Newcastle and Wonga: why It’s not just a case of black and white…

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I will admit to having somewhat of a soft spot for Newcastle United.  After having lived in the city for a short period, and with my brother following the Toon Army, I attended several games at the Bargain Discount Cheap Sports Goods Coliseum, or St. James’ Park as it was back then and could not help but be carried away on match days by the avalanche of optimism and positive energy that simply exudes throughout the streets and from the Geordie faithful.

It always felt that Newcastle United were on the verge of one extreme of the other – a magnificent performance leading to glory or an abject match spelling despair and this always made for compelling viewing.  In some ways this has been moderated in recent years, yet in others it still rings true today.

Bouncing back from a dismal relegation with a vibrant season in the Championship, Newcastle’s Chairman was still attempting to sell the club after vicious abuse from the fans following some spectacular PR gaffs to coincide with weak football when the steadying force of Chris Houghton was dismissed somewhat surprisingly, despite doing an admirable job.

With Alan Pardew at the helm, another Londoner to further provoke the Geordie ire, Mike Ashley continued to spring further surprises by selling or releasing core English players that had played so well for the club and replacing them with unknown foreign players.

Doom merchants predicted a difficult 2011/12 season for the Toon Army but how wrong they were!  Storming to fifth in the EPL and with Alan Pardew claiming manager of the year, Newcastle Utd performed above all expectations last season and the ‘feel good factor’ was most definitely back.

So, what about this season?  Not quite hitting full form as yet, Newcastle’s performances on the pitch have been somewhat subdued so far.  Seemingly not wanting to enjoy being under the radar, Mike Ashley cannot help but court controversy and during the calm comes the storm.

Firstly, the unprecedented move to offer Alan Pardew and his entire back room staff EIGHT year contracts raised quite a few eyebrows.  In the chop and change world of Premier League football this seems a brave move by Mr Ashley, but actually one that I admire.  Ashley didn’t get to where he is today through following the crowd, and there has clearly been a promise made that should Pardew et al prove themselves they will be suitably rewarded – the promise has been kept.  This should fill all concerned at the club with a sense of security, confidence and loyalty.

However, swiftly following this potentially positive move came the news that the new sponsor for the Toon is none other than the controversial pay day loan company Wonga.  The fact that a company is able to take advantage of the working classes during the difficult economic times to throw bucket loads of cash at a multimillionaire football clubs to which the same working classes religiously attend spending large amounts of money to do so in the process – oh the irony abounds.

As does the fact that the actual word ‘wonga’ is derived from the Romany word ‘wanger’ which means coal – one of Newcastle’s most famous exports (after Newcy Brown of course).  Maybe Mike Ashley has finally succeeded in ‘selling coal to Newcastle’ to quote a famous phrase?

So it seems for every positive move made by this famous club, a negative one follows.  It seems that matters remain still very much black or white.  Good then bad.  Happy then sad.  Or are they?

Whilst we can all have a giggle at the oddities at St. James’ Park, it has to be said that their excellent scouting network has delivered amazingly well recently.  In Pardew they have a head coach not short on self-belief and as last season illustrated has the ability to go some way in backing that up.  Their squad contains talented players, their stadium is huge and impressive and their support is fanatical.  Whilst results so far this year are solid rather than spectacular, maybe all this black and white is combining into subtle shades of grey, and in fact Newcastle are beginning to find a bit of much needed stability that could hopefully one day result in the much craved for trophy.

And when that day does come I’d very much like to be back in the city of Newcastle to witness the parade as the party will be in full colour for sure.  Why aye pet.

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