As I write, Newcastle United have just confirmed the signing of Aleksandar Mitrovic for a reported £12.5m.

Together with £14.5m Georginio Wijnaldum that brings spending for the summer up to £27m.

Some will tell you that this is an abrupt change in transfer policy at the club, signalled by the interview Mike Ashley gave prior to the final game of the 14/15 season.  However, it’s not been that abrupt.

Net transfer spending over the last 3 windows is now £45.8m.  Total outlay before player sales is £64.4m over 2 summers.

It doesn’t stop there either, the upturn in the willingness of the club to spend more buying players than it recoups from selling them dates back to the sale of Jose Enrique in 2011, he was the player that took transfer profiteering under Mike Ashley to its nadir.

transfer spending

That was 4 years ago!

Even taking into account the likes of Cabaye, Debuchy and Ba being sold at significant profit since then, the club has consistently not only reinvested that income but extended outlay on transfer fees further.

If the sale of Enrique marked the end of a sales spree to balance the books, the £58.4m spent since then over and above the reinvestment of fees received, suggests the club really has now moved out of the sell to buy phase.

Recent purchases also indicate a willingness to invest some of the reported profits and future TV income in more expensive signings than previously.

Having bought only one player for over £10m in seven years (Coloccini), Newcastle have now broke that three times in one year (Cabella, Wijnaldum and Mitrovic).  There’s also a new manager and coaching staff in place, suggesting the club are making a new start, despite the claims of a previous chief exec that we would always look to promote from within.

Onwards and upwards then?

Perhaps not.  Most of Ashley’s harshest critics will point to the fact that the graph above shows that the purchase of Mitrovic only took Ashley into a net outlay on transfers this past week. Hardly an indication of ambition over his entire ownership.

Personally, I prefer to look at the trends to gauge the direction of the club, rather than including events seven or eight years ago and assuming Ashley’s priorities for the club then remain the same now – other than advertising his shop which will always remain the top priority, obviously.

A stronger argument for caution ahead of optimism is that while spending is increased overall, when it comes to individual purchases the club has still only been willing to outlay half what Everton were willing to spend on Lukaku (£28m).

We’ve also fallen short of prices paid by Aston Villa (£18m on Bent) and West Ham (£15.5m on Carroll). Newcastle United have the oldest standing club transfer record in the Premier League, 10 years having passed since £16m was splurged on Michael Owen.

Getting ahead of those other clubs outside of the top 6, is going to take some proven top players, not several punts on foreign starlets that will take at least a year to acclimatise to the pace of the Premier League, if they ever do.

The Everton, Aston Villa and West Ham examples above were all for players proven in the English top flight.  The jury remains very much out on Remy Cabella, a player who arrived with as much fanfare as Wijnaldum and Mitrovic, but also with just as little experience of the league.

Personally, I remain satisfied with transfer business at the club overall, this has never been an issue I’ve had with Ashley.

I think a multi-billionaire like him could have put more of his own money in, it certainly wouldn’t have broken any FFP rules if Sports Direct paid for their “partnership”, but I am happy as long as the club is allowed to invest its own money to sustain itself, whether it’s via funds in the bank or funds secured from future TV income.

The protests I have supported and joined have not been against transfer dealings.  I remain as concerned as ever that Ashley will shoot us in the foot otherwise though.  After all, we have been here before.

In 2008 the club spent £27m too, and that was more then than it is now.  Kevin Keegan was the new manager 7 years ago, the only appointment Ashley has previously made to shade McClaren in terms of popularity.  That’s not to say McClaren has been embraced at all, only that all other appointments have ranged from uninspiring to lamentable.

transfer spending

Back then, despite everything looking bright publicly with the purchases of Coloccini, Gutierrez and Guthrie, behind the scenes things were rotten, with Xisco foisted on the manager at a cost of £5m and the income from the sale of James Milner not being spent as wisely as Keegan wanted.

The acrimonious fallout that followed led to the arrival of Joe Kinnear, 4 managers in one season, further slash and burn tactics with the sale of N’zogbia and Given and ultimately the club being relegated.

This is the worry with Ashley, no matter how good things look, no matter what he allows the club to spend, you always wonder what catastrophe he can conjure up next.

I don’t doubt his ambition, I’m certain he wants his Newcastle project to be a success, It’s clear he will allow the club to spend within its means, he’s not taken any money out of the club in three years, his shop may have put nothing in for advertising but the club pay no interest on £129m of debt mostly (but not close to all) accrued prior to his arrival.

Despite all of this, I’m not sure he’ll ever be capable of keeping everyone associated with the club pulling in the same direction, whether on the field or in the stands.

Just as we’re getting there, he’s likely to pull a bone-headed stunt like putting Sports Direct on the roof, like stripping the stadium name, like moving fans and killing the atmosphere, like forcing membership on fans, like banning the press, or the supporters trust, like pulling Coloccini and others from another winnable cup tie he plays in both games either side of.

It’s worth celebrating the quality of signings coming in, but it’s worth tempering that optimism with caution, because McClaren has been frustrated with the pre season schedule foisted on him by the club, both at home and abroad.

He’s on the record with expressing his frustration at the back four he had to put out in Portland, less than 3 weeks before the season starts.  This after adding £14m to an already well populated midfield.

It will take more than continuing to reinvest the club’s earnings to convince me that the tide has turned on Ashley’s propensity to blow things.

  • Chemical Dave

    As always with Chris, a good and thought provoking read. Disagree with the “bone headed stunts” though, he knows exactly what he’s doing and its done for spite and effect.
    I think k he was happy to upset the natives but didn’t like the negativity spreading to a national level.

