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Mike Ashley follows Blackpool not Arsenal route to ‘success’

7 years ago

Mike Ashley revealed he was following the Arsenal model at Newcastle United a few years ago.

When Derek Llambias was at the helm at St. James’ Park he claimed that the United owner was copying the Gunners’ blueprint.

Their selective interpretation of the Arsenal model was the bit about buying players who would increase in value, rather than paying for players who were the finished article.

This was always stretching it as speculating £10m or more on Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain when they were still in nappies, was a little different to the kind of budget shopping Ashley was insisting on.

Plus of course the bit about finishing in the top four and Champions League football every season is still to appear.

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Of course, we have all come to realise that under Mike Ashley his PR machine will simply try and make Newcastle fit the facts afterwards.

United were also said to be copying the Villa model before the Arsenal one but that one was then swept under the carpet.

However, they do occasionally still roll out the Financial Fair Play (FFP) weasel words every so often. Talking as though spending as little as possible in the transfer market while making massive profits is some kind of way to run a model club in line with FFP regulations. There is a massive difference between living within your means and starving a massive club of transfer funds in order to bank big profits, gambling you will stay in the Premier League.

Which brings us to Blackpool. Blackpool????…I hear you say, what on earth have Blackpool got to do with a club like Newcastle United.

Well there is the ‘sharing’ of Wonga as a shirt sponsor, though that isn’t my point.

I would like you to instead cast your mind back to the 2010/11 season.

Newly promoted Blackpool were due to begin their first ever season in the Premier League and Chairman Karl Oyston spoke out about the greed of players, justifying only spending around £5m in transfer fees to try and compete with the top division clubs. Oyston’s moral crusade seeing him declare:

‘Sometimes I think ambition goes out of the window in favour of personal financial gain.”

Against all the odds, Blackpool almost pulled it off. They finished only one point off safety, which no doubt amazed the likes of Karl Oyston and the rest of his family who controlled the club, never expecting this to be anything other than a one season opportunity.

Other clubs of course have approached promotion to the Premier League carefully, the likes of Burnley first time around spent relatively little (*** Though also giving free season tickets to those who had them the previous year in the Championship), as they have done this time again in terms of transfer spend. West Brom have also done this a number of times, being careful with the money and making sure that if they didn’t stay up then they would be in a  powerful position to head back up if they did get relegated.

Blackpool wasn’t anything like this though.

When the accounts were revealed after their one season in the Premier League, it showed their turnover had rocketed from the previous season due to the £39m they received from TV.

The turnover in that Premier League season was £51m and after relegation the Oyston family took £23.5m out of the club, which included £11m in pay to Owen and Vicki Oyston.

They saw it as their chance to pull as much money out of the club in one go, rather than looking at it as a long-term chance to grow the club and potentially make even more money in the future. You only have to look at what clubs such as Swansea have done once they’ve got into the Premier League, sensible investment in the team has paid massive longer term rewards and they are now an established and (relatively) successful top flight club. Expanding the stadium, outspending Newcastle in the transfer market and even winning a trophy on the way.

As for Blackpool, they are now in freefall and rock bottom of the Championship. The parachute payments swallowed up and the best players sold, their fans left devastated at what could have been.

This is what Mike Ashley is doing at Newcastle now in my opinion.

He is gambling every season by investing as little as possible in the team. After that potential future changing season when we finished fifth, the only senior player Unite dbought was Vurnon Anita.

Last season Mike Ashley didn’t allow a single player to be bought.

The difference between Newcastle and Blackpool of course is that short-term greed meant relegation for the seaside club and no return.

In Newcastle’s case we have survived in recent years in the Premier League but little more, still having a core of players able to achieve that, though of course the potential is massively stifled. Always the risk of getting into a relegation fight as happened in 2012/13

The third best supported club in England with the 19th (7th in the UK) biggest turnover in the World is clearly capable of much better of Premier League survival with sensible investment.

Even when Ashley did manage to get us relegated, the relative size of our club (fans) helped ensure instant promotion. While Blackpool get by on 10,000 crowds in the Championship, Newcastle posted a remarkable near 44,000 average in their second tier season.

With profits of around £50m due to be announced shortly for last (2013/14) season and this January transfer window activity/inactivity ensuring another big profit for this season, Mike Ashley is gambling and winning again.

In the meantime though the club and team are falling further and further behind the clubs we should be looking to compete with in the top six or seven, instead a battle for tenth with Stoke is the limit of our ambitions under Mike Ashley, with the possibility of falling through that relegation trapdoor once again if the Newcastle United owener gambles once too often.


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