgow Celtic, and for similar reasons as to why Edinburgh Hibs were formed. Reportedly Jarrow Hibs and Jarrow St. Bede’s (another Irish Catholic club) amalgamated in 1894 forming Jarrow FC, making them the oldest football club in South Tyneside, older than South Shields FC. Jarrow joined the Northern Alliance League and actually won it in 1898-99. In that memorable season they also drew a lucrative

ARound that time Hibernian was quite a common name for clubs with Irish heritage, for example Dundee United were originally called Dundee Hibernian and on Tyneside there was a club in the 1890s known as Jarrow Hibernians.

FA Cup 1st round tie against the mighty Everton at Goodison Park. Of course most football fans know the similar origins of Glasgow Celtic, a club founded by a Marist Brother called Winfred. The story goes that he had seen what was going on in Edinburgh and decided to form a club in the same model. Lots of Hibs fans say that Celtic stole their players and even their strip because Hibs played in green and white hoops at first. There may be more than a hint of truth in in this story; however it is known that Hibs went bankrupt in 1891 and the secretary absconded to Canada with the entire club’s funds, leaving Hibs with no money to pay their players. Today the relationship between Hibs and Celtic fans is a strange one with Celtic calling Hibs their “wee cousins”, something that most Hibs fans don’t like. In fact if you read some of the

Hibs hoolie porn (not my cup of tea) out there you would say that some Hibs fans positively hate Celtic. Another factor is modern day Hibs fans now come from all walks of life and if truth be told represent, more than anything else, the working class area of Leith which is where their ground is. Indeed the Hibs badge sums the club up

beautifully with the ship representing the docks and the working class, the harp representing its Irish roots and the castle representing the city of Edinburgh. You can watch a short video of the early days of Hibs and a documentary on Connolly’s life below. After the tour we jumped in a taxi and headed north

ARound that time Hibernian was quite a common name for clubs with Irish heritage, for example Dundee United were originally called Dundee Hibernian and on Tyneside there was a club in the 1890s known as Jarrow Hibernians. tf 47

of the city, to Leith, and to a Hibs pub called the Harp and Castle. I don’t think the taxi driver appreciated me asking him if he knew Juice Terry, the fictional taxi driver from the Irvine Welsh novels, I don’t blame him really. Anyway, we were meeting up with Callum Kane, a dyed in the wool Hibs fan, who was going to fill us in on what was happening regarding the club and its fan culture. Obviously we knew the club are doing very well on the football pitch, at the time of our visit they were in second position in the league and were still in both cup competitions. The ex-Everton and Celtic player, Alan Stubbs, is their manager and he seems to have the team playing good entertaining football. But we wanted to know how the fans thought things were going. Callum told us that although they are happy with the current situation on the pitch, some tf 48

fans are still unsure about how the club is being run. He went onto say “It’s a long story but in 1990 Hibs were at deaths door, run by two supposed business people called Duff and Gray. Basically, the bank was ready to close the club and the Hearts chairman, Wallace Mercer, wanted to buy us. He said he was going to ‘merge’ the clubs but still play in maroon and be called Hearts!! So it was clear that it was a hostile takeover. Obviously that never went down well and Mercer received death threats which ended up with him needing 24 hour police protection. Understandably this spooked him and he eventually backed out of any deals to buy Hibs. After that debacle a local Leith businessman called Tom Farmer, who owned KwikFit, stepped in and helped pay the clubs bank debt of around £500K. Farmer spun some yarn about his

great grandad bailing out Hibs in the early 1900s and that he wanted to do the same. When he took over he promised it had all been done for the local community and that his intention was to give the club to the fans and people. Farmer openly admits he is not a football fan and never has been. However, as far as I, and many other fans, can see it’s all about how much money he can make from Hibs” I then asked Callum, “So what do the Hibs fans really want?”

He claims this will end with the fans owning 51% but only just over one thousand people have bought into what many fans consider to be a scam

“Well the club has set up a new so called supporters group which is effectively a separate business called HSL. This isn’t by any means fan lead as the chief executive of Hibs is on its board. Tom Farmer would like fans to donate to HSL, who in turn buy shares in HFC. He claims this will end with the fans owning 51% but only just

over one thousand people have bought into what many fans consider to be a scam. The club was in debt to the bank but the majority of that debt had been acquired during his poor tenure of the club! He is trying to tell the fans that the bank debt has now been cleared by him but we the fans should buy the club off him for £5m. This so called deal with the bank hasn’t been disclosed, as it’s supposedly ‘sensitive’. Most fans reckon that Farmer has made enough money from Hibs, with land deals and the like that have only been made possible from his purchase of the club. Many think that he should do as he said he would in 1990 and gift the club to the community it belongs to. He is an old man and a multi-millionaire, in my opinion has enough money. Maybe what we want sounds romantic but that’s basically it!” We were curious about how the fans are going to achieve these objectives and Callum told us…. “In a nutshell we started a pressure group when we were relegated called Hands on Hibs. Our aim was, and still is, to have the club and the stadium put back in the hands of the community. That means completely fan owned, it may sound like a dream but we think that we can do it.” Time soon ticked by and it was time to head off to the match. Callum had warned us that the level

of football was well below the English Premier League standard but I don’t think any of us noticed too much of a difference to be honest. Hibs had ex-mackem Anthony Stokes making his debut; he is currently on loan from Celtic, and the impressive Cummings and McGinn were also playing, the latter scoring just before half time. Hibs ran out easy 3-1 winners and it is clear that the team, club, stadium, fans, general set up and the city are far too good for the second tier of Scottish football. Match highlights here.

After the match we had a few beers in the very welcoming hostelries around the stadium, eventually making our way, on foot, up Leith Walk and onto Waverley station for the 19:30 train back to Newcastle. On our journey home we reflected on what a great day out we’d had and hoped that we could repeat it sometime soon. We were back in Newcastle just after nine o’clock and these TF ramblers would highly recommend the short trip north of the border. Here’s hoping the sun continues to shine on Leith!

Big thanks to Callum Kane, Jim Slaven and the rest of the Hibs lads for making us feel so welcome!

Hibs ran out easy 3-1 winners and it is clear that the team, club, stadium, fans, general set up and the city are far too good for the second tier of Scottish football

You can read Tony’s excellent e-book: A Homage To Murcia, get it here tf 49

As the verdicts were read out at Bradford Crown Court yesterday in the case against Adam Johnson in regards to the charges of sexual activity with a child there was a mixture of reaction on social media.

The first count, in which Johnson was accused of forcing a 15 year old Sunderland season ticket holder to perform oral sex on him in his car, saw the former premier league midfielder found not guilty. Thesecondcount,ofJohnson digitally penetrating the young girl, brought back a guilty verdict. Twitter and Facebook exploded with reaction, the majority of which rightly condemned the Wearside born player for what was obviously a massive breach of trust and tf 50

responsibility. Johnson had already admitted his guilt to a charge of grooming the child and of one count of sexual activity with a child at the start of the trial, which came as a massive surprise to all who were watching the case with interest. As a criminologist who specializes in crimes against women and children, his guilty plea raised my eyebrows initially. I was interested in knowing what evidence existed that meant that Johnson’s legal team had advised him to plead

in such a way. I could never have imagined what would eventually emerge at the trial, and the testimony of Sunderland’s star midfielder is of the type rarely heard in a court under such charges. Day by day the case against Johnson grew stronger and stronger, with even Johnson himself admitting that he knew the girl was underage, that he had asked her how old she was, and that he “wanted to get her jeans off” and if he had he would have “lasted 10 seconds”. Johnson also admitted that

What shocked many of us watching the trial, though, was Johnson’s admission that Sunderland Football Club had known as far back as 4th May 2015 that he had kissed the child and sent her sexually explicit messages.

the 15 year old was not the only female he had been contacting, with a string of women in their 20s also receiving messages from him. The evidence unfolding in court did not make pleasant reading. Johnson admitted that he had groomed the child for the purposes of sexual activity, there were 834 WhatsApp messages between the two, and the ones that Johnson sent were clearly pushing towards a sexual nature on many occasions. What shocked many of us watching the trial, though, was Johnson’s admission that Sunderland Football Club had known as far back as 4th May 2015 that he had kissed the child and sent her sexually explicit messages. As a football fan you have to ask yourself what were Sunderland Football Club thinking by standing by a man who has admitted such grossly indecent acts? It has further emerged that not only did Johnson himself admit some of his actions to the club, but that club CEO, Margaret Byrne

who is herself a qualified solicitor, had access to the WhatsApp messages and Johnson’s initial statements to police in which he admitted kissing the child and had in fact passed them to Adam Johnson’s QC in a meeting in Newcastle last year. Initially upon Johnson’s arrest Sunderland Football Club suspended the player, however this was quickly rescinded after 16 days when Johnson was bailed by police for a second time. Rumors of the Professional Footballer’s Association getting involved in discussions with the club emerged at the time, with these being confirmed by the club. Johnson was playing again for his team 19 days after his arrest, under new manager Dick Advocaat, and this did not change even after he was charged with the sexual offences on 23rd April 2015. Videos began appearing on social media, with fans from clubs singing about Johnson being a paedophile. This was followed up by incessant chants from our fans about

Johnson taking children to the Stadium of Light to “sexually abuse them”, and responding chants from Sunderland fans singing that Johnson “Shags who he wants!” At no point did these fans take into consideration that there was a child in the middle of this case. We all know that football fans like to sing derogatory songs about opposition players, but these really hit a new low. Similarly to the Ched Evans case, the fans of the club that the player belonged to felt it was appropriate to mock the victim of sexual assault. However I have never felt as alone and isolated as a Newcastle fan as I did at the derby match at the Stadium of light. To hear grown men, women and children singing songs about the sexual abuse of a child left me disgusted. It really hit a new low. Liverpool fans have been condemned for singing about Munich, Manchester United fans about singing about Hillsborough, West Ham fans for mocking Jewish Spurs fans by making hissing noises to

At no point did these fans take into consideration that there was a child in the middle of this case. We all know that football fans like to sing derogatory songs about opposition players, but these really hit a new low.

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But she has been forgotten about by the masses that seem to get some perverse joy from singing about paedophilia. replicate the horrors of the holocaust. Yet Newcastle fans have sang, home and away, about Johnson sexually abusing a child and not a word has come out from our club asking these awful and deeply insensitive chants by our fans to stop. There is a child involved here for goodness sake. A child who, like many I’ve seen at St James’ Park and various grounds around the country, arrived early and stayed back late to get a chance to see her hero. But she has been forgotten about by the masses that seem to get some perverse joy from singing about paedophilia.

being reminded constantly that they have no airport, that they work, shop and go out socially in the region’s capital, and that they have faded pink plastic seats. When our fans gain some kind of moral superiority by chanting about sexual abuse of a child though it has crossed a line of taste and decency. There were howls of outrage when Johnson scored in the derby and ran with his

arms outstretched towards the away fans, as some implied it was reference to the MH17 tragedy in which we lost two devoted supporters, this despite Sunderland fans raising over £30,000 after the tragedy. Yet the same outrage was not felt by those same fans that had until that moment thought they were hilarious by minimizing the impact of child sexual abuse.

Over the years it’s been easy to mock the lot from down the road. Until recent years they had a woeful record in the derby and had to rely on a result from 108 years ago to try and goad us with, despite us winning the league that same season. They have fans who have racially abused others, including an instance of abusing Darren Bent’s mother at an away game. Their love for Cheesy Chips, blue pop and Steve Cram (celebrity fan) has been mocked. They hate tf 52

I’ve seen genuine Sunderland fans abused by other fans for criticizing the club for their stance with Adam Johnson. When his suspension was lifted a friend of mine, who happens to support the club down the road, tweeted that she felt uneasy about the whole thing. For that she received multiple misogynistic tweets from her own set of supporters, telling her to “shut it slag” and similar. I feel for these fans. The genuine, dyed-in-the-wool mackems who like us spend their hard earned money following their club week in, week out. They have been duped by Johnson and the club, and they don’t deserve to have been put through that. Sunderland Football Club should be answering the genuine questions that these fans are raising about the case, and not trying to just sweep the whole sordid mess under the carpet.

Even after the guilty verdict twitter users, just like in the case of Ched Evans, seemed to feel that Johnson had been set up. I received a number of tweets personally from (all male) twitter users who commented such things as “her case was full of holes” which totally ignored the 3 guilty verdicts in the 4 charges, that Johnson is getting “5-10 years for fingering a bird” (hang on, he groomed and sexually assaulted a child!) and some that said they felt sorry for Johnson because he had his career taken from him (he threw his own career away when he was sending sexually explicit messages and then meeting up with a child who he admitted he knew the age of). It seems that even a guilty verdict in cases of rape and sexual assault isn’t enough for some to condemn a footballer when he commits a heinous crime.

Questions really need to be asked about the cesspit that is professional football. It’s no good saying that these young men have too much too young. That doesn’t excuse their attitude to women and girls. Football clubs race each other to sign young boys up at the earliest possible age, and yet seem to hold no accountability for the actions of these young men when they go on to use their profession to commit crimes against women and children. It is no surprise to anyone that a football club has no morality.We all know what fuels professional football these days and that is money. Fans, decency, morals and ethics have all flown out of the window as 92 clubs in the football league fight it out to get their snouts in the trough of the billions that TV rights have ploughed into the game. However Sunderland

Sunderland Football Club should be answering the genuine questions that these fans are raising about the case, and not trying to just sweep the whole sordid mess under the carpet.

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Football club must be brought to task with regards to their audacity to play Johnson knowing what they did about his actions. The club released a very carefully worded statement after the verdicts claiming that they had not been aware that Johnson would be changing his pleas, and that they had rescinded his suspension after the meeting with the PFA and taking independent legal advice. The club also stated that they had acted swiftly to terminate Johnson’s employment after the guilty pleas. How do the PFA hold so much power that they can have the suspension of a player who has been arrested on allegations of child sexual abuse rescinded? Just like in the Ched Evans case the PFA were quick to jump to the support of a footballer who ended up being found guilty of some very serious charges, yet will they be asked by the mainstream media why this

tf 54

has happened yet again? Don’t hold your breath. Whether or not they knew of Johnson’s plans to plead guilty, and it is very hard to believe that they were completely in the dark about this (surely the club’s legal team were taking an interest in what was going on?), Sunderland Football Club knew in May last year that Johnson had kissed a child and had exchanged 834 WhatsApp messages with her, some of which were very explicit in nature. They had no legal obligation to play Johnson after this meeting,yet continued to do so. As to swiftly terminating his employment, it took over 24 hours for the club to respond; interestingly enough after his boot sponsor dropped him first, and after Johnson received a one or two sentenced email from them. The club finally made reference to the victim in this case. A year after Johnson’s arrest. A year in which a 15 year old girl

has been dragged through hell by a player she idolized and the club she loved. A year after being branded a liar, a slut, a slag and a “money-grabber” by those around her. A cursory token mention at the end of the statement. Until this point the club, which is championed by some as a “community club”, did absolutely nothing to protect its young fans, with Johnson still signing autographs on the morning of the final day of his trial. While Sunderland Football Club protected their prized asset this child was ridiculed, and is still being doubted on social media, despite guilty pleas and verdicts. Johnson and Sunderland drove this child to the point of contemplating suicide. She said at trial she wanted to protect Johnson, it’s a damn shame that Johnson, Sunderland Football Club and the PFA didn’t feel that they wanted to protect this child through all of this! BLEF

While Sunderland Football Club protected their prized asset this child was ridiculed, and is still being doubted on social media

true faith has been established since 1999 as one of the most successful, influential and best-selling fanzines in the country. Its success is based upon the contributions of Newcastle United supporters. As we move into the digital age and take up the opportunities for new forms of supporter expression, true faith is at the forefront of the new fanzine culture and develops its digital fanzine (what you are reading now), its match-day e-newsletter, The Special, its Podcasts, its video-blogs and of course the website. We hope to be positioned for anything else that develops over the next few years as well.

Write for true faith true faith has always provided a platform to fans to write about their club and give their own opinions on what is currently going on at United as well as the different perspectives of our club’s history and the wider game. Oh, we love a bit nostalgia and history. There is no typical true faith writer, they come in all shapes and sizes and include home and away zealots. young lads and

lasses, veteran fans, season ticket holders, exiles and whatever else you care to mention.

true faith and in fact we welcome those that are completely opposite in honesty.

