Thursday night brought news that many of us had been anticipating, widespread media reports that Mike Ashley had intervened and stopped Rafa Benitez bringing in his transfer targets in January.
The newspaper reports appearing simultaneously, suggesting they had been briefed by somebody on the story rather than the rest copying one ‘exclusive’.
The bottom line being (read HERE) that Rafa understood the £30m transfer surplus from the summer was his to spend if he decided to, only for allegedly the club on Mike Ashley’s authority to block any incoming transfers, including Andros Townsend.
The club owner and hierarchy said to be not that impressed with Rafa’s summer transfer buys and wanting to take control back. This leading to the Newcastle Manager wondering whether it is worth staying after this summer if control of transfers isn’t going to be his.
These Thursday night reports have now been much discussed but nowhere have I seen any mention of the red flag that was raised in mid-January, which pretty much told us that this was on the cards.
Mike Ashley surprisingly turned up for the FA Cup at Birmingham on 7 January, then followed that up by watching the following Saturday’s victory over Brentford.
Ironically, The Chronicle at the time reported this as a big positive, the club’s owner taking a keen interest in what was happening at the club under Rafa Benitez’ guidance.
However, later on that Saturday evening, only hours after that excellent away win (10th in 14 away games) at Brentford, the club’s media partner The Mirror (part of the same newspaper group as The Chronicle) gave a different interpretation to Mike Ashley’s sudden appearances after being absent for most of the season.
The Mirror – 14 January 2015:
‘Mike Ashley has reinstated Newcastle United’s controversial transfer policy after a series of no-holds-barred meetings with the Magpies’ hierarchy this week.
The owner has put his foot down midway through the transfer window and taken measures to have a greater say over the comings and goings at St James’ Park.
Ashley made a surprise appearance before the FA Cup tie at Birmingham City last weekend, and made it clear he wanted to sign youngsters who would have sell-on value in the future.
Newcastle recruited 10 players, with Bournemouth’s Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle the most high-profile, as boss Rafa Benitez was given free rein.
Benitez had a £30million transfer surplus after selling Moussa Sissoko to Spurs and Georginio Wijnaldum, but Ashley wants to return to the policy of buying young players with promise.
He has left managing director Lee Charnley in no doubt as to his wishes and former recruitment guru Graham Carr is set for a direct role in all future purchases.
Benitez himself wanted just one new face during this window – he was looking for cover for Christian Atsu, who has departed on Africa Cup of Nations duty.’
At the time, Newcastle fans were happy to write this story off as your usual speculation and newspapers looking for a different angle based on nothing but fantasy.
Supporters believing that even Mike Ashley couldn’t be that stupid and surely Rafa Benitez wouldn’t stand for this kind of behaviour and being undermined by the club’s owner…
It looks clear now that there was very likely substance in this Mirror story and Rafa Benitez was giving Ashley and his lackeys the benefit of the doubt that they would eventually see sense and back him in this January transfer window. Letting him continue to choose which players and when they would be signed, without interference.
The Newcastle Manager keeping his counsel until the transfer window closed with no signings delivered, then making clear that he had wanted signings but the club hadn’t delivered.
Then following up with these Thursday night reports of him not being happy at the club and willing to potentially walk away if promises aren’t kept.
They say ‘you can’t keep a good man down’, I’m not sure what expression would be the right fit for Mike Ashley…?