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If we're not a big club, why all the column inches?  :razz:



Mike Ashley must master Newcastle United

By Patrick Barclay


It is part of the function of the Newcastle United chairman, Chris Mort, to enhance the notion of Mike Ashley as the greatest thing since sliced stotty cake (a Tyneside delicacy, M'Lud). Paul Kemsley, Ashley's friend, fellow Tottenham fan and a former director of the north London club, seems happy to do it for nothing. But it looks as if Kemsley tempted fate in presenting last Wednesday as the start of a glorious new era for Newcastle, one led by the sort of man (Ashley, of course, who purchased the club last summer) who knows what he wants and goes out and gets it. As events were swiftly to transpire, Ashley couldn't even get Harry Redknapp. Goodness me: even Southampton could do that.


So Newcastle and their supporters await the next minor humiliation. I shall not attempt to conduct the violins on their behalf - always a temptation for the journalist when a club makes a fool of itself - on this occasion because the black-and-white legions do not have a bad life compared with many. They watch top-level football in a grand stadium and always have their hope to keep them warm.


But it does not look good when Ashley, through Mort, beckons Redknapp very publicly and Redknapp even more openly explains that his heart remains with Portsmouth. Nor do the details of this extraordinarily leaky abortive bid inspire confidence in the latest St James' Park regime, which appears a far and forlorn cry from the erstwhile establishment of Sir John Hall, under whom Kevin Keegan replaced the club's reputation for bungling with an image of rich entertainment.


Just think back to what Ashley and company tried to bring off in replacing one subject of Panorama's concern with another. Quite apart from the millions required to compensate the sacked Sam Allardyce and his army of equally blameless assistants and technicians - their main fault was to have been appointed by the previous regime of Freddy Shepherd, whom Ashley bought out last summer - there would have been the question of Redknapp's salary. Plus compensation to Portsmouth. It depends how you do the arithmetic, but one thing we can say with certainty is that the inflationary spiral would have been given yet another obscene twist.


The process has merely been postponed. So what will they think of next? Whatever it is, it will not be cheap. Talk of a £5 million-a-year offer to Redknapp would not have been lost on Blackburn's Mark Hughes, the new favourite, or other plausible candidates such as the former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier, now back in France as technical director. Terry Venables will be on alert, too; currently mulling over the attractions of the Republic of Ireland, the Londoner might suit the new metropolitan ambience at St James'. For that sort of money, there are a lot of people who would not mind being second choice.


Anything like £5 million a year for Redknapp would have been ridiculous. That is the sort of money you pay for someone like Jose Mourinho, who by his early forties had won just about every honour in the European club game, not a 60-year-old who, for all his transfer-market and training-ground skills, has yet to lead a team to so much as a cup final worthy of the description, unlike the oft-derided Steve McClaren or, for that matter, Allardyce. This is not to deny that Redknapp is a good manager who would have been more than capable of making a visit to St James' radically more enjoyable than of late. It is just to say that football cannot have it both ways. Either it is true that there is no English manager worthy of holding a candle to Fabio Capello or it is false. If it is false, Ashley and Kemsley know more than not only Brian Barwick but the massed ranks of Football Association officialdom. In which case, may God help us all.


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More and more, our elite club football reminds me of the City jungle Ashley has so successfully stalked. In the City, people pay each other preposterous salaries for conducting deals in cash, commodities, services and so on that, in effect, separate the rest of humanity from such wealth as it may have accumulated.


In football, too, the rich are getting richer at the expense of the consumers, who fund the game through their purchase of increasingly expensive tickets and television subscriptions, and on the back - more disgracefully in my view - of the game itself. While coach education, on which its very future depends, withers on the vine, the Premier League's successes and failures alike swig from magnums of champagne.


And yet there is one crucial difference between football and the City: at least the City is subject to some degree of regulation. Not for the first time, I wonder what is the point of having a Minister of Sport if not to intervene when the country's most important sport is so obviously out of control.


You do not have to be an admirer of Ashley, however, to believe he has been unfairly criticised on one aspect of the latest episode. It was not his fault Shepherd had already hired Allardyce when he took over. After paying £135 million for the club, he was entitled to go for a manager of his own choice, especially after gauging the atmosphere on the St James' slopes, which was generally hostile to Allardyce and the style of play 'Big Sam' was said to have brought from Bolton. It was wrong to accuse Ashley of acting too quickly. Indeed he should perhaps have acted immediately instead of providing Allardyce with some money in the summer.




