Newcastle United Management
Management – What is it about?
Newcastle United would make an interesting case study for a group of management students. What is good management all about? For a commercial business it is about producing improving financial results, year on year, doing this without taking on risky levels of debt and avoiding getting into any contracts or deals which could result in nasty surprises. Mike Ashley does commercial business.
One of the tools for successful management is the management of people. Decide what structure you want, how many people are needed, what are their preferred qualities and how are you going to develop them so as to provide the right succession when gaps in the people team arise. Mike Ashley must be good at people management in the retail sector. Not such a good record in the football business.
People management usually starts at board level (i.e. company directors). There is usually a Chairman, but this is not normally a job title. It is often just the person who chairs board meetings. When there is a single shareholder, as with NUFC, the owner can be regarded as the Chairman, not part of the day to day management team, but has to sign-off transactions over a certain value. The other directors are appointed by the “Chairman”. In the case of NUFC there are two other directors, Messrs Charnley and Irving. The so-called “Directors of Football” have never been company directors at Newcastle United. It was misleading to call Joe Kinnear “Director of Football”. He was never a company director of NUFC. From his title third parties could have been entitled to think they were dealing with a director of the company. They were not.
When Mike Ashley first arrived he appointed a seconded lawyer, Chris Mort, to the Chairman role. Most thought he did a good job, including dealing with the public. Derek Llambias was MD, not so popular, but pretty good with financial management. These were the sort of people Mike Ashley was used to appointing, not people with any need for knowledge of football.
The problems have all arisen with the appointment of football people. The Directors of Football have been disastrous appointments. We don’t need to go over the Dennis Wise saga again. Joe Kinnear was clearly given a transfer budget. There was money to spend. Deals seemed to have been close to completion to acquire some (particularly French) players. For whatever reason, Joe just didn’t ever seem to be able to complete any of them. When we consider Joe negotiating with the Chairmen of French clubs we can only assume that he was completely out of his depth, failing to take into account all of the points needing to be agreed and ending up exceeding the amounts he was authorised to spend. Hence, the deals fell through. In the end Mike Ashley saw the light and got rid of Joe when history repeated itself. In a transfer window, again, our best player was sold and not replaced. We can blame Mike Ashley for this. It wasn’t his meanness, however, as there did seem to be money available to spend. It was Mike’s fault for appointing Joe. That was his error and he knew it.
The same problems have arisen with the appointment of team managers. Mike asked the fans who they wanted. Keegan was appointed. This was hugely popular. But he didn’t have credible football people around (and above) him. We all know what followed and we eventually ended up with Alan Pardew. His term as manager has produced incredibly erratic periods of success and failure. Every now and then there is a good run of results where the team exhibits all of the qualities associated with success. Many of these qualities like work-rate, confidence, understanding instructions, sense of playing a role in a system, pride in their work and making use of the home support are signs of good management. However, if those qualities are being generated by management, how can the form levels be so widely inconsistent?
A team of international players that never wins after being behind, but can only win if they score first, is being badly managed.
A team of international players that can regularly lose heavily at home without scoring in front of one of the largest and most supportive crowds in the country, is being badly managed.
A team where players are asked to play in positions with which they are not familiar (except when caused by an extreme injury crisis) is being badly managed.
A team trying different formations each week in search of success is being badly managed.
A team of international players that hardly ever scores from a set piece is being badly managed.
A team whose manager physically attacks an opposing player is being very badly managed.
Liverpool are well managed. Everton are well managed. Neither have had the financial resources of some other clubs. Newcastle are badly managed.
The trouble is; who is there to appoint a replacement manager? Only Mike Ashley – not good at people management in the football business.
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