You don’t need to be a previously published writer or have any fancy qualifications. All we care about is whether you have a love for Newcastle United and a will to inform and entertain your fellow supporters. We don’t care if your opinions are the same or are similar to the editorial position of

You might want to write detailed exposes of the United financial and business model or you might want to do a matchreport or you might want to do something we’ve never ever considered. We also like dipping our toes into the waters of music, film and fashion

so if that’s your forte, just drop us a line as well. Don’t forget, we welcome all cartoonists, photographers and designers to join us as well, so whatever your talent, we can put you to work with the aim of establishing true faith as the best fanzine for the best supporters in the whole world.  All emails to editor@ tf 55

Sunday 24th May 2015. Ahead of our biggest kick off of the season to attempt to salvage our season and remain in the Premier League for another god forsaken year - Mike Ashley appears in front of the worlds TV Cameras.

ASHLEY CAN A LEOPARD CHANGE ITS SPOTS? Without opening his mouth, just the sight of his face sent shockwaves across Newcastle fans. Mike Ashley doesn’t speak with the media - he’s both disinterested and fearful. He’s never done this before. Why now? Well in the space of a threeminute stuttering and nerve wrangled interview - the man whom we had all criticised (rightfully so) for being unambitious and cash hungry put across a surprising rally cry. Ashley talked strongly about disappointment of league position, ‘making our own luck moving forward’, and more importantly - not wanting to sell up until tf 56

‘we win something’. What did these words actually mean and where did they come from? Why now? In the spur of the moment, they seemed nothing more than a late desperate appeal for confidence, support, and a boost from the top in the face of adversity. Perhaps these words filtered from Ashley’s mouth via the pen of PR buddy Keith Bishop. Or perhaps it was simply a panic tactic to slam the brakes on the not insignificant number of season ticket holders, tossing their renewals off after being ground down to depressing levels of apathy. It would be fair

to say that the reason for Ashley’s outcry was likely to be a bit of each of the aforementioned. But what does it actually mean ten months on, and were his words white noise or a genuine signal of change? Firstly, let us not forget the overall picture of the miserable nine-year tenure of Mike Ashley. Two top ten finishes, three consecutive relegation battles, one relegation, and a plethora of early cup exits. Add to that the numerous tin pot (and in some cases bonkers) senior appointments, the sale of prized assets with ease, three years of minimal player investment, and the

Richard Smith Follow @richysmith100

contentment of sticking with managers who lose every other week. One top five finish aside, the actual football performance of the club under Ashley has been nothing short of a disaster. I’ll leave other ‘off the field’ decisions out of this article for the purpose of relevance, but in short - Mike Ashley - the powerful business winner, has failed. That aside – it was difficult to dispute the fact an unprecedented Summer spend (by recent NUFC standards) of around £50m certainly showed Ashley was going some way to putting his money where his mouth is. He talked about bolting the horse onto the cart at the end of the 2014/2015 season. Although given the previous years of non-existent investment £50m was barely ‘bolting on a horse’, it did certainly present a stark contrast in expenditure. There is

no doubting that the big TV deal pay day which will be shelled out at the end of this season to those who remain in England’s top flight, was a huge factor here. Ashley is driven by money, and his entire business model and decisions to date have been based on a model of austerity. Cut the costs, sell the assets, survive on a shoestring – claw back the rewards. Last seasons near flirt with relegation put the shits up the owner, and perhaps at that stage, he truly knew he had played with fire for too long, and his big financial masterplan would go up in flames. It’s my belief, at that stage, he knew he would have to start investing in the squad in order to not be in such a perilous position again. This season was the big one. Stay up this year, and that’s all that matters. Fast forward seven or so months, and our league

status is at a greater risk than ever. A combination of a half hearted job in the Summer transfer window in truly strengthening our weak spots, and an uninspiring managerial appointment in McClaren who like his predecessors – majestically flopped. The January window saw Newcastle position themselves as one of the biggest spenders in Europe. The realisation of another risk of relegation and thus missing out on the £100m+ Premier League pay-day, became another reality for the surely infuriated Ashley. Decent money was spent on players with decent pedigrees. This didn’t so much look like signings of ambition given United’s dwindling league position, but more signings of panic. Sadly this has formed the basis of Newcastle’s decision making in recent years. Again though, it would be

it was difficult to dispute the fact an unprecedented Summer spend (by recent NUFC standards) of around £50m certainly showed Ashley was going some way to putting his money where his mouth is

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remiss of me to suggest that these signings were not made with a previous plan of building a squad to kick on. Signings such as Andros Townsend and Jonjo Shelvey presented an upgrade on what we previously had available, and absolutely ARE the type of players Newcastle fans have longed for. However, if the club were truly ambitious or indeed serious about their willingness to survive this year, then why weren’t defenders and a striker secured in January? Questions arise again about those making the big decisions at United and what they are truly trying to achieve. What cannot be disputed however, is the recent sterling appointment of Rafa Benitez as our new manager. This, as well as being the best piece of news to come out of SJP in many a year, presents Ashley’s strongest ever argument that he has a new found ambition for United. To say Benitez is an upgrade on the likes of tf 58

McClaren, Carver, Pardew, and Allardyce is not even a gross understatement. This is a man who has won trophies and managed clubs the previous roll call could only dream about. He is someone who can quite comfortably be classed as one of the top ten managers in the World and arguably, our biggest managerial appointment in history. Not only that – but the fact Benitez has been given the title of ‘Manager’ rather than ‘Head Coach’ is hugely significant. This is clearly a man who has came in and made real demands for his role, to the extent that Ashley and Charnley have seemingly accepted to completely tear up their football club model of failure. Probably the most meaningful part of Benitez’s appointment for Newcastle fans, is not that he is someone of high profile and calibre, but he is a manager who is used to being successful with clubs. It would be very hard to believe that Benitez would be content managing a club with the

aim of simply achieving a position of safety. He views United as a project and one of huge untapped potential – a realistic view shared with long suffering mags. Benitez is a winner and with his appointment, does it finally prove that this is also what Mike Ashley wants to be? The danger in all of this is two fold. Firstly – a very possible relegation would bring the whole thing to the ground. Newcastle would likely lose the most hopeful managerial appointment they could possibly wish for. A drop to the Championship could paint a bleak future for the club. Secondly – if Benitez was to keep us up, there is always the very real risk that our maverick owners go against their word and don’t give him the control and respect he deserves. This would also likely see us lose the brightest spark of hope we have had in some time. We can only hope, that a positive future is around the corner.

This, as well as being the best piece of news to come out of SJP in many a year, presents Ashley’s strongest ever argument that he has a new found ambition for United.

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In the sixties, the Norwegian national broadcaster (NRK) started showing games from the English top division. One game every Saturday. As the TV coverage from ITV at the time was limited to games from the Midlands, there’s a significant/unnerving number of fans of clubs like Wolves, Stoke, Nottingham Forest, Leeds etc. within a certain age group in Norway. Until the new football broadcasting landscape changed significantly during the 90s, one game every Saturday was what we got. Take it or leave it. But that was enough. More than enough. The Norwegian supporter clubs for abysmal clubs in red, Manure and Liverpool, both have over

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30.000 members. And Leeds has the third biggest. In recent times, kids and morons have jumped on the Chelsea and ManShitty bandwagon, but that’s what happens when you’re suddenly successful. In comparison, when I was last a member of a Newcastle United supporters club in

Norway, we were about 1000 members, before it was disbanded because the guy running it turned out to be a swindler and a hack. Whichever team you support, one thing is certain: We love English football. To the extent that a lot of us (myself included when Newcastle players were

Bjørn Westblad N




involved) support the English national team. This borders on the ridiculous, as was seen when England last visited Norway for a friendly. The stadium was packed with 27.000 people in mostly Liverpool and Manure shirts, and in the first half when Gerrard hacked down a Norwegian player, a large part of the Norwegians around me actually booed when he was shown a yellow. Absolutely disgusting! There are many times being outnumbered as a Newcastle fan is a good thing. That was one of them. Why am I writing this? Who am I? I’m now almost 33 years old. I grew up in the north of Norway; most of my youth was spent in an archipelago called Lofoten. The total population of the six islands is less than half the capacity of St James Park (24.500). My home town/ village has a population of around 2000 people. It is small. The closest top-tier Norwegian team is Bodø Glimt. They are a costly 30-minute flight, or a 2-4

hour boat ride away. I only went a handful of times. But we played football. Lots of it. And talked about it. Through the game on TV on Saturday and the highlight show (Goal!), we were introduced to English football. I remember watching the games with my Dad, him asking me to keep it down a bit. I always thought this was because he was interested, but I later found out it was because the football helped him fall asleep. In other words, I did not get my football-bug from him. It took a while to settle on a team to support. I remember being “a fan” of Blackburn, Nottingham Forest, and Newcastle United. I even had a Tottenham sticker on my desk at school (cringe). This was aged 10 or 12. I remember thinking Leicester was a cool team because of the name of the stadium, Filbert Street. I remember being in awe of Matt Le Tissier at Southampton, and I really liked the yellow and green nets in the Norwich goals. And I remember Alan

Shearer! On every highlight show, I would wait for Blackburn to come on so I could see Shearer and/or Sutton score, and I would wait for the Newcastle highlights to watch Peter Beardsley, Keith Gillespie and Les Ferdinand etc. do their magic. But mostly Alan Shearer. The details are a bit foggy, but I remember thinking that I had to pick a team during the summer I turned 13, in 1996. Nottingham Forest didn’t last long, so it was down to Blackburn and Newcastle. Blackburn had won the league, but there was something about Newcastle United. I might remember it wrong, but I like to think it was before Shearer signed. And when I found out he did sign for us, that just made me even more certain.

I grew up in the north of Norway; most of my youth was spent in an archipelago called Lofoten. The total population of the six islands is less than half the capacity of St James Park 24.500

Now, I don’t really remember many games from those days, I just remember us being very good. I don’t think I remember much of, or paid much attention to, the fact we almost won the league tf 61

in 95/96. I did not see the Barcelona game. I did not see the 5-0 over Manure and many more missed highlights. I remember the 7-1 mauling of Spurs on Boxing Day 1996, because it was the first game I saw with a piece of Newcastle related clothing (pic 1). I also remember the devastation of losing two cup finals in a row, especially the one I watched with one of my many Manure friends. Luckily I didn’t understand what big of a deal it was at the time. The only thing I really remember is that for the next 3 years, I thought I was the only Newcastle United supporter at my school. The rest supported teams in red, or Spurs. I was proud to be a lone Newcastle fan, through the highs and lows over the next few years. My first trip to the great city was in the 00/01 season. Against Liverpool. I was 17, and the biggest game I’d been to before that was a game between Rosenborg and Bodø/ Glimt, with maybe 10.000 people in the stands. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew it was going to be extreme. Myself and a few other Norwegians went to the training ground to watch the players up close, and maybe try to get some autographs. We did, we got many. Warren Barton, Gary Speed, Kieron Dyer, Shola, Shay Given, and many more. The two we really wanted were nowhere to be found. But as we walked over to get some help to tf 62

call a cab, none other than the late great Sir Bobby came out. We somehow had the nerve to talk to him, and he couldn’t have been nicer to us! We stood there for what seemed like an eternity talking about where we were from, Norwegian football, what we thought about the coming game, and so on. He excused himself in the end, but not before giving us an autograph. We were ecstatic. Just when Robson drove out, we spotted a silver Jaguar driving across the car park. It was Alan Shearer. In a 14-year-oldgirl-seeing-Justin-Biebermoment, we ran after the car, shouting at him. Unbelievably, he stopped, rolled down his window and said he had time for a quick chat before he had to go home to the missus. I ended up with a handshake, a picture, and an autograph. Never again have I felt as star struck as on that day. I thought nothing could top that experience. I was wrong.

We beat Liverpool 2-1, after goals from Solano and Dyer. I don’t remember who scored for them, and I didn’t care then. The experience was extreme. Something I’d never experienced before. I couldn’t explain it. What I could explain was that Newcastle was a great city, with friendly people (northerners normally are), and that stadium, that shared experience with so many kindred souls was powerful. I felt like I belonged there. Even though I didn’t know the songs by heart, knew the pace of Blaydon Races, or understood what everyone said around town. I belonged there. It felt natural.

But as we walked over to get some help to call a cab, none other than the late great Sir Bobby came out. We somehow had the nerve to talk to him, and he couldn’t have been nicer to us!

I didn’t see another game live for 3 years. Also against Liverpool. This time away, in 2004. It ended 1-1, and I was the only one in that section of the stadium that cheered the goal from Shola. Extremely thrilling, and a bit scary. I went back to Newcastle in 2006 for a game against Wigan. Alan

Shearer scored. That was very special. I saw us beat the filthy Mackems in 2008, the atmosphere in and around the stadium and the city was unbelievable. I’ve grown more and more fond of the city with every visit, and I always look forward to going back. Taking my wife there for the first time this season against Arsenal was great, and we’re coming back. I have had some fantastic moments with Newcastle back home in Norway as well, and I owe two of my best friends to Newcastle United. One of them was the best man at my wedding two years ago. We are always outnumbered when we watch games in pubs, but you can always hear us. Never more so than the 4-1 away mauling of the Mackems. A friend and I sat in the back of a small room in a pub downtown. Between the screen and us were 18 people in Mackem outfits. I did not think that many existed outside their mud-hut village, and I’ve never seen so many in one place again. They were loud, they were rude, everything you’d expect. In the first half. We didn’t care, and during the second half, at least two of them were crying. It was great! The Cisse-show away to Chelsea was also great, but nothing beats that Mackem game. Also, for some reason, it is always the Manure and Liverpool fans that take offense to our shouting and “friendly” abuse. Would almost think they are jealous of us.

I watch every game, every weekend. Sometimes it feels like a chore, and I wonder why I bother when everything about the club is in a state of absolute shambles. But I do, and deep down I look forward to every game, even away to Chelsea and Manure. It is that feeling of never really knowing how it will turn out (until we give away that first goal away from home). Even though I don’t spend hundreds of pounds travelling to every away game, I still feel the same pain the travelling supporters do, albeit from the comfort of my own home, not from the rundown shack that is Goodison Park’s away section. I feel the high of a fired up crowd at the home games, and wish that the broadcasters could turn the stadium sound up. Actually, in the post-match studio on Norwegian TV2, they once admitted to having to turn down the stadium noise at SJP because the crowd made it impossible to hear the commentator. I love the fact that I know how that atmosphere is like in real life, and that I will experience it again.

the grasp of the Manures, ManShitty, Chelski, Loserpool and Arsenal. One thing is certain; I will try my absolute best. I’ll take him to SJP, I’ll show him my Alan Shearer DVD (if it takes tying him to a chair for three hours, so be it), and the only kit he’ll ever get from me will be black and white. I have no idea what the future holds for Newcastle United, if we’ll win a trophy in my lifetime, other than the Championship, Intertoto, and that gigantic trophy from Deportivo a few years ago. No matter what, I’m in it for life and I’ll never abandon my club. Because it is my club, even though I live in another country and don’t have a season ticket. I will experience great moments, and very sad moments, but I’ll be here, and I’m sure to meet many more great people along the way!

I’ll show him my Alan Shearer DVD (if it takes tying him to a chair for three hours, so be it), and the only kit he’ll ever get from me will be black and white.

Howay the Toon!

I now have a son of nearly three years, and even though I’ve bought him his first Newcastle shirt, I realize that making him support Newcastle in the long run will be difficult. I wonder how to keep him out of tf 63

Well what an extraordinary few days, it still doesn’t feel real 24 hours on, as a mate text me on Friday afternoon “can’t believe it, came to work with McClaren now I’m going home with Benitez”. We’ve had this feeling before of course, the euphoria.