That was how it looked to many fans, according to Gareth Harrison, deputy editor of the fanzine True Faith, who told me yesterday: "The timing of Allardyce's dismissal shocked a few people." Nor were they exactly jubilant about the assumption of Redknapp's appointment, he added. "The majority assumed either that Alan Shearer was lined up or the board had a knockout appointment in store. So the news that Redknapp is not coming is something of a blessing in disguise. It would have been a strange appointment for the money. Yes, it might have led to a better style of football, but would all the upheaval and expense have been worthwhile when his record is not that much different from Allardyce's?


"Having said that, to find ourselves without a manager and looking ridiculous is just amazing. Here we are in mid-season with no apparent strategy but to scramble around and get someone who's obviously a second choice. I'll still back Ashley because of all he's done for the club, but the fact is that this is the first major decision he's had to make and it's not worked out. And the main worry for the fans is that this is exactly the kind of comical episode that would have happened under Freddy Shepherd."


The fans were much less dazzled by the notion of Shearer's taking over than were the media (the former England captain's contracts with the BBC and The Sun may help to explain that) and, said Harrison, his own preference would be for "a proper, experienced manager" such as Louis van Gaal, once of Barcelona and now back in Holland with AZ Alkmaar. "At least the club have committed themselves to this by saying they wanted an experience man, which seemed to rule out Shearer, and I hope they'll stick to that, even if it means waiting until the end of the season for someone like Van Gaal. But the whole club has to start being run as a professional Premier League organisation. Beginning with the academy."



If only there were someone in the boardroom with such an idea of what is needed. The state of Newcastle's academy is yet another instance of how the club keeps shooting itself in the foot. A few years ago, Glenn Roeder was running the academy, and rather well by all accounts. Then Shepherd sacked Graeme Souness, whom he had ineptly made manager after losing faith in Sir Bobby Robson, and installed Roeder, thus jeopardising all the good work he had put into youth development. Since then, the academy has passed from hand to hand and knowledgeable observers say it is in desperate need of reorganisation. The club requires attention from head to toe and even Ashley's financial muscle will not invigorate it without recourse to footballing brainpower.



The mystery of Kemsley and the search for Allardyce's successor

Whoever takes on the Newcastle job will have to survive a grilling from former Spurs director Paul Kemsley first

Says Louise Taylor


Newcastle United has long been riddled with puzzles but the latest mystery concerns Paul Kemsley and the precise role the former Spurs director is playing in shaping the club's future.


Kemsley appears to be serving as chief head-hunter in the quest for Sam Allardyce's successor and, on Friday night, held talks with Harry Redknapp at his office in London's Bond Street. Chris Mort, Newcastle's chairman, was also in attendance as was Dennis Roach, a football agent, but Kemsley seemed to be deputising for his best pal, Mike Ashley, the club's owner who is away on business in Hong Kong until Tuesday.


Redknapp's subsequent rejection of a move to Newcastle may have come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Kemsley's frankly terrifying cameos in the BBC reality show The Apprentice starring Sir Alan Sugar. Kemsley is one of Sugar's friends and, in the penultimate episodes of each series, the property developer subjects the quartet of surviving candidates hoping to earn the programme's ultimate prize of a £100,000 a year job as Sugar's 'Apprentice' to the most ferocious of interrogations. A couple more of Sir Alan's business mates also get in on the interviewing act but the most riveting pieces of television involve Kemsley ruthlessly, and forensically, dissecting the hopefuls' pretensions. An expert at puncturing the sturdiest of egos, he possesses a devastating stock of withering one-liners and reduces previously assured favourites to gibbering wrecks.


Presumably he was being nice to Harry - who is apparently a friend of his - on Friday night but all things are relative and Kemsley doing 'nice' in an interview context is probably still more than a little scary.


With Redknapp having taken fright, the big question now is who next? Fabio Capello was at Old Trafford but presumably even Ashley is not contemplating making him notorious as the England manager who defected before playing a single international so thoughts must turn elsewhere.


