x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Mike Ashley is a man with a mission

The owner of Newcastle United is keen to keep 'The Dark Forces of Football' happy, rather than his own supporters.

Mike Ashley, the Newcastle owner, usually provides the season's most comical moments. Chris Ratcliffe / AFP Photo
Mike Ashley, the Newcastle owner, usually provides the season's most comical moments. Chris Ratcliffe / AFP Photo

Have you been following the WikiLeaks revelations? To be honest, the leaked cables have not told us much that we did not already know: basically, people are much nastier about each other in private than they are in public. Wow. Stop the presses.

Still, if you are prepared to wade through the thousands of secret e-mails published by the renegade website, you may find the odd gem.

For instance, while Newcastle United fans scratched their baffled heads this week at the sacking of Chris Hughton, their likeable and successful manager, I stumbled across these hidden communiques. They would appear to explain a lot.

Top secret memo

To: Special Agent Mike Ashley

From: The Dark Forces of Football

Subject: Mission Review

Date: November 2010

Dear Special Agent Ashley,

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit the DFF's secret volcanic lair for your performance assessment. We were pleased that you enjoyed your stay and so admired our little … aquarium.

However, after much consideration, we feel that your ownership of Newcastle United Football Club has been suffering in recent months from what we call "mission creep". That is to say, you have lost track of your original goals.

As you know, we believe that football is a circus - and every circus needs a clown. For as long as anyone can remember, Newcastle United has provided the rest of us with laughter: the failed pipe dreams, the megalomaniac owners, the puffed-up fans with their delusions of grandeur. If we belong to a Football Family, then Newcastle has a vital role to play as the idiot cousin.

No matter how shoddily life treats the average football fan, he must always be able to look to St James' Park, smile, and say: "Oh well, it could be worse. That lot have just spent £17 million on a crocked Michael Owen, or sacked Bobby Robson for finishing fifth."

You knew all this, Special Agent Ashley, when we installed you as owner in June 2007. In fact, in the early stages of your mission, you exceeded all expectations. Hiring the ring-rusty and overly sensitive Kevin Keegan as manager, then making him work with Dennis Wise, was an absolute masterstroke.

Equally masterful was your clumsy and costly ousting of Keegan, a club legend, only to replace him with the unhealthy under-achiever Joe Kinnear. The protests outside St James' Park were an indicator of your success, and exactly the sort of nonsense all other fans enjoy watching.

Finally, your decision to fend off relegation with the untried Alan Shearer was music to our ears. How every fan in the country smirked as television's smuggest pundit discovered that coaching from the touchline was a tad harder than offering glib cliches from a cosy studio. Relegation was assured. The Geordies wept. We all laughed.

But since then, Special Agent Ashley, the laughs have been rather thin on the ground. Chris Hughton, your caretaker manager, has proved to be a new broom.

Not only did he achieve promotion after just one season - and therefore prevent Newcastle suffering the sort of terminal decline experienced by other fallen "giants" like Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday (my, that would have been a hoot) - but the club currently lie in 12th place, four points away from European football. Along the way, Hughton's men beat league-leaders Arsenal in their own backyard, thrashed Aston Villa 6-0 and spanked local rivals Sunderland 5-1.

Hughton also helped to rehabilitate the perennially "troubled" midfielder Joey Barton back into a valuable player (and human being), and took a gamble on Andy Carroll, a lanky centre-forward from the reserve team now considered good enough to play for England.

Your man is qualified, dignified, likeable, respected and not prone to airing any dirty laundry in public. In short, he is not what we expect of Newcastle managers. Newcastle fans may be happy, but we are not. There is no humour in contentment and stability. If there was, John Cleese would still be making us laugh.

It is time to act, Special Agent Ashley, or the next time you admire our aquarium, it will be from the wet side of the glass, and your inexpensive polyester sportswear will provide scant protection against my hungry piranhas. Mwah ha ha!

With kind regards,

The DFF Committee

Top secret memo

To: Special Agent Mike Ashley

From: The Dark Forces of Football

Subject: Hughton sacking

Date: December 6, 2010

Dear Special Agent Ashley,

OK, so you have sacked Hughton. It is a good start, but now you must pick a suitably laughable successor. We want to see the Newcastle fans headbutting walls in frustration. Have you considered simply appointing one of your mates?

Sincerely,

The DFF Committee

Top secret memo

To: Special Agent Mike Ashley

From: The Dark Forces of Football

Subject: Alan Pardew? Seriously?

Date: December 7, 2010

Dear Special Agent Ashley,

Alan Pardew? The guy who oversaw West Ham United's worst run of defeats for 70 years? The man who took Charlton Athletic down and failed to get them back up? The chap last seen getting sacked from Southampton because of personality clashes? This is your best work yet!

Special Agent Ashley, please accept our sincere apologies for ever doubting you. You are welcome to visit our aquarium any time - from the dry side!

Fondest wishes,

The DFF Committee

PS. We were only kidding about appointing one of your mates.

sports@thenational.ae