La Transición From my living memory I remember Sir Bobby, Keegan’s return and the Owen signing injecting us with that swagger, new found confidence and urge for spontaneous celebration; though those

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events were so long ago, football has changed, the world has changed since then. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that the city felt electrified on the Friday of Rafa’s arrival, phones were buzzing, workplaces

Ryan Bell

seemed more upbeat and the pubs grew busier and busier; is there a place in the world let alone the country which can garner so much excitement? I’m not sure. First things first, the reason Benitez is here in the first

place is because we’re in deep shit. He has 10 games to secure safety, the stakes are high; fail and the optimism will fade into the distance as will Benitez. There will be plenty written about those ten games and I don’t wish to bore you all to tears with tired old clichés about ‘cup finals’ and ‘sticking together’ you’ll have had enough of that with McClaren. Mike Ashley sees a considerable risk to his investment at the very moment that Premier League status is at its most imperative. Make no bones about it, this is a direct involvement from our owner and the panic button being well and truly pressed. The consensus within football is that boardroom panic never ends well and supporters should look on with despair. At Newcastle United, with this lot in charge, it represents a great opportunity. Should Benitez pull off the great escape, (and I fully expect him to do so) it will pave the way for a power vacuum at the club. Rafa is known throughout the game as a control freak, likes his presence hovering over every aspect of the football club and somebody who doesn’t react well to having things imposed on him from above, a man after my own heart in many respects. This reputation led to Madrid based journalists writing off his chances at the Bernabeu early on, particular when Florentino Perez advised him to lose weight to fit in with Real Madrid’s

‘image’. The Kremlinologists in the North-East will have their eyes firmly set on St. James’ Park this summer in the event of survival. The assumption is that this appointment has led to the clubs long standing continental transfer structure, it’s an assumption admittedly but Lee Charnley and Graham Carr have to be worried for their futures at the club. Mike Ashley is a stubborn old boot but faced with the choice of the man who has secured his investment and the pair who have risked off the top of my head three relegations in the last four seasons then it would make perfect sense to give Rafa free reign. The counter argument to all of this of course was the appointment of Kevin Keegan, it’s a fair one admittedly. Ashley flew in the face of all common sense and backed his men, creating a poisonous atmosphere surrounding the club which in turn led to a talented group of players inexplicably relegated. In my view there’s a key difference 8 years on, back then Ashley’s men were considerable in stature and personal influence, in other words; they had his ear. I look at Charnley and Carr and I can’t imagine them having the nerve to advise Ashley on a decent restaurant nevermind anything football related. The way Benitez was pursued in itself speaks volumes, Charnley being the man who crossed the I’s and

dotted the T’s once the deal had been agreed through intermediaries; unsurprising given the mess they made last year with Carver and further down the line in

It isn’t an exaggeration to say that the city felt electrified on the Friday of Rafa’s arrival, phones were buzzing, workplaces seemed more upbeat and the pubs grew busier and busier the pursuit of McClaren. Charnley is nothing more than an apparatchik, a subordinate who does as he is told and Carr will most likely depart in the summer. Mike Ashley may not know a lot about football but he knows a wasted investment when he sees it and the Cabella/Thauvin debacles look to have been the final nail in Carr’s coffin, the trust has gone; this coupled with Benitez’s extensive contact list renders his role obsolete. The elephant in the room of course is that we need to stave off relegation first, it’s a big ask, the playing staff hasn’t changed. The mood within the city however has and at this football club a feelgood factor tends to provoke a seismic shift in the right direction; should that continue into the summer we might be in for a glorious revolution. tf 65

CHELSEA 5 NEWCASTLE UNITED 1 Stamford Bridge, Sat 13th Feb, 5:30pm, Premier League, Att: 41,622. Sitting comfortably in your £55 surrounded on all sides by the biggest c***s in English football? Right, well we’ll begin, things can’t get much worse can they?  Well, actually now you mention it.  This one was special even by United’s standards as we were three down inside quarter of an hour and on our way to re-defining the term ‘shambolic’.  The goals were farcical – I counted five of our players dropping absolute ricks for the first three scored by Costa, Pedro and Willian and to say that Taylor and Coloccini are finished and that their legs have gone would be the understatement of the season – the latter made Costa look like Usain Bolt on whizz all afternoon. Miraculously, it remained at three until the hour mark and if they’d upped it a gear we could have easily been on the end of a double figure rout – bear in mind this is to a side well inside the bottom half too.  The utterly detestable Fabregas made it four with grey haired fatty Steven Taylor huffing and puffing and Traore made it five inside the last ten minutes.  Townsend pulled one

back for us and it was a good finish after a direct run but his shake of the head in ‘celebration’ said it all. Aye, we’ll do that to you son.  Minging. Newcastle United: Eliott, Janmaat, Coloccini, Taylor, Aarons, Tiote (Lascelles), Shelvey, Wijnaldum (Colback), Sissoko, Townsend, Mitrovic (Doumbia). Our Fans: 6 – Alright, considering. Their Fans: 5 – I hate them, so in terms of giving them a mark they can just have one for each goal. Media View: ‘Pedro’s pair fuels rout of wretched Magpies’ (Guardian). In-Form: Townsend for scoring. Out of Form: Everyone else for being shit. McLaren Watch: Jesus Christ man, how much longer?

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STOKE CITY 1 NEWCASTLE UNITED 0 Britannia Stadium, Wed 2nd March, 7:45pm, Premier League, Att: 27,331. Let’s start with the moment everyone heard the team-sheet here and learned that Gouffran was starting. Then, chasing a game we absolutely had to get something out of it, let’s look at the moment that the first substitute introduced into the fold was Lionel f***ing Richie.  Then let’s examine McLaren’s form away from home, with seven goals scored and this being the seventh defeat on the bounce. Now let’s consider the fact that although Stoke were absolutely f***ing hopeless and there for the taking, we barely mustered a chance and when we did, we’ve not got a forward worthy of the name because of an utterly f***witted buying policy.  For the record, Stoke scored in the 80th minute through Shaqiri and even that was a shit goal – Eliott bending down like a fanny for a shot that it looked like he could have saved.  And he’s been our player of the season.  And I still think he’s generally crap.  Aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrgggggggghhhhhhhhh. Newcastle United: Eliott, Janmaat, Lascelles, Taylor, Dummett, Shelvey, Wijnaldum, Colback (Perez), Sissoko, Gouffran (Riviere), Mitrovic (Doumbia). Our Fans: 5 - Apoplectic. Their Fans: 4 – Shite.  The whole crack about the Britannia being one of the best atmosphere’s in the country is well out of date. Media View: ‘United staring Championship in the face’ (Chronicle). In-Form: Errrrrmmmmm. Out of Form: Gouffran man, if you didn’t laugh you’d cry.  He wasn’t the only one mind. McLaren Watch: Gouffran’s inclusion was a naked attempt at a pay off.

NEWCASTLE UNITED 1 BOURNEMOUTH 3 St. James Park, Sat 5th March, 3:00pm, Premier League, Att: 52,107. The most depressing aspect of this utter debacle for me is that the result and performance came as absolutely no surprise to any NUFC supporter I know and I know loads. No-one in the pub before the match expected us to win, everyone expected Bournemouth to be quicker and better organised than us and they were all spot on.  Bournemouth man.  At home.  In a game we had to win.  Just send us down now will you, eh, it’s embarrassing for all concerned. To be fair to the visitors they were a million times better than us and well worthy of the win.  We were dreadful in the first half and lucky to only go in one goal down thanks to an own goal from the ‘hapless’ (ie shit) Steven Taylor.  Half time had to be last chance saloon for McLaren to attempt to whip the team into something resembling a career saving performance and oh, had on I forgot, he picked f***ing Riviere from the start.  I knaa, ha ha ha ha, Riviere!!!!  Anyway, he came off for Mitrovic and we were even worse in the second half.  Their deserved second where our defence stood and watched prompted chants from the HOME fans of ‘sacked in the morning’.  I don’t mean figuratively ‘stood and watched’ either mind.  Perez pulled one back after a lovely ball from Shelvey with ten minutes to go but they killed it in the final minute and surely that’s it now for McLaren.  It’s too late though, we’re f***ed. Newcastle United: Eliott, Janmaat, Lascelles, Taylor, Dummett (Anita), Colback, Shelvey, Wijnaldum, Perez,  Sissoko (Aarons), Riviere (Mitrovic). Our Fans: 6 – Finally turned en-masse on McLaren.  An incredible attendance too, really. Their Fans: 7 – Happy.  Predictable songbook mind. Media View: ‘Newcastle fans turn on McLaren after dismal defeat’ (Telegraph). In-Form: Shelvey is the only one that put anything resembling a shift in. Out of Form: Riviere.  Eeeeh God man! McLaren Watch: Sacked in the morning, if not sooner please.

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LEICESTER CITY 1 NEWCASTLE UNITED 0 King Power Stadium, Mon 14th March, 8:00pm, Premier League, Att: 31,824. With Tufty finally gone, we travelled to Leicester in a buoyant mood, still in disbelief that Rafa Benitez, the most decorated manager in the modern era at United was going to be in the dugout. On paper we were relegation certainties playing the champions elect but in reality, we pretty much held our own throughout.  Okazaki scored the only goal of the game for them with an overhead kick in the first half but we fashioned chances of our own – Sissoko and Mitrovic colliding when the latter could have scored and Perez having a couple of half chances in the first half alone. If anything, we were marginally the better side in the second although I would temper that by saying that it came without any real goal threat – we look completely toothless up front and f*** knows what the truth behind the Doumbia signing was (or the Saviet one for that matter).  At the end of the day, we expected nowt and got nowt but there is a glimmer of hope there all of a sudden.  It is only a glimmer mind. Newcastle United: Eliott, Janmaat, Lascelles, Taylor, Colback, Anita (Townsend), Shelvey (Doumbia), Wijnaldum, Perez (de Jong),  Sissoko, Mitrovic. Our Fans: 8 – Backed the team and Rafa throughout. Their Fans: 6 – Generally noisy inside the ground but I know of a couple of lads who had bother with them outside.  As magnificent as their story is, they have and have always had a good smattering of dodgy bastards in their support. Media View: ‘Benitez unable to deliver football earthquake’ (Northern Echo). In-Form: I thought Janmaat had his best game in a while. Out of Form: Taylor looked out of shape and off the pace. Rafa Watch: Some signs of improvement in that we seemed to try but by God, he’s got a job on his hands.

NEWCASTLE UNITED 1 SUNDERLAND 1 St. James Park, Sun 20th March, 1:30pm, Premier League, Att: 52,311. So, the rot is stopped but the result leaves us both in the clarts. In the end, I think it would probably be fair to say it was a point earned for us and two dropped for them so hopefully it gives us more of a boost than them when things are reckoned up.  It followed the pattern of derbies in recent years – two (at best) average teams, nervy early on and then a sick feeling in the pit of the stomach when Defoe put them ahead just before half time.  I won’t call it a ‘well worked corner’ but I will call it shit defending.  To be fair, they could have been three up by then and we’d barely mustered a chance worthy of the name. They were the better side in the first half of the second half (if that makes sense) and the game only really started to turn when the utterly ladgeful Colback was yanked off.  He could easily have seen red, got nowhere near N’Doye – a piss poor forward playing out of position on the wing and was an utter liability all afternoon.  Eliott made a brilliant stop with twenty minutes to go and with time running out we had a bit of a mad formation with Sissoko at left back and three up front, but it worked when Wijnaldum lofted a high ball to the back post and Mitrovic nodded it back across goal into the far corner.  Relief was an understatement.  Norwich is bigger than a six pointer now! Newcastle United: Eliott, Janmaat (Anita), Lascelles, Mbemba, Colback (de Jong), Townsend (Cisse), Shelvey, Wijnaldum, Perez, Sissoko, Mitrovic. Our Fans: 6 – Noisy for the first and last quarter hour. Their Fans: 6 – Noisy for about half an hour in the middle. Media View: ‘Mitrovic salvages point for Magpies’ (Mirror). In-Form: Townsend was direct  and I actually though Sissoko was alright. Out of Form: Twatting Jack Colback.  Wretched. Rafa Watch: Substitutions paid off and he started with the right side, they’re just not very good.

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NORWICH CITY 3 NEWCASTLE UNITED 2 Carrow Road, Sat 2nd Apr, KO: 3:00pm, Premier League, Att: 27,137. We can all pick over the bones of this big, hard kick in the knackers but the truth is whatever genius Benitez has demonstrated in his career to date, this is all looking like far too little far too late. All three of their goals were eminently preventable if we had anything like an organised defence. The third for me demonstrated perfectly just how unprofessional this pool of players really are. There’s Mbemba clearing the ball up the park to no-one in particular, when it should have been lashed into the crowd but no-one is getting to the ball and its played around our box where the man in possession has time to pick his spot and stab every Mag deep into the guts. Of course we might scratch our heads about formations and selections but this is a mess that Benitez has to deal with. Another morass of injuries, truculent players and a complete absence of commitment to the shirt married to outrageous incompetence from Ashley, Carr, Charnley and anyone else that cares to admit to being part of the joke on Barrack Road. We have to keep going, we have to keep fighting but f***ing hell, it’s looking like a lost cause now. Desperate, desperate times! Newcastle United: Darlow, Janmaat, Mbemba, Taylor, Anita (Mitrovic 62), Tiote (Perez 46), Shelvey, Townsend, Sissoko, Wijnaldum, Cisse.

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Unused Subs: Woodman, Sterry, Lascelles, De Jong, Riviere. Our Fans: Variously obnoxious, heartbroken and destroyed. Good numbers. Their Fans: Happy Clappers in the main but not entirely. Media: We’re doomed. Gareth Harrison - Follow Gareth on @truefaith1892


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We received this piece from Adam before McClaren was pedalled but we thought it would be still good to publish and demonstrate there were those prepared to give him a bit more support.

McClaren Is he any good?


Mclaren arrived at St James Park on the back of an end of season collapse at Derby where he missed out on the play offs when they were a nailed on certainty for promotion and were even top of the Championship as late as February. tf 72

His appointment at the toon was met with little fan fare and much disappointment but with no proven Premier League managers available and with only untested managers in foreign leagues being the other choices

mentioned,the relatively safe appointment of the boring Englishman in Mcclaren was the only obvious choice. Fans were highly sceptical with Steve’s only achievements in England being with Middlesbrough nearly a decade ago and

every other attempt that he had were piss poor! Not only this but his tactics have always been branded negative and dull albeit effective. ÂŁ50m spent in the summer on players that looked quality in foreign leagues prompted Newcastle fans to have some hope but the first 5 months of the season have proved to be abysmal with Newcastle once again at risk of relegation and the majority of displays in the first three months looking like the players were lazy, not interested and lacking motivation. The style of football we have been playing has been a vast improvement but with our forwards not being able to hit a barn door and our defenders often being caught defending like headless chickens it has been obvious for a while that

this would be a season of struggle. Games against the big sides have shown the class Newcastle can produce with us playing a highly positive attacking pressing game but it seems like in games we should be winning we totally forget how to play a simple game of football.

relegation strugglers to stable top 10 every season finishers. Steve McClaren from his interviews,which all be it are frustrating, has shown that he is fully aware that this is a long term project and will take a lot of time and hard work and will also take ALOT of patience from board players and fans alike.

McClaren is a good coach and with further player additions being added in the last window the team on paper looks far too strong for relegation but we also said this in 2009 and we all know how that happened.

Steve McClaren can be used in a long term project that will be to bring future stability to the club and turn the club into one that fans can once again be proud of!

Steve cannot take all of the blame as he is not an instant miracle worker and the club has been a mess and shamble for years. It will take much more than one season and a couple of good transfer windows to turn the club from abject

Let’s get behind McClaren and even the board and all push the boat in the same direction and hopefully stay in the Premier League and continue the long term vision which there is for once clearly one in place!

Steve cannot take all of the blame as he is not an instant miracle worker and the club has been a mess and shamble for years

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Anyone who has read my musings in true faith - Real Spain will know that the fortunes of Real Madrid and Barça hold little interest for me. However, living in a country that is obsessed with the two mega clubs it is hard to escape what they are up to. At least one hour a day is dedicated on normal TV channels to them and reporters are always sniffing around for the latest bit of tittle-tattle. Along with that the daily sports papers like Marca and others are full of stories of what is happening around the two clubs. How they find so much to write about is a mystery to me but that is how it is. So bearing that in mind it was almost impossible not follow the goings on at Real Madrid when Rafa was the coach there.

TONY HIGGINS @Higgins1892

Rafa comes over to me as a very emotional man and I think getting to manage Real Madrid was a dream that came true for a man born in the Spanish capital. During his initial unveiling and press conference he even shed some tears. Benítez track record is second to none he is the only manager in football history to have won the UEFA Cup, UEFA Super Cup, UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup, but this record wasn’t going to help him at the tf 74

Bernabeu. Rafa signed a 3 year contract in June 2015 and was out the door just over 6 months later in January 2016. It has to be said that he was an unpopular manager with Real Madrid’s huge fan base because of his particular brand of football. At Real Madrid the fans don’t just expect their team to win, they expect them to win well and in style too. Grinding out 1-0 or 2-1 victories are no good for them and of course during his time in the Real hot

seat they lost the Clásico 4-0 at home. His record before that though was quite good having only lost one league game in eleven before capitulating to Los Blancos bitter Catalan rivals. After that defeat the writing was on the wall for Newcastle’s new gaffer. Also in his time at Real they played Cádiz, from Segunda B (Group 4), in the Copa del Rey winning away 3–1 in the first leg. However, in the next leg at home they fielded an ineligible player resulting in the second leg

being cancelled and Madrid being disqualified, you can imagine how that went down. On 4 January 2016, Benítez was sacked following his unpopularity with supporters, discontentment with some players and a failure to get right results in the most important games. At the time of his sacking, Real were third in La Liga, four points behind leaders Atlético Madrid and two points behind bitter-rivals Barça. But what about the happier times in Spain?

