Who do you think you are kidding Mr Ashley?
The unthinkable has finally happened. The club based at St. James` Park Newcastle no longer has the address posted on its walls. Instead, the name of a discount retailer has been hung from the rafters.
A club employee was photographed taking down the now famous black lettering. It did not take long for Michael Atkinson to make a valiant attempt to replace it with white paint. He has been charged with criminal damage.
It begs the question, which is the more criminal act? In a politically correct society which sees overseas criminals, including rapists evoke the Human Rights Act to escape deportation, who is penalised, the criminal or the victim?
Those of us who remember the pre-Sir John Hall days will remember that the address has not always been in big letters. Things have changed. In 1980, the site was given improved access with a Metro station named St James` Park. St James` Park is on the map and means so much more than its location. It is accompanied by 120 years of football tradition, from Milburn and Shearer to Ray Clarke and Billy Rafferty.
To all intents and purposes, the club`s owner and management have dumped the historic name. Many will see this as the most wanton of acts of vandalism, covering the Newcastle skyline with red white and blue banners from a cheap retail outlet.
Ashley has been associated with the club for around a fifth of the time that Michael Atkinson has been in the area. His 'horrible' sidekick, Llambias conducts much of the club business from London. They appear to have no respect for the support base that has made this club great.
It has happened before, that the wishes and traditions associated with the club have been vandalised. The ashes of generations have been covered with tarmac. Among the range of thefts for scrap metal, those who have raided war memorials and desecrated the memory of protectors of society have quite rightly been branded as scum. There may be an argument that Llambias and Ashley should not be tarnished with the same brush.
Passion on ToTT has run high. One poster compared Ashley to Hitler. There will be the 'peace in our time' brigade who seek to appease Ashley and co. There have been some who labelled the comparison as unfair. It is of course unfair. Hitler at least sought to communicate with his public.
There are similarities, however. Hitler embarked on ethnic cleansing in Poland, in the same way that level 7 has been cleared of vociferous support of the club`s values. His Goebbels, in the shape of Llambias, has arranged for the disposal of key players, not to mention managers who earned so much respect and fought the supporters` corner.
Like Hitler`s propaganda machine, the departed have been tainted. Llambias wanted a strong manager, Hughton was weak. Enrique wanted to leave. Nolan was after too much, Carroll submitted a transfer request.
We are reminded that the Keegan tribunal found the regime to have lied.
Hughton was sacked because the club wanted a manager with more experience. It is a fact that Hughton, in his only full season in management, achieved an automatic promotion, something that Lord Par Par has never achieved in 13 years. The latter`s credibility was sunk after the false promises of the Carroll shambles. Of the propaganda to come out of the club, the landmark of being the first manager to concede 5 goals against 2 clubs in a league season in almost 40 years has been conveniently overlooked.
Yes, there are good things that have happened. Promotion came after an avoidable relegation. The current league position is welcome despite the lack of depth in the squad that has led to chances to progress being squandered. The wage bill is under control. For once in his career, the hope is there that Lord Par Par can push on and achieve relative success for more than one season. Gamblers will always make the occasional winning call.
So back to the name change. It may or may not be a criminal act of vandalism. The cinders saga has caused pain to families, the act having gone unpunished. The name has ostensibly been taken which may not be so bad if there is recompense.
The accounts are yet to be published for last year. They may not go into the detail of how much the retailer has paid for the privilege of being emblazoned on the skyline and on every piece of available space in the ground.
We can look for clues, however. Derek Goebbels has said that stadium naming rights could be worth £10m per season to the club. We look forward to seeing if club revenue is going up by that amount when the accounts are published. One time would be saviour of the club and current Honorary Vice President, Malcolm Dix, is on record as saying: 'at the moment Mike Ashley`s company name is being put on the side of the stadium and he can`t very well put his own money into the club he owns.'
This is worth a second look. Ashley pocketed the best part of £1bn on selling shares in his company before allowing the share price to collapse, depriving thousands of private shareholders. He may be a majority shareholder in the cheap retail chain but he has caused others to lose out. The remaining shareholders may be paying nothing for their share of naming rights.
The name may have been stolen for no return, at least not to the supporters or city that made this famous club.
Yes Mr Llambias, we know how horrible you can be. We expect you to be a slimy, lying rat and would not be surprised if you had come through the sewage abodes of the gambling industry. We know that you make cowardly controversial announcements in Covent Garden, hundreds of miles from the scenes of your 'crimes'. In our society, we have also come to expect that rapists can not be deported.
The club is the club. The Geordie public will always support our representatives on the field. We know that however much our hospitality is abused, the likes of Hitler and Goebbels, Saddam and Comical Ali, Gaddafi and other tyrants will pass. St James` Park will always be our spiritual home.
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