Soapbox: wild gamble; sheer – er – desperation or inspired move?


With scrupulous even-handedness, Pete Sixsmith assesses events up the road…

A famous North Eastern club is in difficulties. They face dropping a division and possibly oblivion. Fans are up in arms. They see the only way out as appointing a figure steeped in the history of the club who may inspire them to avoid the plunge into the Great Grimpen Mire of a lower league.

So, the Bob Stokoe recall in 1987 ended up with us playing our trade at Belle Vue, Sealand Road and Twerton Park for a year. The Messiah of ’73 could not weave his magic and a team whose parts were better than its sum slid into what many of us thought was a permanent departure from the top leagues.

These thoughts passed through my mind when I heard that Alan Shearer was taking over at St James Park. He is certainly a local hero and he will have the fans pinching bedsheets and felt tipped pens to proclaim to all and sundry that Big Al is our sayveour (sic).

It could be an inspired appointment. He could zoom into SJ, .inspire the shower that play there and end the week with a resounding win over Premiership big boys Chelsea. The crowd would unify behind the team, Ashley would be seen as a successful gambler and next season they will be challenging for the Champions League.

On the other hand, the uninspired rabble who play there could fail to be moved by the sheet metal workers son from Gosforth, crash to a humiliating home defeat and then lose the next four in a row. Ashley will once again stay away from the club he owns and the fans will be looking in their road maps for directions to Preston, Blackpool and Burnley.

The Stokoe experiment did not work. The Messiah had lost his touch. This Messiah has no track record, only his self confessed love for himself and all things black and white. We ended up in the wilderness for a year. The hope is that they remain in the wilderness for a lot longer.

The real beneficiaries are TV viewers who no longer have to put up with his anodyne utterings on Match of the Day.

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