What an emotional mini rollercoaster the last few months have been for Newcastle United.
Just when it seemed perfect to the point of boring, the inevitable had to happen with Mike Ashley emerging from the shadows, this time thankfully not with Joe The Clown Kinnear but with Graham Carr, the much maligned transfer dynamo.
I suppose the stars had to align, preceding the disturbing article on the Mirror penned out by Neil Moxley, that the Club’s owner was not happy with some of the transfer buys of Rafa Benitez, which bought into question the business value in them. Buying players like Diame, Murphy and Gamez in whom the club possibly wouldn’t be able to get any resale value.
I guess Ashley being the businessman first, will always see everything through the perspective of profit above anything else. That’s why Carr has and will continue to have Ashley’s attentive ear. The massive player trading profits, including the huge windfall from Sissoko’s sale, would be mouthwatering to someone who can’t see beyond a balance sheet.
Talking about the transfer policy which is flawed in more than one way and If Ashley was smart enough; he wouldn’t have to look no further than the fall out of the Yohan Cabaye sale.
Cabaye’s worth as an individual at a 15 million profit looked a job well done but a huge monumental error when it took into account the team dynamic and product performance on the pitch. Sissoko mentioned that the heart of the engine was reaped out and players like Tiote, Gouffran and himself were never the same.
The key was that Cabaye knew how to run the midfield and control the tempo at which the team played. The club was lucky that due to a fantastic run prior to Cabaye’s sale, the resultant nose dive in performance didn’t get the club relegated but last year showed exactly where this policy had gone wrong.
Looking at young individual talent and their potential future value is fine but what about their ability to adapt to a different culture, physically demanding league and more importantly, ability to tactically adjust in order play to a Manager’s vision?
The issue is Charnley and Carr have never bothered to take into confidence how Pardew or McClaren wanted to set their teams up and give them players who would be tailor made to play that system. There is also the small matter of going for the best available players the financial model permitted buying, as opposed to going for the players you need, which than results in an unbalanced squad. And when injuries kick in, the manager is compelled to play players out of position.
No wonder Rafa has been at pains to keep stressing how much his team needed balance. Last year we ended up with too many players who wanted to play the number 10 role, or defensive midfield position, but no one capable in the middle while lacking cover at 2 or 3 main positions. And if that wasn’t enough, they would surround the players with one dimensional managers out of touch with progressions of the modern game.
Journalist Graeme Bailey, allegedly a lobbyist for Carr, had the cheek to report that Ashley was furious with Rafa because of his Summer Buys ‘’Gaffe’’.
To start off with, Rafa had to recruit players who were ready for the Championship, it didn’t make sense buying players who didn’t have the mental strength to survive the grind. And as for the buys: Gayle has 20 goals, Ritchie has 12 goals, multiple assists and is a leader on the pitch, Clark has been a human wall, Hayden is a budding star and if he adds a lethal shot to his game he can go the top, Diame has already done it at the Championship level and way ahead of Perez.
And as for the main targets in terms of players like Gamez and Murphy, they haven’t been paid silly transfer fees and without repeating the mistakes of Charnley/Carr, these players haven’t been given 5 year contracts either. They are here to fulfil and serve a purpose.
Mike Ashley must be deluded if he thinks Newcastle United should be running away with the Championship, as it’s not the same quality as it was in 2009. And when you assemble a new squad there is always the challenge to get them to hit the ground running, an advantage which Brighton already had coming in to his season.
When Rafa came in, he went on record to say he didn’t have an issue with the transfer model but it needed a little tweaking. You can’t just go buying young players without balancing it with experience and maturity. Look at Arsenal, they have done the Ashley model on a different level with more funds available but still haven’t won the Premier League or the Champions League.
Yes you look at buying young talent, yes you look at developing them, but also you need to look at the core of your team, that which the foundation is built on and take a stand that they are your best players around whom you can surround complementary players who can still be moved on for profits and replaced with younger talent.
That core of good players also helps create an identity, build a relationship between players and their supporters, as opposed to a revolving door where players who come with a view to use the club as a stepping stone which leads to a divided dressing room. Players not giving 100% commitment to avoid injuries before a big money move, or saving themselves for only prime time live TV games.
Look at Shelvey now, on current form he’s worth 25-30 million pounds but to his team, manager and more importantly his owner (if he is smart) he is worth a 100 million, cos you take him out, you don’t get promoted. The notion that every player has a price should be revisited cos owners and boards have to look at it from a team dynamic.
This coming summer will in some ways chart the future direction the club takes short and long-term. Telling factor will be whether Rafa will be at the helm leading our club into further stability and possibly win its first trophy.
And why shouldn’t we believe we can, when we have one of the best managers in the game. But I will be looking anxiously on – whether Ashley will keep his ego in check and allow Rafa to get on with his work.
(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles to [email protected])