Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley must have thought that John Terry's failure to beat an FA charge would provide him with some camouflage. Not for nothing did he choose the moment of Terry's humiliation to release the news that he had given manager Alan Pardew and his staff a whopping eight-year contract.
But his ploy failed. Traditionally, Newcastle are only ever a heartbeat away from chaos, confusion or unwitting comedy. They don't do stability. Even against the backdrop of Terry's travails, the announcement had jaws dropping across the country.
For once, however, the consensus was that Ashley was right. Tying Pardew down won't just make it harder for him to be lured away, it will neutralise speculation the next time the team hit a rocky patch. How can you write that the manager is “on the brink” when we all know that the brink is June 2020? Pardew is here to stay and so too perhaps is the increasingly sensible Ashley.
Ashley, a self-made billionaire through his Sports Direct chain, was as sensible as Godzilla in a china shop when he arrived in 2007. First, he sacked incumbent manager Sam Allardyce and replaced him with Kevin Keegan. Now, this wasn't necessarily a bad decision. Had the notoriously sensitive Keegan been protected from expectation, had he simply been asked to produce entertaining football without running the risk of relegation, he might have been the perfect stopgap while Ashley and his lieutenant Derek Llambias worked quietly in the background to repair the damage of the previous regime. Instead, they installed spiky ex-player Dennis Wise above him, bought players Keegan didn't want, sold players he would have liked to have kept, and then expected him to qualify for the Champions League.
With thudding inevitability, it ended in tears.
Ashley's decision to replace Keegan with former Wimbledon boss Joe Kinnear was startling. Kinnear hadn't managed in the top flight for nine years and had a history of heart problems. His most memorable contribution was to open his inaugural press conference with the line “Which one of you is Simon Bird?”
When the Daily Mirror's north-east reporter, one of the nicest journalists on the beat, identified himself, Kinnear called him the Bad Word. Yes, that Bad Word. Coincidentally, it was the same word that Newcastle's fans would frequently use to describe their new manager as he led them to just four wins in six months before he succumbed to ill health and left his position.
When Ashley hired Alan Shearer to replace him on April 1, most people assumed it was a joke, but none of the fans were laughing in May when the Magpies were relegated.
It was at this stage that Ashley, an enthusiastic gambler, actually started to win a few hands. While many observers, including this one, were advocating a fire sale and a complete reboot, he insisted on riding out the storm and retaining many of the big earners. The gamble paid off and the understated manager Chris Hughton brought them back.
And then Ashley sacked him as well.
Newcastle's supporters -- who had really only just calmed down after the relegation -- went thermonuclear, and their mood did not improve when Alan Pardew, recently sacked by third-flight Southampton, arrived.
But Pardew was clever. The former West Ham boss quickly won the supporters over by paying tribute to Hughton's work, and then going on to better it. Instead of complaining about a lack of new players, he worked on the ones he had. He worked so hard that they quickly became the most obviously coached side in the league, organised and drilled to within an inch of their lives.
More pertinently, he was happy to operate within Ashley's system. Ashley was hands-on. He didn't play ball with agents. He used experienced scouts like Graham Carr to tap new markets. The business savvy that had been missing and presumed dead, combined with Pardew's talents, propelled Newcastle to a fifth-place finish.
In the background, Ashley has reversed the club's seemingly inexorable slide into financial oblivion. Having rushed into the purchase of the club in 2007, he was stunned to find that not only had current revenue streams already been spent on players, but future ones had been tapped as well. The club was a clown car, belching smoke and careering off a mountainside.
It's no Ferrari now, but it is, at the very least, a fuel-efficient family saloon. In 2011, the club even turned a profit. As the excellent financial blog Swiss Ramble explains, while net debt has risen from £77m in 2007 to £130m in 2011, this is because Ashley has been absorbing outstanding debts and mortgages with his own money, loaned to the club at zero interest.
Now the only blemish on his recent record is his controversial decision to change the name of the stadium from St James' Park to Sports Direct Arena, a move that only benefited him and visiting journalists, who had never been entirely sure if there should be an apostrophe after the "James" or not. Ashley's explanation, that the decision would “showcase” the benefits of stadium naming rights was, to be frank, bobbins. Clubs across England have been selling stadium naming rights for years. If you're in charge of a marketing budget and you don't know how stadium naming rights work, you shouldn't be in charge of the marketing budget.
However, there is every chance (and I'm hypothesising here) that Ashley was fibbing. Any company planning to buy the name of the stadium would be painfully aware that the investment would turn toxic if the supporters rose up in protest. If Ashley's plan is to suck the poison out for a couple of years and then sell the rights when the fans are immunised to change, then it's masterful.
He has announced generous investment in the youth system, he has hauled a stricken business back to profitability and now, having ploughed through five managers in less than five years, he has realised that stability is the key to long-lasting success. There are still issues, notably the lack of investment in defensive cover, but in signing Pardew and his staff up for the long term, Ashley has shown that, finally, he gets it. And now the future looks bright for Newcastle.
Iain Macintosh is the UK Football Correspondent for The New Paper in Singapore and the co-author of "Football Manager Stole My Life" from @backpagepress. You can follow him on Twitter on @iainmacintosh