Is Mike Ashley developing the Pozzo model?
That’s it, the transfer window has come and gone. How does it affect us at Newcastle United and indeed, Rangers?
It seems that most of the drama was in Santon’s partner’s Tweets – but is it yet to unfold?
The long and short of it is that the club has made some cash.
First of all, Alan Pardew went back to a club where he was revered for an FA Cup semi final goal. Ironically, in a game which was to feature future Newcastle players; John Barnes, Ian Rush and the returning Peter B, that goal was from a corner, something which rarely happened at St James Park under him. Improbabilities continue, Pardew’s was the first transfer fee to come in.
On the playing side, Italy has been the source of the next activity, Mbiwa triggering a clause in his loan to provide more cash for Ashley in a €7m (approx £5.5m) deal, Santon soon following on a similar kind of deal but at a lesser fee. The end result is that by the end of the season, Ashley can be expected to have banked over £10m in fees.
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The second part of the equation is in wages. By replacing Pardew with an interim Head Coach, a few Pounds have been saved there, significantly more on Santon and Mbiwa. Ben Arfa had been on loan to Hull and rather than return to the North East, was released from his contract to go to Nice. After a comedy of errors, he cannot even play there.
What will surely trigger ongoing debate is that 5 further players went out on loan. Gael Bigirimana, Remie Streete, Shane Ferguson, Haris Vuckic and Kevin Mbabu will all move to Ibrox until the end of the season. Who will actually be paying the wages? Will it be Mike Ashley through his MASH Holdings, the company that he owns Newcastle through, or will it be through loans from his major retail brand?
This provides further similarities to the sort of model that Giampaolo Pozzo has developed with Udinese, Granada and Watford. What sort of alliances can we expect in Ashley’s chain of influence? How will this affect his hearing with the SFA in March?
The good news for supporters was that this was the total extent of outgoing players. Things could have been worse as top scorer, Cisse, had been touted by the press as a possibility for clubs as far afield as Wales and China. Sissoko was reputed to be available for any club who would come up with £20m. Tiote, away on ACoN duty, was another on the potential hit list.
The bad news is that there are no reinforcements. With Cisse apparently still not totally fit following his major knee injury last season, cover up front is sparse. With Steven Taylor out until the end of the season, Dummett watching from the terraces at Hull, central defence is only an injury or two away from a crisis. Newcastle remain one of the few Premier League clubs without a 3rd choice established keeper.
What was reinforced is the interview that Lord Charnley recently gave to the Chronicle, in which he highlighted that he did not anticipate selling any players he wanted to retain. He did not envisage any major purchases. He also pointed out that we had a squad of 25 nominated senior players, the limit for the Premier League. This will be down to 24 following Santon’s departure, Ben Arfa and Mbiwa not being named in that squad.
It remains to be seen what else will happen with that squad, will Ferguson be added despite being on loan? Will Vuckic be dropped from it? It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that there could be further departures through contract cancellations. Ferreyra has yet to figure, neither has Jonas who could still be made available to return to South America with the Argentine season starting in a fortnight.
Beyond the stories are other stories. Yes, a surplus has been made in this window. What will happen to it? With last season’s accounts due to be published soon, we are expecting to see a profit heading towards £50m. We will also find out if Ashley has hit the threshold for having to pay Corporation Tax.
Perhaps one of the reasons that there were no further big sales is that the tax bill would grow with even more cash coming in. By deferring those sales to the summer, not only is the tax bill deferred but added to the TV income at the end of the year, an extra pot can be provided for a new Head Coach to develop new talent.
How late was a decision made over the lack of activity? Charnley’s words would suggest that the strategy had already been decided. The win at Hull on Saturday was a big one for Newcastle. A defeat may have left us perilously close to the relegation zone, a victory stretched the margin to 11 points. Safety is not guaranteed but now appears even more likely. The incentive to be positive has diminished.
Looking ahead to summer, there will be changes. That squad of 25 will inevitably change, Darlow and Lascelles scheduled to come in, a loan striker probably going, the futures of Jonas, Ryan Taylor Sammy and Alnwick to be decided. Younger players will graduate to seniors. Good, Ayoze and Bigiramana. Not everybody will fit and certainly, some senior players will start to lose value; Krul, Tiote, Coloccini.
So there we have it, a largely uninspiring window, the interim Head Coach facing a battle to reach the top 10 with a squad lacking cover in some areas.
Relegation has become a vague threat but the opportunity is there for young players to impress, both at Newcastle and Rangers. Ashley is richer whilst supporters’ hopes are all the poorer for this season. The uncertainty transfers to the summer.
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