Actually I’ve reached my saturation point with Joey Barton. I like him, I like that he’s opinionated, and I like the way he plays the game - but anything that provokes Derek Llambias into making more of a spectacle of himself is a bad thing.
Barton has obviously had his say - many times now - on the way Newcastle is being run, and Llambias publicly responded today to some of the more tasty comments made by the club’s former midfielder.
“In this week of all weeks, we really do not wish to engage in a public war of words with Joey Barton.”
Very good Derek, very dignified - that’s the response of the CEO of a Premier League club. Oh, wait a minute:
“In a week when one of Newcastle United’s most beloved footballers passed away, it is disappointing that once again Joey Barton makes the headlines.
It is also unfortunate that Joey chose to draw such a disparaging comparison between himself and the employees of Sports Direct, who through hard work and dedication are the recipients of the most generous bonus scheme in the UK.
It may not be a lot of money to Joey, but over 2,000 Sports Direct employees earning £20,000 will receive shares worth over £44,000 over the next two years.
Our legal advisors are dealing with the matter now and we would encourage Joey to concentrate on his football at Queens Park Rangers.”
Excellent - that little ‘hearts and minds’ bit about Sportsdirect employees was especially nice.
I’m not so sure about the need for bringing Gary Speed into it though, I can’t say that that comes across as being wholly appropriate.
Here’s an idea. The team are playing brilliantly and they’re currently doing what they can to temper the hate the Newcastle fans feel towards the ownership, so how about you shut up and try and go a week without getting your name in the papers?
Just give it a try Derek.
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Just when you thought that the Cockney Mafia couldn’t get any more dislikeable, here’s Newcastle United CEO Derek Llambias to prove otherwise. It seems that Llambias thought that getting pissed in a Newcastle Bistro and mouthing off to anybody who would listen would be a good exercise in public relations.
Anyway, here are some highlights…
(On Kevin Keegan)“Kevin Keegan can’t take pressure. His f****** head is all over the place”
(On Alan Shearer)“Shearer was my choice and I have to hold up my hands — the wrong choice. Shearer, for this, destroys us. He gave all the responsibility to Dowie. Rubbish!”
(On Chris Hughton)“He would never have taken us where we want to be. That’s my decision by the way. Chris can’t make decisions. If I am asking about a player, Ben Arfa? he says ‘I’m not sure, blah blah’. With Chris, he couldn’t cope with where we are mentally. We are aggressive. You need to be aggressive. I don’t want a manager below me who can’t argue.”
(On Andy Carroll)“No — he’s worth f*** all. It is about control. We had the control. We knew the Torres deal was there. We drew that f****** deal, perhaps the ultimate. So £30m? F*** off! Don’t waste my time and I slammed the phone down. £35m? Everybody including Pardew [manager Alan Pardew] all agreed. But the £35m they wanted to pay over four years. It was rubbish. Mike (Ashley) said — and he is a brave boy Mike I promise you — get all the £35m up front. We got it all up front and then they never paid us on time and we charged them 12 grand f****** interest.”
That’s just really, really classy. You do get the feeling that Llambias ever-so-slightly enjoys the notoriety that he and Ashley have achieved at Newcastle don’t you. The problem is Derek, that all this self-congratulation is just a little bit premature - have you seen your next three fixtures?
It’s unfortunate, because I used to like Newcastle in a passive way, but now - and sorry to the fans for this - I really hope Ashley and Llambias fall flat on their faces. There’s just too much talk from these fat little cockneys, and it’s completely disproportionate to what’s been achieved during their reign at the club.
Win something, then you can talk. Just a League Cup? Just something.
Mike Ashley spends his days wandering around St James’ Park - sorry, the Sports Direct Arena - looking for assets to sell. You can see it, him and Derek Llambias treading the pitch perimeter and guessing at ‘how much they could get for the penalty spot’.
Look, I know that naming rights are part of football now, but not quite to the extent that the Cockney Mafia insist that they are. The ‘need to keep with the times’ will doubtless be used to explain away the need to shed the St James’ Park moniker from the stadium, but in reality the Bolton and Arsenal examples that will be used to temper fan anger are ill-fitting.
Those were newly-built stadiums that incorporated an entitlement sponsor to part-subsidise the costs of construction. A new stadium, with no history and no memories. Fine, fans won’t like it, but most will probably appreciate its necessity.
