Like many who have felt compelled to contribute to The Mag, I am a lifelong fan. With 30 years and (as of the West Ham match) 600 home games under my belt.
My love affair with the toon stems from being crammed into the animals enclosure at 14 and learning more about my fellow man in 90 minutes than school could ever teach.
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Of course, since then I’ve enjoyed the rollercoaster ride that is being a loyal foot soldier of the Toon Army; the pride of signing the 1st Brazilian to play in England, of paying a World Record fee for Shearer, of having players revered the country over (including the Premiership’s all time record goal scorer) and a style that endeared us to all but those red and whites from down the road.
Now however, we find ourselves in a no-man’s land of uncertainty, scepticism and suspicion with fan turned against fan, whilst the ‘un-approved’ press writing whatever they like just to create a response.
Of course we all want the excitement of new players, of hope for a better team and of more passion and commitment on the pitch.
Following Mike Ashley’s ill-fated public promises, many are waiting to see just what that equates to – BUT, and it is a big but. Regardless of the money Ashley makes available to actually sign new players, there is still a much more pressing issue – if out of the current squad there are at least 10/12 (and some would even go as high as 15/16) players who will never become effective Premiership players, what do we do with them ?
The squad needs a rebuild but this is not FIFA15 or Football Manager, you cannot simply move those players on you no longer want, to make room for the new stars. Crying out for new signings because the transfer kitty is there, does nothing when there is also another kitty which needs to be balanced – wages.
How do we rid ourselves of those players who have enjoyed very good Premiership wages for doing pretty much nowt – no prospective club will pay them what we do based on last season’s performance. Plus they sure as hell aren’t going to move on and take a huge cut, nor are their agents going to allow it.
Add to this the recent news of reduced season ticket uptake and the wages v turnover balance shifts even more to reducing the weekly wage bill, or at least not increasing it.
I can just see the excuses – ‘we didn’t buy so-and-so because his wage demands would have broken the wage structure at the club, a wage structure that is tighter now because the fans have stopped buying season tickets’.
For all that Ashley is vaunted as a great businessman, I fear that he has knowingly allowed this far bigger issue to develop that will scupper any chances of a major squad rebuild.
Obertan, Marveaux, Ameobi, Williamson, Steven Taylor, Collocini, Anita – these players are not going to attract big bids to move on and most other clubs who may be interested will baulk at their wages
Yet we cannot hope to progress while they still take up squad places, but that’s not Ashley’s fault…his offer still stands that there’s money for signings so long as the wage structure remains.
From what I see there are only two options – allow Steve McClaren to determine who he will not use and write off a large proportion of their remaining contracts (thus freeing up squad space and wages).
Alternatively, accept that once again we will have a manager trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear and hope that a few fancy baubles will kid us all that we are progressing.
(Newcastle fan since 1985, season ticket holder from 1991 until this season, not renewing)