blogAuthor: michaelcalvin | Filed under: Blog
The last time Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley had something to celebrate he starred in an impromptu karaoke session in a Chinese restaurant in Mansfield. The ensuing photographs of him, gyrating bare-chested, are best not viewed on a full stomach.
The boy’s game for a laugh. I’ll give him that. He might even laugh last, and loudest. For someone dismissed as a rebel without a clue – guilty m’lud – he’s in rude health. His company, Sports Direct, has seen sales surge in the recession. His football club, Newcastle United, is thriving, as the surprise of the Premier League season.
Saturday’s home win over Wigan maintained an unlikely unbeaten record, and the Geordie Feelgood Factor. St James’ Park, so often a melting pot of anger and frustration in recent seasons, hummed with optimism, bordering on euphoria. The Toon are back in town. The masses are starting to believe.
Some sensitive souls are even starting to talk in terms of Newcastle manager Alan Pardew being a potential successor to Fabio Capello as England manager. That’s a huge leap of faith in a man prematurely dismissed as the Pinocchio to Ashley’s Geppetto.
Pardew has always been an underrated coach. He’s acutely aware of his image as someone who is a little too fond of himself, and takes pains to stress his coaching credentials. This season could be the making of him.
It’s a measure of his impact that Newcastle fans have been prepared to forgive, if not entirely forget, the brutal way in which Chris Hughton was dispatched, to make way for him. He has elicited sympathy, and no little admiration, for the way in which he has worked with a strategically trimmed budget.
Newcastle’s next step is to balance ambition with prudence. The biggest clubs are casting covetous glances at Yohan Cabaye, this summer’s bargain capture from Lille. His goal on Saturday was a cameo of sheer class. Cheik Tiote may be a booking waiting to happen, but plenty of top teams would benefit from his industry and intelligence.
Any sales will make the bottom line look healthy, which is the name of Ashley’s game. But, until the accountants pounce, Newcastle’s progress is worth making a song and dance about.