Mark Hughes, of Blackburn Rovers, is the stand out candidate and the only surprise is that Ashley and Mort did not make him their first choice. Hughes is probably one of the few leading British managers bright, and tough, enough to give Kemsley a run for his money - although the latter's attempt to interrogate Everton's David Moyes might make truly gripping television. Even so, should Newcastle get the chance to chat with the Welshman, Ashley might be advised to do the talking himself.


On tonight's evidence from here at Old Trafford, whoever is 'unveiled' at the latest, impending 'coronation' on Tyneside, has some task ahead. Goodness knows what Nigel Pearson, Newcastle's caretaker coach, was muttering into the mouthpiece of his Bluetooth headset as Manchester United simply ripped his side apart courtesy of some fabulous passing and movement aided and abetted by calamitous Geordie defending.


From the visiting viewpoint, the abiding memories will probably involve Jose Enrique, Newcastle's hapless Spanish left back - and how on earth did Sam Allardyce pay around £6m for him? - either apologising to team-mates or being berated by them. Oh yes, and Michael Owen wearing an expression which screamed 'how come I've ended up as part of this rabble?'


The Toon will certainly take some sorting out; if he can't get Hughes, maybe Ashley should hand Kemsley one of those Bluetooth headsets and offer him a career change.




No manager and crushed 6-0, who can rouse the doziest sleeping giant?

Harry Redknapp’s snub leaves Newcastle where they deserve to be - still in a mess

Joe Lovejoy


To the satisfaction of fair-minded fans everywhere, loyalty triumphed over filthy lucre yesterday and Newcastle United got their just deserts for treating Sam Allardyce so shabbily when Harry Redknapp snubbed them and chose to stay at Portsmouth.


Newcastle sacked Allardyce last Wednesday, just 24 games into a three-year contract, in the belief that Redknapp would jump at their double-your-money offer to succeed him at St James’ Park. Instead, Pompey’s 60-year-old manager opted to stay put in the belief that security, job satisfaction and a congenial working environment were worth more than the fortunes on offer at a club that has hired and fired seven times in the past 11 years. Newcastle morale sank even lower after last night’s 6-0 thrashing by Manchester United, their heaviest Premier League defeat and the worst since losing 6-2 to United in April 2003. Last night one fan website posted the Samaritans’ phone number for the benenfit of deperate Newcastle fans.


Redknapp said yesterday: “Portsmouth is where I belong. I am happy here, this is a club I feel comfortable at. The players I have brought here, I sold the club to them and persuaded them to come here. To walk away would not be right. I had a great offer, and to be given the chance to manage a club like Newcastle was a fantastic opportunity, but at the end of it I had no intention of going. This is where I enjoy being and the fans have been great to me.”


Perennially described as a “sleeping giant”, Newcastle now seem dozier than ever, with informed sources on Tyneside indicating that Allardyce would not have been sacked so abruptly unless the club’s owner, Mike Ashley, had been sure of getting his man. The Times reported the decision in midweek under the headline: “Wanted: Man of stature and experience to take charge of madhouse”, which was spot on. The lunatics have taken control of the St James’ Park asylum.



Redknapp represented a perfectly good replacement but, as Sir Alex Ferguson asked on Friday, was a replacement really needed? “The thing that amazes me, with all the talk about Harry, is that he has exactly the same CV as Sam in terms of experience, presence and popularity, and the great jobs both had done with their clubs,” said Ferguson. “The only difference is that one is Mike Ashley’s appointment, the other wasn’t. Harry will be his choice, not Freddy Shepherd’s.”


Ashley and his right-hand man and chairman, Chris Mort, now have to look elsewhere and risk of being rebuffed by their second choice for the job, Mark Hughes, who has shown no inclination to leave Blackburn. Alan Shearer, who has finally admitted would love to manage his home-town club, can be discounted on grounds of inexperience. Ashley’s friend and adviser is Paul Kemsley, formerly vice-chairman at Tottenham, and when Spurs were looking for a manager to replace Martin Jol, Kemsley’s top three were Redknapp, Hughes and Juande Ramos. Kemsley wanted Redknapp but it was the chairman, Daniel Levy, who picked Ramos.


It is typical that Newcastle should think that they need only crook a finger for their chosen man to come running. For as long as anybody not in their dotage can recall, the black and white fraternity have had ideas above their station. For a so-called “big club” they have won little – no league title for more than 80 years, no FA Cup since 1955 – and for them to sack a manager just five months after letting him spend £27m and with the team 11th in the table seems capricious in the extreme.


