Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Ashley absent as noise of revolt fills St James' Park

Newcastle United 1 Hull City 2

The volume was cranked right up and yet the silence was deafening. The two sides of Newcastle United's split personality were laid bare on Saturday. The fans versus the hierarchy, the proprietors.

The former were distraught, angry and prepared to shout about it; the latter were distraught, angry and saying nothing, at least nothing official.

There was never a better day in Newcastle's 116-year history for the supporters to stage a boycott of the club programme. The official outlet for the club's opinions contained not a word from Mike Ashley or his managing director Derek Llambias.



Out of courtesy, or even to persuade punters to pay £3 to buy it, one would have expected some reference from above about the turmoil the club has been plunged into since Kevin Keegan decided he could take no more of the interference from Dennis Wise, Tony Jimenez and Llambias.



But no, only at five o'clock last night, 12 days after Keegan's exit, were Newcastle fans given some of Ashley's thoughts formally. It is way too late and will not alter the mood against him one bit.



Only Llambias had turned up for the match – before returning to London on Saturday night – and the vacuum was filled by the noise of revolt. These men, who apparently like confrontation going by some of their actions, thought the best way to air their views was anonymously via the News of the World. And what views. The contempt dripped off the page.



Newcastle are currently seeking their eighth manager in a decade. A mere 28 days ago Newcastle went to Old Trafford and drew 1-1 with the European champions. Keegan was in charge, he had his reservations about the size of his squad but he was doing the firm's PR work for it and there was a brief buzz of optimism.



Less than a month later and Keegan is no longer here, no-one is speaking in his absence and Newcastle have just lost a home game to Hull City, beaten 5-0 by Wigan in their previous outing.



The good thing, and it is a good thing, is that the players are not camouflaging the mess off the pitch by playing well on it. Nicky Butt had as bad a game as he can possibly remember and gave away the penalty from which Marlon King made it 1-0. Fabricio Coloccini, all £9.1m of him, did not resemble an Argentina international. Michael Owen appeared to be suffering shellshock. The bench, featuring lads plucked from the academy, revealed the thinness of the squad.



Wherever he was, Keegan must have shaken his head. This is what he has been predicting for months and those above him did not listen.



Instead they were expending their energy in Spain, which appears to be the start and end point of their global network, buying Xisco and getting Nacho Gonzalez on loan. Both played, Xisco scoring 81 minutes into his debut – though otherwise looking raw – while Gonzalez came on and was useful in a tidy midfielder kind of way. But he will not "set the place alight", which was Keegan's aim from summer signings.



Keegan also wanted a left back. Hull's Andy Dawson would have sufficed. None came, so Charles N'Zogbia played there again. N'Zogbia can attack better than he can defend, illustrated painfully by the way King stepped around him to score what turned out to be the decider in the 55th minute. It is a waste of N'Zogbia's talent and who could blame Newcastle's players if they are disaffected.



Hull's must have been startled by the ease of it all. This was a second win for them in their virgin season in the top flight and firmly put Wigan to the back of their mind. Hull are fourth in the division and unbeaten away from home.



Phil Brown has brought in a lot of new faces over the summer but his team remains structured around captain Ian Ashbee, who was quietly outstanding in midfield. Ashbee, 32, has been with the club since 2002 when Jan Molby was manager and the division was the old Fourth. Ashbee can only have dreamed then of days like this. Ashley too. But his dreaming is done.



Goals: King 34 pen (0-1); King 55 (0-2); Xisco 81 (1-2)



Newcastle United (4-3-3): Given; Edgar (Bassong, 68), Taylor, Coloccini, N'Zogbia; Geremi, Butt, Guthrie; Xisco, Owen, Ameobi (Gonzalez, 62) Substitutes not used: Harper, Cacapa, Danquah, Doninger, Donaldson



Hull City (4-4-2): Myhill; McShane, Turner, Gardner, Dawson; Mendy (Folan, 74), Ashbee, Marney (Hughes, 78), Halmosi; Fagan, King (Zayette, 83) Substitutes not used: Duke, Ricketts, Windass, Geovanni



Booked: Hull City Folan, Halmosi



Sent off: Newcastle United Guthrie



Referee: A. Marriner (West Midlands)



Man of match: Ashbee



Attendance: 50,242

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