THE WANDERER: Pass-masters making a fool out of football

The Bolton News: Newcastle owner Mike Ashley Newcastle owner Mike Ashley

PICTURE the scene, Newcastle United’s players stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the training ground, as club owner Mike Ashley patrols the line.

“Yohan (Cabaye), you’re on the gold team,” he says, throwing a bib at the French midfielder, “you too (Hatem) Ben Arfa.

“Stevie (Taylor), you’re on the silvers with Jonas (Guiterrez) and Cheik (Tiote).”

With this he turns and heads back towards the changing rooms. He strides a few paces before a shy voice pipes up.

“Erm, excuse me boss, we haven’t got a team.”

Ashley turns around and sees Mike Williamson and Shola Ameobi looking rather sheepish.

“Ah, forgot about you lot,” Ashley says. “But don’t worry, I’ve got some bronze bibs in the boot of my car – I’ll go and fetch them.”

“Are we playing against that lot?” asks Ameobi.

“Nah,” says Ashley, “we’re not playing football. I’m just deciding which of you are interesting or glamorous enough to do interviews on Sky TV.

“You lads get to speak with the university newspaper, provided they come up with the cash.”

“But boss,” says Williamson. “I’m pretty interesting. I moved to Portsmouth once for £3million and was never allowed to play a game.”

“Sorry Mike,” says Ashley. “We’ll talk again when you win an England cap.”

Now the scene portrayed above was solely for comedic purposes and never actually happened, to the best of my knowledge. But if the Newcastle owner’s batty scheme to charge the press for access to his players is carried out, it might end up being closer to the truth.

The hair-brained idea, for those not in the know, is that press organisations will be charged for a “gold, silver or bronze” access to the club’s players.

Exact details, it must be said, are a bit sketchy at the moment, as is the criteria that Newcastle will use to rank their players for interview purposes.

Summing up a fracas between Southampton’s bench and his own on Saturday, Newcastle boss Alan Pardew uttered the incomprehensible phrase: “It was handbags at half mast.”

I assume that was a bronze quote.

Assuming any organisation bowed to Ashley’s wishes and shelled out for the full gold package, what exactly would you get for your money? Perhaps a hotline directly to Joe Kinnear?

And what exactly would it do for that organisation’s impartiality? Would important questions never be asked because local newspapers could not afford the gold package? As ever on Tyneside, the good ship reality seems to have drifted out to sea.

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