Newcastle United have survived and an interview from Mike Ashley admits mistakes have been made and responsibility is at his door. Maybe a change in his model is required but we will wait and see.
The idea of running a club within its financial means (or wiping your own face as Derek Llambias once put it) is commendable and one thing Mike Ashley has done that many other owners haven’t, is place Newcastle on a very firm financial footing in the era of FFP (financial fair play).
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The problem is that by running the club in this way and to the degree in which Ashley has, it has led to the team that we have been seeing recently. Players who lack spirit, fight and togetherness for the cause, or any sort of connection with the club or the area.
This is partly because players understand this approach, or have been told by their agents, and therefore view the club as no more than a stepping stone onto greater things. The players who do stay are also disheartened by the departure of the team’s better players who are inevitably sold when a decent bid comes in for them, or they start making noises and glances elsewhere as soon as they put two decent games together.
There has also been an attempt to produce and develop academy players to bring into the first team; unfortunately this hasn’t been as successful as some would have hoped (do people remember Aaron Spears and Ben Tozer?). However, the idea and strategy has been to produce players rather than going out and spending a fortune to bring players in.
The development of the clubs finances and the focus on producing your own players is certainly going in the right direction rather than the previous club habit of overspending on glamour signings. I believe most Newcastle fans would agree with this strategy presented by Newcastle and go along with this approach.
However, for all this to contribute to the success of a club, the first team also needs to be moving forward. This doesn’t necessarily require spending tens of millions each transfer window, but it does mean holding onto the quality players you do have and therefore gradually strengthening the first team squad with quality additions year after year, as opposed to attempting to pull a rabbit out of a hat each year and replace top performers when they have moved on.
This is where the Newcastle model has fallen away dramatically and the club currently find themselves with a huge rebuilding job and a clear out of many of the players who have been present over the past few seasons.
In a previous article I wrote about how many Newcastle players who have left actually wanted out (Carroll, Ba, Cabaye, Debuchy) and the club therefore attempted to get the best deal possible for each player. After that article many people made the claim that the players only wanted out due to other players leaving and the lack of ambition and progress being shown by the club, which is a statement that is very hard to disagree with.
Going back a few years, could one signing have made a difference? How much did Newcastle really lose the day they missed out on a certain striker arriving on a permanent deal at St James Park?
A club that doesn’t wipe its own face is QPR, after relegation to the championship they have decided to take legal action against the football league over a huge Financial Fair Play fine resulting from the season they were previously in the championship. At the heart of the issue is a £60million income injection classed as an ‘exceptional item’ in their accounts, which was to write off loans.
Without that money being put in by the owners, the club would have reported a loss of £69.7million making them liable for huge FFP fines. Such cash injections by club owners are not permitted and therefore the club should be dealt with as though it had made a £69.7million loss. It is over this issue that QPR have started legal proceedings.
So according to their appeal, if a chairman makes a cash injection of £100 million to the club and they then class it as an ‘exceptional item’, the club are therefore able to go out and spend that money on players (transfer fees or salary) and then state that the money was being used to write off previous loans and there will be no FFP fines or repercussions.
The fact is that QPR under Tony Fernandes and Harry Redknapp spent way over their budget in a huge gamble in an attempt to not only stay in the premiership, but I believe they had thoughts of actually finishing in a position that would qualify them for Europe or at least the top half of the table. We now know that this gamble failed and they are now facing the consequences, but how did this have an impact on Newcastle United?
One such player signed by QPR was Loic Remy, who if reports were to be believed was well on his way to Newcastle after a fee had been agreed with Marseille and personal terms of approximately £40,000 per week were in place.
Harry Redknapp and Tony Fernandes knew that QPR needed a striker and decided to move for Remy who was a player Redknapp had been linked with while manager of Spurs. Knowing the deal was practically done, the only way they could get their man was by offering ridiculously over the top terms (believed to be £80,000 per week) in order to turn his head and get him to land in London for some talks before heading up to Newcastle.
This wasn’t the only case of desperate over spending by QPR as in the same transfer window they also brought in Christopher Samba on a reported salary of £100,000 per week, to put this into context there are only six clubs in the premier league to my knowledge who have ever paid a player this amount before QPR jumped on board.
Regular champions league qualifiers Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City. Also, Liverpool with their huge worldwide commercial revenue, and I believe Gareth Bale was on this amount at Spurs before leaving for Real Madrid in a world record fee.
How QPR can justify a jump of this enormity is frankly unbelievable and alarm bells should have been ringing then with the financial fair play regulators. I am sure that Redknapp justified the Remy signing to Fernandes by saying that if his goals keep us in the premier league it will be money well spent (even if Arry claimed that it was the chairman that did the deals and he had nothing to do with it).
Could this logic apply to all clubs? Could Southampton have gone out and spent £30 million on a player and then offered him almost double what Manchester United were offering in salary under the justification of if he gets us in the champions league he will pay for himself.
This logic is unacceptable and teams are required to build towards this level of spending and QPR simply didn’t have the generated income to justify an outlay like this on one or two players.
Although I believe financial fair play has serious problems and restrictions, I do believe that it was set up to prevent this type of thing happening and protecting football clubs against over ambitious managers and chairmen such as Redknapp and Fernandes, who believe they should be in the market for any player despite the income and revenue generated by their club.
On hearing the news that Remy had opted to head south to London and QPR instead of Newcastle, I was infuriated with the player himself and also QPR and the men at the top for jumping in the way they did.
Could Newcastle have pushed the boat out and matched QPR’s offer? Maybe, but they shouldn’t have had to as QPR were in no position to make the offer in the first place. Remy was and still is an excellent player with a proven record in France and when he did play for QPR and Newcastle he had a good goal scoring record in the premier league and a player who was often the difference between two mediocre teams.
Opportunities have been limited at Chelsea but when he has played he has shown an eye for goal and the ability to produce match winning contributions.
Looking back on if he had joined Newcastle permanently, it would have been an addition of another full international into the team in a position that we have been struggling with for a number of years. I actually believe that it was only the addition of Remy on loan for a season that has given us any strength at all up top since Demba Ba left, as good a goal scorer as Cisse is – I believe he just simply doesn’t contribute to the all round game that modern strikers are required to do.
Remy as the focal point with Cabaye playing in behind him and Sissoko in the engine room of midfield would have given Newcastle a strong potent presence through the spine.
When Remy did spend a season on loan with us I thought both Remy and Cabaye were a level above any other players we had in the squad, to lose them both and not replace either with sufficient quality, is probably the main reason we find ourselves in the mess we are currently in.
Unfortunately, it never happened on a permanent basis and if it had, would it have made any difference to Cabaye, Debuchy etc wanting out?
We will never know but probably not and under the Mike Ashley regime Remy would have probably been sold on at a profit as soon as somebody showed a bit of interest.
Newcastle United as a club and the fans would have then been even more despondent of the fact that we signed and then sold another quality player.
I am in no way blaming QPR for the problems Newcastle currently have and I realize that the problems run much deeper than one player. However, the point is that clubs should not be able to approach transfers in this manner, putting in bids for players just by doubling their wages and playing on greed. By doing this QPR have fallen foul of the financial fair play rules and in my opinion they need to be duly punished for it.
They will learn their fate soon regarding any fines being paid out and if they do manage to get away with this one without being financially crippled, I do believe it could set a precedent for other clubs to follow and breach FFP rules further in the future.
I also believe a host of owners and chairmen at other clubs, especially over at the Etihad stadium, will be keen to start providing their clubs with ‘exceptional items’ in future.