The connection between club and fans is weaker than ever following Newcastle’s relegation, says Harry De Cosemo – but in Rafa Benitez there is hope.
Imagine the producer was completely inept, failing to make his key decisions count, leaving the director, himself not utilising the stage properly, hung out to dry and actors forgetting their lines.
As paying customers dry up and scathing reviews keep coming, the show manager would have to act. First of all, they would make sure there was a threat of consequences for all involved, and if that didn’t work, the axe would be wielded from the top down.
The producer would go, then the director, and then, if they are still struggling to impress under a new and improved regime, the actors would be shown the door.
Apart from anything else, before taking ratings, popularity and money into consideration, professional pride would have to be thought about. Once the product has value, everything is more likely to fall into place. That is what any normal top entertainment business would do.
Football, at its very core, is entertainment, but Newcastle United are far from normal. It has always been hard to see what makes the club tick under Mike Ashley, but in his eight years as owner, success and pride have never been a top priority.
Ashley, the show manager, appears to turn a blind eye to his producer Lee Charnley’s incompetence far too often because, after all, people are still buying tickets for his musical. It wasn’t until they were in danger of losing their status as a top show that they acted, firing their director, Steve McClaren, whose actors kept getting their lines wrong and never really took responsibility for it.
Bringing in Rafa Benitez, a world-renowned director, had some obvious impact, but it was too little, too late. Their high-end accreditation was taken away and all that corner-cutting had been exposed.
Newcastle United were relegated from the Premier League for the second time since 2009 on Wednesday night following Sunderland’s home victory over Everton. There can be little more painful than your closest rivals avoiding relegation at your expense, but the writing was on the wall long ago; this is nothing if not fully deserved.
It is no secret that all is not well on Tyneside; the systematic problems run deep, and the latest, and perhaps most hard-hitting demise, is a culmination of all of them.
Bring it on Burton.
HOWAY THE LADS
— NUFC Global (@NUFC_Global) May 11, 2016
The players have not performed, the recruitment has been exposed, and the board embarrassed. If any positives can be taken from this, it is that those responsible, Ashley, Charnley, Graham Carr and the like, have absolutely nowhere to hide anymore.
Poor decisions have been made and lessons haven’t been learned, but the toxic atmosphere around the club, and subsequently the city, has left the connection between fans and club as frail as ever.
Professional pride, effort and a desire to be the best possible should be the base of anything in life, let alone competitive sport. Too many times this season and in previous years have consequences for failure not existed. If there is no drive to go forward from the top, players are not going to pour their heart and soul into what they are doing. That is Newcastle’s most fundamental error.
It is no secret that Ashley has attempted to run matters like another of his businesses. Almost in the model of his most profitable venture, Sports Direct, he attempts to sell cheap stock at high prices, explaining the obsession with bringing in young, unproven players from abroad with the idea of selling them on.
It worked for a while, but he has been warned that football and business are not identical. Now, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
Emotion has much more of an impact on football. If everyone, from fans to players, coaches and directors, is pulling in the same direction at Newcastle, few places are more powerful, but Ashley has continuously ignored his biggest asset, and that negligence is why what has happened has indeed happened.
Newcastle will bounce back, if only because Mike Ashley is concerned about profit more than anything and he will need the Prem cash
— Ed Malyon (@eaamalyon) May 11, 2016
He is a man proven as morally bankrupt, having been proven in a court of law to have lied to and then mistreated a player on disability grounds. He also sanctioned the shirt sponsor as a, for lack of a better word, despised pay-day loan company. Forget the decisions, forget the anger at what has happened, it is hard to feel anything towards a club under such a regime.
Despite the comments of Freddy Shepherd, the only hope is Benitez. The break clause in his contract can now be activated and he is free to leave at the end of the season, but the possibility of him staying on in the Championship is reportedly much greater than before. Despite everything, his reign has been like the old Newcastle United, and it would soften any blow to have him at the helm but would sting even more should he depart.
Everything that has been foreseen, all the warnings and the prophecies, have come true. It is a long road back for Newcastle United, much longer than last time but, make no mistake, this is no less than what they deserve.
Harry De Cosemo, @harrydecosemo on Twitter.