MikeAshleySQ14God bless the fat controller and Graham Carr. The portfolios Carr had put together on the French foreign legion purchased in January ,was of course detailed to the nth degree, faultless and put together over a long period of time.

Ashley already had them on the radar but he was waiting for most of the player contracts to expire so he could pick them up on the cheap…a flawed strategy straight out of his Sports Direct ‘divide, conquer and pick up on the cheap’ expansion strategy.

Ashley loves playing poker and is great at waiting people out while he exerts pressure from the blind side, but time really was the enemy with this particular hand, and he had no choice but to jump in early and fork out some real cash to strengthen the squad because Pardew had steered the club toward oblivion. The good news is the new recruits have transformed the team and we’re now full of confidence again, full of belief and more importantly we’ve got a squad with a bit of depth and not before time.

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If we rewind a bit we’ll remember how the Fat controller and Llambias were boasting of how they believed they had put together a unique player recruitment policy that would revolutionise football…and for one season the ‘purple blueprint’ was almost accepted by all onlookers (apart of course from those managers who had experienced the rigours of European Football before!) as a blue print that could really work.

Only problem being we overperformed for a season and got ourselves an unexpected European spot, which combined with little or no strengthening of the squad in the summer, led to an implosion of near fatal proportions similar to that played out on numerous occasions by other clubs. Something that with a little bit of forethought and foresight could very easily have been avoided.

If you look to recent history of all the clubs who ‘unexpectedly’ got into Europe via whatever means such as league qualification, fair play, winning a cup or whatever, the exact same thing always happened…just look at Ipswich, Norwich, Everton, Spurs and Stoke…

FC Metalist Kharkiv v Newcastle United FC - UEFA Europa LeagueHowever, for some reason (namely arrogance and naivety) Ashley and Lambias thought their purple blueprint would continue to defy all historical precedent but did of course blow up in their faces and for obvious reasons we never heard from them for the 5 months leading up to January, when they did what they should have done in the summer.

Credit where credit’s due though, Ashley saw the risk to the value of his considerable investment in his beloved club and reacted accordingly. Just 5 games later and as we speak we’re now pretty much safe and have a squad that in my opinion, with a good manager, could go on to achieve really great things.

That brings me onto Pardew, is he the right man for the job? The jury is of course still out on this one and recent results have certainly given him a stay of execution, one that many have said he deserved based on his credible performance of last year.

I however am in the other camp, I wanted him gone. I still don’t believe for one second we would have found ourselves in danger of relegation with the squad we have, had we been in the hands of a different manager, that of course is simply my opinion and I respect all others to the contrary.

The results since the famous five were acquired and introduced into the fold have been much improved. Pardew has to be praised for playing Sissoko in such an advanced role, Debuchy is excellent, Gouffran looks good, we now know we won’t miss captain Colo as Mbiwa looks a very solid defender. I think Haidara looks superb and so Santon needs to be looking over his shoulder but then again so does Spiderman.

Layout 1 Cisse seems to be improving, Taylor’s looking good, Cabaye looks to be back to his best, Marveaux looks good, Tiote has struggled but getting back into form, Anita and Perch were superb in Russia, we’ve got Hatem on his way back and all of a sudden the garden is looking rosy again and that performance in Russia last Thursday was a watershed for me…I thought we were superb.

Pardew has thankfully abandoned his 4-4-2 with Sissoko playing the withdrawn No 10 role, so we’re playing the much better 4-5-1 system morphing into the 4-4-1-1 / 4-4-2 formation when attacking, which means we’re no longer being over-ran in the middle of the park which has been our Achilles heel all year.

The squad is now so strong and the players of such a calibre and with so much experience, they could in my opinion win most games in the Premiership by simply being left to their own devices under the on-pitch guidance of Captain Cabaye.  Glib as that may be, I believe the squad is now at a higher level than the manager.

We certainly won’t go down and the acquisition of one more defender, a good striker and a replacement for Tiote will pretty much complete the squad and no doubt we’ll do much better next year…but I still can’t help but feel we’ll only really kick on and compete at the next level when/if we recruit a manager from that next level. Which as most of you have already pointed out to me on numerous occasions, will never happen whilst Ashley owns the club, because what manager of any note would ever work for Ashley and it’s a point well taken.

Well here’s the good news, Ashley is looking to sell the club this summer and that thank god means I just might get my wish anyway, watch this space!

My predictions for the next few matches, the squad is now so good we’ll win all three despite Pardew!

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