Stripping the name from a 119-year-old stadium and whoring its identity to the highest-bidder is a little different. Yes, yes, it’s a new revenue stream, but enough already - why must we tolerate everything becoming so relentlessly corporate?
Like everything that Ashley and Llambias do at Newcastle, it’s predicated on the interests of the ownership. Over the next few days, doubtless we’ll hear about how the funds raised will be used to support the ambition of an upwardly mobile club - I’ll believe that when I’ll see it. A branded stadium leads allows for a more valuable football club, that’s what this is actually about. Anybody who hopes to see those funds invested in the team is going to end up sorely disappointed, that I promise you.
I’m not going to pretend that Mike Ashley’s involvement doesn’t make my reaction to this disproportionately poisonous, but that’s with good reason - he doesn’t have enough credit in the benefit of the doubt bank. I sincerely feel for every Newcastle fan, because no matter how promising the team, no matter how well they perform, Ashley will always be capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Don’t you see - all the talk about ‘self-sufficiency’ is just rhetoric. Ashley is whoring Newcastle United and its identity to price-up his commodity.
This is not an overly-romantic view of the game, the need for evolution within the sport - and its economy - is not lost on me, but there’s something so crude about what’s happening in the North East. Remember, this was something that Ashley promised would never happen in 2009, and that ‘St James’ Park’ would remain - at least in part - regardless of a title sponsor.
Like everything else, just words - reneged on for the sake of a financial short-cut.
Newcastle are flying, and the side is exceeding everybody’s expectation, but - as ever - Ashley is the dark cloud on the horizon.
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Newcastle’s start to the season irritates me a bit.
Let me get this straight, it has nothing to do with the fans or the players - because they do deserve the success that they’re currently enjoying. It’s not even really much to with Alan Pardew.
No, it’s because of Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias.
Everything that Ashley has done since he’s owned the club has been done to benefit himself. Selling players, reducing the wage bill, branding St James’ Park. Mike Ashley is interested in Mike Ashley, that’s it. All of his actions can be traced back to his desire to sell the club for as much money as he can possibly get for it. In a business sense that’s obviously normal, but his philosophies are just too cynical for football. It’s very hard to tolerate.
With that in mind, Newcastle’s start to the season is miraculous. And annoying. Ashley has stumbled into a successful formula with Pardew, and he’s struck gold without ever really mining for it. Any situation in which Ashley or Derek Llambias could potentially receive any credit is one that’s highly-objectionable.
Cash-in on a club’s assets and replace them with cheaper, younger alternatives. Then refuse to reinvest the majority of the surplus back into the club. It’s unforgivable. But he’s got away with it. The stars have aligned, and the players that have arrived have gelled perfectly and are playing without any semblance of fear.
Alan Pardew deserves a lot of credit for what he’s done, but even that doesn’t sit that easily. Pardew was brought to the club because he wouldn’t object too strongly to the Cockney Mafia’s refinancing and meddling, and because he wouldn’t command high-wages. A club the size of Newcastle could easily attract a manager of higher-profile, or even someone that’s actually won something - but they went down the path of least possible resistance. Someone who wouldn’t ruffle too many feathers.
It was a decision predicated on anything but football, but it’s paid off and they’re starting to get undue credit for it. As unreasonable as it may be, that annoys the hell out of me.
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Newcastle’s a funny club.
The first half of the week saw the ownership derided for the ambition-less sale of Kevin Nolan to West Ham, but by the time the weekend has arrived there’s cause for some real optimism on Tyneside.
There have been many low-points of the Cockney Mafia reign in the North East, and the failure to adequately replace Andy Carroll is fairly prominent. The sale itself probably doesn’t rankle that much given the vastly inflated fee that they recouped, but watching Shefki Kuqi trapse into the club immediately afterwards was probably less gratifying. Overseeing an exodus of talent leaving a club, and then not obviously reinvesting the sales revenue into new players is one of the quickest and easiest ways to alienate yourself from a club’s support. The sale of Carroll was a case study of how to do this, as £35m seemingly disappearing into a blackhole.