How big are Newcastle? It is an interesting point. Having worked there in the early 1970s, covering the club on a daily basis for a local newspaper, it is my contention that they have no right to rank themselves alongside Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool. Manchester City are arguably bigger. Not only are City higher in the table, but they have won the league, the FA Cup and a European trophy more recently. The attendances are similar - indeed, City’s “Blue Moonies” can claim to be more loyal than the “Toon Army”, whose ranks dwindled to 15,000 in 1992, before Kevin Keegan took charge. When City reached their own nadir and were relegated to the third tier in 1998, they still averaged 32,000 at Maine Road.


It is true that Newcastle have not been playing well, but history suggests that Allardyce would have got it right, given time. He had warned that it would take every day of his three-year contract, and probably longer, to turn potential into achievement, and his employers agreed. Unfortunately for him, those employers changed within a month when Ashley bought out Shepherd, who had moved heaven and earth to lure Allardyce from Bolton, first attempting to do so in 2004, after Bobby Robson’s equally contentious dismissal. Ashley preferred Redknapp, and before the season started Allardyce told me: “The goalposts have moved.”


There was not as much money as he had been led to believe, and he had to cut his cloth accordingly. Hence the need to buy players from the second rank, such as Alan Smith, Joey Barton and Geremi, when he really wanted Nicolas Anelka, Richard Dunne and Croatia’s Luca Modric. Even Allardyce’s admirers have to concede that his buys last summer were not that good. Barton has always been trouble and Smith is neither fish nor fowl. He does not score enough goals to play in the role he favours, as a striker, and lacks the positional awareness to operate where Allardyce used him, in central midfield. Of the other recruits, Geremi looks like what he was, a Chelsea has-been, Jose Enrique, Claudio Cacapa and David Rozehnal are the latest in a long line of unconvincing defenders, and even a thoroughbred such as Mark Viduka was found wanting.


Where Allardyce was unlucky was with injuries. Barton, Viduka, Shay Given, Damien Duff and Stephen Carr were all unavailable for significant periods. It was understandable, therefore, that he should revert to the defence-oriented methods that served him well in adversity at Bolton, but the fans lacked the patience to stay with him and wait for something better. It did not help that some players professed allegiance while stirring disaffection behind the scenes.


As a condition of a payoff worth £6m, Allardyce signed a confidentiality agreement that precludes him from discussing such things, but he is a proud man, and he is prepared to admit that his pride has been hurt. He was warned by his many friends in the game that it was “a pig of a job” to take, working for a club where expectation is so out of kilter with reality, and after the intense pressure of the past few weeks his family, and particularly his wife, Lynne, are glad that he is out of it.


He was not at Newcastle long enough for his reputation to be tarnished to a serious degree, which cannot be said of a club that habitually sacks managers without giving them a decent chance to prove their worth. Seven have come and gone in the past 11 years, which is absurd, given that continuity is a prerequisite of success.


One board of directors after another at St James’ has been quick on the trigger since Joe Harvey’s extended tenure between 1962 and 1975. That was a different, much less demanding era, when “Uncle Joe”, as he was known, regularly finished mid-table in the old First Division without coming under any pressure. As soon as he left, after successive 15th places [he had got away with 20th in 1967], things changed dramatically. His successor, Gordon Lee, lasted just 74 matches before giving way to Richard Dinnis, who was fired after nine months, which has been the way of it ever since. Jack Charlton was gone in 12 months, Ossie Ardiles in 11. Kenny Dalglish lasted 78 matches, Ruud Gullit 52.


If ever a job was a poisoned chalice, this is it, although the toxin does tend to be sweetened by the sort of payoff that renders it optional ever to work again. The most obvious contrast with Newcastle’s act-in-haste repent-at-leisure habit is to be found at Manchester United, where Ferguson would have been sacked in January 1990, if not earlier, had the board at Old Trafford worked the same way as their black and white counterparts. A more recent example is provided by Everton, where David Moyes endured a similar start to Allardyce at Newcastle, taking 20 points from his first 16 games before coming good. The lesson is clear: any manager, even those as good as Ferguson and Moyes, needs time to build a team and create a style of their own. Allardyce’s successor must be allowed that time.


