On relegation in 2009, Mike Ashley asked Alan Shearer to draw up a plan as to how to turn the club around, Shearer went away and came back with a detailed list of who he would keep and which players he’d identified to take Newcastle forward again step by step.
Ashley assured him that he was the manager he wanted and said to leave the plan with him and he’d get back to him, that was the last Alan Shearer heard from him.
I have a theory.
My understanding is that Shearer’s plan was a realistic strategy which would mean maybe spending a bit more than Ashley was perhaps wanting to commit but it wasn’t unreasonable.
At that point I think Ashley looked at Shearer’s plan and ripped it up, he had a different idea.
He’d had his fingers burnt when he bought the club, had trusted idiots like Allardyce and Wise with his money and enough was enough.
I believe at that point the owner decided he would cut his losses and from that day on make sure he risked as little as possible, not a recipe for success but whether he’d ever thought Newcastle United could be successful anyway, he certainly couldn’t see it in his crystal ball now.
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He sold the players he could but the likes of Colo, Jonas, Enrique hadn’t done anywhere near enough so far to justify other clubs matching their wages and players such as Barton, Smith and Nolan had vastly inflated contracts which meant they couldn’t be shifted.
The question was who to manage and quiet unassuming Chris Hughton would surely do as he was told as it was a big chance for him getting a manager’s job and of course he was already on the spot and cheap. Remember, he’d had an awful spell as caretaker manager during that mad relegation season and there was nothing to suggest he could resurrect this club,
Of course the rest is history, he did a brilliant job as Newcastle walked the Championship and what is more, he then established United safely in mid-table on the back of some outstanding results such as 6-0 v Villa and 5-1 v the mackems, plus winning 1-0 at the Emirates. What is more, he’d been given next to nothing to spend, Cheick Tiote for £3.5m the only ‘big’ deal as Perch arrived for next to nothing, Sol Campbell and Gosling for literally nothing and Ben Arfa on loan.
But no, with Newcastle safely in 11th and only a month after stuffing Sunderland and winning at Arsenal, Hughton was sacked and Alan Pardew appointed.
An out of work manager whose last job had been at Southampton of League one but apparently the manager that Ashley/Llambias had wanted for some time…
My feeling is that under his calm understated persona, they found that Chris Hughton had actually balls of steel, if you pardon the expression.
His success had caused them a massive problem but sacking Hughton after he’d won promotion wasn’t something even they were prepared to do.
So the season kicked off and it is now claimed they were looking to sack him at the earliest opportunity but those pesky results kept getting in the way.
My belief is that the club was now geared to bring players in who represented value, while selling players who attracted big offers. Ashley was determined to get his money back and then some.
Only problem is that I’m guessing Hughton wasn’t going to sit back and accept Andy Carroll, and potentially others, being sold and the money not reinvested.
Newcastle United needed a man who would, step forward out of work Alan Pardew. Last job League One Southampton and now offered the job of managing the third best supported club in the country. What terms would you accept if you were offered the job of managing Newcastle United?
Carroll duly sold, no replacement bought, and Shefki Kuqi in on loan, fact stranger than fiction.
The model is set in place; spend as little as possible but make sure Newcastle stay in the Premier League.
What could possibly go wrong?
Again with minimal investment, chances were taken on Ba’s knee and Hatem Ben Arfa’s recovery from a double leg break, while money from the likes of Nolan and Enrique’s sales were invested in a great spot by Graham Carr, a certain Yohan Cabaye. In addition a relatively great value for money replacement was found for Ba (a player whose contract diffiuclties meant Ashley had no intention of keeping long-term) and so Papiss Cisse arrived. While the season also brought the unexpected emergence of arguably the best young keeper around, in Tim Krul.
Surely the owner’s plan of spending as little as he can get away with while long-term clawing in mid-table Premier League money, must now be adjusted?
No, outgoings paid for Anita and some bits and pieces. Alan Pardew made public his shopping list of right-back, centre-back and so on, and Mike Ashley ripped it up. Ring any bells?
Ashley doesn’t see financial value in risking £XXX to try and establish Newcastle top six and potentially break into the Champions League spots, he doesn’t think it is possible so why try?
People ponder what he would have done if Newcastle had reached the Champions League. I honestly believe that next to nothing would have changed in Ashley’s ‘plan’, Pardew might have got an extra player if he was lucky.
Just as when Hall & Shepherd sold Les Ferdinand and recruited dads army on the cheap, Ashley would have seen a Champions League season as a one-off and a chance to grab another chunk of money, a bit like the Carroll deal.
The only question now is how much, if anything, Mike Ashley is prepared to gamble to make sure of the enhanced Premier League TV money next season? If you remember, in the January transfer window during the last relegation season Ashley made a profit by selling first teamers Given and N’Zogbia, bringing in only Nolan and Ryan Taylor.
Alan Pardew started off the transfer window saying he’d made clear to the owner that he needed a minimum of three extra players (four if one goes etc.) in this transfer window, now he is talking about how important it is to get his injured players back and the big priority is buying a striker and then seeing how much money is left…
Ashley has a plan but it is a very basic one, commit as little money as possible and make as much as possible. Success, or otherwise, on the pitch has little to do with it.