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David Craig says Newcastle will be relegated – Shame didn’t mention in Mike Ashley Sky Sports ‘interview’

3 years ago
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David Craig conducted the infamous Sky Sports ‘interview’ with Mike Ashley.

Newcastle fans and Rafa Benitez frustrated and angry at the owner’s lack of back for his manager in the January and summer transfer windows.

Amazingly, Ashley decided to time his scripted PR stunt/interview with David Craig to have maximum impact on the manager’s preparations for the opening game of the season. The full length shambles screened on Sky Sports only hours after the final whistle of the Newcastle v Tottenham match on Sunday 13 August, with small parts/quotes from the ‘interview’ released piecemeal starting on Friday 11 August – two days before that opening game.

All reasonable media and Newcastle fans having taken the view that the club’s owner was badly letting his manager down, so Mike Ashley launching this PR offensive to try and deflect blame away from himself and instead attempt to portray Rafa Benitez as the unreasonable one – can’t compete with likes of Man City, can’t just hand Rafa £150m, can’t compete with clubs that are effectively states, can’t pay £200m for one player and so on.

Newcastle supporters and Rafa Benitez were appalled by the outrageous nature of Mike Ashley’s claims. This was then followed by disbelief that some people failed to see just how ridiculous the whole ‘interview’ had been – not one difficult question asked and the NUFC owner allowed to make those outrageous statements without them being questioned by David Craig.

At the end of the transfer window, Rafa Benitez had seen an £11.5m net outlay on signings, especially galling when he had been blocked from making any signings in January 2017 AND had made a £40m profit on his transfer dealings in summer 2016.

The staged nature of the Mike Ashley ‘interview’ was hardly a total surprise in reality to Newcastle fans, considering David Craig (‘Craigie’) is such a close associate of Ashley’s.

Here are a couple of examples from that David Craig/Mike Ashley shambles that went out on Sky Sports on Sunday 13 August:

David Craig:

‘Twice you’ve been relegated, twice you’ve come back as champions. How important for you was coming back at the first attempt?’

Mike Ashley:

“You’ve got to do everything you can to come back at the first attempt. Football is a momentum game, and if that momentum starts to go against you, it actually feeds on itself.

“And please, God, do I not have to do it again. I know the Newcastle fans won’t want to hear it, but just for this season I’d like to be mid-table, safe, back on that path of growing this football club.”

David Craig:

‘What would it mean to win a trophy? Can you put it into words?’

Mike Ashley:

“Maybe this year we could look for mid-table this season, and maybe make the cups a priority this season. Get ourselves safe and then go for a cup. Either cup.

“And the dream would always be qualifying for the Champions League, that’s what it is for me, simple.”

Ashley saying ‘momentum’ is vital and if it ‘starts to go against you, it actually feeds on itself’ and having the cheek to make out that Newcastle supporters wouldn’t happily settle for a safe mid-table finish, once again presenting fans as having unrealistic expectations – ‘Newcastle fans won’t want to hear it, but just for this season I’d like to be mid-table’.

The owner even having the nerve to talk of ‘back on that path of growing this football club’.

David Craig then asks him about winning a trophy and Ashley says that as well as aiming for mid-table ‘maybe make the cups a priority this season’.

Ashley then laughingly stating ‘the dream would always be qualifying for the Champions League’.

At no time at all in this ‘interview’ is David Craig pointing out the possible small details/problems with what Mike Ashley is saying, such as exactly how Newcastle/Rafa Benitez can realistically expect to have any kind of stress-free safe season and aim for the cups (and eventually the Champions League), when all their competitors are outspending them in the transfer market. Rafa having to buy players for £4m/£5m/£6m, whilst Burnley, Bournemouth, West Brom and others are backing their managers to make £15m signings.

The best bit of it all is yet to come though.

The first quotes from that David Craig / Mike Ashley farce were released on Friday 11 August and on that very same day, David Craig’s predictions for the season were being published else where.

Writing for the Gambling Times (another Ashley associate and former Sky Sports employee, Graeme Bailey also writes for them), Craig was asked to predict who would be relegated…

David Craig writing for the Gambling Times – 11 August 2017:

“And at the bottom, the three promoted teams will be all involved – Newcastle will be bang in it (relegation battle), but I am not too worried by Huddersfield, I think if their coach David Wagner is as good as we think they could do well and I think Brighton under Chris Hughton could be fine.

“The one team I worry about is Stoke City, I think they could implode and their were signs of that last year – I have a lot of time for Mark Hughes, great bloke and really good to interview but I think they could be in trouble.

“I also do worry about Newcastle, I don’t see where their goals are coming from – as it stands I think they could go, we still have a few weeks to go and if they signed a £20million striker they will be fine and that changes everything.

“So Newcastle and Stoke are two for me, and I think another surprise – I see Crystal Palace possibly having some trouble this season.

“I think it could be a really interesting year for De Boer and it won’t be easy replacing Sam Allardyce, but as it stands my bottom three would be Newcastle, Stoke and Palace!”

It is funny how David Craig never asked Mike Ashley in the Sky Sports ‘interview’ what he was going to do to stop Newcastle United being ‘bang in it’, when referring to the relegation strugglers.

Also strange how he didn’t press Ashley on when the essential £20m striker was arriving.

Finally, amazing he never thought to mention that without serious backing for Rafa Benitez, Newcastle were one of his two nailed on favourites to be relegated.

Funny old game.

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