Neil Humphreys: Don't poach rival coaches, Newcastle
After controversial Saudi takeover, Magpies don't need another PR disaster
Should Newcastle United's new owners succeed in their plans to poach Brendan Rodgers, then drowning puppies might be the only course of action left in this infernal PR disaster.
The madness of the previous week has already been hard to understand.
How much Newcastle's takeover turns the stomach appears to depend on where you stand on basic human rights and Steve Bruce's defensive shape.
Apparently, the two are interchangeable. Yes, Amnesty International has called for an urgent meeting with the English Premier League to discuss issues such as women's rights, the persecution of religious minorities and the odd murder of a critical journalist, but the Magpies really were hopeless in their 2-1 defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier this month.
Some urgent perspective is needed. Bruce has got to go. It's a proper crisis. His 4-5-1 antics at the Molineux were the last straw. Newcastle fans want their club back.
It's an infectious demand in England right now. Everyone wants something back: their football club, their country, their sovereignty and their post-1945 status as a declining, imperial power. The Magpies are no different.
There they stood, outside St James' Park, singing about getting their club back, thanks to the £300 million (S$553.3m) purchase by a foreign state in the latest sportswashing exercise among hegemonic capitalists.
And not just any old foreign state either, but one referred to as "a murderous state" by a British MP in the House of Commons just three years ago. Her name is Chi Onwurah.
Her constituency is - wait for it - Newcastle Central. Even hard-boiled thrillers try to avoid being so overt in their symbolism.
The English Premier League has flirted with grotesque caricature for some time. This is just grotesque. The old joke was that fickle fans would tolerate dictators in the boardroom as long as they secured Champions League football.
Well, the old joke is a new reality. The only question is, how low does the public relations exercise need to go before someone says "enough"?
Sacking the manager isn't a problem. It's textbook stuff among fresh oligarchs and autocrats eager to polish their political trinkets. And removing Bruce is hardly shooting Bambi.
Apart from his dull tactics, he's reportedly in line for a £7 million severance package, a tidy sum for a manager still seeking his first EPL win of the season.
The problem will be his replacement. Newcastle's owners find themselves in the awkward position of either hiring an unemployed manager or poaching one from a rival.
Rodgers has already ruled himself out of the running, according to reports, a smart move considering he's fortunate to be employed by foreign owners with a genuine connection and empathy for Leicester - both the club and the community.
He's also tipped to eventually replace Pep Guardiola at Manchester City - another club with complicated owners. More likely, Rodgers knows a poisoned chalice when he sees one.
Other reported candidates include Belgium's Roberto Martinez and Rangers' Steven Gerrard, but Newcastle's poaching initiative might not be a wise career move just now.
To take Gerrard as an example, he's considered a long-term replacement for Juergen Klopp at Liverpool, where press conferences are likely to reference Anfield legacies rather than US intelligence reports concerning a dead journalist.
Make no mistake. Every time a fresh allegation concerning Saudi Arabia appears or Amnesty International releases a new report on alleged human rights abuses, a question will be asked and a link will be made, rightly or wrongly.
The outgoing Newcastle manager was interrogated about the struggles of Allan Saint-Maximin up front.
The incoming replacement will see his name in articles that mention Jamal Khashoggi. That's part of the Faustian bargain agreed upon to help the Magpies end their apparent "suffering".
Who, in all honesty, would want to sign up for that?
Of course, there will be millions of financial reasons why Newcastle are presumably inundated with resumes from giddy agents, but the idea of poaching a manager from a potential rival seems like a PR bridge too far, if that's even possible at this juncture.
While it's true that Newcastle fans can't choose their owners, they should hope that their owners choose their next manager wisely and sensitively.
The takeover has already proved that the game's morality can be bought - and the hypocrisy swallowed - at the right price. Newcastle's owners have made that point abundantly clear to all of us.
There's really no need to rub it in.