For example Benítez is a legend at Valencia where he won the La Liga in 200102 and 2003-04 along with the UEFA Cup in 2003-04. When he returned there with Real Madrid the Valencia fans unfurled a huge banner with the words “Thank you Rafa for giving us the best years of our lives” emblazoned across it. Ironically the 2003-04 UEFA cup final could have been against Newcastle, who were knocked out in the semi by Marseille. That UEFA final success is an iconic a game for Valencia fans in a similar way to Newcastle’s Fairs Cup triumph in 1969. Man of the match that day was a blonde haired forward called Miguel Ángel Ferrer Martínez (Mista for short). Mista was a protégé of Benítez who first coached him at Real Madrid Castilla. He also worked with the player at CD Tenerife and then Valencia CF. Mista was born in the town that I now live in, Caravaca de la Cruz, Murcia, and runs soccer camps etc. here whilst also being involved in the coaching set up at Valencia. During his playing career Mista helped the club win a total of four major titles during a five-year spell and scored a total of 48 goals in 218 La Liga games.

Before coaching at Valencia Benítez was at CD Tenerife and I asked Chris Todd, one of the founder members of an ex-pat CDT supporters club, what they thought of United’s new boss. This is what he had to say: “Rafa Benitez came to CD Tenerife in the summer of 2000 as an unknown entity. It was a gamble for sure but the President at the time, Javier Perez, was renowned for his bold moves having signed Valdano and Jupp Heynckes in previous years. CD Tenerife were desperate to return to their glory days of the 90´s but first impressions of Benetiz were poor. The pre-season was a disaster and the start of the season was slow to say the least. But slowly and surely he pulled together some decent results before Christmas and things looked much brighter. You have to remember that Tenerife were fighting for promotion from the 2nd division that season with clubs like Sevilla, Atletico Madrid and Real Betis. The pressure was immense coming into the last part of the campaign but Benitez was the man and when the pressure was fully on he came up with the goods. His time here though was slightly soured by the fact that before the season had ended he had

already promised Valencia that he would go there, which was a shame really. He will go down as being a great manager who got us promoted in a very difficult league but because he left under those circumstances he doesn’t get the cult status like some others who have managed CD Tenerife do.” Rafa started his coaching career at the relatively young age of 26, due to the fact that he had picked up

and Benítez subsequently quit Extremadura to take a year off from football. During that year he studied in England and Italy, whilst also working as a commentator/analyst for Eurosport, Marca, El Mundo and local Madrid TV. He was at Real Valladolid during the 1995–96 season, but was sacked after only two wins in 23 games with the club at the bottom of the league. The next season,

Rafa’s coaching career in Spain hasn’t always been a bed of roses but even with the some of the lows taken into consideration it is self-evident that Newcastle United has got a manager with one hell of a football pedigree a bad injury whilst playing for Spain’s U-19s at the World Student Games in Mexico City. He coached four other clubs in Spain which included Real Madrid B, Valladolid, Osasuna and Extremadura. In the 199798 season he actually got the tiny Extremadura promoted to La Liga, an incredible achievement really. Unfortunately the club only survived one season in the big time

1996–97, saw Benítez at Osasuna , in the Segunda División, but after only nine games and one win, he was sacked there too. Rafa’s coaching career in Spain hasn’t always been a bed of roses but even with the some of the lows taken into consideration it is selfevident that Newcastle United has got a manager with one hell of a football pedigree. Buena suerte y bienvenido amigo!!! tf 75

How do you make a small fortune in football? Start with a big one. Boom Boom! Well that ancient quip would certainly apply to any madman considering buying Newcastle United. Despite booming football finances, it’s unlikely that buying any football club, particularly ours, is likely to yield much of a return.

PAYING THE PRICE ANDREW TROBE Well that ancient quip would certainly apply to any madman considering buying Newcastle United. Despite booming football finances, it’s unlikely that buying any football club, particularly ours, is likely to yield much of a return. It’s been my belief for some time that Ashley would sell Newcastle in a heartbeat (whatever his public utterances to the contrary). The truth is, nobody’s interested. Not at the price he demands anyway. But just supposing some loon was prepared to make a bid in the summer to take the club off Ashley’s hands. What would it realistically take? tf 76

Well apologies for stating the obvious but it all depends upon which division we’re playing in next season (at the time of writing, I’ve just witnessed one of the most abject home performances in my 37 years watching Newcastle so I don’t hold out a great deal of hope that we’ll still be playing in the top flight). But we’ll look at both possibilities. Fundamentally, the techniques for valuing a football club are the same as those employed in valuing any enterprise. We’ll look at the two main methods – share price and forecasting future discounted cash flows. We’ll also have a look at the value of our assets in the highly unlikely

event that we should be put into administration. Before we apply these methods to value NUFC, it might be useful to see what the experts think NUFC is currently worth (and by that, I obviously don’t mean me). Those experts are found at Forbes magazine. Forbes valuation In 2004, Forbes magazine began publishing its ‘Most Valuable Football Teams’ which revealed the twenty most valuable football clubs in Europe. The new annual Forbes feature lists the twenty-five highest valued football clubs in the world based on the magazine’s own valuation methodology. The actual

But just supposing some loon was prepared to make a bid in the summer to take the club off Ashley’s hands. What would it realistically take?

valuation methods used by Forbes are not available publicly. How have Newcastle fared since 2004? (table 1. below).

in the coming summer? Let’s firstly look at valuing the club through market capitalisation.

So last summer, Forbes valued Newcastle at about £224m which made us the 18th most valuable club in the world (and yet our managerial shortlist was ‘kin John Carver and Steve McLaren. Good eh?).

Share price Only a company floated on an exchange where equities regularly change hands can be valued reliably using market capitalisation. It’s a simple calculation whereby a company’s share price is multiplied by the number of shares in issue to provide the market capitalisation or company valuation.

As an aside, a cursory glance at an extract of the Forbes valuations in 2004 (table 3. bottom right) makes interesting (and pretty depressing) reading. 9th Newcastle ($398m)

In 2013, there were only five clubs in the UK that were wholly (Arsenal, Celtic, Millwall and Rangers) or partially (Manchester United) floated on an exchange.

That’s right. Less than 12 years ago we were worth more than Barcelona!!

Newcastle shares were originally floated on the Stock exchange on 2nd April 1997 at an opening price of £1.40 a share. A shrewd investment in the Trobe household, I recall thinking,

What is the 2015 list? (table 2. right).

But the Forbes valuation was last summer. Can we estimate a value for the club

1. NUFC Forbes ranking since 2004

2. Forbes ranking 2015 Team



Real Madrid






Man Utd



Bayern Munich



Man City



























Schalke 04






Ath Madrid









West Ham





So last summer, Forbes valued Newcastle at about £224m which made us the 18th most valuable club in the world (and yet our managerial shortlist was ‘kin John Carver and Steve McLaren. Good eh?).

Forbes World ranking


Value £m*


































Schalke 04



















173 3. Forbes evaluation 2004 Team


* Forbes publishes club valuations in $. Figures above convert to £ using exchange rate at June each year.

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as I joined Thatcher’s share owning democracy. Whilst the initial share issue was hugely oversubscribed, the share price had dropped to about 20p per share by 2003 (not such a shrewd investment in the Trobe household. Bloody Thatcher). Then the knight in Sports Direct armour, Mike Ashley, appeared on the horizon in 2007. Usually investors looking to gain control of a company have to pay a significant premium on top of a share’s current value in order entice shareholders to sell. Ashley’s 101p a share takeover offer in June 2007, made by his company St James’ Holdings, valued the club at £131m. After Ashley amassed over 90% of the shares (including my own meagre holding), trading ceased on the stock exchange on 18th July 2007. As Newcastle are not listed on the Stock Exchange following the Ashley takeover, the Market Capitalisation method is not currently appropriate for valuing NUFC. No, to estimate NUFC’s value, we will need to look tf 78

at future income streams. Revenue multiple method As the name suggests, this method measures a company’s value relative to its turnover. The valuation is calculated by multiplying an organisation’s annual revenue by an appropriate multiplier. In the 2008 edition of its Annual Review of Football Finance, Deloitte reported that Premier League clubs have typically cost the equivalent of between 1.5 and 2.0 times annual revenue. This research was based on the actual purchase prices of nine Premier League clubs sold between 2003 and 2008 and intended to be an approximate valuation method enabling a quick calculation. Newcastle’s turnover in 13/14 (last set of accounts published) was £129.7m. Valuing the club at 1.5 to 2 times our turnover would suggest that Newcastle should currently be valued between £195m - £259m (which supports the Forbes valuation). But this article is based on what the club would be Newcastle worth in

the summer. This is where Newcastle’s relegation battle is key. If NUFC somehow survive, their turnover (and value) will increase massively next season with the new TV deal. It’s estimated that the Premier’s bottom club will receive, at the very minimum, an additional £36m. At a conservative estimate, this would push the value of the club over the £300m mark. The more likely scenario (from recent performances) however is that we will be relegated. I reckon this will cause such a plummet in value that I could submit a bid on my credit card (it would still be less than the missus’s spending). Even with parachute payments, the club’s revenue would drop from it’s current turnover by at least £60m. So with revenue reduced to about £70m, Ashley would be lucky to pick up £140m based on future discounted revenues.

Valuing the club at 1.5 to 2 times our turnover would suggest that Newcastle should currently be valued between £195m - £259m which supports the Forbes valuation.

This is where a risk may pay off for a speculator. If Newcastle’s absence from the Premier lasted only one season then a

new owner purchasing Newcastle at a discount during the summer could make a considerable profit. Conversely, should they not swiftly return to the top flight, a potential owner could be burdened with huge losses which would get progressively worse. This is where we may get into the realms of the final valuation method. Bankruptcy The process of corporate bankruptcy takes one of two forms in the UK dependant on its severity - administration or liquidation. The objective of the company administration process is to give the organisation time to restructure its operations and continue as a going concern which is likely to be of benefit to its creditors in the long term. Unlike regular companies, football clubs need to exit the administration progress through a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) where at least 75% of creditors agree to terms they have been offered. In the instance that administrators believe that a company will be unable to operate as a going concern, liquidation is the next step with its assets sold to cover all or a proportion of outstanding debt. In contrast to regular companies, the

appointment of an administrator to oversee a football club’s finances rarely ends up with the club entering liquidation (Rangers being the only high profile case). Administrators may also value a football club by combining its debt with the value of its asset base. They will hire an independent expert to value any assets including property surveyors to value its real estate fixed assets and football agents to value its playing squad. As the sole creditor to NUFC, it’s unlikely that Ashley would put his own club into administration. But let’s look at what the assets would fetch. To note, it’s unlikely that the club would realise the full value of their assets in the event of liquidation. Balance sheet @ 30 June 2014:

for 14/15 are due to be reported later this month). This debt consists mainly of loans made to the club by Ashley (£129m) offset by money held in the bank (£34m). The likelihood is that Ashley would demand repayment of those loans on the sale of the club. So we can lump £95m on top of any purchase price (although it wouldn’t be included in the actual valuation of the club). Summary Newcastle are stuck in a loveless marriage with Ashley. “Regime Change” is long overdue. Unfortunately, all clubs are looking to a rich Arab Sheik or Russian oligarch to take over but they’re in short supply. If NUFC are relegated, they could be sold fairly cheaply (£100-£140m). If

Fixed Assets Intangible Tangible

£37.64m £71.74m

Current Assets Stocks Debtors Cash Total

£0.02m £27.02m £34.11m £170.53m

That leads us nicely to liabilities and a key issue that needs to be considered in the valuation of the club. The net debt at Newcastle currently totals about £95m (the figures

Newcastle are stuck in a loveless marriage with Ashley. “Regime Change” is long overdue. Unfortunately, all clubs are looking to a rich Arab Sheik or Russian oligarch to take over but they’re in short supply.

they manage to avoid the drop, the price would be north of £300m. Either way, a fresh start for club, owner and supporters would be most welcome. tf 79

Wait! Don’t shoot! I know it’s not going to be a popular opinion. Hell, I’m not even sure I fully agree with it myself. How can the guy who has kept us rooted in the bottom three for an entire season, possibly not be to blame for our current predicament? Wouldn’t Moyes, Benitez, one of the Neville’s, Patrick Vieira, or Lee Clark, have made a better job of being Newcastle Head Coach/ Manager/Whipping boy?

STEVE McCLAREN RICHARD PYE THE CASE FOR THE DEFENCE Let’s be clear, at times this season – Sunderland, Watford (twice), Chelsea, Everton… need I continue? – we’ve been utterly, shockingly diabolical to watch.Particularly against Watford and  Chelsea, McClaren’s tactical gambits simply backfired. Who knew Aarons  at left-back

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against Chelsea’s forward line of assorted World Cup calibre attackers would go so horribly wrong, or that Steven Taylor couldn’t turn on a roundabout? Erm, well, everyone? Maybe he was hamstrung by not signing a battling midfielder in the  summer, or a defender or two in

January, or Charlie Austin, full stop. Perhaps – as a “top coach” as David James described him McClaren  should have made more of a team of young, talented players this season.  Should those nonsignings, or the inability of the coach to restore a shattered confidence

fractured over the course of several seasons, really have dented the team’s performances in the manner they have done so this season? I don’t think so, I think it goes deeper than that. You see, he was always destined to fail, and whilst he’s not helped a  great deal, the fault of this season does not lay at his feet. The  overwhelming issues that the club faces pre-date his tenure, and so  fundamentally and perniciously infect every part of the club, destroying  even the most meagre of improvements, that they simply halt any real attempt or progress in tackling the confidencesapping, morale-crushing  failures of the last three years. Is it a captain’s fault if he takes  the helm of an already sinking ship? THE APPOINTMENTS Mike Ashley’s appointments are the gifts that keep on giving. The fans  have been on to him since the Kinnear debacle, the humiliation of Chris  Hughton, the

disgraceful treatment of a returning King Kev, of Alan Shearer, or even the replacement of Derek Llambias with the  inexperienced Lee Charnley. This inability to appoint and retain talented and suitable people at the management level having decided  unilaterally to adopt the Director of Football approach destroys any  chance the Head Coach has before even commencing the task ahead. Graham  Carr has mostly flitted between being the most intuitive scout in the country and the biggest clown since Bobo kicked the bucket, but was he ever really the Director of Football we needed, or was that supposed to  sit with the MD, or was the owner supposed to give final say on transfers, or was that all sorted in committee? What about Bob Moncur?

around himself to see people who either don’t know what their function is, or how that function applies to the  continued improvement of the club, then you can start to see why  McClaren might have been on a hiding to nothing from the day one.

Won’t somebody think about Bob?

THE INJURIES Since Graeme Souness we’ve been bemoaning the length of the injury list, and still nothing is ever done. Even when Carr’s been on form and found a gem, what good is it to any manager to only see their best  players sporadically throughout the year? What is the problem that  causes so many of the injuries suffered to be muscular, or joint  related? Is it a problem with the training ground, the player diets, or  that multiple coaching teams have been pushing the team too hard? What  happened to the Team GB expert who was supposed to fix all of this?

At best, the whole structure of who runs the club has been confused for years. If a new Head Coach looks

We can all point the finger and slap the forehead at the idea of Rolando Aarons at left-back, but surely a

The overwhelming issues that the club faces pre-date his tenure, and so  fundamentally and perniciously infect every part of the club,

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better question is why so many of the players who would have been ahead of him in the pecking order, were already crocked. THE CHARACTER After the Hughton dismissal, the club cleared the ranks of the likes of  Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton: Domineering characters who had – perhaps – been granted too much power in the dressing room under Hughton’s tenure, but who, nevertheless, were not afraid to criticise when things  were going wrong. Who performs that role now? Colo? Elliot? Jonjo? Jonas  was let go after saving us last season would he not be a valued voice in the dressing room, for management and teammate alike? No organisation ever thrives without a frank and honest exchange of  ideas between those in charge, and those at the coalface. No-one at  Newcastle these days speaks truth to power - just ask the press outside  of the club’s preferred media partner bubble.When we succeeded in the  nineties and early noughties, Keegan and Sir Bobby’s teams were stuffed tf 82

with characters: Kilcline, Beresford, Ferdinand, Albert, Batty, Lee, Shearer, Given, Bellamy, Speed. Where are the equivalent voices now? Who is leading the inquests after each defeat? Who is challenging  the coaching staff to push the players harder, or to adopt a different approach? Who is left that is not just a timid sycophant fearful for their livelihoods? With everyone meekly carrying on in their jobs and  nodding in agreement with everything McClaren has to say, who is holding  him to account from below and who is left that can help him to fix the  confidence of a team dessimated by multiple relegation dogfights? The regime, their bizarre appointments and desire to crush any dissent  from within or without, permeates every reach of the club as we know it today. To think that McClaren could challenge that alone is naïve, and to think that he could succeed with most of his squad dropping like flies throughout what was always going to be a tough season, is the ultimate tall order. In his defence, what he has achieved for

the club is to demonstrate more than the sad dismissal of Chris Hughton, the weird appointment of Kinnear, or the risky dalliance with Carver ever could, that the club is properly broken. From Ashley, through Charnley,  via Carr, through to the players and the training pitch; it’s busted. Whatever he did he was always going to fail, because there is no structure or real support for him to fall back upon. When Kevin Keegan first joinedtheclubasmanagerhe had the dilapidated training facilities gutted, decorated and wholly  refurbished. It sent a message to his players that this was now a place of professionalism, of endeavour, and it was time they were taken  seriously. The players in turn took themselves more seriously and we entered the most successful period of the club’s history in nearly half a century.

