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Mike Ashley minions pay Rafa Benitez a visit

4 years ago

Mike Ashley owns 100% of Newcastle and can run it in any way he likes…and he does.

It doesn’t make it right though.

The latest episode in the Rafa Benitez and Mike Ashley stand-off/cold war came this weekend.

Two weeks earlier the owner was at St James Park for the Spurs match but declined to meet his manager despite not having spoken to Rafa for over three months, when an end of season meeting was held and both sides were all so positive about the summer/season ahead, having ‘agreed’ on their approach to the summer transfer window.

Three months later (two weeks after Ashley blanked Rafa at the Spurs game), Newcastle beat West Ham 3-0 and the manager gets unexpected guests, though the club’s owner is not amongst them, instead he sends a delegation of minions to pay a visit.

This was the exclusive.

The Mirror – 27 August 2017:

‘Newcastle’s Rafa Benitez WILL stop his transfer grumblings after talks with MD Lee Charnley and Mike Ashley lawyer

Rafa Benitez has agreed to “shut up and get on with his job” after clear-the-air talks with Newcastle chiefs.

After a series of transfer window moans, Toon boss Benitez was visited by managing director Lee Charnley and Justin Barnes — a lawyer working for Magpies owner Mike Ashley — after Saturday’s win over West Ham.

PR man Keith Bishop was also present amid concern at the European Cup winner’s comments about his transfer budget.

So far, Newcastle have splashed out around £40million in this summer’s transfer window on six players, but missed out on four early deals Benitez wanted done, leading to tension.

On Friday afternoon, Benitez claimed Newcastle was no longer a “long-term” project.

And all summer he has hinted at unhappiness at the speed of business being done.

Owner Ashley is believed to have asked Benitez to stop his unsettling comments and to “get on with his job”.

Disillusioned striker Dwight Gayle could be sold this week for up to £20m, to raise further funds for a late recruitment push.

Talks were held at St James’s Park immediately after the win over West Ham, and an amicable way forward worked out between all parties.’

The Mirror is of course the club’s ‘official media partner’ and unlike most of that newspaper’s feeble transfer exclusives, this exclusive was written by The Mirror’s man in the north east, Simon Bird.

So bottom line is, we can take this to be true (in my humble opinion), that the meeting did take place.

What exactly was said on both sides would be very interesting to know but we can only go on the Mirror’s piece.

What I take from their reporting is that it is anything but sympathetic to Rafa Benitez and leans heavily towards the Mike Ashley PR side of things.

Saying ‘Rafa Benitez will stop his transfer grumblings’ and will ‘shut up and get on with his job’. Even the mention of money spent as being ‘around £40m’ sees a bias to rounding things up, the figure generally reported in the media is around £36m has been spent so far – but only a net spend of around £23m or so after sales of Thauvin, Mbabu and Murphy are taken into account.

Maybe though the biggest thing that stands out for me, is that Simon Bird doesn’t make any comment at all as to how ridiculous this whole overall scenario was – these three stooges marching in to see Rafa Benitez.

Giving Simon Bird the benefit of the doubt, maybe like so many others he just doesn’t see how shambolic the club is these days, so sees these kind of happenings as simply ‘normal’ for Newcastle United under Mike Ashley.

Just to spell it out, at normal clubs, if there were issues to be sorted then a manager would usually be asked to come along to a board meeting, where issues could be talked about, common ground found, and an agreed strategy on going forward.

Normal clubs having at least one board of directors (some have two – one deciding the overall club strategy and budgets etc – and the other running the club/making decisions with regular meetings each month or whenever), made up of the most experienced and talented people to help guide the club and support the manager in his football decisions.

At Newcastle United we also have a board, which (don’t laugh) is made up of Lee Charnley and Bobby Moncur (pictured above with Ashley).

The Mirror say Rafa Benitez met with ‘Toon chiefs’, so why wasn’t one of the two club directors there? Next thing people will be saying that it is a board in name only. I would love to see the minutes of the board meetings…

All normal clubs also have a team of the best professional people employed and tasked to run the club on a day to day basis, Newcastle have Lee Charnley – who when figures were released in Newcastle’s last Premier League season, was revealed to be  the lowest paid PL Managing Director by a country mile, other MDs getting 20 times what Charnley gets. You pay peanuts you get…

So according to The Mirror, on Saturday Rafa met with these three Mike Ashley stooges – Lee Charnley, Justin Barnes and Keith Bishop.

Exactly what are the roles of these other two at Newcastle United?

