Can you remember back in August when Keith Bishop was overheard at a Spanish airport telling Mike Ashley “Not to worry this will all blow over in September!”. Well we are almost halfway through October, and the fans protests against the owner don’t seem to be slowing down, if anything the movement seems to be increasing in momentum.
But over the past few weeks have we seen an increase in appearances at games both home and away. Firstly there was the surprise appearance at Selhurst Park as we played out another 0-0 draw on the road, flanked by his three stooges, which met with the roughly 3000 travelling fans to tell the owner exactly what we thought of him, which was met by a sly smile from the Sports Direct magnate.
Then came the home game against Leicester. Protests were planned and carried out outside the ground prior to kick off, with flags of both Rafa Benitez with the tagline ‘Hope’ and Kevin Keegan, with the tagline ‘Honesty’, two things which seem to have disappeared from the club over the past ten plus years. It was known at the time that the owner would be present at the game, but with stewards removing both flags during the planned protest by The Magpie Group, the atmosphere would undoubtably become toxic. The removal of the flags in my opinion must have coincided with Ashley being there, as the Rafa flag was in the exact same position during the protests before the Arsenal game and were not removed.
After another lackluster display, resulting in a 2-0 home defeat against the former champions, the owner decided to take it upon himself to take the management and first team squad out for a meal. A meal that just so happened on the same night the as the second Magpie Group meeting at Newcastle’s Labour club, which had guest speakers including local MPs. Reports from the meeting seemed to be positive, a lot more so than what would happen as Ashley would leave Rialto’s in Ponteland. Where he was meeting with some fans who had left the meeting complete with banners to ask again ‘where’s the money gone?’ which lead to Ashley seemingly sticking his fingers up at fans as he drove off.
Promises of a paid holiday for the entire first team if they were to avoid relegation, and even though no confirmation of talks about the January transfer window, Rafa seemed to be more confident about the upcoming window in his pre-match press duties before last weekends defeat to Manchester United. Pictures also started to circulate on social media on Tuesday night of pictures from inside the ground, and more specifically Strawberry Corner, and the fact multiple Sports Direct signage has been removed. Which actions seem to go hand in hand with comments made at the recent Fans Forum, that Sports Direct have actually started paying for advertising!
These actions have, and with reason, been met with skepticism from the fan base, asking what will replace the signage, will it be House of Fraser or Flannels. Talk of a free holiday has also angered some, most notably club legend, all time top scorer, and reigning all time Premiership top score, Alan Shearer. Who has stated publicly, that if he was apart of the squad, he would have told the owner where he could shove the offer of a free holiday where the sun doesn’t shine, and to use the money instead to improve the club and back the manager. A sentiment which no doubt is seconded by a vast majority of the fan base.
Is this all a strained offer of an olive branch from the recluse owner, or is it more smoke and mirrors? I know which way I’m thinking, it all seems a too little too late from the owner, and the standpoint from the fanbase, and this writer, for the best of our club, we need new owners, someone who will genuinely want what’s best for the club, and not seem to panic and try and fix everything because relegation could be a result……..again.