Date: 16th September 2011 at 7:12pm
Written by:

Derek Llambias responded to supporters` questions via the Evening Chronicle with less than positive results. ToTT examines why that might be.

Believe it or not, Mike Ashley once had a positive reaction from Newcastle supporters. That was when Chris Mort was Chairman. After Mort left, everything seemed to go wrong.

After the financial mismanagement of the Shepherd era, along came a billionaire, apparently with money to invest in the club. Signings were made, a legend was appointed as manager. In came Llambias, out went Keegan.

Whatever his first statements to the media were, he will always be remembered as the man who delivered the infamous “FACT” statement, 6 “FACTS” about Keegan`s resignation.

Any oasis of communication from the hierarchy in the Ashley desert of meaningful statements should be welcome. The fact is that it wasn`t. There seems to remain a lack of trust.

Looking back, the Keegan tribunal reached the conclusion that the club had misled the media and therefore the paying public – FACT.

February 2009 saw some interesting revelations. Llambias actually made an apology over communication. The club expected to be challenging for everything within 5 years. “We’re knocking down walls and rebuilding” he continued. “We’re realistic about where we need to be in the next year or so.’ We were relegated – FACT.

“We aren’t a selling club, we’re a buying club” was another mantra. Since then, the club sold a load of players. Milner had already gone as had N`Zogbia. Martins, Bassong, Beye, Faye, Rozenhal, Cacapa, Duff and more were to follow. All of this came after Llambias had told us that £8m was going to be spent in the summer.

The relegation came after the appointment of Alan Shearer, Newcastle United legend. Shearer is on record as having said that he shook hands on a contract to take the club forward as manager. Apparently, also a contract was agreed, there was never one to sign with Chris Hughton being appointed.

Hughton may not have been a popular choice but he did take over under difficult circumstances. He gradually won over supporters with a dignified approach to press conferences, lack of criticism of both players and officials after matches and a not inconsiderable achievement.

It is worth reviewing his record; the first Newcastle United manager to gain promotion at the first attempt, a record number of clean sheets in a season, the highest win ratio and lowest loss ratio of any permanent manager in Newcastle history, the first to go through a season unbeaten in all competitions at home.

In October 2010, the club, under Chairman Llambias, issued a statement that “Chris is our manager and will remain our manager. It is our intention to renegotiate his contract at end of year.” Within 2 months Hughton was sacked, FACT.

Through the new mouthpiece, Alan Pardew, supporters were told that Andy Carroll was a part of the future, that he would not be sold, that he was going nowhere, not at any price. Carroll now wears the number 9 of Liverpool, FACT.

Llambias himself made statements in February 2011. Among those reported was “all the money will go to the club and we are already working on identifying transfer targets for the summer.’ No doubt, the Chairman would now claim that there was no commitment to invest all the Carroll cash in the summer, even though the juxtaposition of £35m and the summer in the same sentence could reasonably have been expected by supporters to be the inference.

It was only in July, with the bulk of season tickets sold, in a Telegraph interview that Llambias hinted that some would be held back until the January window; “If we spent all the money on players this summer, what are we going to do in January if we need to bring somebody else in?” His puppet, Pardew, went on to say “If you add up the money and think we have not spent the £35M you will be way off”.

True, a chunk of the Carroll cash may well have been spent. In the meantime, if that is the case, the money from Nolan and Enrique seems to be securely tucked away. We still have no number 9 to replace Carroll, FACT.

Looking at the summer exits, these were all players predicted by ToTT last December to be sold, or at least given away. These were player of the year, top scorer and probably the best left back to play for the Magpies since Alan Kennedy. Pardew had told us that every effort would be made to keep them, they are all gone.

Kevin Nolan told us “I discussed the deal at length with managing director Derek Llambias and even shook hands on it. In my book when you do that man-to-man you expect them to see it through”, shades of the Shearer story there! This was repeated in a Barton tweet; “Going for a medical now, still no contract offer from NUFC ??.think that just about makes my mind up.”

It is hardly surprising, given that background, that Llambias`s responses to the Chronicle questions were not well received. Many of the statements were bland. The format left them closed to challenge. It seems hard to believe that a club whose relegation season produced turnover of around £85m, and now with increased revenue from overseas TV deals, said to be around £20m are paying 65% of turnover in wages after they had been reduced to £45m, this after dispensing with the services of the above as well as the likes of Butt and Geremi.

Many of the statements made in the past have proved to be untrue. Following Keegan`s tribunal result, the balance of probabilities seems to be that those who are incredulous at the club`s statements have every right to be wary.

Since the arrival of Llambias, a credibility gap has been created. Supporters have voted with their feet, there being 10,000 spare seats for the Premier League game against Fulham. Crowds of under 50,000 have become a regular feature of the Llambias tenure. They are heading significantly below.

The goings on have been bad for the club and bad for the city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. As a business, in many ways, the club appears to be in decline with Geordie values of honesty and integrity being severely undermined. Over the coming week, ToTT will seek to address how this situation might be reversed.