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Silence isn't golden in Newcastle's summer of discontent

By Mark Douglas on Jul 5, 13 03:51 PM

AROUNA Kone to Newcastle would have been a transfer that completed the Mike Ashley cycle.

The deal seemed to tick a lot of the Ashley boxes: cheap(ish) but useful, Wigan striker Kone would have been a very decent addition to Newcastle's squad. Not the high end replacement for Demba Ba they require, but an upgrade on what United had last season.

And as a final kicker, it was also a story broken by Ashley's new venture: Sports Direct News. So Newcastle fans despairing over their owner's profligacy in the transfer market are now drawn to a website advertising his leisurewear to read about said recruitment drive. It's pretty ingenious, and I'm sure he'll be using it again in the future to filter out Magpies news.

That slow meshing of the Sports Direct brand and Newcastle United has been going on for a long time, of course - never more so than when the stadium was renamed. But this new development shows very clearly where Ashley's motivation for keeping hold of Newcastle lies: it is a very smart marketing tool for his very, very successful business.

Whatever: the signing of a player like Kone would have been worth celebrating amid all the uncertainty and chaos of your typical murky Newcastle United summer. Alas, it didn't happen and enthusiasm remains at a low ebb. It is worrying.

Given that a top level French source told me the club had missed out on three French targets this week, they need a boost. The pack drill was no names but it seems likely that one was Marseille striker Pierre-Andre Gignac. One of the others was a centre-back, apparently but the other one seems to have been a younger player for the development squad.

How sorely Newcastle - in danger of running into a tide of negativity before a ball has been kicked - need something to come off soon.

It is not that new signings salve all of the wounds that Mike Ashley has re-opened this summer, you understand. But they might at least give the Magpies a fighting chance of generating some momentum in a close season that thus far, seems to have flattened any case for optimism.

I've seen the relationship between Ashley and Newcastle described in a searing editorial in the True Faith fanzine this week as a loveless marriage and it's a pretty appropriate analogy. Neither seems to want each other; neither seems to care for each other anymore. But the financial bottom line is enough to keep both parties involved for the moment.

What I don't understand is that if Ashley doesn't want to invest any more, why on earth is Joe Kinnear there? If he doesn't care, why throw Kinnear into the chaotic mix?

Eventually, someone who is employed by Ashley will have to put their heads above the parapet and formulate some kind of explanation but another week has passed without anyone of standing even mentioning the "K" word.

As we stand, Steven Taylor is the only serving Newcastle employee to pass any kind of comment on Kinnear - apart from the man himself. Derek Llambias did, of course, but his hearty welcome for the new Director of Football looks a bit empty in the context of his hurried resignation less than 24 hours later.

Sometimes, silence is golden. Sometimes, it says a lot more than words ever could and on this occasion it is an accurate reflection of the prevailing mood inside St James' Park. No-one knows, no-one dares speak: there appears to be an unreal air of uncertainty about the club and that, after a while, becomes corrosive.

Traditionally, Ashley has come to rely on Alan Pardew breaking cover in these circumstances. When Andy Carroll was sold, he defended the decision within 24 hours despite the fact it had made him look pretty helpless given his own forthright denials the striker would be sold.

Similarly, Pardew defended the sale of Kevin Nolan two summers ago. He was there when the Wonga announcement was made and trod a delicate and smart political line when the stadium was renamed too.

Kinnear's arrival is different, it seems. Three weeks on, he is still yet to name-check his new Director of Football. If you think that's just a happy coincidence, you might also be interested to hear Father Christmas doesn't exist. It is most definitely deliberate.

The result is unequivocal: another week passes with the fog of uncertainty refusing to shift over St James' Park. At some point, someone involved in this awkward dance will have to attempt to inject but there doesn't appear to be any undue haste from anyone involved at the moment.

Which is ironic, really, given that time is one thing Newcastle don't have. There is no more than five weeks until the start of the season and Newcastle have signed no-one, they've sold a reliable and versatile campaigner and they've said very, very little. All we have right now is the hope that Ashley is hiding another rabbit up his sleeve in the shape of new additions of the sort of calibre required to vanquish last season's demons.

Because in case you'd forgotten, Newcastle had problems before Kinnear came. Thus far, his addition to the mix has complicated an already unsettling situation.

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