Whatever he did he was always going to fail, because there is no structure or real support for him to fall back upon.

It’s now time the board room was gutted too, and significantly improved facilities installed. Steve McClaren should probably end up in  the skip as well, but is it really his fault?


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Battered and bruised, dejected and defeated, Pelé trudged away from the Goodison turf with a coat draped over his shoulders. Having turned his back on the pitch as he headed down the tunnel he determined to turn his back on the game, too.

O Rei He boarded the plane back to Brazil with his teammates, the reigning world champions, having been dumped out of the 1966 World Cup in the group stage. As of one of the veterans of both the ’58 and ’62 tournaments it is easy to forget that O Rei, the focal point of the team and the nation, one of the most senior players in the squad, was still only 25 years old. Being still so young, so fit tf 84

and so hungry for success, Pelé didn’t carry out his threat to retire. He rejoined his Santos teammates and the goals kept coming, both at home and around the globe in exhibition matches. Despite losing his grip on the Jules Rimet trophy he was still the hottest ticket in world football, and Santos were keen to cash in. It was during one of their mammoth tours that O Rei literally brought peace to a nation. In 1967 Santos

The boy from brazil were touring Africa when they arrived in Nigeria to play a couple of games in the capital, Lagos. This leg of the tour coincided with the brutal Nigerian Civil War but on hearing that Pelé and Santos were in town both sides agreed a 48 hour ceasefire to enable their fighters to see Pelé play in the flesh. That may well be the craziest story in football history – the image of 2 sets of deadly enemies sitting in the same stadium applauding a Brazilian

JOHN MILTON Follow on @ Geordioca football team before going back to hacking each other to pieces is just mind boggling. A couple of Campeonato Paulista titles later and Pelé’s goal count hadn’t slowed. By the 1969 season he was in the high 900’s. On 1st November 1969 that figure clicked up to 999 with a solitary goal in a 4-1 win over Flamengo. 5 games and almost 3 weeks later that clock still hadn’t ticked over – it remained,

stubbornly, at 999. Those 5 games became torture for Pelé, his teammates and the Brazilian public. His teammates tell stories of being in shooting positions but opting to pass to their No. 10 instead, just to see him get the monkey off his back. When opposing players blocked or saved his shots, their own fans jeered and booed them: everybody was desperate to see Pelé get his historic goal. Eventually it arrived, and maybe it was fate that made him wait so long because when it did come it came at the grandest venue of them all: Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã. Santos were in Rio to take on Vasco da Gama in a short-lived tournament called the Torneio Roberto Gomes Pedrosa. Santos were backed by almost every person in the stands (Vasco fans continued where the opposing fans in the previous five games had left off –cheering every Pelé

shot whilst booing their own players for deigning to try to stop him). It appeared that the only people who didn’t want to be on the receiving end of the mythical 1000th goal were the Vasco players, so much so that when a cross was sent into the box, Vasco defender Renê opted to score an own-goal rather than allow Pelé to score. Deep into the second half the scores had been levelled at 1-1 when Pelé burst into the box and received the slightest of touches. Would he go down? It was never in doubt. Would the referee give the pen? That was even less in doubt – no way did he want to be the man to deny Pelé his chance. Would Pelé convert? Well, that was less certain. The Vasco players immediately swarmed the referee, afterwards they swarmed Pelé – it looked like every single Vasco player took a turn at placing the ball on the spot, even the ‘keeper got in on it. The

stands shook in unison as a packed Maracanã chanted O Rei’s name “PELÉ! PELÉ! PELÉ!”. Once everyone settled Pelé received words of wisdom from every Vasco player, each trying their utmost to insert a seed of doubt. The whistle was blown and Pelé turned into his run up. He has spoken at length at how nervous he was in this moment – the scariest moment of his long, illustrious career. He felt the weight of expectation on his shoulders, his legs trembled with fear. He paused his run up to gauge the direction of the ‘keeper before slotting low into the bottom right corner.

Pelé followed the ball into the net, picked it up and clutched it to his chest, kissing it and sobbing in relief. The goalmouth became a churning mass of reporters, fans and officials as Pelé was hoisted onto shoulders and paraded around the pitch. In the middle of all this emotion and debilitating joy, Pelé was somehow able, in what can only be described as pre-meditated, calculating self-promotion, to dedicate this historic goal


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In truth, there was little Zagállo needed to do – he tinkered with some positions, put Clodoaldo and Rivellino in midfield and pushed Tostão (who naturally played deep) ahead of Pelé… but the result was astonishing – the long awaited milésimo (thousandth) – “To all the children of Brazil.” 1969 was also the year of the World Cup qualifiers and Brazil’s preparations couldn’t have been going better, on the surface at least. With Feola dumped as manager after the debacle of ’66, João Saldanha had put together a team known as ‘Saldanha’s Beasts’. He felt Brazil had been physically bullied by the Europeans in ’66 so he worked on fitness and body strength. His team was built of his favourites, he told them the only way they’d be dropped was if they played so badly he’d have no choice or if they were injured. Although his approach appeared to be working (they won all six of their qualifiers with relative ease) things weren’t so rosy behind the scenes. Squad players were disgruntled due to lack of opportunities, the dictator, Médici, was angry that Saldanha refused to play his favourite striker, Dario, and there were even rumours tf 86

that Pelé may be dropped. Pressure was building. It proved too much when the Flamengo coach, Yustrich, publicly criticised Saldanha. Saldanha confronted Yustrich in a bar whilst brandishing a revolver. His time at the helm was up. Exit Saldanha, enter Zagállo. In truth, there was little Zagállo needed to do – he tinkered with some positions, put Clodoaldo and Rivellino in midfield and pushed Tostão (who naturally played deep) ahead of Pelé… but the result was astonishing. Mexico ’70 – the first World Cup to be played outside Europe or South America, the first to be broadcast live in full colour and possibly the greatest tournament of all time, won by possibly the greatest team of all time. In his excellent book, ‘The Beautiful Team: In Search of Pelé and the 1970 Brazilians’, Gary Jenkins recalls how exciting and exotic that Brazil team

looked in full colour. He watched it on a neighbour’s TV in grey, miserable Wales – he vividly remembers the Mexican sun, the bright green grass, the black skin of the players contrasting with the vibrant yellow and blue strip… And added to that was the way they played: weaving intricate patterns, flicks and back heels, power and pace mixed with dribbles, oozing ginga. No wonder the world fell in love with them.

When the draw for the group stage was made Brazilian hearts sank. Firstly, because they’d been doing altitude training due to some of the venues being at altitudes in excess

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of 2000m, but the draw put them in Guadalajara – sea level. But mainly because they were drawn against 3 European teams: Czechoslovakia, Romania and England. Memories of the bullying in ’66 flooded back. First up Czechoslovakia and the Brazilians went a goal down. Unlike previous tournaments there was no questions about the mental fragility of the Samba Kings, Rivellino (‘O Reizinho’ – ‘The Little King’) equalled with a free kick before Pelé scored one and Jairzinho two to send a clear message to the rest of the nations. 4-1, next up England. If you know anything about Ramsey’s England at the 1970 World Cup you’ll know that they were not

liked by the locals one iota. Seen as being brash and arrogant they were given a hard time wherever they went – the polar opposite of the Brazilians who, just as in Sweden in ’58, had gone on a charm offensive. Brazil was the second home team in Mexico. This was a game of champions: England holding the crown, Brazil the heir elect. Call it what you will, cat and mouse, a game of chess, thrust and parry. It was certainly one of the more cerebral games you’ll see, played more in the head than with the feet. The game that produced Gordon Banks’ famous goal-line save from a Pelé header, the game of the most iconic dual ever seen – Moore v Pelé and a game settled by a single Jairzinho

strike. 1-0. Romania now and Brazil hitting their stride. Qualification had already been obtained and, despite the scoreline suggesting otherwise the result wasn’t in doubt. Pelé got on the scoresheet again, scoring between 2 Jairzinho strikes. 3-2, top of the group, played 3 won 3, firm favourites of the local fans and an attacking front five of Rivellino, Gérson, Jairzinho, Tostão and Pelé who were joined in attack by Clodoaldo and Carlos Alberto. It must have been like having to face a yellow and blue tsunami when this lot were in full flow. In the quarters Pelé and Zagállo were thrown up against their old teammate from ’58 and ‘62, Pelé’s idol

The game that produced Gordon Banks’ famous goalline save from a Pelé header, the game of the most iconic dual ever seen – Moore v Pelé and a game settled by a single Jairzinho strike. 1-0

England v Brazil - Mexico ‘70

Part one

Part two tf 88

and mentor, Didi. Didi was now in charge of the Peru national team. Although Didi was massively respected as a coach (as well as being a bone fide Brazilian legend) everyone knew this talented Peru side was inferior to the Brazilians. Peru scored twice but Revellino, Jairzinho (x2) and Tostão made sure Brazil marched on – 4-2 and into the semis. Like a bolt from the blue, the Brazilians were suddenly racked with self-doubt. The mental weakness of earlier squads took hold of the team. They had been drawn against Uruguay. URUGUAY??? Why would that bother the great 1970 Brazilians? Because they all remembered the biggest national catastrophe ever to have shaken the South American giants: the maracanazo. Known to you and me as the 1950 World Cup final. Uruguay beat their hosts 2-1 at the Maracanã and Brazil never got over it. Even today it

strikes a nerve and most of the ’70 squad had lived through it. Sure enough, Uruguay scored first. Pelé remembers the only thing he could hear before the restart was the Uruguayan fans chanting, “You’re still scared!” And they were right. With their front five misfiring, Clodoaldo was sent upfield and equalised. 1-1 at half time and Brazil were determined not to repeat the disaster of 1950. Jairzinho got his regulation goal before Rivellino drove the hammer home. This game also produced the most famous miss of Pelé’s career. He talks about it in his autobiography. It was a premeditated move that he had rehearsed in his head many times before the opportunity presented itself to be executed. Tostão plays a diagonal ball from the left towards the ‘D’ while Pelé approaches at pace from the right, the ‘keeper sees the move

so darts out to intercept. Thinking Pelé will collect the ball to round him, the ‘keeper follows the player, but Pelé dummies and lets the ball roll past, the ‘keeper is now stranded, empty handed, while Pelé goes round behind him, collects the ball and shoots on the turn. The ball skids past a backtracking defender but bobbles just wide of the left post. Pelé reckons if he’d scored it would have been his greatest goal, and as misses go it wasn’t too bad either. I think the move sums up Pelé’s greatest attribute – despite his skills, pace and strength it was his speed of thought that transformed him into the great player he was, it meant he was always 2-3 seconds ahead of anyone else on the pitch. Félix (the team’s goalkeeper) said, ‘By the time you realise what Pelé was about to do, he had already done it.’

It was Italy who were waiting for Brazil at The Azteca stadium, along with 107,000 spectators.

It was Italy who were waiting for Brazil at The Azteca stadium, along with tf 89

107,000 spectators. Like Brazil, Italy had come out of the group stage as leaders, unlike Brazil it was probably the most pragmatic group win in tournament history – Played 3, Won 1, Drew 2, Goals For: 1, Goals Against: 0. Thankfully for the tournament they went goal mad in the knockout stages beating Mexico 4-1 in the Quarters and West Germany 4-3 in the semis. Brazil would have to break the chains of the Italian man-marking tactics and Catenaccio system in order to prevail, but before that happened Italy, 107,000 in the stadium and the worldwide audience would have to wait a little longer as the laces on Pelé’s new Puma boots had come undone. Pelé stopped the ref from starting the match as he bent down slowly to tie his laces – saying as the whole world was now zoomed in on Pelé’s boots a cynic might think that that would make a great bit of

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marketing. But I’m sure there had been nothing agreed between Pelé and Puma before the game. Ahem... With both teams on 2 championship wins, the winner of this match would get to keep the Jules Rimet trophy. Brazil continued with their irrepressible form of football and it was no surprise when they struck first, and even less of a surprise to see which name appeared on the scoreboard. In his first World Cup final back in ’58 Pelé scored his 2nd and his team’s 5th with a towering header, here, 12 years later in his final World Cup appearance he repeated the feat – an imperious header to put his team 1-0 up. A goal in the final is always special, but when that goal is scored by someone like Pelé in his final appearance AND it also happens to be your country’s 100th World Cup goal it becomes even

more special. The Italians equalised through Boninsegna but the Brazilians wouldn’t be cowed. Gérson put Brazil 2-1 up in the 2nd half, followed by Jairzinho’s record breaking goal (the only player to score in every match of a World Cup tournament) before Carlos Alberto scored THAT goal – assisted by Pelé, of course. 4-1. Both Brazil and her favourite son were now 3 times World Champions, or Tri-Campeão. His international career was done, he had won the Jules Rimet for keeps and there was nowhere else to go, on the pitch at least. He was 29 years old and his thoughts, finally, turned to life beyond playing the game. He only had a few more years at Santos then his playing days were done and dusted. Or so he thought… To be continued...

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09/08/15 THE SEASON IS UPON US EMAIL What Steve said: “Each match over the first ten-game period will give us a real indication of where we are as a club and what we can accomplish this season and from there, we will continue to assess and develop. We must turn St. James’ Park back into a fortress this season.” What happened: “It gave us a brilliant indication of where we were as a club as we had 1 league win in that first ten-game period. St. James’ was hardly a fortress as not only did we get beat at home by Arsenal and Watford, we also lost 0-1 at home to Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup 3rd round.”



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22/10/15 WE WON’T BE COMPLACENT EMAIL What Steve said: “Enjoy the game on Sunday and I sincerely hope that come 2pm on Sunday afternoon, we’ve given you a performance and result to be really proud of.” What happened: “Come 2pm on Sunday afternoon we had just got beaten 3-0 at Sunderland.” 30/10/15 WE’RE PREPARED AND READY EMAIL What Steve said: “Be assured that in spite of the events of the past week, we go into this weekend’s game with nothing but belief, spirit and total determination to reward your loyalty and support with the three points you deserve.” What happened: “We didn’t get the three points. We could only draw at home to Stoke City.”

25/12/15 MERRY CHRISTMAS EMAIL What Steve said: “We are working hard on the training pitch today to be ready for the visit of Everton tomorrow and with you behind us, we are aiming to build on our results over the last few weeks against a very good side.” What happened: “For the visit of Everton we got beat 1-0. We didn’t build on the results of the last few weeks, as the defeat against Everton would be the first of a run of four 1-0 defeats, that would culminate in a loss against Watford in the FA Cup 3rd round.” This hardly fills you with any confidence to believe anything he has to say about the next game, or the next 10 games does it? Radio Silence.