Once again, Ashley can do whatever he wants as it is ‘his’ club but it doesn’t add up to the right way to go about things and you have to wonder why the media covering Newcastle United don’t question the joke that is the way the club is run.

Justin Barnes first was named in a Telegraph exclusive (see below) in terms of involvement at Newcastle United.

Back in June the newspaper claimed Barnes, a fixer within Ashley’s retail empire inner circle, had been brought in above Lee Charnley and any financial decisions, beyond presumably how many paper clips Charnley wanted to buy, had to be agreed by Justin Barnes.

Coming up to 11 weeks later and obviously Barnes is still there pulling strings on behalf of Mike Ashley but fans are told nothing and no critical analysis from most of the media.

As for Keith Bishop, he is Ashley’s man for coordinating the club owner’s PR. No doubt managing the relationships with people such as David Craig and Sky Sports, enabling that farce of an ‘interview’ to be broadcast, working to a script and no proper questions asked about Ashley’s mismanagement of the club.

The whole charade clearly part of the PR battle against Rafa Benitez (Ashley’s manager!!!), attempting to portray the owner in the best possible light (next up, how Donald Trump is really nice to children and kittens…).

No wonder Rafa Benitez feels such an affinity to the players and fans of Newcastle United but contempt for Mike Ashley and his minions.

He has worked at all kinds of clubs (Real Madrid, Liverpool, Inter Milan, Chelsea, Napoli) where inner politics leave the manager performing a constant balancing act of how to handle his side of things BUT nothing could have prepared Rafa for the joke that is Newcastle United.

Obviously, like any other normal Newcastle fan who has a brain, I am desperate for Rafa Benitez to stay at the club, he is our only hope.

People who believed that things were going to be different, the club ran in a whole different way, have had those illusions shattered. Yes Rafa Benitez was allowed to spend over £50m last summer – but only so Mike Ashley could ensure Sports Direct and the rest of his retail empire would once again be getting worldwide free promotion, plus of course the return of Premier League TV riches…plus Rafa made the club £40m transfer profit in the process.

Nothing has changed.

Ashley and his minions continue to try to undermine any decent manager (Hughton, Keegan) that accidentally is employed.

No wonder the owner’s preference is for somebody like Carver, JFK, Pardew or McClaren to be given the title of manager/head coach, so desperate to take the job under any circumstances, not given any responsibility apart from picking the team, putting out whatever PR message Ashley wants, having no say on transfers and most importantly, keeping their gobs shut at all other times unless prompted to by Keith Bishop or one of the other goons who have no official public role at NUFC but who clearly pull the strings on behalf of the owner.

The Mirror say that Rafa Benitez has agreed to be silenced, I wouldn’t be too sure about that.

The Mag – 15 June 2017:

Interesting revelation on Thursday night, with news that Mike Ashley has drafted in somebody at Newcastle United who Lee Charnley has to answer to.

As reported by the Telegraph, Ashley has brought Justin Barnes into St James Park and they say that now Lee Charnley has to run any financial decisions past him.

One of the major reasons for this move is said to be that Mike Ashley has given Barnes the task of trying to persuade potential investors to buy a stake in the club.

The Telegraph say that Ashley believes it unlikely anyone will meet his £400m valuation of the club and so the next best thing would be if Justin Barnes can do deals with people who are willing to buy a part of the football club.

Barnes is a trademark lawyer and was originally in charge of Sports Direct’s brands, which included Dunlop and Slazenger, when the retailer floated in 2007 and was one of five directors who shared a £25m bonus back then.

He stopped being an employee of Sports Direct and other companies linked to them in 2008 – but has continued to work for Mike Ashley (in a kind of Number 10 role…). The Telegraph claim that Justin Barnes isn’t being directly employed by Newcastle United, simply working for Ashley.

Seemingly used by Ashley to try and close/arrange various major business deals, Barnes was reported to have led Ashley’s team that worked on a proposed bid for BHS last year – though Ashley did not bid for BHS in the end.

Justin Barnes was also involved with Sports Direct’s decision to put USC into administration and to then buy the chain back back minus its debts after stripping its assets.

He has also represented Ashley in his dispute with Rangers FC and in June 2016 became a director of Rangers Retail Ltd when Ashley and other Sports Direct representatives resigned from that company.

As usual, with Newcastle United you always feel that the club is only seen by Mike Ashley as a small cog in the overall workings of his empire – best seen maybe by the year on year massive free promotion job NUFC does for Ashley’s retail empire, with no revenue going into the football club.

What the end result of Mike Ashley bringing in Justin Barnes to St James Park will be, remains to be seen.


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