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Why Mike Ashley Transfer Strategy Was Fatally Flawed

6 years ago
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Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United transfer strategy is just as simplistic as the message he puts out through his Sports Direct empire.

In these austerity driven times, telling punters that SD is cheap has been a straightforward route to endless riches.

Unfortunately, having a simplistic transfer strategy in the Premier League isn’t such a sure thing.

I believe Ashley wants things as basic as possible at St.James’ Park, he gives his minions the clearest and tightest parameters and his staff know if they step outside that then they are goners.

When it comes to signing players, I think the Newcastle owner had his fingers very badly burnt by the useless Sam Allardyce, Ashley let the (other) fat oaf waste loads of money on over the hill players such as Geremi, Cacapa, Smith, Viduka and so on. Massive wages for minus return and relegation, plus of course no money coming back in when these liabilities left the club.

Ashley then dreamed up a plan, or had it suggested to him and he loved the sound of it.

Buy players up to a certain price, who are under a certain age, plus put them on long contracts so you don’t have them holding you to ransom after a couple of seasons where you fear they might see out their deals and leave for nothing.

Then even if they are flops, they are still young enough so somebody somewhere will take them off your hands and you’ll get at least X amount of your money back, whilst in the meantime these players should at least be good enough to keep Newcastle United safe in the Premier League.

I don’t think Ashley’s first thought is that these players will end up being worth two or three times as much, though he’ll happily bank it if a Cabaye or others hits the jackpot. I honestly think his inspired strategy was that this is a safety first plan, stay on the Premier League gravy train and only a risk of losing a small bit of money in transfer fees – meaning overall Ashley will make money as the TV deals increase rapidly.

However, there were one or two small problems Mike Ashley hadn’t foreseen.

When handing out five and six year contracts to these no-risk younger players who he can always choose to sell at any time…what if they weren’t very good and nobody wants to buy them?

That I think is Ashley’s Achilles heel but this summer he wasn’t prepared to look at an alternative and has repeated this disastrous plan.

So rather than biting the bullet and maybe bringing in 29 year old Bafetimbi Gomis on a three year big wages deal with an acceptance that the downside is accepting you won’t get much if anything back on him if he stays for most of his contract, instead Ashley gives 24 year old journeyman striker Emmanuel Riviere a five or six year deal on probably less than half the wages.

Genius – a striker on budget wages who you can always sell on instead of high maintenance Gomis, though what if Riviere is a striker who can’t score goals?

So we end up in the position we are now.

Players such as Obertan, Ben Arfa, Yanga-Mbiwa, Shane Ferguson, Marveaux, Haris Vuckic, Gutierrez, Dummett, Bigirimana, Abeid, Steven Taylor and so on. Eleven players who don’t have a future at the club but still under contract.

Before the transfer deadline you then had Alan Pardew talking about having a full squad and needing players to move out to make room for much needed new recruits to come in, yes the squad is packed with players such as those above who they can’t get rid of.

The problem is even more acute with this tactic of targeting leagues such as those in France and Holland where wages are so much lower. The situation in France make sit even more attractive for French players to come to England, if you double their French wages then you are effectively trebling them.

However, how do you get rid of these players when they are no longer wanted and have generally been flops? That extra wages/tax element of getting French players offloaded back to France makes it almost impossible, unless the players are willing to take massive cuts in pay…which just isn’t reality.

So this summer we have the likes of Riviere, Perez, Janmaat, De Jong and Cabella all moving to England, as well as kids such as Lascelles and Darlow put on massive (in terms of length anyway) contracts. So if after six months somebody like Riviere is not up to it and sidelined – you could be looking at him sitting around for the next five or six years as an extreme.

Siem De Jong is under contract at Newcastle until June 2020, no wonder he was tempted to sign for United!

Cheap and poor/average players, as well as manager & his coaching staff, all on long long contracts.

Even if Mike Ashley bailed out now, what a long-term mess he will be leaving for anybody who potentially follows.

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