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Postcards F rom The Edge Paully

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From the Bernabéu to Benton; from Cristiano Ronaldo to Emmanuel Rivière and from Real Madrid to Newcastle United in the space of just a few months.........Rafa is clearly off his nut so he will fit in well up here. His track record is superb and his goatee is the finest facial-hair creation since Jesus’ masterpiece. So, has it taken Mike Ashley nine years to realise that appointing a prove n, comp etent manager might be a wise idea? Or, is he now well and truly hammering the panic button in fear of relegation and subsequently losing out on the humongous increase of media revenue? I don’t think you need to be a whale brain surgeon to work out that answer. My major concern is that we have left it too late and I can’t fathom out why this change wasn’t made after the debacle at Chelsea. Rafa would have had 18 days to assess the squad (and then more than likely book himself a one way ticket to Syria) and prepare for a trip to Stoke followed by a home match against Bournemouth. Even one solitary point from those two matches could turn out to be pivotal come the end of the season. It would be absol utely typical of NUFC to finally appoint

a truly world class manager and then end up losing him after just 10 matches. It would also be a humongous hoof in the spuds for our supporters as this appointment has given us all renewed hope. It’s even reignited the fire in the belly buttons of many who had completely lost all faith. If he sees out his contract, I fully expect us to win every football trophy available as well as the Grand National, the Eurovision Song Contest, the Boat Race and the main event at WrestleMania. With relegation a major threat, you’d expect everyone at the club to be pedalling their BMX bikes in the same direction and doing everything possible in order to help achieve survival. Not at this club. After failing to even murmur a ‘hello chicken nugget’ to the TV cameras during his first eight years as NUFC owner, Mike Ashley has engaged in yet another TV interview (his second in the space of just 10 months). You don’t need to be Elvis Presley to possess a suspicious mind as to why he has conducted both of these interviews

He states that he has “virtually nil affect” on the club so I assume it must have been Kim Kardashian assisted by her extremelycurvaceous backside that appointed our football board

via his own accord. In his latest propaganda outburst, ‘Comical Mike’ “regrets” purchasing the club. I’m sure he is fully aware that our supporters think exactly the same only our feelings are multiplied by a zillion billion trillion. He states that he has “virtually nil affect” on the club so I assume it must have been Kim Kardashian assisted by her extremely-curvaceous backside that appointed our football board. He also states that our bank account is now “virtually empty” which is startling when you consider that we offered £25 million for Berahino only two months ago. Perhaps our wonderful and well-respected shirt sponsors were going to fund that deal albeit we’d need to pay the parasites £648 ,390 ,205 ,496 ,307 , 194.63p back in return. An absolutely mind-boggling interview which makes no sense whatsoever which about sums our owner up. It’s looking very much like two from three to join Villa in the Championship next season. God is supposed to

be a nice, morally-correct fella who washes his hands after every toilet visit no matter how drunk he is so surely he will make that two to be Sunderland and Norwich. Those beasts down the road due to the fact that they played a player for nine months after finding out that he had groomed and also had sexual activity with a just-turned 15 year old girl and also because every single one of their fans inappropriately touches innocent farmyard animals in exchange for tabs along with Norwich due to the fact that Delia Smith is completely off her cookery chebs and also because a carrow once dropped a vile white log on to my left shoulder whilst flying above my head. In an ideal world, ‘Super Al’ will continue his majestic league form in 2016 (currently exactly ZERO wins for one-third of the season) and will take his beloved ‘Super Eagles’ down along with Villa and the mackems. Although, I suspect even that useless turd will muster one win

from somewhere; probably against us knowing that shit-house. I dread to even imagine those claret and blue, ‘kipper tie’-drinking, bellends relegating us once again at Villa Park. That will be by far the best moment of their wretched season if it materialises. However, this scenario is not going to happen as I have complete faith in Rafa and if anyone can keep us up then he is that man. It looks like we need to win at least four out of our last eight matches which is a humongous ask when you consider that we have won a paltry and quite frankly disgusting seven in our last 41 league matches. Of course, Carver and Schteve were in charge for 95% of those. We need to give the team every ounce of support that we possess stemming from our pubes because the future looks brighter than the reflection off Shelvey’s nut when the sun gleams on to it if Rafa remains and is allowed to manage the club in the exact way that he wants to. We simply MUST stop up.. tf 97



SEASON pick the side, with limited success, this year.

Players: Lawrence, McCracken, Hudspeth, Macintosh, WL Low, Curry, Aitken, Paton, Smailes, McDonald, Seymour, Mooney, Harris, Finlay, Mitchell, Swan, Bradley, Hagan, Russell, Pyke, Roxburgh, Dixon, J Low, Thain, Hampson, Woods, Spencer, Wake, Archibald Division: A season with a side-step, competing in the top division again. Last year’s 5th placed finish (50 points from 42 games) was followed up this year with a 7th placed finish (46 points from 42 games). Liverpool took the league title, finishing 11 points ahead of us. Manager: The Directors Committee continued to

Trainer/Coach: ‘J-Mc’ was stitched onto the tracksuit again this season, James McPherson was the trainer. Highest Attendance: A couple of 50,000 gates played out at St. James’ Park this season. The second home game of the season, against Huddersfield in early September brought the throng, a game in which United would lose 2-1, after winning their first two games of the campaign. An early December home game against Middlesbrough also brought a hefty crowd through the gates, only to watch a 0-0 draw in frigid conditions. LowestAttendance: 20,000

was the lowest attendance in NE1 this season, bang in the middle of a five-games-inseventeen-dayperiod.NUFC lost 2-1 to a bad Bradford City side who would go on to be relegated, whilst on the road, a gate of 12,680 got in to watch us lose 0-2 (can see why we didn’t challenge for the title, here!) at Preston North End in late-October. Average Attendance: A drop in average attendance for the first time in a long time occurred this season. Last year’s average attendance (41,243) was way in the rear view mirror, a 6,000 drop resulting in an average

of 35,238 over the course of 21 home games. Counting the lone cup game in the first round at home to Newport (a 6-0 whitewash for United), the average takes a slight hit,sitting at 34,935. Still very respectable, but slightly underwhelming for football in NE1. Best Win: The aforementioned 6-0 cup thrashing of Newport County (a team who would finish 20th in the third tier, southern section) was the biggest win of the campaign. Taking the league though, we had a couple of four goals victories to cheer. A 4-0 victory away to Birmingham in January, with four different goal scorers, consolidated us bang in mid-table. The final home game of the season saw us round our campaign of with a bang, beating Manchester City 5-1 to leap to 5th (a 1-0 away defeat to the same side a week later would see us finish 7th), Tom McDonald the toast of the town, scoring a hat-trick in the game. Worst Defeat: A 0-4 battering was as bad as it got for United this season, as we went down by that scoreline awaytoaTottenhamHotspur

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outfit who would go on to finish in 2nd place on 51 points in early November. Something of Interest: After joining the club in the 1904/1905 season, this was the final season at United for goalkeeper Jimmy Lawrence. Lawrence, who went onto Chair the Players Union in his later days at Newcastle, is still to this day the Club’s leading appearance holder, his 496 matches spanning over 18 years. An incredible achievement. Lawrence moved into management after his retirement, and would go on to manage South Shields, before going on to manage Preston North End, and moving to Germany to manage non-league Karlsruher. Lawrence would return to his native Scotland in 1933, becoming chairman of Stranraer. He died whilst in office, a year later. Lawrence died aged 49. Mentioned in Dispatches: Whilst things weren’t as necessarily good as they could have been on the pitch this season for United (a 7th placed finish considering a bit underwhelming given last year’s campaign and talent on the pitch), off it was one which saw United replenish funds and begin to look healthy off the pitch once again. United started the season well, and sat in 4th until November, when a run of no wins in nine put paid to any change the Black and White’s had of picking up the league title. A good run at the end of the campaign (winning 4

Jarrow Shipyard, Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company launch cargo ship the City of Pittsburgh from Yard No.9 of the last 5) put a positive spin on the tail end of the season, and in particular striker Neil Harris. Harris had now scored 42 goals in two seasons at United. National Interest: A flu epidemic ripped through the UK at the beginning

of 1922, claiming the lives of 804 people.. The F.A. Cup final saw Huddersfield Town beat Preston North End 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, from next year the final would take place at a stadium being built in North

London called Wembley.. The British Broadcasting Company (B.B.C) is formed in October, and in November the B.B.C begins to transmit radio from London. Transmissions from Birmingham and Manchester aren’t far behind, whilst B.B.C radio starts in Newcastle-UponTyne on 24 December.. Northern Ireland votes to remain part of the United Kingdom.. Tom Finney & Jock Stein (Football), Jim Laker (Cricket), Tommy Cooper (Comedian and Magician) and Christopher Lee (Film) were all born in 1922.. Regional Interest: The BBC makes its first ever broadcast from Newcastle. The English actor, Bill Travers was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne. He would star in the film Born Free and become a celebrated conservationist also known

by the nick-name “Wee Geordie”. The Cenotaph at Shipcote in Gateshead is opened in front of a crowd of thousands and paid for by public subscription to commemorate the slaughter of thousands of its citizens in WW1. It is still the main focal point in Gateshead for war commemorations today. Jarrow Shipyard, Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company launch cargo ship the City of Pittsburgh from Yard No.9. Its dimensions are 7377grt, 4719nrt, 465.7 x 58.6 x 31.8ft. It has 3 Steam turbines (also built at Palmers), DR geared, 759nhp. It is propelled by 1 x Screw, 12.5knots. It is made of steel. Its registration number is 145898. It would be later scrapped during WW2 in Alexandria. Chris Laws. Follow @tflawsy1892 tf 99

Brian Eno and the Normans Here’s a question to mull over. Do we care more about a person’s appearance when they fail to meet our expectations? Let me furnish you with an example. The ebbs and flows of Coloccini’s popularity at Newcastle United seem to be marked out by the favour (or otherwise) given to our captain’s hairdo. One minute a gallant lothario welcome at everyone’s hearth (and, in one interpretation of the Colo song, given welcome ingress into your lady’s chamber) the next a dodgy character in The Simpsons. Our invective or praise is channelled through Colo’s barnet. Imagine; what would Gabriel Obertan’s nickname be if he was brilliant? And would we call Jonjo Shelvey “Nosferatu” if he was shit? All things to ponder over. The main reason I posed the question is, however, that much has been made of Steve McClaren’s hair of late; especially after the

ly Chelsea thrashing. That tuft have yet seen. It’s possib has been getting more stick the only thing that I do than Steve “Mr Newcastle” like about McClaren and Taylor’s on-field Benny his Smashy and Nicey take Hill impressions. Ah the on football management. McClaren tuft… the ghost But, I repeat; I LIKE the tuft. of what was once a Rick I like it because it pisses Astley-like slick back, now the dullards off. And it an embattled archipelago, raises the question, why a Pacific island about to be are modern football fans uprooted by rising tides. The so up their own arse about thing is, I LIKE it. It hints at hair - or the many forms a character none of us

cks o Sh ic tr ec El s, n a rm o N , o En n ia Br

and Billy Ocean

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of baldness - that deviates from an “accepted norm”? If a vox pops could be taken on Twitter (football’s Chapel of Lunacy) about footballer’s hair, I would wager that anything strange in the matters of follicular diversity - especially the permutations of baldness - would be given short

RICHARD FOSTER Incendiary Magazine

Look like Eno on the inner cover of For Your Pleasure. Napehair like a Weeping Willow. Eno f**ked the “Bantz” off. That’s actually being a man. shrift. Flowing locks that succumb to gentle thinning (George Reilly) or playful, “absurdiste” attempts at fight back (Bob Charlton, Norbert Stiles) would be laughed out of court these days. This is not just a matter of fashion. Did people get quite so exercised by David McCreery’s thinning pate and mullet combo back in the mid-eighties? I can’t seem to remember it being the subject of any conversation at all, but then, back then I still wondered why you couldn’t feasibly wash all your body with soap from Asda and be not attractive to the opposite sex. But nowadays I feel the bald man, or man who is unsure of his widow’s peak, or wide crown is not given much option by the modern football industry. It’s like wot Danny the Dealer said, innit. “Hair are your aerials man.” And here, I blame an entrenchment of Norman thought.

An excellent paper by Liz Godwin recently drew my attention to the Norman view of Saxon fashion. According to the Normans and Duke William, the Saxons were seen as poetry loving long haired fops with a penchant for the odd dab of lippy. How can a bunch of Bowie-lite fags run a bloody country? Duke William’s army of plumbers and bricklayers cropped theirs, scallywag style, and listened to New Order (Ed: nice). What we can learn from all of this historical woolgathering is that hair is susceptible to having a tribal, communal, entity. And showing the wrong hair, or hair that doesn’t fit the rules, raises the passions of the mob. The “wrong hair” gets football fans exercised in a way that shaving tramlines in eyebrows, waxing, creaming, or seeing indecipherable riots of Gothic /Celtic /Chinese nonsense tattooed on

forearms up and down the leagues doesn’t. With baldness, less isn’t more. If it’s getting less, it’s better to shave it off. Pretend to have an affinity for the skinhead movement and look “dead hard”. Or, if serious-minded, go for the Gavin Peacock look. I feel for those who aspire to the image of “being sporty in the forties” and not having the locks they had when they were in their teens. In this respect I feel for Lee Ryder. I feel more for Alan Shearer. A brave man on the pitch (and a man before whom I would still abase myself, and anoint with sweet oils in public if I could) Shearer, I feel, has wilted to peer pressure; wilted to avoid excessive “Bantz” from “Sav”, or “Wrighty” over the vol au vents in BBC hospitality. Alan, man, grow it. F**k the “Bantz”. “Bantz” is for the nobbers. Not for you, an England centre forward of real repute. Look at the pictures of Jimmy Scoular.

Look like Eno on the inner cover of For Your Pleasure. Nape-hair like a Weeping Willow. Eno f**ked the “Bantz” off. That’s actually being a man. Electric Shocks and Billy Ocean I write this during a period of blessed relief where Newcastle United aren’t playing any games. It’s wonderful. This week I’ve not thought about Seidou Doumbia once. And I’m happy in the knowledge, too, that Steve McClaren and his inspirational team have taken the players on a bootcamp/warm weather training/tactical exercise/ trip to Lidl far away from the gimlet-like gaze of Lee Ryder. The main question is, what are they going to do there? I hope that “Bantz” is banned, and learning how to kick a football to one another more than once in a row is encouraged. That is right and proper and a good way to spend our money. Further, on this day in late February, it seems

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hope - for their sakes - that Steve McClaren has good taste in music. I have a nasty suspicion that loud music will be played during the many “motivational” and “team building” exercises. I have a nasty suspicion that the La Manga bootcamp will be like being stuck on Craggy Island with lots of Billy Joel, Jefferson Such magic hasn’t been or mid-period U2 seen since Rædwald was Starship, converted to Christianity and Billy Ocean remixes. And by Æthelberht. More “Churchillian” Steve Black worryingly for me, what speeches about overcoming happens in the party’s the might of Bournemouth. free time? I can’t imagine If this is the case, we’d better any of our current crop of start preparing for trips to Premier League Stars will Blackburn next year. Oh, explore the sites of the nevermind. Let’s not think Torres de Ahumadas, built Black. Here’s ten by Emperor Carlos and about Steve his son, Felipe II, just after Bantz-free musical selections the expulsion of the Arabs to soundtrack your own from Spain. But I sincerely Spanish bootcamp/Lidl idyll.

that La Manga’s waters are sufficiently powerful to reveal Steve McClaren’s magic, Odin-like powers to Mark Douglas in the Ronny Gill (to wit: “Steve McClaren could send an electric shock through Newcastle’s dressing room by making Jonjo Shelvey captain.

I have a nasty suspicion that the La Manga bootcamp will be like being stuck on Craggy Island with lots of Billy Joel, Jefferson Starship, or midperiod U2 and Billy Ocean remixes. And “Churchillian” Steve Black speeches about overcoming the might of Bournemouth. tf 102

Yuko Yuko - Wait For The Apocalypse

Za! - Badulake

Those Foreign Kids - Jil Sander Makes Your Pussy Wet

Amber Arcades - Turning Light

Venus Tropicaux - Nexda

George Formby - I Blew a Little Blast on My Whistle

Funkadelic - Maggot Brain

Witthüser & Westrupp ‎– Trips Und Träume (full LP!)

Stereolab - Emperor Tomato Ketchup

Rufus Thomas - Funky Hot Grits

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At work this past week, I overheard two of the biggest sports fans on my floor discussing a situation from the past weekend. The guy telling the story was explaining that while watching television with some friends, one of them stumbled upon an Italian League soccer match, and left it on for a few minutes. The way he described this was, “terrible…there is literally nothing I would rather watch less”. Unfortunately, this sums up my opinion of European Football in the United States -- it has a long way to go. Major League Soccer kicked off their 21st season as a league this past weekend -- it’s considered to be the most successful league the United States has had yet, and they’re making significant strides towards cementing themselves for the foreseeable future. However, there is still a ton of work to be done to even come close to the success of the leagues in England, Spain, Italy, Germany, and France. I’ll specifically break down the differences between MLS and the Premier League.

A WHOLE DIFFERENT BALL GAME One of the main differences between Major League Soccer and the Premier League is that MLS is arguably the 5th biggest professional sports league in the US, and that doesn’t factor in sports like college football and college basketball. It’s extremely evident that in England, football is engrained into most people, starting at a very young age. The ties from where you grow up tf 104

and the club that you support is stronger than steel. It’s much different than supporting a team in the United States. A lot of sports fans in the US choose a team that is successful or a player they like, and they become lifelong “fans” of that team. Ironically, most of these fans never go to one of their team’s home games, ever. In most situations, you have a father or mother,

Alex Picchietti

uncle or brother that loves a particular team (and sport), and you start following that team (and sport), and learn to love them (and it).The problem with this is that there are 4 major sports in the states, and that means the rivalries between fans is much more few and far between. The one big league that has “rival fans” would be the NFL, by far the countries largest league. However, the fact

remains the same: having a country that is trying to support 5 leagues as big-time sports makes it much less dominant than the Premier League is in Europe. Another difference between the leagues, one that I think is overlooked, is the geography of the United States vs. England. The distance between Newcastle and St. Mary’s Stadium in Southampton is 323 miles. The distance

A baffling statistic I found via Deadspin, is that two-thirds of American citizens live WITHIN 204 miles of an MLS stadium, as if that’s some sort of feat. What it really means is most people don’t have the choice of going to matches regularly. In reality, distance is one reason the relationship between club and supporter in the US is nowhere as strong as it is in England.

should be something all professional players should have mastered. There were literally strikers tripping over their own feet on breakaways and defenders giving up possession in unthinkable areas. One reason the quality is lacking in MLS is because they don’t participate in Champions League. We always hear of players that want to play for a club because he has “aspirations of Champions

between Vancouver and Orlando City’s Stadium in Florida is 3,208 miles. This makes it nearly impossible for supporters to follow their club to away matches. Couple that with the fact that the average capacity of MLS stadiums is 21,600, compared to the Premier League, which is just over 38,000, and ability to support your team in person is extremely difficult for a soccer fan in the states.

