Making a cup of tea whilst mulling over all the news from Newcastle, my tea bag split. Muttering barely audible curses, I realised that the black dust masquerading as tea leaves were telling me something – revealing to me, in fact, the next five months of Newcastle United’s season. Of course, cheap tea is a notoriously poor medium for fortune telling – but below is a brief description of what the tea dust appeared to foretell.
January – Surprised that his appointment of Alan Pardew has not placated the fans, Ashley tells his man to spend big on local heroes and stars in the transfer window. Sir Alex Ferguson is more than grateful to allow Michael Carrick and Michael Owen to go “home” for a combined total of £18 million. Pardew pulls off something of a coup in enticing Ronaldinho to St James on a free transfer (with an enormous signing on fee and the promise of free access to the city’s all you can eat restaurants). Pressure on Pardew eases – despite a string of draws and defeats during the month – as sales of Ronaldinho replica shirts soar.
February – Pardew falls out with Ronaldinho and consigns him to the bench. The Brazilian has been unable to physically pull his booming weight on the field of play. It’s Mascherano and Tevez all over again for the manager. To make matters worse, Ronaldinho collapses in exhaustion onto star striker Michael Owen – crushing his tiny frame and putting him out for the season. Newcastle lie fifth from bottom.
March – Fan unrest increases as results fail to improve. Newcastle pick up 1 pt from 9 against Fulham, Arsenal , and Sunderland, with the Mackem’s gaining sweet revenge thrashing the Geordies 6 nil at the Stadium of Light. Ashley blames Pardew in private for failing to win over the Toon Army. In the last game of the month, at home to Blackburn, Pardew appears topless in the dugout with his head shaven completely bald. The fans chant his name as the Toon nick a late goal to earn 1-1 draw.
April – The respite is fleeting. Things turn sour after Newcastle pick up just 5 pts from the 15 on offer in the penultimate month of the season. Defeat in relegation six pointer with Wolves is a particularly harsh blow. Newcastle hit the bottom of the league. In response, Mike Ashley hires the ringmaster from a popular local circus as Director of Football. Ashley explains that the new hire maintains the club’s great tradition as football’s greatest circus and will be invaluable in helping manager Pardew in his day to day work.
May – Newcastle are relegated. Ashley sacks Pardew and brings back fan’s favourite Chris Hughton as manager. The Newcastle owner justifies his decision by highlighting Hughton’s greater experience and success in the Championship.