Can Newcastle fans welcome change while still refusing to allow sportswashing? Is that possible? Send your views to email@example.com
Sympathy for Newcastle fans?
Newcastle fans must be feeling fairly conflicted right now. On the one hand, they’ve got rid of the hated Ashley, but on the other their new owners are at least one of, and arguably THE most brutal and corrupt states in the world. And it means that they’re going to have to spend the next few years making excuses on social media for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, for their brutal death penalty, for the export of Wahabbism across the world leading to the increase in terrorism, at least until Kim Jong-Un buys, I don’t know, Reading.
I’m sure they’ll take that for a bit, if it means they get to sign a higher class of player, but it’s not a rewarding supporter experience, as you can tell by how angry and upset a certain cohort of Manchester City fans seem to be all the time, notwithstanding their limitless wealth and extraordinary success.
Dara O’Reilly, London
The Magpie Revolution must start slowly
It’s strange to wake up as a Newcastle fan with hope all around. With the feeling of Christmas morning, but more strange and unfamiliar – dashes of trepidation and uncertainty. But much more hope. Fans and local media celebrating the end of Mike Ashley’s bargain basement reign, and the swagger of pretending we think we might get Mbappe or Haaland, when right now I’d just take a new defence.
After nine years in London surrounded by Arsenal fans griping about coming 4th or 5th, as Newcastle battle relegation or plunge headfirst into it, it’s rather head spinning to think that one day the tables may be turned and Newcastle might stand in the Prem aristocracy, with the immense privilege of being disappointed by 4th or feeling sad when we get knocked out of the CL.
At the moment though I think most Newcastle fans are just celebrating the end of the Ashley era. He dragged us from then-regular contenders for European places in the 90s and early 00s, to a perennial relegation slog, a yo yo club. He insulted the fans and the players with his appointments (remember Joe Kinnear?), and he left the infrastructure to rot. He had the gall to act like we could hope for no better. He was wrong. He won’t be missed.
The huge question is what the new owners mean. Amanda Staveley will be viewed a hero after three years of work making the deal happen. And the Reuben Brothers, among the UKs richest men and big investors in a Newcastle shopping centre and racecourse already, will also be on the board.
But the big questions have always been about the PIF, the investment fund of Saudi Arabia, with the obvious concern that Newcastle could be part of a sports washing empire and any success may come with an asterisk. The PIF is already a huge investor in firms like Uber, Wework and Slack, and owns stakes in Boeing and Disney, so they’re not exactly new to investing in big companies people in the UK would use. But for a lot of people the owners will be a big issue, with the hope that Staveley and the Reubens will have enough control. I’d rather have had them alone, but we didn’t get that choice.
For now, I’m celebrating Ashley going, thankful to Staveley, and pretty much still hoping, just hoping, that we won’t go down this year. If there’s a Christmas wish list with new owners’ money, it would a progressive new manager, and some young good central defence and central midfield to form a stronger spine to the team and let ASM and Wilson do their thing, to get us back up into the Prem middle ranks. If City are any guide the path to the very top can take five years or more no matter how much money you have. Mbappe can wait…
Roger (South Hampstead)
Can sportswashing have opposite effect?
I wanted to make this point the last time the Saudi takeover of NUFC was in the news, but missed the chance, so I’m striking while the iron is hot:
‘Sportswashing’ is undoubtedly A Thing, and it’s important for journalists and fans alike to call it out. If they do so repeatedly, loudly and effectively, in a pragmatic and organized manner, it can have the exact opposite effect, ie. it can encourage genuine positive change.
Moreover, it gives sports fans a voice when they otherwise would have absolutely none. Imagine if Qatar hadn’t won the 2022 World Cup. Would any of our opinions about migrant workers matter to anyone? Would it have featured prominently in the news? It might seem fair to point out that many people died constructing stadia specifically for the 2022 World Cup, but my understanding is that migrant workers are subject to the same dangerous conditions for non-World Cup-related construction projects, ie. the issue is much wider than football.
Now looking at the Saudi situation: when the proposed takeover was last in the news, football journalists and media outlets had the opportunity to use their platforms to speak out against the various reasons this is problematic, not least the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and lack of accountability. As soon as the takeover failed, the opportunity was gone. Has Saudi Arabia improved in the intervening period, by not having the opportunity to attempt to conduct Sportwashing through NUFC? (I genuinely don’t know, but imagine not?) And more importantly, now that the takeover is back on the cards, we are back to having Saudi Arabia’s woes in the headlines again. I don’t see how Sportswashing can succeed if the media and fans do not allow it to.
Turning to NUFC fans, following the exact same logic as above, I don’t think they need to choose between being excited and hopeful about the proposed takeover, and being critical of MBS/Saudi Arabia. I realize that taking a nuanced approach is difficult for one person, never mind 52,000 people, never mind a wider fanbase across online social media, but it’s not impossible to welcome MBS/Saudi Arabia while (for example) chanting “Justice for Jamal Khashoggi” on (for example) the 18-minute mark of every match Newcastle plays, as symbolism for the year he was murdered. If this was audibly chanted and picked up by media, what would MBS/Saudi Arabia possibly do to stop them, other than perhaps thinking twice about murdering journalists in future? And the same logic applies to other societal issues, including Women’s Rights and LGBT rights, etc.
