Shack’s law: decency and squalor in football


Great draws yesterday – for us at Old Trafford and, er, Bristol City at St James’ Park. Stand by for Pete Sixsmith’s verdict on our cruelly denied win over Man Utd. First, there’s some unfinished business for Colin Randallto attend to …

Len Shackleton had the measure of Newcastle United. When it comes the Mags, he said, “I’m not biased; I don’t mind who beats them.”

On that basis, Kevin Keegan will do. Shack’s soul can take mischievous pleasure in Keegan’s £2m victory at the Premier League arbitration panel over Mike Ashley’s ducking-and-diving regime of questionable taste and morality.

Shack also, of course, had the measure of football boards generally, with the chapter of his book devoted to everything the average director knows about football but taking up only a full blank page. If Ashley and his team are any guide, they know little about football but an awful lot about hoodwinking the public and making a supposedly beloved manager’s position untenable.

For Sunderland fans, the correct response to yet more evidence of the shambles that is Newcastle United should probably be laughter. But there is something so seedy and cynical about the conduct exposed by the panel that you begin to worry about the state of the game, since NUFC cannot be the only club stooping to such levels.

Fortunately, there are still heartening examples of decency at the highest reaches of football.

Niall Quinn is not, contrary to belief on Wearside, a saint. But he has some near-saintly moments. When Stephen “Squinny” Wilson, a Sunderland supporter, was killed in an attack outside a public hosue in Bishop Auckland, Salut! Sunderland suggested that a letter of condolences from Niall would bring a little solace to the family.

Whether it was as a result of our request, or purely Niall’s initiative having heard of the tragedy (he may have recalled once losing an arm-wrestling contest to Squinny), a letter was sent, and it was handwritten. The family, I am told, was deeply grateful.

No strict linkage can be made between Newcastle’s shoddy attitude towards its public, and Niall’s kindness towards his. Except that perhaps Mr Ashley and his cohorts might usefully learn something from the latter, and resort less to the former.

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5 thoughts on “Shack’s law: decency and squalor in football”

  1. It’s difficult to know who has acted in the most unscrupulous fashion in the whole Keegan v Ashley saga. Keegan’s propensity to walk out of jobs at unpredictable moments has characterised his time as both player and manager.

    His claim for constructing dismissal has been upheld and he is of course a couple of million richer as a result. Quite why the arbitration panel were blinded by Keegan’s claims at having the terms of his contract repudiated is a mystery to me, as there was clearly no pressure being exerted upon him to include Gonzalez in the first team. If the club wish to spend a million on someone to fill up the stiffs then what business is that of Keegan’s. It might transgress the fine print detail of his contract but on the face of it, there appears to have been no real impact on his authority as the manager.

    The commonly held view is that the likes of Colocinni was bought against his judgement, and that Milner was sold in a similar fashion. It is interesting therefore that neither of these cases were used to prove his claim against NUFC. Is this because he picked Coloccini in the first team or because he refused to condemn the sale of Milner (even if when speaking about it he was clearly doing so through clenched teeth?) The choice of Gonzalez is a peculiar choice otherwise.

    A cynic might suggest that Keegan’s claims had little to do with his terms of employment being undermined, and more to do with sensing an opportunity to line his pockets for comparatively little effort. Walking out as probably cost him money in the past, and it wasn’t going to work like that this time.

  2. I’m not yet ready to shed tears of sympathy but it’s getting harder to laugh at Newcastle. A wince is often more appropriate these days.
    If the rumour mill has it right and the Magpies will be in new hands within the next week or two (though where have we heard that before?), I think we’ll be wincing at the way Chris Hughton will be screwed. He’s done a Spragia-like job with the Deckchairs but he’ll be unceremoniously shunted aside for the return of the over-rated, under-qualified Shearer. At which point, the team will resume its plummet toward local derbies with Hartlepool and Darlington and we’ll be able to start laughing again. Every black-and-white cloud has a silver lining.

  3. Good to hear the voice of reason from a Mag and not the usual vitriol that the red + white, black + white rivalry usually produces and which to my mind has got 1000% worse since the late 80s.

    Or maybe that’s just my rose tinted specs looking back to the halcyon days of skinheads and bovver boots, when I exiled myself from the North East and the North-South divide seemed more important than the Tyneside-Wearside one. It certainly seems worse on my frequent returns to my homeland than I remember it when I moved away in 72.

    I inherited a copy of “The Clown Prince of Soccer” in the early sixties from my brother and like my original subbuteo with pressed tin players, my Bako set and Jim Clark Lotus Scalextric set I wish I knew where it was now!

  4. As a Mag, I have to say that, sadly enough, I agree with you. Our board have been an absolute shambles and and embarrassment to the club (to everyone else’s amusement).

    I would also second Quinn being a decent fellow. Whilst as a Mag I have an inbuilt dislike for most things red and white (and I’m sure it’s reciprocated!), because of the way Quinn has handled himself as a player, over his testimonial, and since then, I am incapable, no matter how much I try, to actually have anything against the chap. (Presumably a bit similarly to the way Sir Bob was respected by quite a number of Sunderland fans).

    Irrespective of which club they are, the owners of the club ought to feel that they have a responsibility to the fans of the club, not a shiny new football team as a toy. Nor do I think owners should be able (a la Liverpool, Man U) to be able to transfer the debt involved in purchasing the club onto the club itself.

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