Mike Ashley and Joseph Stalin have at least one thing in common: they both like a 5 year plan. Or so we were all meant to believe.
Since taking over Newcastle United, the businessman has shown little perseverance with long-term sustainable strategies, aside from his annual post-Christmas asset-stripping venture.
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Either the plan has radically changed since 2007, or Ashley’s real intentions were always different to those revealed boastingly to supporters. Indeed little evidence of any strategy beyond continued Premier League survival and incoming television revenues is visible at present day St James Park.
Once more Ashley has made public promises of a better future. But after false claims of ‘investment’ in the recent past, I don’t believe a word of it.
A lack of transfer market investment, we were told, would lead to available funds for developing young players and creating a sustainable squad on reasonable, but competitive, wages. This was to be achieved by the full support of an extensive scouting network across Europe.
Looking at our current squad, Ayoze Perez and Moussa Sissoko seem to be the only players to make a case for that claim. The rest of our roster are a collection of recoveries from lost property.
Five members of this first team were relegated with us in 2009 and, since Ashley took over the club, I cannot name a single top quality player being brought through the academy (Carroll was there before Ashley’s takeover).
Instead, Ashley’s controlling influence has resulted in the ludicrous appointments of Dennis Wise and Joe Kinnear as heads of recruitment. Both were more fixated on spiting fans than actually getting on with the job.
Despite the few players that get signed still being aged roughly 24, there is no preparation for how they play and can develop the current team’s chances over successive seasons.
More worryingly, the sanctioned departures of Davide Santon and Yanga-Mbiwa mid-season, when vital contributions could have been made by both players towards improving our current predicament, is a decision that defies all logic.
History shows that a cohesive transfer philosophy is essential to building effective teams. It is no coincidence that during the two most successful previous spells for NUFC in the Premier League years, there was a clear strategy towards assembling a team.
Kevin Keegan ensured that each new signing could improve his squad’s attacking prowess, as was dictated by his preferred style of play. The sale of Andy Cole is the clearest example of this forward thinking. While Keith Gillespie arrived as part of the deal, Les Ferdinand was then bought from the proceeds of the transfer the following summer. Subsequently, both players were a significant part of the title challenging side in 95/96.
Under Bobby Robson, his own ethos for promoting energetic ‘young guns’ into the starting eleven was reflected in big money signings for unproven kids such as Jermaine Jenas, Hugo Viana, Craig Bellamy and James Milner.
These signings weren’t always faultless of course. Hugo Viana failed to live up to the hype and the following summer the only incoming player was Lee Bowyer – a far cry from what fans had hoped for.
At the time, unfortunately for us, Titus Bramble was also considered one of these young prodigies. But overall Robson’s policy made sense and led to a season of Champions League football.
The fatal problem with Ashley, in contrast, is that his former promises of a planned future for the club were built on deception.
Eighteen months without a signing and then a summer’s worth of average arrivals has led to a stagnant and complacent team sheet. If he does spend some money this summer, my feeling is that we’ll be seeing a lot more of Riviere’s ilk than hidden gems like Perez.
The man that is in control needs to stop pretending he is playing Football Manager and actually bring some long-term logic to the direction of the club. I’ll believe it when I see it.