Names in the frame ...




The new favourite, as he is understood to be the second choice of club owner Mike Ashley after Harry Redknapp. The Welshman has done a good job at Blackburn and is ready for a bigger challenge – and a bigger budget




Newcastle’s living legend has now admitted that he wants the job, but his inexperience will count against him. He may benefi t from a more experienced mentor at his side, such as Kevin Keegan or Terry Venables




The Toon fans have fond memories of the exciting teams he took into the Champions League. Has been out of football since walking out on Manchester City in March 2005 and will need an attractive offer to entice him back




The Scotsman has worked wonders on a shoestring at Everton, where he is one of the lowest paid managers in the Premier League, despite being at the club for almost six years. Worth a punt for those who favour outsiders


... and loony guys for a loony Toon


Charles Bronson Britain’s most notorious criminal has been in jail for more than 30 years and would surely take any job on his release. Bronson, author of Solitary Fitness, an exercise manual for those in confi ned spaces, would no doubt be a real help to Joey Barton


Pete Doherty Managing Newcastle is enough to drive anyone to drink or drugs so why not call in the man who thrives on them anyway? His ability to dodge jail, despite numerous arrests and convictions, indicates a lucky streak that could be handy in a relegation fight


David Blaine He’s gone six weeks in a glass box without food and been encased in ice for more than two days so St James’ Park should be a doddle. There would be no greater proof of the escapologist’s powers than turning the club around


Tony Blair The man sorting out the Middle East will fi nd a bigger challenge in the North East, but Ashley could easily top the £500,000 a year JP Morgan are paying him


The fiasco explained




Mike Ashley, has spoken for the first time about his decision to dismiss Sam Allardyce. The Newcastle owner, who bought the club last June, said that he removed his manager after speaking to chairman Chris Mort. ‘I’m not the only one who could see it wasn’t working with things as they were,’ he said. ‘So when my chairman told me it was time for change I knew it had to happen.’ Ashley, who has invested £250m in the club, indicated that he had been disappointed by the defensive style of play under Allardyce: ‘I want a team that is going to be admired up and down the country because of their brilliant, attacking football. I want a team that will go all out to try to give Chelsea a walloping, that’ll try to stuff Tottenham and that will be brave and bold enough to attack Man Utd.’ As it turned out, Newcastle lost 6-0 to United yesterday




Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp turned down the opportunity to manage Newcastle after renegotiating his terms with chief executive Peter Storrie. Redknapp met Newcastle chairman Chris Mort on Friday but had changed his mind on the move within the 24 hours, describing it ‘as the toughest decision of my career’. His improved contract is likely to see his annual pay double to £3m, but he would probably have earned more had he accepted Newcastle’s offer. The Pompey boss will still travel to the northeast this weekend, but only to Sunderland where his team play today



Why Newcastle is nothing more than a slog on the Tyne for most managers

There are ten reasons why Sam Allardyce’s former job is a poisoned chalice. But is there anyone who can bring success and stability?

George Caulkin


1. Location, location, location


Just as St James’ Park looms over Newcastle upon Tyne, so Newcastle United are the essence of the city. Count the replica shirts, listen to the bar-room gossip; everyone has a rumour. A “goldfish bowl” is the description attributed to Jermaine Jenas (he has denied it) and there is an intensity about football that can be suffocating as well as exhilarating.


2. Yearning


Some call it expectation, but most Newcastle supporters expect torment. After all, this is a club who have not won a domestic trophy for 53 years, who are defined by underachievement. It is a desperate, aching pressure. “For too long people have talked about this being an unlucky place,” Kevin Keegan, the former manager, once said. “They even added a second magpie outside the ground to stop people thinking ‘one for sorrow’.”


3. History


Not many fans can remember Newcastle winning the FA Cup in 1955, but every Geordie knows the name of Jackie Milburn, the totemic stature of the No 9 shirt.


And then there is more recent glory. In 1996 and 1997, the club finished second in the top flight. In 2003 they were third. The swashbuckling style of Keegan’s “entertainers”, the twinkle-eyed passion of Sir Bobby Robson and Alan Shearer’s legend are difficult acts to live up to.


