Date:Wednesday June 8 2011
Talkofthetyne has perhaps seemed critical of the club`s management in the past. Suddenly the rationale seems clear, as we make sense of the contract negotiations.
Casting our minds back, Mike Ashley`s tenure at St James` Park started on a positive note. Cash poured in, being spent on a host of new signings for a team remodeled by Sam Allardyce. When the "football by numbers" style didn`t work, in came Kevin Keegan, to breathe life into a club that was ostensibly on the up again.
Cue Derek Llambias. On his appointment, little was known of him by the Geordie public. His background was in casino management and he was from London. Would he be a "cards on the table" guy, or was his specialism more attuned to craps? Would the bridges he was brought in to build be of the transient pontoon variety?
Public pronouncements have been few, albeit gaining momentum in recent times. Criticism of the club by former manager, Kevin Keegan and former players, Alan Shearer and Michael Owen has been met with curt statements about their abilities.
Actions often speak louder than words, so to explore the impact on the club, it may be worth reviewing the key events. One of the first acts, at the time perhaps meant little, but with the benefit of hindsight, might be the start of a trend. James Milner was sold, for a handsome fee. Milner has gone on to be an England regular, now of course an FA Cup winner and in the Champions League with Manchester City.
What took on more significance was the resignation, or constructive dismissal, of Kevin Keegan. The central issue was who was ultimately responsible for selection of players brought into the club. Keegan was a popular figure, a man to who supporters warmed. Unattributed leaks suggested Keegan wanted too much expenditure. The courts decided he was pushed and that the club had perhaps not been entirely straight.
Ultimately, Shearer was brought in for a rescue act for the last 8 games of a season where supporters` peaceful protests and a letter campaign to the club had been ignored. Despite his feelings that a deal had been agreed, Shearer, too, was not awarded a contract. Shearer is obviously a popular figure as the club`s record goal scorer
There is no doubt that the Championship campaign was a success. The new manager, Chris Hughton had an unassuming style. His abilities to motivate shone through on the field, his press conferences honest and diplomatic. Having established a number of records on the field, he become popular, and was sacked.
The casino connection did seem useful in attracting new manager, Alan Pardew. Pardew himself was prepared to admit that he had met Derek at a number of charity functions, no doubt charities affording impoverished East European croupiers a better standard of life. Alan Brazil on Talksport reported that the two had been seen at a London restaurant prior to the departure of Hughton.
Pardew become the front man for club announcements. Andy Carroll would not be sold, was going nowhere, not at any price. Carroll had become a popular figure, a local lad doing well, top scorer in the Premier League, an England international and combative both on and off the pitch.
The official line is that Carroll handed in a transfer request. Little mention is made that a fee was accepted, that the owner`s helicopter was on standby. Carroll wanted to leave, it was his choice. The message was clear.
As the transfer window opens, we have another set of contract negotiations developing, unattributed comments ostensibly coming from the club, ironically during the manager`s absence. Joey Barton is not to be offered a contract extension. He had been offered one earlier in the season but it had not been signed. Joey was cast as the villain.
Supporters` perspectives on the other hand had evolved. Joey showed his passion on the field, has largely channeled his aggression and become pivotal on the field, both as a catalyst for creative play and inspirational in his determination. In many quarters, considered as player of the season, Joey had become a popular figure.
The latest player to "decline" a contract is captain, Kevin Nolan. These contract rebels are becoming too regular. In his case, Nolan has been a leading scorer over the last two seasons. His effort and captaincy on the field have been inspirational. His qualities have made him a popular figure.
What does seem common to the current negotiations is that these popular players have been asked to take a cut in their basic pay. For their parts, the players seem to expect that if such a sacrifice is made, that there might be some sort of reciprocation of goodwill, in the form of longer term security. Along with the "unmotivated" Enrique, players who are more popular than the club`s senior management are seemingly allowed to leave after a cloud has been placed over their heads.
We should clearly be grateful for Llambias. These greedy players should not be allowed to hold the club to ransom. The promotion and subsequent Premier League respectability were clearly won in the boardroom, not by the inspirational players at the heart of the team. The perspective is clearly that players have declined contracts, not that offers were measly.
The other benefit of this approach has been seen in the transfer market, Milner, and Carroll have already contributed to the largest transfer surplus of any Premier League team over the last 5 years, a surplus amounting to around £50m, almost double that of Arsenal, with Wigan and Blackburn Rovers the only other clubs in the black over the same period.
It could be coincidence that popular figures are given a dark slant. On the other hand, it could be one of the transferrable skills brought by Llambias from the casino world, the ability to deprive footballers of their money, combined with an ability to show them the exit door.
Date:Wednesday June 8 2011
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