Det er meget lang tid siden, at jeg har læst noget så rammende og følelsvækkende, som det Henry Winter har skrevet.
Nativity plays in Tyneside schools this year will surely feature boisterous audience outbursts of “Shepherd Out”.
As Newcastle United writhe in another bout of introspection, the piercing search-light should be focused not on the short-term leadership from the dug-out but the long-term direction from the board-room. Chairman Freddy Shepherd is the problem, not manager Glenn Roeder.
Life at Newcastle is often depicted as a soap opera, a sort of North-eastenders with repeating plot-lines of aspiration unfulfilled, yet it is also real life laced with deepening sadness. Away from the chairman’s office and certain incompetent corners of the dressing-room, this is a club teeming with proper people, supporters of unbelievable patience and passion, and employees who view the world solely in black and white.
When Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer were dragged to the press room to explain their infamous on-field spat, a heart-broken club servant turned the photograph of Jackie Milburn to the wall so that the late, great Geordie No 9 would not see the shame brought on the club he represented so sportingly and selflessly.
In Shepherd’s defence, a middle-aged suit sitting up in the stands can hardly be held responsible for two midfielders scrapping down below. Not all of Newcastle’s ills can be laid at Shepherd’s door; the thoroughbred Michael Owen, a Shepherd transfer coup, went lame in England’s colours
Shepherd has consistently provided funds for excellent recruits such as Scott Parker. He even allowed Roeder to gamble £10 million on Obafemi Martins, the infuriatingly inconsistent Nigerian striker.
Sympathy for Shepherd disappears the moment his salary is examined. According to the latest available accounts (year ending July 31 2005), Newcastle’s chairman was paid £502,954. Good money for indifferent work. Shepherd is no benefactor in the mould of Middlesbrough’s Steve Gibson, the benchmark for “a fit and proper person” to lead a football club.
Developments 200 miles to the south also embarrass Shepherd, down at Aston Villa, where Martin O’Neill has again been playing the sleeves-rolled up alchemist. O’Neill is the manager Shepherd should have wooed and appointed this summer, and Newcastle fans understandably gaze enviously at events off Spaghetti Junction. Roeder is an admirable person, a terrific coach, and outstanding Academy director, but he will never be the Pied Piper of Toon Army dreams as O’Neill would have been.
Talk swirls around fans’ chat-rooms and City circles about a putative take-over, by the Belgravia Group, yet would Shepherd sell? Yesterday, one enraged supporter despatched a missive to Shepherd, pleading with him to leave, arguing that the chairman had wasted the legacy built up by his distinguished predecessor, Sir John Hall.
“When you took over the club you were handed the second-best team in the Premiership, a club that was looking like it was destined for greatness and you’ve destroyed all of that through your utter contempt for the fans and your lust for power and money,” wrote Michael Foster. “You’ve totally failed in everything a chairman is responsible for.”
Such Newcastle fans deserve better. Those of us neutrals who travel the English football circuit, mixing with fans of all club colours, and gauging the depth of their fervour, readily admit respect for Newcastle’s following, home and away. Battered at Manchester United, Newcastle fans never stopped singing.
St James’ itself is a special place, an arena that makes the pulse quicken when the teams walk out and that extraordinary roar erupts from countless Gallowgate throats. Attending Alan Shearer’s testimonial last season was uplifting because of the outpouring of love for a local hero while also painfully poignant. The absence of Shearer’s name from the cast-list rips away much of the lingering class clinging to the club.
A die-hard Newcastle disciple of this observer’s acquaintance is convinced the club will be transformed only when supporters show their dissatisfaction at serial mismanagement by voting with their feet. Empty seats. No queues in the megastores. Might focus a few minds in the board-room. It will never happen.
Following Newcastle is a birthright, a religion, a warm-up before the knees-up of a night out. On the Geordie check-list of must-do activities, watching the Toon ranks alongside breathing. Such loyalty merits better leadership. Shepherd Out.
Det er så sandt så sandt. Det mest frustrerende for mig er, at det ikke kun er Newcastle der lider af den sygdom, men også AaB. Elendige ledelse