4. Quicksand foundations


Since the departure of Freddy Shepherd, Chris Mort, his successor as chairman, has done much to rebuild neglected infrastructure, as well as relationships with supporters, but the continued high turnover of managers does nothing to encourage stability. This is a club of figureheads and overheads. Where are the young players coming through? Restocking the Academy will take years.


5. Bad boys stick together


Right, so we have got rid of Lee Bowyer, Kieron Dyer, Craig Bellamy and Titus Bramble, players who attracted destabilising front-page headlines as readily as Amy Winehouse does. So, who shall we sign now? What about Joey Barton? He seems a decent lad. Robson once likened his job to “firefighting”. On Tyneside, respite is a rare and delicate thing.


6. Stupidity


Away from the hysteria that has surrounded Allardyce, Mort and Mike Ashley insist that they are doing things differently, but the past decade has been littered with crass decisions. Qualify for the Champions League and sign only Bowyer on a free transfer. Dispense with Robson in August (and Ruud Gullit and Kenny Dalglish). Pay a fortune to a reluctant Michael Owen and then give him a get-out clause. Jean-Alain Boumsong, Albert Luque, Barton, ad infinitum.


7. Read all about it


Does any other club attract so much media attention on such a regular basis, particularly in relation to their league position? Why are Everton not in the newspapers so much? Some supporters rail against a constant diet of stories and speculation, but it remains a fact. The ferocity mystified seasoned professionals such as Allardyce and Graeme Souness.


8. We are all billionaires now


Just as the “Big Four” has become a closed shop — remember when Shepherd crowed about Chelsea and Liverpool being “put in their place?” — so Newcastle’s largesse has been diluted. Takeovers at Manchester City, West Ham United and Aston Villa mean that Newcastle can no longer expect players to join them on the promise of ambition and better wages.


9. Mike, your leg is twitching


Why has Ashley bought Newcastle? Is it to ship more units in his Sports Direct shops? Is it a rich man’s play-thing? While Ashley has been visible, sitting with fans on away trips, he has not been audible. How involved is he? More than Shepherd? “One man and one man alone decided what player came to the club and what player left – and it wasn’t the manager,” Souness said recently. “It was the chairman.” Are the old knee-jerk days really over?


10. Shearer, Shearer


It has often been said that he looms above the incumbent manager and while there is an element of truth to that, it is his loss as a player that has been more keenly felt. How many points did Newcastle’s record scorer win by shielding the ball in the corner, with a sly foul, by gaining a free kick, through the sheer force of his personality? He leaves a long shadow.



But there are five reasons why the job should appeal . . .


1. All of the above


Can you think of a barmier, more passionate, brilliant, mind-spinning place to work? “I love Newcastle,” Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, has said. “I love that raw passion. I remember being there once and hearing newspaper vendors shouting, ‘Sensation! Andy Cole toe injury!’ Most people use the word ‘sensation’ for ‘[John] Major resigns’ or ‘Aids spreading over country’. It’s unbelievable.”


2. The clothesline principle


To paraphrase the old saying, hang out 11 black and white shirts to dry at St James’ Park and 52,000 people will come and watch. Big crowds, big job, big attraction.


3. Hero status


How hard can it be to win the Carling Cup, for heaven’s sake?


4. Show me the money


Ashley is a billionaire. Remember that scene in Pretty Woman? Mr Hollister: “Just how obscene an amount of cash are we talking about here? Profane or really offensive?” Edward Lewis: “Really offensive.”


5. Could do better


They could not do much worse.




Newcastle need stability before they put on style

Allardyce's successor must be promised reasonable time to repair the ravages caused by short-termism at St James' Park

Nick Townsend


At least he went to his fate braving the elements, almost daring the gods of circumstance to destroy him. No umbrella and coffee cup in hand for Sam Allardyce as the rains swept down at the Britannia Stadium on Sunday while what proved to be the final act of his tenure was played out. No McFolly with the brolly as, up in the stands, the vitriol eventually permeated the skin of that ubiquitous recluse, if you'll excuse the oxymoron, Newcastle's owner, Mike Ashley.


Whether the billionaire retailer was actually influenced by members of the Toon Army, with whom he is apparently determined to ingratiate himself, we will probably never know. He studiously does not comment, except through third parties such as Paul Kemsley, a former vice-chairman of Spurs, who on Thursday morning, having explained that "Mike is in Hong Kong with Sir Philip Green, doing a deal", denied that the culling of Allardyce was a ruthless act.