Quality of Major League Soccer has been a big talking point of the success of the league. Just watching some of the opening weekend fixtures, the defensive mistakes and errors were alarming. Similarly, the finishing quality in the final third was lacking, to say the least. Obviously, the quality of the players is less than the “Big Five” leagues, but the fundamentals

League football”, and that is never a possibility for a player coming to play stateside. Every once in a while, we’ll get a Steven Gerrard or Didier Drogba to play in MLS, but honestly, I didn’t want to watch Steven Gerrard play for Liverpool last season, what makes anyone think I want to watch him play for LA Galaxy this season?

The distance between Newcastle and St. Mary’s Stadium in Southampton is 323 miles. The distance between Vancouver and Orlando City’s Stadium in Florida is 3,208 miles.

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MLS seems determined to make European Football work in the states by doing it the “American Way”. By this, I mean having Eastern and Western conferences and a playoff system to determine the league winner. This is the exact same way the other 4 big leagues in the US are decided. However, I don’t think this is the best way to make MLS successful. Soccer is still a niche sport in the US, and Major League Soccer’s desire to make it just like the other sports

viewership pales in comparison to the other sports in America. Only 668,000 viewers tuned in for the 2015 MLS Cup (, compared to 111 million for the Super Bowl (Forbes) just last month. This figure, coupled with the overall attendance numbers for MLS matches, paints a pretty clear picture of where the league is at currently. All that being said, MLS is moving towards making football a bigger deal in

At the end of the day, I still much prefer to watch the Premier League to Major League Soccer, mainly because of the quality of play, the ability to watch games live, record and watch them as I have time, and the extended coverage the sport receives, even here in the states. Over the past few years, I have become a faithful, diehard, (and depressed) Newcastle United supporter. Although I have never been to Newcastle, I fell in love with the

in the US is a mistake in my opinion. I do think that there should be a domestic cup, but I feel Supporters’ Shield (top of the table) should be the ultimate prize. You aren’t going to “trick” viewers into caring about the sport because there is a playoff system; instead, I believe people will follow the league because they love the sport, and that should be MLS’s biggest focus moving forward.

the US. Investments by celebrities like Will Ferrell, who has helped found Los Angeles Football Club, and David Beckham, who is kickstarting a team in Miami, Florida, will help stimulate interest and viewership in the sport, at least for the short term. That might be the biggest key for Major League Soccer -- they can get bigger investors, and give the sport more airtime, but can they hook people enough for them to stick with the sport for the long haul?

passion of the supporters, and the history including the recent successes of the Keegan and Robson eras. I have no real tie to an MLS club, the closest stadium is an hour and a half away from my house, and the fact that it’s only broadcast locally or on rare occasion makes it a difficult sport to follow, short of buying the MLS Direct Kick pass (which is a lot of money to fork up for an average fan). The Premier League gives me what I want, and right now, MLS just doesn’t.

For now, the proof is in the pudding. MLS tf 106

Major League Soccer’s desire to make it just like the other sports in the US is a mistake in my opinion.

Hughie Gallacher Remembered. Did the scent of stale smoke precede the train, And blend with St James’s ale wet rain? Did it appear from the tunnel as a miner from his pit, Daubed in the earth and bleeding sweat? Were you weeping for the whispers or wailing for the rush, Of the Gallowgate hordes in a last minute crush? Did you don your robes of Al Capone for one final curtain call, Then bow before the driver as he tried to stall? Did you hear the crowd chant from the depths of your prayer? Did you see the same shadow ‘neath the flood lights glare? Hughie Gallacher, King of the Tyne. Wembley Wizard, three threes make nine.

Gordon Comstock

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Having watched Kevin Keegan sanction Andy Cole’s move to Manchester United in January 1995 which essentially admitted defeat in the race for the title, the disappointment in finishing 6th and missing out on Europe meant there was an air of despondency amongst Newcastle United supporters for the first time under his management.

Despite failing to lure the likes of Roberto Baggio and Dennis Bergkamp to NE1, the signings of Les Ferdinand, Warren Barton and Shaka Hislop were seen as major improvements to a side that lost their way by winning only 2 of their last 9 games. New found hope that the Championship was a genuine target became more vigorous following the signing of one of Europe’s finest players, left winger David Ginola. tf 108

Having had a £3.5 million bid declined but a £4.2 million bid accepted by Paris Saint Germain for the quick and powerful Liberian striker George Weah, Keegan felt “conned” when the player signed for AC Milan the following day. “I felt we had been used by PSG to hike up the bid.  “Once that was officially made Milan had to raise their offer.  “I’m not sure he knew we had put a bid in for him, never mind that

the club had accepted it” Keegan claimed in his ‘My Autobiography’ book. But a couple of months later United went back to Les Parisiens and signed Ginola for £2.5 million. Keegan admitted the agreed price was “very reasonable” whilst negotiations were “smooth and gentlemanly” something he suggested was “as good as PSG admitting their guilt” over

their part in the Weah incident. It was apparent that the Frenchman was Keegan’s 2nd choice having failed to persuade Sir John Hall to take a risk on Crystal Palace’s John Salako when his medical identified a back problem that could finish his career at any point. “I was prepared to take the gamble but Sir John won that battle and I bought David Ginola instead.  “Who knows which one of them would have been the better choice?” Keegan reminisced. Having only seen him play on television, Keegan would describe his newest signing as “one of the players the fans could put on a pedestal with his model looks, flowing locks and abundance of skill.”  As Scott Sellars would soon find out when he left for first team football, Keegan stated Ginola “was better than anyone we had for the left wing.” United had beaten the giants of Bayern Munich and Juventus to his signature but it could have been so different had Barcelona managed to sell Gheorghe Hagi and Hristo Stoichkov.  Johan Cruyff’s failure to do so meant he missed out on his number 1 target and United swooped despite Arsenal trying to sign him after he had “given his word to Newcastle.” United and Ginola, labelled the rather mundane ‘Frog on the Tyne’ by The Daily Star, would get off to a

perfect start winning the first 4 games of the 199596 season that included early signs of his match winning artistry. Setting up a bullet header for Ferdinand at Bolton (3-1) on matchday 2, he then opened his goal scoring account with a screamer at Sheffield Wednesday live on SKY (2-0).

Setting up a bullet header for Ferdinand at Bolton (3-1) on matchday 2, he then opened his goal scoring account with a screamer at Sheffield Wednesday live on SKY (2-0).

Comfortable on either foot, Ginola was particularly dazzling against Middlesbrough claiming another assist in a 1-0 win more memorable for Neil Cox becoming known as the man who first got turned inside out by Ginola’s eye catching flair. It was no surprise that he claimed the August player of the month award, 1 of only 8 occasions a United player has won the award since it started in August 1994. A home win over Manchester City (3-1), where Richard Edghill had an early bath on 24 minutes for 2 bookable offences on The Frenchman, was a further indication that fullbacks simply couldn’t handle him and it became blatant Ginola’s virtuoso skills would be a major tf 109

asset to Newcastle’s title challenge. In a near repeat of the previous season that saw United win 10 of their first 13 games, The Mag’s won 11 and drew 1 of their opening 13 this time around. With a slightly improved defence, Keegan appeared to instruct direct wing play that saw standout performers Ginola and Keith Gillespie, playing the best football of his career, take turns to set up Ferdinand who had scored 14 goals already. At this point it was clear that there was arguably no side more suited to Ginola’s style.  Great feet, awareness and pace to get past a fullback even though he didn’t always need it, he appeared to always be one step ahead of the opponent and knew exactly what he was going to do with the ball.  This was evident with his 2nd United goal - an excellent solo special at Tottenham. The following 8 games returned 4 wins and 2 loses but United were still 7 points clear of Manchester United with a game in hand.  The run included 2 more Ginola

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goals over the Christmas period in home wins over Nottingham Forest (3-1) and Arsenal (2-0). Keegan would say of Ginola, “His strengths far outweighed his weaknesses and in his first four months at the club I couldn’t believe how good he was and I thought he would go on to become European Footballer of the Year.” However the manager did have to pull him in line following that first away game at Bolton once the new crowd favourite lit up a cigarette on the coach home. However a televised midweek Coca Cola Cup Quarter Final at Arsenal would see the turning point in Ginola’s season, and arguably his United career. Branded a diver by Stoke manager Lou Macari in a previous round that was refereed by Gerald Ashby, the same man in black waved play on when Lee Dixon chopped Ginola down, didn’t book the full back when he tugged at the Frenchman’s shirt as he had given United ‘advantage’, and then booked the winger for

Ashby did later admit to Keegan that he had got it wrong and rescinded the yellow card but it was too little too late...

‘diving’ when Nigel Winterburn pulled him down when through on goal. Everyone, particularly Winterburn, expected the Gooner to see red. Ashby did later admit to

Keegan that he had got it wrong and rescinded the yellow card but it was too little too late as a further incident, that King Kev would describe as “one of the scandals of the season”, saw Ginola sent

off for an alleged elbow in Dixon’s face. An underpar United lost 0-2. Following a defeat to Chelsea on penalties in the FA Cup, Ginola missed 3 games through suspension but returned with United top, 6 points clear and with that game still in hand. 

More worryingly, Ginola’s dream of playing for Barcelona was becoming reality as their new manager Bobby Robson submitted a “more than £3 million”

However The Mags would win only 2 of the next 7 games including a 3-4 defeat at Liverpool that Ginola, scorer of a solo effort that counted for nothing but plaudits, would call “the turning point” in his autobiography ‘le manifique’, as well as confirming “We were an entertaining team, but we then realised we could lose games”. The majority of the first team were feeling the pressure and Keegan dropped Srnicek and Barton in an attempt to reinvigorate a failing title challenge. As it became increasingly evident that Ginola’s defensive responsibilities were nonexistent, Keegan would later say of Ginola, “I wasn’t familiar with his frailties, some of which were difficult to carry in the top English division and after Christmas he hit a brick wall, along with a lot of the others.  “He produced his [early season] form only in odd flashes but I left him in the side hoping he’d come good and because I like talent and attacking football.”

Despite winning 4 of the following 5 games, the season ended with 2 draws and supporter’s dreams of a first title since 1927 were halted by the men from Old Trafford. Everyone’s “favourite second team” were left with nothing but praise and heartache. Following Ginola’s fallout with the France manager Gérard Houllier for an error that cost Les Bleus qualification for the

1994 World Cup, Ginola’s omission from their Euro ‘96 squad meant United fan’s missed an opportunity to ‘support’ Ginola and France in their 2 games staged at St James Park. More worryingly, Ginola’s dream of playing for Barcelona was becoming reality as their new manager Bobby Robson submitted a “more than £3 million” bid. Threats

from David’s agent that “he would refuse to play for me if I blocked the move”, Keegan ended any interest by unrealistically snapping “Get £8 million and I might consider it!” Ginola later claimed the club’s “couldn’t find any common ground and meet in the middle” once Barca returned with a £6 million bid but confirmed Keegan had full control on transfers, had “the power tf 111

but never utilised it” on this occasion. “Last year I sold Andy Cole and I can’t afford to sell one of my most popular players in case the fans turn on me”, Keegan told Ginola.  “I can’t let you go, the fans won’t let you go you must understand my position as manager of Newcastle United.” Much to Ginola’s disappointment, there was no chance Keegan would sell and King Kev confirmed later, “He didn’t find top form again but there was nothing wrong with his commitment and he didn’t let me down in the way his agent had suggested.” United started the following season introducing the signing of Alan Shearer with great fanfare but lost the Charity Shield at Wembley and 2 of their opening 3 games.  A recall for tf 112

Peter Beardsley coincided with a vast improvement as Newcastle won 5 consecutive league games to go 2nd at the end of September but Ginola was surprisingly dropped for a 1-0 win at Derby. Instantly recalled the following week, The Frenchman put in an inspired performance that was akin to his earlier months as a Magpie, scoring a screamer as United put 5 past Man United to gain sweet revenge for the Charity Shield embarrassment.  United sat top of the league and were the bookies firm favourites for the title.

A little over a week later, St James Park witnessed another special Ginola goal that was arguably more spectacular than his last. Needing to overcome a 2-3 first leg defeat against Ferencvaros in the UEFA Cup, United were 2 up on the night before our Frenchman scored a purely majestic individual volley.

Instantly recalled the following week, The Frenchman put in an inspired performance that was akin to his earlier months as a Magpie, scoring a screamer as United put 5 past Man United

Eventually winning 6-3 on aggregate, Newcastle went on a disastrous run winning only 1 league game in 8 and dropped to 6th before Ginola picked up an injury by Christmas. Missing more familiar ‘Keegan-esque’ results in 7-1 and 3-0 victories over Tottenham and Leeds respectively, by the time Ginola returned for an FA Cup replay with Charlton, Keegan had left his managerial post. Concerned by the limitations the soon to be PLC would have on his attempts to win that elusive silverware, Keegan walked much to the supporters and Ginola’s disappointment. “If he [Keegan] did have compassion for the club and the fans he would not have left himself.  “When he departed it was for personal reasons, he did not think about me and what he said to me six months earlier” he would add in reference

to Keegan stopping him “join such a big club.” Despite given the opportunity to eventually have Ginola at his disposal, first choice Robson stayed at Barca and United’s directorate turned to Kenny Dalglish, a man Ginola felt instantly uneasy with, recalling, “I knew straight away he would give me a hard time by the way he looked at me.  “The eyes reveal so much and immediately I felt he didn’t like me.” At first rotating Ginola’s left wing position with full back Robbie Elliott, it quickly became clear that Dalglish was simply looking to the future without the delectable Ginola.  Elliott appeared to improve tenfold in his new position scoring 7 goals in 15 games as Ginola was limited to 3 starts in 13 and was last seen as a substitute at home to Chelsea (3-1) a month

before the season would end. Remarkably qualifying for the Champions League on the last day of the season, Dalglish’s appointment was seen as a massive success as Ginola wasn’t even unconsidered as a substitute for the final 3 games. Summarising his last few months on Tyneside, Ginola would say “Dalglish never once made an effort to have a decent conversation with me” whilst pointing some of the blame towards Dalglish’s relationship with “the blue-eyed boy” Shearer, claiming,“If I wasn’t crossing enough balls or passing to him enough, he would go running to Dalglish and tell him not to play me again which is a great shame as I would have loved to have played off him at Newcastle.  “It would have been an explosive partnership” he said. Ginola also confirmed the

Ginola would say “Dalglish never once made an effort to have a decent conversation with me”

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players had to pull him and the manager apart after a “heated conversation”, following the winger’s statement to the press. “He made me feel like I’d had an affair with his wife”, he would say when discussing his treatment since Dalglish’s appointment. Ginola slapped in a transfer request and continued to point the finger at the “introverted” manager.  “By doing everything contrary to the way Keegan had run the club, Dalglish undid all the good work of the year before” he said.  “We didn’t play the same football and the fans noticed it, they had lost the enjoyment that Keegan had provided for them.”  Ginola would also claim it was now “a big step in the opposite direction.” Despite interest from Barcelona again, from a supporters perspective it was hugely disappointing when Ginola ended up at Tottenham for 2 million and, although we didn’t know it at the time, not only did we lose a player who on his day tf 114

was flamboyantly brilliant, Dalglish’s urgency to rip ‘The Entertainers’ apart meant it was a painful end to an unbelievable chapter in our history. Dalglish summed Ginola and his departure up in one sentence in his book ‘Kenny Dalglish, My Autobiography’ saying, “David Ginola is a good trainer, that might surprise some people, but he felt he wanted to leave and that was up to him.” When Ginola returned to St James Park with Spurs in October 1997 it was apparent that the crowd’s opinion on him was split.  Noticing the likes of Des Hamilton and Ian Rush being signed, Ginola’s ‘loyalists’ remained mute.  However his ‘enemies’ placed confidence in press rumours that their old idol spoke in disregard of the territory they were rightly passionate and proud of.  Unable to forgive a player for wanting away from their beloved Newcastle United whatever the real reason was, they ensured he was

booed with every touch before he was substituted in United’s 1-0 win. Ginola would say of the ‘press stories’ following his return,“I don’t deny it wasn’t the best place I’ve lived but that was not my motive for leaving. “I am sorry for the fans that I did not stay on but they should know that Dalglish was the reason I asked to leave, based purely on football, nothing else at all.” Dalglish may had have the impossible task of trying to be as popular as Keegan but despite giving Mag’s a memorable night beating Barcelona 3-2 and a rather fortuitous run to reach the 1998 FA Cup Final,  United under his management appeared to go from overachievement to underperformance within a matter of months. 

