Newcastle United are, to echo the words of The Swiss Ramble, stuck in a rut. It is a rut of incomplete business practice. It is a rut of antagonism against the lifeblood of the football club. (In all fairness, however, at least it's marginally more even to have progressed past the days of "Hey look over at this moderately cool thing while we sell our jersey sponsorship to a loan shark" or "Hey look at this shiny thing while we change the name of your footballing mecca to show potential investors how cool it could be" to an overt, consistent middle finger aimed at the fans.) It is a rut of poor or non-existent tactical decisions by managers who don't know how or don't care to play to the strengths of the players at their disposal. It is a rut of lifeless, passionless, "did that direct deposit post yet?" performances by players that come together to be less than the sum of the parts the represent.
As yet another extremely poor performance played out against Tottenham Hotspur in front of a slightly diminished crowd on Sunday at St. James' Park – a Premier League club record tying sixth consecutive defeat (tying the record set some 12 months ago or so) – one was left with a renewed sense that the entire club from ownership down is merely playing out the string. It is as little a revelation as water being wet, but it was the latest verification that our entire club exists for one purpose: it is a vehicle through which to earn a paycheck.
Mike Ashley – well Lee Charnley, because Mike Ashley doesn't say words to people, so far as we know – has told us that the financial model under which Newcastle United are meant to operate is one of self-sufficiency. It is to be a model in which Mike Ashley's ample pockets are touched neither by the money-grubbing needs or wants of the Toon Army nor those pesky banks that charge reasonable interest fees (something in the single digits of percentage points APR, not thousands of percentage points) to provide capital to businesses needing such help. The question becomes, if not now, then when?
Reports abound regarding a supposed £30m+ "war chest" that exists while John Carver has assured us that the squad will see heavy investment over the summer. It all seems so promising once you get past the part where it is heavily implied that John Carver stays on as the head coach next year... except for we've heard this song and dance before. As sure as April and the showers that come along with it, Alan Pardew would feed us his annual "we're going to bring in x players" and as sure as the May flowers would come, the promised players would not.
The only way forward is through a complete and utter change of culture from the top down, which is never going to happen. The dragging of the clubs' collective feet in appointing a new Head Coach, the persistence in keeping a manager who is winning fully 12% of his matches in charge and the chronic on-field malaise show us that such a change is unlikely to occur. Mike Ashley will continue to run the club in the same way, looking to maximize the silver lining of his pockets. John Carver will continue to cling to a position in which he is failing magnificently in order to maximize his income while he still can. The players will show up for a pay check and, if we're lucky, perform as though they are trying to earn an even higher payday... somewhere else. When it all comes down to it, the Toon Army will be left to pick up the pieces.