TL;DR: takeovers can enable Sportwashing but they provide an (at least equal, if not greater) opportunity for media and fans to provoke the exact opposite effect.
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva, Switzerland
Culling deadwood is not an art
Ken in Cork is the second writer this week (and the 427,000th overall) who has raised the fact of Olé getting rid of some players as part of the reason he should be kept.
Can someone please give me let me know if there is any facet of the job that is easier than this? For a manger to see a shit player and say to the board “I don’t want him because he’s shit” should not be a feather in his cap.
Plus, I’m not sure how his credentials for “buying well” have really been tested. Most of his purchases have been no-brainers. Signing the likes of Ronaldo, Varane, Maguire, Cavani wasn’t any masterstroke. Anyone who was manager at United, with the financial backing Olé had could have made those signings. That said credit where credit is due, I don’t think anyone saw Fernandes being the success he is, and AWB has been a good signing too. But there are plenty of non-successes to counter balance these. Van de Beek being the most obvious.
There’s only one thing question that needs to be asked about Olé (and pretty much all managers) and that is: Is he getting more out of this team than the sum of its parts?
United fans will point to a gaping hole in midfield as a reason for not doing as well as they could – but it’s the managers job to find ways to cover this, be it either tactically or in the transfer market. Olé has done neither. But has he done enough with the team as a whole? The jury is still out on that one. If he’s not within a few points of the winners at the end of the season then I think United will have to look elsewhere.
Big D, Luxembourg
Just my quick tuppence-hapenny’s worth. If , and it is still a big if , Manchester United decide to put Ole upstairs and try to convince a new coach to take on a squad with a complicated superstar in it’s midsts then of course Luis Enrique ought to be in the conversation . However I put it to you that neither he nor Graham Potter would ‘fancy it ‘ all that much due to the unbalancing of the squad once Cristiano was signed on huge wages .
Perhaps Potter could bite that particular bullet but my favourites would personally be Edwin with Mark Robins. Put that in ya’ pipe n smoke it.
Peter (Ole’s staying a while yet as no other club can realistically challenge their 4th place trophy), Andalucia
Arsenal’s greatest Premier League goal
No, no, no.
RVP’s goal against Charlton?! Ha!
Arsenal’s greatest Premier League goal was actually voted the greatest Premier League goal of all time back in 2017.
It was Dennis Bergkamp’s strike against Newcastle, yes, that one.
The reason it’s the greatest is no-one else would have the imagination, ability or opportunity to score that particular goal.
Thunderstrikes from range, beating the keeper from your own half, scorpion kicks, diving headers, cycle kicks, backheels and nutmegs have all been done before but Dennis’ goal remains the most astonishing goal I have ever see anyone score.
You can debate the best Premier League goal all you want but in Arsenal’s case, there really is no contest.
It’s also fitting that the goal was scored by an actual Arsenal legend and not some bloke who sodded off to United.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
…Great article on best PL goals today, and I do appreciate it is all about opinions.
However, to not even mention either of Dennis Bergkamp’s goals v Leicester or Newcastle?
Van Persie’s goal was fantastic, but I would put the two above, plus Henry v Man United and Tottenham ahead of it. The Leicester goal in particular, the control, poise and finish was just outrageous.
Be interested to hear other thoughts
Tom (god I miss those days), Gooner up North
OK Matthew, I’ll bite…
“Southgate has … the best squad of International players in the world…”
That’s a bold statement to make right there, you’ve got my attention.
“…(as per transfermarkt)”
Haha. WHAT!? Leaving aside the fact that the Premier League is notorious for overinflating the price of English players, does £ value really indicate quality of player. Maybe that’s why Solskjaer seems to want to stick with Martial!
I’m sure the rest of the mail was very valid but I’m afraid you lost me after the first sentence.
Southgate is the wally with the waffle
In response to Matthew’s mail this morning, I’m 100% with him. Southgate is the International OGS, full of soundbites but like his teams, lacking in consistency and failing to deliver in the biggest moments.
Take Jesse Lingard as the perfect example and Southgates own words from January 2017.
“I never pick on reputation – form has to come into it. You have to look at the opposition and the type of game you’re expecting and select the players best suited to that.”
So Lingard goes to West Ham, has a really good spell and is generally touted as “the in form player in the PL”, as a result, he doesn’t make the squad. He goes back to MUFC for this season, can’t get a start in the PL, so obviously he’s now in the squad??????
(Well he did make the provisional squad for Euro 2020 – Ed)
Kieran Trippier gets selected to play out of position ahead of a member of the team that won the Champions League weeks earlier. True, he had Southgate’s trust, but form over reputation, definitely not.
Raheem Sterling is another who has similarities with an OGS philosophy of hoping an individual comes up with the goods, he had not scored in a number of international games leading into the Euros but was selected (and tbf was our best player at times) on reputation rather than form.
(Raheem Sterling had literally not had an England drought longer than two games since October 2018 going into Euro 2020 – Ed)
The second part of the statement has a little more truth to it but he forgot to add, “If I think they’re any good, I’ll do my best not to lose, but please don’t expect us to try and win.”
Southgate contradicts himself so many times he could be a politician.
Howard (was never a BRodge fan for the same reasons) Jones