by Susan Jardine
Let’s start with a question. What do you get for somebody for has loads of money and is an owner of a football club.
Answer- A copy of “How to win friends and influence people”
Yes, at Newcastle Mr Ashley has gone and put his foot in it again with the fans. The latest faux pas being the removal of the St James’ Park name from the stadium and in its place Sports Direct Arena. With mixed feelings still from Newcastle fans towards Mr Ashley you would think that the best plan of attack is not to antagonise the fans until you feel certain they have totally accepted you.
And the removal of the name St James’ Park is viewed in these parts as akin to desecration of sacred property. With the removal of the words St James’ Park has gone over 100 years of history at the club. But here is note of caution for Mr Ashley, it is comparitvely easy to take down a name of a ground, it is nigh on impossible task to persuade fans to accept its new name. It will always be St James’s to the fans. That is something Mr Ashley cannot change.
Talk about own goals. This is one par excellence. In many ways it is highly fortuitous that Newcastle do not have a match this weekend as it is extremely likely that Mr Ashley would have faced a hostile reception from the Toon Army when he took his seat for the match. The sacking of Chris Hughton and the selling of Andy Carroll and Jose Enrique were bad enough for Newcastle fans to swallow. Doing this, well he seems to be pushing his luck.
Shouldn’t Mr Ashley be thinking of the fans and putting their wishes first? Absolutely, first rule of business (as a football chairman) must surely be – don’t alienate your fans. The fans will only accept and put up with so much. And remember it is the fans who buy the tickets, thus putting the money into the the coffers
As a commentator and a reporter I will go on record now and state that I refuse point blank to call it the Sports Direct Arena. It is and it will always be St James’s to me.
Just the chance of an interview with Mr Ashley is one I would be delighted at- I would be putting some very difficult questions! I would be only too happy to listen to his side of the story and run it in the Cutter. So over to you Mr Ashley!!
I don’t expect many changes to the team by Martin O’Neil as his charges bid for a place in the quarter finals.
All of this has overshadowed this weekend’s action. It is fifth round weekend of the FA Cup and Sunderland will renew acquaintances with Arsenal at tea time today at the Stadium of Light. The Black cats will have been licking their wounds following their defeat at the hands of the Gunners last weekend from a winning position. I don’t expect many changes to the team by Martin O’Neil as his charges bid for a place in the quarter finals, with the exception being the potential return of skipper Lee Cattermole.
But Arsenal, still reeling from their 4-0 thumping at the hands of AC Milan at the San Siro in midweek will be that very dangerous species. The wounded animal, and beware a wounded beast as their revenge can be of the worst kind. The FA Cup remains the only realistic chance of silverware for Arsene Wenger and if the Gunners fail on Wearside that would signify Arsenal’s season as over.
And I will be there too. Solo commentary duty for me – with one of my colleagues being away in Barcelona, and the other being unavailable.
Into the Championship and Middlesbrough finally ended an winless league run on Tuesday night against Nottingham Forest with a 2-1 victory. The Teesiders though have to wait until Tuesday for their next match, and that is a trip to Bermondsey to face Millwall. Also there is news that Barry Robson will be off to Vancouver Whitecaps in July to play MLS. Robson’s contribution this season has been immense, including eight goals in 26 matches, one of them being that wonder strike against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light in the fourth round of the FA Cup. The victory over Forest should go a long way to easing of tension among Middlesbrough fans, and may kickstart their promotion campaign.
Meanwhile Hartlepool face Notts County at Victoria Park after their five match unbeaten run came to a juddering halt at Preston on Tuesday. Hartlepool though are playing better quality football since the return of Neale Cooper and there seems to be that precious ingredient of confidence throughout the team. For a team who the bookies had has favourites to go down they have repeatedly shown how little the bookmakers know with a series of gutsy performances, particularly away from home. They still have an outside chance of making the play offs. Hartlepool will have a score to settle against the other Magpies having lost 3-0 at Meadow Lane earlier this season.
And the trials and tribulations of Darlington FC have taken another twist with fans group Darlington FC 1883 Limited granted a period of exclusivity until 30th April to see if they can generate the necessary money through a share issue to buy the club. The players though have not been paid in full since October and now only receive payment as and when they make first team appearances. Despite this they continue to fulfil their Conference fixtures and travel to Alfreton this weekend in a match that is the proverbial six pointer. Darlington hover above the drop zone on goal difference with their opponents this weekend well and truly entrenched in the relegation dogfight. North East rivals Gateshead are in a considerably better position at just three points from a play off place as they head to Forest Green Rovers.
But whoever you support enjoy the football and the best of luck to your teams this weekend.
You can follow Susan on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/northeastdiva