Why communication can save Newcastle in the long and short term

Fans on Tyneside have been kept in the dark for too long and something must change.

Following the airing of Channel 4's Dispatches on Monday evening, Newcastle United were quick to release a statement regarding certain elements of the show.

Focusing on owner Mike Ashley's handling of his retail superstores, Dispatches referenced the company’s uncomfortable link with the North-East club, which Ashley also possesses.

The statement, published on the clubs website, read: “In January 2014, in the minutes of its Fans Forum which are published online, the club confirmed how the retail relationship with Sports Direct works.

“For the purpose of clarity, we can reconfirm that 100 per cent of the income from goods bought in the club’s official stores and on its website are received by the club and not Sports Direct, as the ‘Dispatches’ programme claimed."

Despite this being a season where communication has been at best minimum, it was not a surprise to see the folk at St. James’ Park issue a hurried statement on a subject that could negatively impact Ashley's prized asset.

Yet Ashley's other primary asset, Newcastle United, has been impacted immensely by the lack of clarity between club hierarchy and supporters groups for almost eight years.

Whilst this may shock some younger fans, this wasn't always the case; who can forget Kevin Keegan standing outside the front of St. James’ Park conversing with angry fans over the sale of top scorer Andy Cole, when he could have so easily slipped out the back door? Or Sir Bobby Robson's impassioned, straight-talking press conferences each and every week that kept fans in the know? Going further back to the mid-1980’s, Jack Charlton wasn’t afraid to speak his mind when he was in charge.

Newcastle had historically been a club who were transparent and open with their loyal fans, something that has been lost in recent memory.

In more modern times, it seems that management are punished for being accessible about the club’s dealings.

Former boss Alan Pardew found himself in hot water with his superiors after making some less than savoury remarks about Ashley in October 2013 – as reported by The Telegraph.

Commenting on why the owners’ success in business had not lead to success at Newcastle, Pardew said: "He can’t understand the logic sometimes of how it works, and it confuses him and I think it upsets him, and sometimes when he’s upset I think he does some things that are not brilliant for the football club."

It was the last time the Londoner would open up negatively about the club’s owner in his time on Tyneside. Quickly becoming a ‘yes man’, Pardew learnt the hard way to hear no evil, speak no evil.

Even before Pardew, the joyous return of Kevin Keegan in January 2008 was cut short after eight months partially due to an apparent lack of clear communication between himself and the board.

When Keegan spoke freely of how his side were a long way off competing for the top four places after a draw against Manchester United in August, his relationship with Ashley deteriorated so fast that The Toon legend handed in his resignation little over a month later whilst deals reportedly played out without his consent.

In the present day, despite his best intentions, current head-coach John Carver has become a Jekyll and Hyde personality in the North-East.

The 50-year-old has attempted to create a more fruitful relationship between the club and fans this week, even personally speaking with two supporters who criticised him following Saturday's lacklustre loss to Swansea to explain his running of the team. This, however, only came on the back of Carver publicly asking for more protection from said fans when in his dugout - per the BBC.

As for Ashley and his board, their voices are not heard in the media even in such desperate times for the club.

Fans are not asking for a league title or even a Champions League place. What they are asking for is hope; hope the club has an ambition to one day achieve those things, hope that Newcastle has long term goals, and hope that Newcastle is moving in the right direction.

With Hull's win at home to Liverpool on Tuesday evening, Newcastle's visit to Leicester this Saturday has become an even bigger game for both sides.

Should a senior figure come out of the woodwork with an honest assessment of how this season has gone, and talk about what can be done to improve upon this in the coming summer, it could serve as a demonstration that the club isn’t being run on black and white figures, as well as lift both fans and players’ morale heading into this weekend’s crucial contest.

With the sale of the club looking unlikely, communication would rank as one of the highest priorities for Newcastle fans. However, it is simply wishful thinking to believe such a thing could happen.

We have learnt time and time again that Mike Ashley is happy to stand in the shadows and run Newcastle in a similar fashion to Sports Direct; silence is golden.

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