With the storm caused by the return of Joe Kinnear and now the controversy over the club’s new shirt sponsor with star striker Papiss Cisse it has certainly not been a summer to remember for Newcastle United fans.
In fact ever since the arrival of Mike Ashley on Tyneside in June 2007 Newcastle United have been a club never too far from the headlines whether it be managerial appointments, changes in the boardroom, the club’s relegation or even the owner’s own outlandish behaviour.
However this summer has been unlike any of Ashley’s previous four, all of which have written their own headlines, with former manager Joe Kinnear returning in a Director of Football many are unclear as to where the power lies at St. James’ Park and now with the news breaking yesterday that Papiss Cisse had pulled out of the club’s pre season tour of Portugal due to a row over the club’s new “Wonga” sponsor.
Not since the club’s relegation in 2009 has it seemed so disjointed.
With the return of Joe Kinnear many pundits and experts within the game, as well as the fans, are not sure who is in charge of choosing the squad for matchdays, who is directing the club’s transfer policy or even who is calling the shots on the tactics used on the training ground.
Since their relegation the club’s transfer policy has been completely revamped, no longer are washed up experienced players turning up at Newcastle with their best days behind them hoping for one last success, albeit inevitably doomed to end in failure. Instead Graham Carr, head scout at Newcastle, has scoured Europe unpolished gems on the cheap that have seen Newcastle reassert themselves in the Premier League with relative ease.
Well that’s the way it seemed with Cheick Tiote, Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa and Papiss Cisse helping guide the club back to European football in just their second season back in the top flight.
The squad that had been assembled by this new Carr-Llambias-Pardew axis achieved the
Toon’s highest league finish since the days of the great Sir Bobby Robson looked to have finally won owner Mike Ashley over to the fans, with whom it’s safe to say hasn’t always enjoyed the best of relationships, even if he was partial to a drink or two with them in the early days.
After their fifth placed finish and having secured European football for the first time since the 2006/07 UEFA Cup there was renewed optimism that Newcastle could continue this impressive progression, with many of the incomings having been paid for by notable outgoings, although unpopular to begin with such as the sales of Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan.
The 2012/13 season was not to live up to the billing though.
With only one major recruit, that of Vurnon Anita from Ajax and the fixture list looking more dense due to the Europa League campaign the Magpies struggled as injuries and loss of form hit their key players with Tiote, Cabaye and Ben Arfa all spending time on the sidelines as well as Tim Krul, Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini add to that Papiss Cisse drastically losing his form.
Back in a relegation battle come January Graham Carr identified Ligue 1 as Newcastle’s new hotbed for recruiting.
Bringing in league champion Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, France international Mathieu Debuchy, Toulouse’s Moussa Sissoko, Bordeaux wide man Yoann Gorcuff and highly rated Nancy full-back Massadio Haidara “Le Toon” looked capable of climbing safely away from trouble.
The injuries were to be unrelenting however with Debuchy, Sissoko and Haidara all suffering injuries of their own.
Having now had six months to settle and adapt to the rigours of the Premier League this cohesive Newcastle United side, something that has not been said for a while, looks capable of getting themselves back into the top half, if not trying to reach the European places.
Then came the appointment of Kinnear.
Bringing back the outspoken former manager looks to have really disrupted the flow on Tyneside with Derick Llambias resigning due to Kinnear allegedly sticking his ore in over transfers, not allowing the club to finalise a deal to sign long term target Douglas on a free transfer.
Kinnear apparently has also upset key players at the club by mispronouncing the names of many of the stars during an interview with talkSPORT, something also he did whilst manager seeing Charles N’Zogbia hand in a transfer request.
Now though it’s Papiss Cisse who has an issue with the club.
He is unhappy to wear the club’s new payday loan sponsor on the front of his shirt on religious grounds.
He may not have enjoyed the most successful of season last time out but Cisse is still the club’s most senior frontman, who Pardew would be unwilling to lose, although it is a realistic possibility he could leave the club over this row.
What’s more is that it is not only Cisse who is a Muslim in the Magpies’ squad with other star players Hatem Ben Arfa and Cheick Tiote and also new signings Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Moussa Sissoko and Massadio Haidara also fellow followers of Islam meaning the club are treating on very sensitive ground in how they treat Cisse, as this could engulf more of the playing squad.
This is a concerning time for Newcastle United, but it’s difficult to predict how this turmoil hanging over the club will affect them.
This is a club use to turmoil, especially under the ownership of Mike Ashley, a club who tend to perform at their best when the odds are stacking against them, look at their promotion season.
Having lost many of the club’s key names, that infamous 6-1 loss to Leyton Orient in a pre-season friendly, a manager who no one knew if he’d see out the season and having not been a club use to winning they took the league by storm.
Back then they introduced their new scouting system that has seen Graham Carr uncover some real gems now they are looking at utilising the Director of Football model, something that works well on the continent, working more as a team rather than putting so much responsibility on the manager.
This could work for Newcastle United.
The appointment of Pardew as manager was bizarre and he certainly wasn’t the popular choice, the sale of Andy Carroll too was not popular. Mike Ashley does not aim to be popular but these major decisions since their relegation have worked.
We’ll have to sit back and see if this is another masterstroke by Ashley but one thing is for certain, they need to address the unhappy squad first and foremost.