It was the decision of a "very considered guy", according to Kemsley, who proceeded to emphasise the fact that his mate's hands, if not entirely clean of blood, were guilty only of justifiable homicide.


"People have got to realise that Sam Allardyce was not Mike's choice," he said. "Mike bought the club with him already employed. Mike took the view that he is in the job, let's see if he can deliver what I want, which is good-quality, attacking football and to win games. I'll give him time to see if he can deliver that."


The Friends of Sam, and a few of us who never believed he stood an earthly from the beginning, given his perceived penchant for the percentage football that had served him so well during eight years at Bolton, may take issue with that. Give him time? Twenty- four games and 239 days? That would generally be considered no more than a reasonable period for an incoming manager to take stock.


In one sense, this eighth departure of a Premier League manager already this season is a microcosm of everything wrong with football at the elite level. We have certainly been here before. Many times. Yet, as usual with Newcastle, things are even more perverse than average. The fact that Ashley acquired the club soon after his predecessor, Freddy Shepherd, had appointedAllardyce at a gargantuan salary says everything about the accident waiting to happen that this football club have become.


It is like driving past a pile-up on the opposite carriageway. You shake your head in sympathy, but you are acutely aware this has been a black spot for years.


Probably only at Tottenham does expectation also quite so readily exceed reality. Spurs' managerial head-count is uncannily similar. Both clubs employed Ossie Ardiles in the early Nineties. Spurs have appointed eight managers since the Argentinian's departure from White Hart Lane; Newcastle are now seeking their eighth since Ardiles left St James' Park. Only the stewardships of Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson have bucked the trend at the latter club. That inspirational duo apart, Newcastle are a testimonyto the effects of instability as they are embroiled once more in tortuous melodrama.


Those of us who witnessed Newcastle's last victory, at Fulham before Christmas, could sense Allardyce's time was drawing perilously close. The match-winner was Joey Barton, with an added-time penalty; just about the dysfunctional midfielder's last positive contribution to Newcastle's indifferent season. It was the most excruciatingly awful game many of us had observed. While it takes two to tango, and Fulham were just as culpable, Ashley, present that evening, would have had all his misgivings about Allardyce confirmed.


So, the search is on again, accompanied by the jibes from Manchester and elsewhere mocking the demands from Newcastle followers that a new man should be appointed of the stature demanded by this "massive" club, who possess nothing but a loyal fan-base to support that claim. It is a brave, or foolish, man who ventures into this Castle Dracula and attempts to stake the heart of a monster so prepared to draw the blood of all those who pass throughits ramparts.


Ashley can claim perhaps that he is, too, an innocent virgin in a world which bears only scant comparison to that in which he made his fortune. His first act of this new era should be to join the adults and start behaving with some decorum. Because by now we've got it. We understand his point. He is at one with the real fans, in his replica shirt. And, of course, a man who has invested £250 million (according to Kemsley) in a club has every right to behave as he darn well pleases. However, he must learn that ownership also confers duties, including the responsibility of improvingthe club.


Ashley will perhaps also learn to appreciate that constructing a Premier League empire requires not just more of his millions but a comprehension that it is an evolutionary process. He could do well to scrutinise Everton, and David Moyes' progress there. The going has, at times, been daunting for the Scot; in his first full season, 2003-04, the Toffees finished 17th. Yet his chairman, Bill Kenwright, has constantly maintained his faith in his manager over nearly six years.


Everton took a chance with the former Preston manager. The Toon Army expect nothing less than a would-be Wor Kev. And hence the perennial dilemma. How to identify a man of experience and stature, who can exemplify the virtues demandedby the supporters? Particularly if, ideally, he needs to be A Local Man. "He's not a northern lad," was how one man in the street dismissed the prospect of Harry Redknapp's arrival in five words, although by Friday the mood appeared to have turned and they were bracing themselves for the coming of a cheerful Cockney.


In the event, he was not to be inveigled away from that relative comfort zone at Pompey. And why would he? Why would Redknapp, or Mark Hughes, who would perhaps have been a serious contender were it not for the belief that his next move is likely to be to Old Trafford, consider what even one Newcastle fan concedes must be "the worst job in football"?