Marking Ginola out of the game to such an extent that he was substituted, The Mag’s won 2-0 thanks to 2 Alan Shearer goals in a very rare highlight under Ruud Gullit.

Players regressed, looked uninspired, poorly prepared and under-motivated. Ultimately the awful football that caused poor results and near relegation

proved Ginola correct and cost Dalglish his job 2 games into the 1998-99 season.

Villa in 2000 followed by a very brief spell at Everton, Ginola retired aged 35 in May 2002.

It would be the 1999 FA Cup Semi Final between United and Spurs at Old Trafford that would see United’s Andy Griffin, an unspectacular full back but hard in the tackle with a good turn of pace, put in a man of the match performance. Marking Ginola out of the game to such an extent that he was substituted, The Mag’s won 2-0 thanks to 2 Alan Shearer goals in a very rare highlight under Ruud Gullit.

Since then he has produced wine, acted, donned Black and White for an ‘Entertainer’s Reunion’ in 2011 and returned to St James Park to more familiar rapturous applause in Steve Harper’s 2013 testimonial. Last year he bizarrely stood for FIFA presidency before withdrawing after failing to gain the minimum five nominations required and he has also maintained being a popular pundit for both TalkSPORT and BT Sport.

The following December, despite scoring to put Spurs back in the game, Ginola was subbed again to ironic cheers as his side crashed 6-1 to United in the FA Cup 3rd Round Replay. This time Warren Barton had limited his danger.  However Ginola did have a relatively successful time at Spurs winning the Worthington Cup and both Football Writers and PFA Player of the Year awards in 1999. Moving on but failing to hit the same heights at Aston

Despite playing the pantomime villain on the numerous occasions he played United in the years that followed his departure, Ginola spoke fondly of the United support, saying: “The Toon Army gave me a warm welcome and I will never forget the warmth and devotion of the Newcastle fans.” Following71(5)appearances in all competitions and 7 goals, he would also tell TalkSPORT in 2010, “The

Geordies are so nice people that straight away I was part of the family. After a few days they saw me in training and said ‘Oh, this guy is special, we’re going to love him’ and it was a loving affair straight away.” In the day’s when Keegan constantly tried to build a better team playing more attractive football, Ginola gave us moments of pure magic, especially during his first 6 months when wearing the grandad collared shirt with traditional broad black and white stripes and Brown Ale sponsor. Apt that it was worn by the likes of Ginola who simply oozed coolness, confidence and style, he would surely take many a supporter’s left wing position in their alltime XI as, it would appear, Kevin Keegan would too:  “As well as being a nice person, David has immense natural ability and I would include him in my all-time top ten of players I have known during my career at every level” he said.   You don’t get more credible praise than that.

“The Toon Army gave me a warm welcome and I will never forget the warmth and devotion of the Newcastle fans”

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Rafa Benitez is Newcastle United’s new manager. Now that is a sentence I never thought I’d find myself saying. Seeing Rafa in the dugout or on our training pitch still shocks me, yet every time I come across the Spaniard’s face on my TV screen, I can’t help but grin. He is undoubtedly the most exciting appointment on Tyneside since Sir Bobby arrived all the way back in 1999.

Rafa Benitez timeline We still may go down. We may still lose games. We may not be able to change the actions of the hierarchy but at least we have one the world’s greatest footballing brains stood on our touchline. Newcastle have taken their old Ford Mondeo into the shop and exchanged it for a Ferrari. Steve McClaren never really fit the bill at Newcastle and his departure was long overdue

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but in the midst of all this excitement Newcastle fans must ask themselves this question: Is there enough time for Benitez to save this struggling side? Here is how he has faired over the years in his managerial career. Let me take you all the way back to 1986. Benitez returned to the club he once played for, the mighty Real Madrid. This time, instead of playing, he took

up the role of youth team manager and then assistant reserve manager. He worked his way up the ranks and eventually was promoted to the role of first team assistant manager, where he worked alongside World Cup winning coach Vicente Del Bosque. Benitez thought he was ready to go alone and in 1995 he took his first managerial role at Valladolid. It’s fair to say his first solo stint

didn’t go to plan, and the rookie manager was sacked after two wins in 23 games. Funnily enough, that sounds like a similar record to Steve McClaren… Another failed attempt at management followed straight after. Osasuna hired and fired Benitez in the space of a few months after only one win in nine games. Benitez remained determined in his quest to crack it as a manager. Success finally came when he took over little-known Extremadura in the second tier of Spanish football. Benitez guided the side to promotion in his first season. Now this is where we see flaw number one when it comes to Rafa. Extremadura only lasted one season in Spain’s top flight after Benitez failed to beat the drop. To this day, that has been the 54-year-old’s only relegation battle. Obviously, to link Newcastle to a team who are currently lost in the

depths of Spanish football is unfair. Newcastle are an extremely bigger club but the fact Benitez couldn’t beat the drop with a full 38 games behind him raises questions about whether he has what it takes now that time is running out.

soon became loved at the Mestalla Stadium.

After leaving Extremadura, Benitez took a year out to study in England and Italy, which might explain his amazing success in these countries. Upon returning to Spain and to management, he guided Tenerife to promotion from the second division up to La Liga. What happened next in his career changes everything.

That love soon intensified as Benitez, in only his second season, guided Valencia to the league title. Two seasons later he repeated the achievement in the league and steered Valencia to the Uefa Cup final, where they beat Marseille 2-0. He is the only manager to guide a team to the Spanish title in the 21st century that hasn’t been managing heavyweights Barcelona or Madrid. He is also the only manager to win the Champions League, Uefa Cup, Fifa Club World Cup and European Super Cup.

Benitez was somewhat surprisingly offered the job at Valencia. He took over a team who had managed to reach back to back Champions League finals and he began to work with incredible players such as Santiago Canizares and Pablo Aimar. His attacking style of play won fans over instantly and he

Now we see flaw number two. After falling out with the board at the club, Benitez acrimoniously left the club that had paved the way for him to have a long and prosperous career. This wouldn’t be the last time it happened in Benitez’s career as I’ll explain later. His track record of being able to stay on the same

He is the only manager to guide a team to the Spanish title in the 21st century that hasn’t been managing heavyweights Barcelona or Madrid.

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page as his employers isn’t exactly fantastic and when it comes to Newcastle’s board members, they don’t come much harder to work with than ours. That was it for Benitez in Spain for the time being. He had established himself in his native country so decided to fly the nest. Next stop: Liverpool. Benitez began his life in England by persuading Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard not to leave for rivals Chelsea. He brought in players such as Luis Garcia and Xavi Alonso, who turned out to be one of Liverpool’s best ever Premier League midfielders. His reign didn’t get off to an ideal start and Liverpool didn’t see an upturn in league form but in the 2004-2005 season, which was his first at the club, Benitez managed to pull off a comeback that will never be forgotten by football fans all over the globe. Benitez faced the pinnacle game of his career. He took his Liverpool side to Istanbul to face AC Milan in the Champions League final.

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Half time came around and Liverpool were 3-0 down. Andriy Shevchenko and Kaka were tearing the Reds apart from the off. Rafa rallied the troops and performed the greatest turn around in European Cup history. Liverpool scored three in six second half minutes and won the game on penalties. Rafa Benitez, the man who had desperately struggled to succeed with lowly Spanish teams just six years prior, was lifting the most prestigious piece of silverware in club football. His Liverpool career went from strength to strength and in his second season Benitez managed to guide the club to third in the table and also won the FA Cup after beating West Ham on penalties. He was taking Liverpool back to the top of English football, something which hadn’t been done in a long time. The feel good factor was well and truly back around Anfield. Season number three brought more silverware, in the form of the Community Shield. Liverpool’s title race

ended fairly shortly due to poor away form but the fans had good reason to stick by Benitez. The manager guided them to yet another Champions League final but failed to repeat the heroics of 2005 and AC Milan avenged their defeat two years earlier with a 2-0 win. Benitez wasn’t to win another trophy at the club but did guide the side to a second place finish in the league and brought in key players such as Dirk Kuyt and Fernando Torres. As previously mentioned, Benitez sometimes struggles to see eye to eye with the people he has to work closely with. A breakdown in his relationship with Liverpool’s owners was a contributing factor in the decision to terminate the manager’s contract and end his fantastic time on Merseyside. Benitez landed another top job in Italy with Inter Milan, replacing former foe Jose Mourinho. His time there was short-lived and unsuccessful. If you want to be pedantic, this is potentially flaw number three. The fact that even

Rafa rallied the troops and performed the greatest turn around in European Cup history. Liverpool scored three in six second half minutes and won the game on penalties.

a man of Benitez’s stature can sometime fail to gel at a club could be a worry considering the lack of time he has before the end of the season. Rafa returned to England as one of Chelsea’s infamous ‘interim’ managers. Due to his long-running rivalry with the club, he wasn’t given the warmest of welcomes at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea fans not being welcoming? Who would have thought it, eh?! The temporary manager battled on despite the home fans calling for his head. He did, however, take a dig at Chelsea’s owners for labelling him with the interim title. Benitez guided the side to third in the table and yet again found himself holding European silverware, in the shape of the Europa League trophy. Upon returning to England, Benitez dug up his old feud with manager Sam Allardyce. This is flaw number four in the Benitez blueprint. Rafa doesn’t always see eye to eye with his fellow managers and

that type of distraction isn’t what we need. If Allardyce wasn’t managing Newcastle’s rivals, the pre-match build up would be focused on the stupid on-going battle between the two managers and their previous encounters. Luckily, since it’s the derby, all the build up is rightfully focused on the game ahead but we’ve had managers in the past who haven’t exactly behaved accordingly on the touchline (Headbutt-gate) and it doesn’t bode well for the club. Why can’t we just have a normal manager who is always upbeat and grins loads in his interviews and doesn’t get involved in petty scraps with managers or even journalists? Oh wait, never mind… As predicted, Rafa left Chelsea at the end of the season and headed back to Italy. His spell at Napoli only lasted two seasons but Benitez was able to keep up his fantastic record of winning trophies wherever he goes. Napoli won the Coppa Italia with a 3-1

victory over Fiorentina. A third place finish in the league was another one of his highlights. Next, back to Real Madrid. Despite the Spaniard being widely respected, he was somewhat of a strange choice to take over at Real Madrid. There was a strange relationship between the fans and Benitez and even in the early stages of his reign, the players did not seem behind him and the Spanish media made his job increasingly more difficult. After six months, Rafa was sacked despite only tasting defeat three times. That leaves us here. Next stop on the journey, Tyneside. To have a man who has managed some of Europe’s greatest teams and lifted the most prestigious silverware the game has to offer, is some achievement. Whatever Lee Charnley and Mike Ashley have done in the past, we must doth our imaginary caps to them for managing to pull off this coup. Let us all hope it is not too little, too late. Vamos Rafa!

There was a strange relationship between the fans and Benitez and even in the early stages of his reign, the players did not seem behind him and the Spanish media made his job increasingly more difficult.

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Those of us who still struggle to see how Ashley and his acolytes will provide the environment in which a man like Benitez will stay and thrive beyond the remaining fixtures of this wretched campaign will doubt that this was a strategic decision

Hope from the hopeless Whatever hope followed the coronation of Benitez - a man of genuine ability, experience and integrity - it has been tempered somewhat by Ashley’s talk of being “wedded” to NUFC for the long term. That’s all I need to hear. Those of us who still struggle to see how Ashley and his acolytes will provide the environment in which a man like Benitez will stay and thrive beyond the remaining fixtures of this wretched campaign will doubt that this was a strategic decision. More a last throw of the dice from a ‘board’ who have been forced to renege all almost every aspect of their moneyball blueprint. That Charnley and Carr still have car park spaces at SJP is beyond belief. Pseudo Political Bullsh*t There was a great exchange

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of views on the tf website about people jacking it in. Strong views, all well made. I write an opinion piece which is - er - my opinion and it is good when this prompts discussion. The accusation that people who have followed United over 30-40 years are walking away because they are sick of us being sh*t is a shade bizarre, if only for the fact that the stewardship of the club and success on the pitch are directly linked so when the team is poor then questions about how the club is run will rightly intensify. True, scrutiny of Hall and Shepherd waned when the team performed well, but not in this column, a broken record critic of both and their corporate associations like S & N, Virgin and Northern Rock long before Ashley and W***a rolled into town. God, how I hate old hands

talking about midweek trips to Plymouth in a blizzard when we lost 20-0, but the general truth is that we have watched far, far worse than Perez, Janmaat, Shelvey, Mbemba et al. I would not have got past 1985 if that logic had applied. I also dislike others judging you by their own standards and principles. It goes something like this - I would not walk away for the reasons that you are giving so I will doubt the rationale of a complete stranger for their actions. I have a line and it has been crossed. I’m fine if you disagree with that, but that’s my judgement call. The lines of others will be different, granted - but to not have a line at all? Unforgivable. On that premise we could have General Assad as Chief Executive and the Bullingdon Club as shirt sponsors and we would still have grinning idiots rolling

up to ‘support the team’. The real act of self-pity is the safe default, ‘doing what I have always done’. Better being a thinker and a do-er than an ostrich in my book. The martyrdom comes only from those content to do nothing. The psyche of many supporters has been shaped by years of adversity and they might view Ashley as merely another temporary custodian of lean times and a brighter chapter will lie ahead. I understand and respect that, just as I have mentioned on these pages that shifting Ashley is not an end game in itself and he could yet sell the club to a consortium of Latvian toilet seat manufacturers or a Congolese sex toy entrepreneur. Then the work will really start. Until then, it’s all hands on deck in a season which is history-defining in highlighting that wellrun clubs and prudent investment can succeed in the face of a hugely resourced top five. Good news for an NUFC looking to break into the top six (if only) on the one hand, bad news for a board who believes that our attendances and natural standing will always see us mid-table only to choke on the exhaust fumes of better-run lesser lights such as West Ham, Stoke, Watford and Leicester. Benitez is an almost unimaginable upgrade on those who have gone before,

Until then, it’s all hands on deck in a season which is historydefining in highlighting that wellrun clubs and prudent investment can succeed in the face of a hugely resourced top five.

but has the club changed? Our bi-polarity endures under Ashley. Relegation then top five. Wins at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford, FA Cup defeats at Brighton and Stevenage. Ba and Cabaye to Shefki Kuqi and Thauvin. But Kinnear to Benitez? The jury is in.There is no blueprint, no plan, no strategy - only expediency. Gambles which come off, gambles which don’t. Years of poor decisions are coming home to roost in what would be the mother of all relegations. Watch through your fingers if they have not already been chewed down to a stump. Thanks This is my last ‘The End’ column for true faith and it has been a privilege

to write for this fanzine and the many people associated with it - a fanzine with such a regular and varied output across all forms of media that it is difficult to remember what our independent scene was like before it existed. Quite simply, there is no production house like it anywhere in the country and it continues to provoke, criticise, amuse, analyse and inspire in a way that very few can. Our support should feel humbled to have such a portal for high-quality commentary on all things NUFC - the ungrateful basta*ds. Only joking. About the basta*rds bit. Thanks for reading and all the best. Gavin Bradshaw, News at Ten, High Pit., Cramlington.

Editor’s Note: I’d really like to thank Gav for all of the writing he has done for true faith for almost the entire time the fanzine has been in existence. Gav has been an excellent writer for true faith – often insightful, measured, clever, understated and amusing. I’ve come to regard Gav as a friend and a man I’ve long respected. It is incredibly sad that a lad like Gav has concluded Newcastle United is not a club he can justify supporting any longer but he isn’t alone. I hope one day to chew the fat with Gav in The Gallowgate again but I guess the prospect of that will have to wait until at least there is a change in our club’s ownership. All the best Gav and the very best for the future! tf 121

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true faith 125  

Issue 125 of Newcastle United's number one fanzine, true faith is now ready for you. Since the last issue we’ve seen the predictable dismiss...

true faith 125  

Issue 125 of Newcastle United's number one fanzine, true faith is now ready for you. Since the last issue we’ve seen the predictable dismiss...