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Forget about the fall guys

7 years ago

Poor old Lee Charnley, he’s getting it right in the neck over signing players isn’t he.

Or rather, that should be…NOT signing players.

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As Mike Ashley said in his now (in)famous address to the Geordie nation in response to this question;

What about appointments of managers and so on (signing players)?

“It is Lee Charnley and the football board that make those decisions, as it was Derek Llambias who brought in Alan Pardew. I will not be picking the next manager – it is not what I do.

“My job is to make sure that they have the maximum financial resources and it is their job to get the best pound for pound value out of those resources.”

So Mike Ashley just sends up a sack of cash and lets Lee Charnley get on with spending it. Do you honestly believe that?

I hear you shout, ‘Yes but Lee Charnley is the Managing Director, he’s in charge of the club and makes the decisions on a daily basis’.

Well I’m sure he does do when it comes to how many paper clips Newcastle are going to order in, or what colour to paint the bogs in the Gallowgate End, but do you really think Newcastle appoint managers and pay millions of pounds (or not as the case may be) on players without Mike Ashley dictating what the final outcome of the process is?

At times it may not be Ashley (in person) himself, it may well be one of his trusted inner circle who help him run his business empire, but it sure isn’t Lee Charnley or anybody else inside St James Park making those big decisions.

At normal clubs, they will have a board of directors who will meet and decide the overall strategy and budgets, including the transfer policy.

Then they will have a football board who will meet more regularly, and it may contain some of the same people as that overseeing board making the broader decisions on policy/strategy, but they will run the club on a day to day week to week basis – making the decisions as to how that strategy/policy is implemented and exactly how and where the budgets are spent.

At Newcastle we had one ‘board’ containing Ashley and two members of staff, Finance Director John Irving and MD Lee Charnley, which was no doubt purely to satisfy the legal requirement (as a company) to have a board of at least two directors.

Now we have a newly revamped  ‘board’ where they have basically scooped up all the remaining senior staff (Charnley, McClaren and Graham Carr) and added wildcard Bobby Moncur, whose real role appears to be spokesman (apologist) for the club’s actions/inactions, whilst masquerading as a normal fan rather than a paid employee.

The bottom line is that Mike Ashley, as he does with all aspects of the club, wants to distance himself from the (usually unpopular) decisions that are made.

He needs people prepared to take on the role of fall guys and that is what their main role is. This means we don’t end up with the very best available people who could do the various jobs, instead we end up with those who are willing to do as they are told without complaint – in return for jobs that they otherwise would never have been considered for at equivalent sized clubs.

Step forward Alan Pardew, Derek Llambias, John Carver, Joe Kinnear and…Lee Charnley.

Do you really think that it is Lee Charnley’s fault that Newcastle are not signing players so far? Do you really think it is a club employee to blame, rather than simply following orders from Mike Ashley?

Look back at summer 2012, Newcastle had made a massive surprise breakthrough by finishing fifth and fans were on a real high. There was real belief, surely now Mike Ashley would use this opportunity to really push on.

We bought Vurnon Anita.

Yes, instead there was a clearout with the likes of Alan Smith, Danny Guthrie and Peter Lovenkrands all allowed to leave, with Fraser Forster and Leon Best sold. Only one senior player bought, Vurnon Anita, and the transfer fees and saved wages meaning Mike Ashley actually came out in front in that transfer window which could have potentially really pushed the club on. The squad was actually weakened and Ashley gave away a future England goalkeeper for a pittance.

Do you think it was Derek Llambias who decided not to replace those players? Do you really believe that it was him who decided to make a profit in the transfer market and/or failed to get the deals done on incoming players?

If you have any doubt as to who really makes the decisions, rather than the minions, just look at what happened only five months later.

With Mike Ashley realising he’d left the club precariously in danger of relegation, he allowed Newcastle to buy five players in the space of a few weeks. Do you honestly think that it was Derek Llambias who can take the credit for those signings, as well as the blame for United leaving themselves short in that summer of 2012?

The reality of course is that there is no secret to transfer deals, if you offer enough money in terms of wages and transfer fee then you can sign the player – if you are shopping at the right level for your particular club.

That is why Moussa Sissoko, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Mathieu Debuchy signed – offers were put on the table that meant the deals were done.

Which brings us to our main exhibit.

Step forward Joe Kinnear, good old JFK.

Announcing his own arrival live on radio hours after Mike Ashley allegedly appointed him in the pub over a ”few’ drinks, Diector of Football Joe Kinnear became our signing players guru.

June 2013 he landed the job and February 3 2014 he ‘resigned’.

(In)Famously, Newcastle United failed to buy a single player in a whole year, the two transfer windows whilst Joe Kinnear was in charge of ‘signing players’.

A bit like Lee Charnley, but even more savagely, JFK was mercilessly ridiculed. With even media claims that he had wanted to buy Shane Ferguson from Birmingham, until (as the story goes) he was supposedly informed that the winger/full-back was actually already a Newcastle player.

How we laughed.

Of course, that period whilst JFK was here, was also another massive opportunity wasted. Once again, somehow, Newcastle ended up in fifth place mid-season, only to then sell our best player, Yohan Cabaye, in the January and buy nobody. Leading to a second half collapse that was almost a carbon copy of our most recent John Carver one.

Bit of a coincidence don’t you think,  that Joe Kinnear packed his bags as soon as Sky Sports announced that January 2014 transfer window had slammed shut.

Job done – attract as much of the blame, flak and ridicule as possible, then quietly slip away with your pockets bulging with cash. Job’s a goon un.

If Mike Ashley had wanted Newcastle to sign players in that period, do you really honestly think that he would have stood back and let JFK cock it all up?

Which brings us back once again to Lee Charnley.

Hiding under his desk as the ridicule flies from every direction. Even being spotted watching England playing cricket at Durham last weekend brought him endless stick.

‘What was the idiot up to sitting in the rain waiting for the cricket to start up again, when he should be hitting the phones and the road, dynamically signing up Charlie Austin, Saido Berahino and/or the other similar credible signings Newcastle need to avoid another relegation struggle’.

Can you blame Lee Charnley for taking the job? Can you blame Newcastle fans for pointing the finger at him when days and weeks go by with the club seemingly not addressing the massive problems facing the club?

The answer on both counts is no. Lee Charnley taking Mike Ashley’s money to be his latest fall guy means that he is accepting of what he must know comes next in terms of stick from supporters.

It is Mike Ashley to blame for no signing as yet and it will be the same if the rest of the transfer window proves to be catastrophic.

Just like you will have to give the club owner a certain amount of credit if he finally bites the bullet and does what it takes to bring in the credible players that Newcastle need to start rebuilding, rather than terrible decisions such as trying to address a desperate striker shortage by bringing in a budget buy such as Emmanuel Riviere.

Spending what it needs won’t automatically equal success. but not spending what it needs, will almost certainly guarantee failure.

Remember kids, it is Mike Ashley who will decide if Newcastle United are signing players this summer, not those carrying out his orders.


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