But credit where it’s due, the last 24 hours have seen two very astute purchases - Sylvain Marveux and Demba Ba will both significantly improve the first eleven at St James’ Park, and combined with the earlier acquisition Yohan Cabaye, Newcastle suddenly look like a really interesting proposition again. If Jonas Gutierrez, Joey Barton, and Jose Enrique can be retained - which the new arrivals may allow - then Alan Pardew will be a right-back and a central defender away from a team that can do some damage inside the top half of the league.
Given his five months in the East End, most fans will be fairly familiar with Demba Ba by now and can rest assured that he’ll contribute goals - he’s the kind of player that will always score wherever he goes. Quick, powerful, good movement, and a really good finisher - a Shola Ameobi for the digital age. Yohan Cabaye is more subtle, and he brings an elegance and a creativity to the midfield that will complement Joey Barton’s combative style. Sylvain Marveaux is possibly the biggest risk of the three, but his potential upside is huge - and at twenty-five he’s still a developing player. Liverpool fans will no doubt now dismiss him after their club seemingly blinked at the negotiating table, but Newcastle could be getting a real steal on a free transfer - a versatile forward with extremely good feet and a fondness for Laurent Robert-esque left-footed fireworks.
St James’ Park will be fun place to watch football next year, so far so good this Summer, and Ashley, Llambias, and Pardew have us eating our words a little bit. Maybe, just maybe, Newcastle are taking shape as a flair team again.
Is Mike Ashley actually just at Newcastle to prevent the club moving forward? More and more, Ashley’s taking the form of an outside agent installed at St James’ Park to undermine any success that the club could potentially have.
This morning the Independent is running a story on the revelation that Joey Barton will not be offered a new contract, and with only a year left on his current deal that really suggests that the club will listen to offers. Unlike the tabloids, the broadsheets actually include quotes and everything in their stories - here’s Barton’s agent Willie McKay:
‘I had a meeting with Newcastle managing director Derek Llambias and club secretary Lee Charnley and they have indicated Joey will not be offered a new contract. Joey will continue to be a Newcastle player next season and then he will leave on a free transfer at the end of his contract. Joey would have loved to have extended his stay at Newcastle, but unfortunately it is not to be.’
Despite the ‘commitment to the club next season’ remark, we’re not sure that Newcastle would willingly allow a player to move for free when they could recoup a fee - the Cockney Mafia doesn’t really work that. Isn’t it also strange that in any negative story that concerns Newcastle, Derek Llambias’ name invariably comes up; the Andy Carroll sale, the lynching of Chris Hughton, the consumption of some of Bolivia’s finest at 50 - the Private Members Club on St James Street…
The glaringly obvious problem with all of this, is Newcastle’s willingness to let one of their best players leave the club so easily. Barton has obviously had his problems off the field throughout his Premier League career, but even the harshest of his critics can’t deny that this season has seen him settle back down into the combative, ball-playing midfielder that he was supposed to be. No jail time, no cigars, no jibes at England players in the press, and playing the best football of his career as a lynchpin of their midfield - and now Newcastle want to get rid of him?
Ashley, Llambias, and the rest of the gargoyles in the St James’ Park boardroom should probably consider this - take Barton, Cheik Tiote, and Jonas Gutierrez out of that team and what are you left with that can keep you away from the Championship?
Something tells us that Jose Enrique might be a little underwhelmed by the identity of his new manager, especially after saying this yesterday afternoon:
‘We were all happy with Chris. He’s a great person, he works really hard and we all wanted him to stay. He’ll get a chance with a big club soon because he is a great manager. If they are going to fire someone as good as Chris, they have to then bring in a big name, someone who has won trophies. And that doesn’t even mean he will necessarily be better. If they just bring in someone similar, it’s a joke.’
Joke is right Jose, only this one probably isn’t causing too much laughter in the North East.
By the way, we can shed a little bit of light on how Alan Pardew managed to find himself in charge at St James Park obviously ‘in charge’ is meant in the loosest possible sense. Pardew is an acquaintance of Derek Llambias, having struck up a friendship with him during Llambias’ time as Chief Executive of the private members club and casino ’50′ in St James’ Street, London.
So really, when Mike Ashley spoke about trying to find a manager with more experience, what he actually meant was that he wanted a soft touch who would allow him and Llambias to interfere in team affairs - as they were rumoured to constantly try to when Chris Hughton was in charge.
It just gets worse and worse and worse.