To only bring in one loan signing in a summer where football is awash with new-found TV riches is some achievement, but they are on the brink of managing it. Perhaps Joe Kinnear can add it to that gold-plated CV of his.
There is a bigger narrative that is building steam here, though: one that won’t even be halted by desperate, last-ditch business before Monday’s late-night deadline. This has been the summer when the steady and unmistakable tarnishing of Newcastle United’s reputation has begun to build a toxic momentum.
That is not a sentence that anyone would write lightly.
There is so much about the club that swells the breast with pride: from the superb work of their Foundation to the stoic dedication of the many club employees who do their best to uphold the finest traditions of Tyneside’s most storied institutions.
Take, for example, the way Morecambe officials talked about Newcastle on Wednesday night. In the hushed shadow of the stands at Globe Park it was possible to hear Shrimps employees hailing the club as a “class act”.
Little things like supplying a signed shirt for a charity auction might not find their way on to a balance sheet but they ensure the club is in surplus with many in the game.
What a shame that the owner and his anointed director of football have singularly failed to live up to the standards set by those who see the club’s crest as standing for something more than a meal ticket back into the game or a vehicle for their already successful sportswear business.
What a shame that neither man appears to grasp the responsibilities they have in their privileged positions or understand that they are accountable to the thousands who will file through the gates this afternoon.
The mistakes this summer have been legion, but let’s begin with the pub politics that saw Kinnear get the job in the first place. On a sunny Saturday in June, the owner summoned Derek Llambias and Graham Carr to the Orange Tree pub in Totteridge to be told about Kinnear’s appointment over a pint.
This is no way to run a used car lot, never mind a cherished football club that has the emotional and financial investment of thousands in the North East.
Where was the due diligence of employing someone with the skills for the job? Where was the studious and careful sifting through the candidates who would no doubt have jumped at the chance to take on such a prestigious role? Drowned at the bottom of a pint pot, it seems. To do all of this hundreds of miles from the city that has St James’ Park deep in its bosom was contemptuous. What happened next was utterly embarrassing.
Every businessman in England would grasp that the way Kinnear was approached and then appointed was a recipe for calamity. There are plenty of gifted candidates who would have done the job. Yet Ashley proceeded and didn’t even blink when Kinnear took to the airwaves – ahead of an official club announcement, of course – and proceeded to billow nonsense for 48 hours. At one point he even seemed to suggest he had “more intelligence” than Newcastle’s fans. It was outrageous.
The club’s reputation – which had been repaired by the thought that was put into their strategy for the 2011/12 season – felt tarnished by what transpired.
For Kinnear it was “water off a duck’s a***”, to use the mangled idiom he uttered in this infamous Talksport interview.
Not so for Derek Llambias who, having felt his position was rendered untenable by Kinnear’s appointment, resigned on a point of principle. Carr was talked out of doing the same.
Ashley, presumably, felt this was yet another storm of controversy to be weathered. He will be bolstered by the dispatch that despite all of the criticism, the cursing and the cussing the launch of the new strip – adorned with the name of pay-day lending firm Wonga – has been the most successful for three years.
What he might not understand is that discontent and disgust has begun to seep into the bone marrow of this city. The people are still proud of Newcastle United – of course they are, hence the shirt sales – but to a man they are not proud of Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United.
They cringe when Kinnear misleads. Some local businesses wonder whether they really want to invite clients to watch a team that is owned by a man who plays fast and loose with the devotion of his public. Ashley will be prepared for the criticism on Monday night. If Cabaye goes and there is no replacement, the fury will build. The questions surrounding Kinnear will rise to a crescendo.
What will he do? Very little, apart from tell Alan Pardew to get on with it until January when alternatives will be sourced. In the meantime, loan signings are back on the agenda in a move that feels very much like the kind of short-termism the club had talked of burying very recently.
They asked for Darren Bent on loan and Demba Ba too, both the footballing equivalent of applying a plaster to a flesh wound. Make do and mend: hardly a strategy to reclaim that lost momentum.
It is understood that Kinnear is bemused by the vitriol coming his way. He doesn’t see Newcastle’s current problems as his fault.
Fair point, Joe. You haven’t signed any players yet either, though. We were not fooled by the pictures of you smiling next to Loic Remy after a deal that was nearly done in January was finally brokered. So far Newcastle have collected broken promises at the rate of knots, while not even coming close to adding new signings.
A judgement is coming his way on Tuesday. Even if Ashley doesn’t hold him to account, the rest of us will.
Perhaps the verdict is already in. A couple of weeks ago, a Newcastle supporter called Adam Clery wrote a piece on supporting the club in the Mike Ashley era for the Sabotage Times which must have been difficult to piece together.
“This is Newcastle United as it exists under Mike Ashley,” it read. “You either accept things won’t be run they way you want them to be and consign yourself to going along with the sell-to-buy, just-do-enough mantra, or you spend your entire time wasting your energy being angry.”