There need be no inordinate rush to replace Allardyce. Newcastle are promised nothing but a possible FA Cup run this season. The club's owner must look beyond tomorrow, even beyond next season. His selection must have some reasonable expectation of the clock being allowed to run. Only, this time, it has to be the right man.


Back in the summer, that man was manifestly not Allardyce. Not at Newcastle. He had arrived handcuffed by the fans' preconceptions and duly lived down to those expectations, both with the acquisition of Barton, David Rozehnal, Claudio Cacapa and Jose Enrique, and his tactics. He had worked wonders at Bolton, true enough. But doubts per-sisted over his ability to translate his vision of the game to Newcastle – just as there would have been had he acquired the England job. To that extent, Redknapp, had he accepted Ashley's entreaties, would have had an immediate advantage over Allardyce. The football he espouses is easy on the eye, which would have immediately endeared him to the St James' Park faithful. He has also demonstrated himself capable of sourcing quality players worldwide. He is a wheeler-dealer in the market, though that quality may not have counted for quite so much, in the knowledge that Ashley's millions were bank-rolling the club. The prospect of building a team without restrictions on his expenditure may have just appealed to him.


Yet it appeared inconceivable that he would want to exchange his idyllic lifestyle on the South Coast for the North-east. Talk of him still being based there, and doing a long-haul commute, was bizarre, to say the least. It was surely an act of desperation from a club who like to think and talk big, but for too many years have singularly failed to act it.

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Yup - everyone now getting in on the act and having an opinion. For a club which is not 'big' (and we aren't up there with the big 4) - it doesn't half get a lot of media attention. Add to the fact that there is the scent of blood surrouding the club at the moment, so eveyone is coming in for a kick at us. Just got to pick ourselves up and get on with it.

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From the visiting viewpoint, the abiding memories will probably involve Jose Enrique, Newcastle's hapless Spanish left back - and how on earth did Sam Allardyce pay around £6m for him? - either apologising to team-mates or being berated by them. Oh yes, and Michael Owen wearing an expression which screamed 'how come I've ended up as part of this rabble?'


Enrique kept Ronaldo at bay for the first half.  He had to go to the other side to start getting success.


Stupid bitch.

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From the visiting viewpoint, the abiding memories will probably involve Jose Enrique, Newcastle's hapless Spanish left back - and how on earth did Sam Allardyce pay around £6m for him? - either apologising to team-mates or being berated by them. Oh yes, and Michael Owen wearing an expression which screamed 'how come I've ended up as part of this rabble?'


Enrique kept Ronaldo at bay for the first half.  He had to go to the other side to start getting success.


Stupid bitch.


Aye, that was one of the funny bits I referred to earlier. It's ridiculous some of the stuff they'll try and jump on!

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"Allardyce's successor must be promised reasonable time to repair the ravages caused by short-termism at St James' Park"


Surely should really read as


"Allardyce's successor must be promised reasonable time to repair the ravages caused by shit previous management regimes at St James' Park



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Its interesting that we're on average 5th in the PL but all those articles dismiss us as a mid table club who have no right to expect anything else


Are we allowed to aspire to be 5th?



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Its interesting that we're on average 5th in the PL but all those articles dismiss us as a mid table club who have no right to expect anything else


Are we allowed to aspire to be 5th?


Piss off. You should know your place.

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If we're not a big club, why all the column inches?  :razz:


You should have seen the Sunderland game, hordes of photographers beside Portsmouth's dug out taking photos of Harry, aye not a big club at all :lol:

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If we're not a big club, why all the column inches?  :razz:


You should have seen the Sunderland game, hordes of photographers beside Portsmouth's dug out taking photos of Harry, aye not a big club at all :lol:


Those were just photographers from uglypeople.com mayte.

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Its interesting that we're on average 5th in the PL but all those articles dismiss us as a mid table club who have no right to expect anything else


Are we allowed to aspire to be 5th?



On average 5th in the epl? how?


Its based on points I think - table in one of those articles above ^^^

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Its interesting that we're on average 5th in the PL but all those articles dismiss us as a mid table club who have no right to expect anything else


Are we allowed to aspire to be 5th?



On average 5th in the epl? how?


Its based on points I think - table in one of those articles above ^^^


Wedon't come on average 5th every season, though.


Our target should be solid top 6, then hopefully a push onwards from there.We ARE a mid table side, though, for now.

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