  • magpiefifer

    After 8 years of Ashley I find it tough to be optimistic , and while we are spending money on what should be quality players,the perennial need is for at least 2 good central defenders.
    Let’s hope that the basics can be sorted!!

  • TonnekToon

    Chemical Dave totally agree , spot on about the man .

  • Chemical Dave

    The appointment of Joe Kinnear as dof and subsequent “sacking” a mistake ? Bet the bloke was pissing himself at the reaction he knew it would get up here.

  • DownUnderMag

    There’s been a definite change for the better this window, unfortunately there has been too much hurt and negativity for two signings to simply wash away the fear of something bad just around the corner.  Perhaps this is a fundamental change in club policy.  Maybe Ashley realises that standing still actually sends you backwards.  I’m over the moon about the two lads brought in so far, and optimistic about the noises of more to follow after (hopefully) the Mbemba deal is wrapped up.
    But there is still that nagging doubt that every other time things seemed to be going in the right direction Ashley or one of his cronies, drop a clanger of epic proportions that undoes all the good work in a heartbeat.  That is the fear we live in, it is the reason why so few are tempted to start being excited for the new policy.  Time and proven track record is the only thing that will heal some wounds, let’s hope things continue in the upward direction…I could get used to this “daring to dream” malarky again!

  • Jievo

    Just one small point – you mention our long standing transfer record, and the willingness of other clubs to break theirs – definitely a point worth making and we’d all love to see a £20 million player brought in as a real statement of intent – but the players you mention other clubs splurging on are only proof that the fee really isn’t everything. What has that £15 mil really bought West Ham? And god almighty, would we rather £13 mil for Mitrovich, £9 mil for Cisse or £18 MILLION for Bent? Mental. One more big signing at CB or wide forward and then a couple more Lascelles/Perez type youngsters and I’ll be happy, and I’m gonna judge them on all the information available not just the transfer fees. Any club that operates a selling policy in this league is going to run a net profit, we all know how overvalued premier league players are. The issue isn’t in the quality of replacement players, it’s in the delay between selling and buying that allows bad form to set in and fester. I’ll be more than happy if we do a Debuchy type deal with Sissoko, I’ll be pissed off if we handle it like the Cabaye transfer.

  • MikeAshleyLies

    Jievo Maybe Mental, but Bent was Villa’s top scorer 2 seasons running after they bought him and his goals kept them up, even if he wasn’t banging in 20 odd during their relegation battles, he was a player that had shown he could do that at least, if he got service.  Neither Mitrovic or Cisse have shown that yet.

    There are very few clubs running a net profit…

    But like I say in the article, I’m less likely to be swayed by transfer policy which I see as unchanged for 4 years (Club can spend it’s own money if it earns it) and am more waiting to see if Ashley can manbage a club looking to grow better than the one he managed trying to cut costs.

  • ArtyH

    Dont forget that we have let three defenders leave this year, Mbiwa, Santon and Taylor but only replaced them with two ( should Mbemba get clearance ). We still need quality defenders, more so than strikers. Having said that I would like Austin to sign, may be a return to Keegans days of if they score 3 we will score 4. That would be nice :) then another C.B in January. Or a C.B now and Austin in January for less than half what QPR want, that would be sweet, and show them for being greedy gits.

  • ArtyH

    One more point, it looks like there is increased speculation about Austin preferring NUFC to most other clubs, but if we get him does that mean Cisse is out the door?

  • Hudson80

    I am a regular reader of this and other Newcastle sites and must say that this is one of the best pieces of analysis I have seen.
    It certainly didn’t match the reality I had and agree we shouldn’t look at transfers over 8 years as crazy deals like Carol (English record) will always have an impact on that
    I do believe that we buy well, the issue being that we don’t go that extra step and therefore our best people are their for others to buy as other clubs can match their ambition – every club sells players when they want to go (Ronaldo, Bale and Sterling as examples)
    My hope is that we show enough ambition over the coming years so that we can retain our best players and bring in an even higher caliber to the club…. It’s just hope for now!

  • ConleyPedconley

    MikeAshleyLies NUFCTheMag nice reg number for sale offers

  • GilesPhrase

    MikeAshleyLies NUFCTheMag stop being so soft.

  • MikeAshleyLies

    GilesPhrase NUFCTheMag “It will take more than that to convince me that the tide has turned on Ashley’s propensity to blow things”

  • GilesPhrase

    MikeAshleyLies NUFCTheMag quite.

  • Morpeth mag

    Was our debt not £70 million when he took over ? So now it is very nearly double, also tv revenue has increased significantly, it will take more than 3 half decent signings to show a change in the clubs ambition policy, we need at least one more centre back, another forward, a winger and possibly a left back, in my oppinion that is the bare minimum to be mid table, or slightly above,,

  • desree

    great analysis chris, your conclusion makes me think that perhaps the only way for newcastle fans to find true happiness is to completely ignore the regular MA stunts.
    rather than we all get on our soap box about wonga – don’t buy the shirt? If he wants to call the stadium sports direct arena, let him. it is still st james park.
    I think newcastle fans and mike ashley are a marriage made in hell. Anyone from the outside looking in would say newcastle fans are deluded and mike ashley is a great owner.

  • Chemical Dave

    Why should people ignore him ? What would it take for you to get angry, him changing the cd and white ? Dear me.

  • desree

    haha all I’m saying Dave is that MA gets a perverse buzz out of winding up the fans. When he really stops and takes notice is when we stop giving him cash.
    Ashley has known for sometime that the fans weakness is the love for the club and he has exploited it.
    The fans surely now can see his weakness is cash. So rather than whine on social media next time he pisses us off, stop giving him cash.
    What is the point in getting angry when it just gives the fat man more ammo and hurts the club and city. Not MA.