Mike Ashley Champions League Adventure
Stuart Latimer looks into his crystal (palace?) ball and sees a Mike Ashley Champions League adventure, what do you see in yours?
“Good managers make good sides, there’s no such thing as a good side making a manager.” – Brian Clough
How far away are Newcastle United from finishing fourth and securing Champions League football?
Recent history may be about to spectacularly repeat itself.
On the 20th of December, 2011, Newcastle United Football Club stood 7th in The Premier League table with 27 pts on the board after 16 games.
By the end of the season, Newcastle had overtaken two of the clubs above them, Chelsea and Liverpool, to finish in 5th place and qualify for The Europa League.
Today, on the 20th of December, 2013, Newcastle stand 6th in The Premier League table with 27 pts on the board.
If, by the end of the season, we overtake two of the clubs above us, Newcastle United Football Club will stand 4th in The Premier League table and qualify for The UEFA Champions League.
Slow and Steady Wins The Race
Newcastle’s major strength this season has been its managerial stability under Alan Pardew.
Gone, thankfully, for now are the days when we’re chopping and changing managers, making often knee-jerk decisions and riding what many have rightfully compared to a football rollercoaster.
This is the situation at other clubs this season when David Moyes, Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho have taken over the pressurised hot seats at the Manchesters and Chelsea and are yet to get their feet under the table. There is a real chance to close the gap on those three and Liverpool and Everton who are yet to hit a bad spell.
Arsene Wenger is the longest-serving Premier League boss and Arsenal have reached the knockout stages of The Champions League for 13 consecutive years – testimony to long-term trust in a manager.
Alan Pardew is the next longest serving in the top flight three years in the job and the way he weathered the storm of a disappointing 16th finish last season, Joe Kinnear’s arrival, Cabaye’s attempted desertion and promoted Mike Williamson and Shola Ameobi from the wilderness to win 4 out of 4 in November and guide us to 6th spot, is testimony to security and knowing the club.
Are we seeing now the fruits of a long-term plan (Pardew’s deal is 8 years to 2020) in existence at Newcastle with surely the ultimate aim of returning Newcastle into The Champions League?
Whatever you think of Mike Ashley and his motives at Newcastle United, the 15th richest man in Britain is not daft and surely knows that the revenue streams and increased exposure of the club and his businesses in The Champions League would be a huge boost for all his enterprises.
So it makes perfect sense that ever alive to opportunity, I picked up Sports Direct.com’s ‘Amazing New Magazine’ complete with interactive shopping guide yesterday – Ashley will have surely recognised the opportunity in the current Premier League maelstrom to go for it in the transfer window.
It’s what he did unexpectedly in 2011/2 when Papiss Cisse arrived for £9M in January 2012 and went on to score some ridiculous goals to fire the club to The Europa League.
Unpredictability Wins Fourth Place?
At the moment we’re a very strong side and freshening things up in the January sales will give us that edge of unpredictability that you need at the top level like we enjoyed to get to Europe.
Keeping all of our established stars from Tim Krul to Yohan Cabaye, Cheick Tiote to Loic Remy, is absolutely essential and building on them can take us to the next level.
Three Players Can Guarantee Champions League
In January, we need to sign another top class keeper, another creative attacking midfielder and a top class centre forward.
Signing all three would definitely help kick the club onto 4th place and The Champions League.
Krul, Cabaye and Remy are the players we struggle to cover and most sorely miss when they are suspended or injured, so buying quality back-up and competition to them is essential to extending this great start.
My three would be Alfred Finnbogason ‘The Iceman’ who looks every bit a young Alan Shearer and would score the goals we miss, or Bafetimbi Gomis who is a striker who can both hold up play and score goals and would be learning from the best – Nigerian master Shola Ameobi. A deal might already be in place as he regularly tweets his ‘Frenchies’ at St. James’ as well as photos of the fact that he is taking English lessons.
In goal, I like Robbie Elliot and he’s a good stand-in, yet Krul’s match-winning performance at Spurs showed a top keeper can be the difference between one point and all three and the PSV Eindhoven keeper Jeroen Zoet who we’re linked with fits the bill as a like-for-like no. 2 to push Krul all the way.
Mousa Dembele at Spurs would be an excellent buy for central midfield and give us a similar threat to Cabaye and we could take advantage of the current uncertainty at White Hart Lane and offer a settled environment to a World Cup-bound player.
There’s an outside chance we can finish 4th and qualify anyway if we retain everybody and, most importantly, reintegrate Steven Taylor, Hatem Ben Arfa and Papiss Cisse as fully-performing first team players as they are all capable of brilliant first team play.
Yet speculating to accumulate right now could pay phenomenal dividends.
Where’s The Money Gone People Have Asked?
We might be about to find out – the TV money that burnt a hole in most club’s pockets in the summer and was spent in advance of the season, was untouched at Newcastle who like to shop in the January sales.
Saved for a rainy day or to pave the way to the brightest future since Ashley took over the club?
Alan Pardew has already matched Messrs Sir Bobby Robson and King Kevin Keegan by winning a Manager of the Month award and his is arguably a greater achievement considering the financial restraints of the club now in comparison to then.
Newcastle represent a great prospect to any player with serious ambition right now. We’ve got our house in order, the Manager of the Month, a strong team and squad, the best fans in the world (10th largest attendances in Europe last season), a great stadium and are perfectly primed for a full tilt at Europe.
Ensuring the European competition we get into is the The Champions League would be massively boosted by the kind of unexpected bonuses in the transfer window that Mike Ashley is famous for.
You can follow Stuart on Twitter @ultrastartime
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