How Mike Ashley cashed his chips and left Alan Pardew looking like the transfer window's biggest loser
I thought Mike Ashley was supposed be Alan Pardew's mate.
I thought they had bonded together over the blackjack table at a London casino.
I thought they had gazed happily into each other's eyes as Ashley blew a mountain of cash on craps.
I thought that Pardew being mates with Ashley and casino boss Derek Llambias helped him get the Newcastle United job.
But mates don't make mates look like bloody idiots and, let's face it, this morning Pardew looks like a bloody idiot.
Yes, Newcastle got £35m for Andy Carroll, a stunning price for a lad who has only played a smattering of games in the Premier League.
And murky waters have been muddied further by Pardew's suggestions that Carroll got greedy.
Pardew said that when Liverpool's second offer came in, Carroll demanded a move if Newcastle did not increase his wages immediately.
Carroll denies that version of events anyway but even if he had stayed silent, it would not change one salient fact.
From the first day Pardew walked into St James' Park less than two months ago, he staked his credibility on the promise that Carroll would not be sold.
It was his way of asserting his independence, his way of saying he had not been brought in just to be Ashley's go-to poodle.
"Andy Carroll's future was one of the items at the top of my agenda," Pardew said on the day he took over. "When I sat down with Derek last night, Andy Carroll came up, and he stays."
At the beginning of this month, Pardew was just as adamant that Carroll would not be sold.
"We will give the answer to any club that Andy is not for sale," Pardew said. "I can't say strongly enough that Andy will not leave in this window."
Ten days later, irritation had begun to enter his voice and he mocked those who were convinced Ashley would sell Carroll at the first sniff of a decent bid.
"They can put together whatever they like," he said of other clubs' intentions. "He is not for sale. One last time, he is not for sale."
Poor Pardew. How must he feel today, his dignity shot to pieces, an apologist for an owner who has sunk to new depths of unpopularity on Tyneside.
Pardew talked the talk but couldn't walk the walk.
When it came to the crunch, everyone knew what was going to happen: Ashley would sell Carroll and Pardew would suck it up. It was never going to be any other way.
A stronger manager would have quit the moment Carroll was dragged onto the helicopter to Liverpool.
But for Ashley, the joy of Pardew is that he desperately needs the job.
He was treated appallingly at Southampton and, after failing at Charlton, Newcastle could be his last shot at the big time.
He is a good manager in dire need of a lucky break, but sadly this isn't it.
Monday night made him look like a dupe, like the patsy brought in to take the fall.
Ashley needed Pardew to be the guy who would stand in front of the media and try to justify the latest sad episode in the sob-story that is Newcastle United.
Because after all the drama of transfer deadline-day, Newcastle were the team with the tears rolling down their cheeks when the music stopped.
Chelsea were the big winners with the signing of Fernando Torres and at least Liverpool got Carroll as a consolation.
Newcastle? When the slow songs started at the end of the evening, there was nobody left to hold their hand.
Sure, Ashley got a stunning price for Carroll. And if he had reinvested some of it - any of it - in the team, maybe Newcastle fans wouldn't feel so sore.
Er, that's the tricky part. They got nothing.
So after an encouraging first half of the season, Newcastle are back in familiar territory: the team that everyone else feels sorry for.
By selling Carroll and not securing a replacement, they swapped a shot at a Europa League place for what is likely to become a fight against relegation.
They lost all the heady optimism that had come with having a Geordie wearing the famous number 9 shirt again, the shirt that Jackie Milburn and Alan Shearer wore.
Then Ashley and Pardew sold him. Even though he said he didn't want to go. Even though he wanted to stay and play for his hometown team.
Pardew said yesterday he would be allowed to spend the money in the summer, but after all the broken promises about Carroll, there is only one logical reaction to that: