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Opinion

Can Mike Ashley convince Rafa Benitez of his best intentions in January?

3 years ago
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The international breaks give you far too much time to think.

Not being a European club (at the moment) and opting out of the League Cup at the earliest opportunity, there is plenty enough time for thinking in those barren midweeks that are Newcastle fans’ staple diet.

Rafa Benitez lost a Premier League Saturday home game for the first time in over 10 years, when Bournemouth visited St James Park.

March 2007 was the last time, Liverpool losing at Anfield to Manchester United.

The previous month Mike Ashley had floated Sports Direct and became instantly a money in the bank billionaire.

If you believe it, Ashley at that point hadn’t even thought about buying Newcastle United yet, but by May 2007 he’d purchased biggest shareholder Sir John Hall’s shares, then completed the takeover in the June.

To prove that time really does fly, when Rafa takes on Jose at Old Trafford, Newcastle and the fans will already be 98 days into the season, having enjoyed four wins, two draws, five defeats, and three international breaks.

The cold war that reigned over the summer between Rafa Benitez and Mike Ashley was exhausting enough, leaving fans feeling a bit battered and bruised before the season had even started.

Results/luck have maybe evened themselves out now and Newcastle find themselves in an overall decent position of 14 points from 11 Premier League matches, giving every chance that this season can be survived on the pitch.

For the club to actually flourish though and press ahead long-term, there has to be a change of ownership and new management off the pitch that Rafa Benitez can work productively with.

He has managed to keep a lid on his own frustrations pretty well so far but the Bournemouth defeat saw the United boss for the first time since the transfer window closed, make reference to having to do without the kind of players he’d anticipated would have been arriving in the summer.

If Mike Ashley is indeed actively trying to sell the club, then he and Rafa are in a curious position. It is universally agreed that any sale is far more likely to happen, and be a success, if the Spaniard is still part of the fixtures and fittings when ownership changes hands.

Back to numbers and it is claimed that due diligence by interested parties is some 30 or so days in already – but club purchases can reportedly take a number of months rather than days.

If Ashley wants to sell and still no deal completed by January, what will the Sports Direct supremo do to convince Rafa Benitez of his best intentions, whether Newcastle are urgently in need of new players to try and ensure safety, or just to enhance an already decent season?

Under Mike Ashley’s control, Januarys have rarely been happy ones. Selling star players and not replacing them has been a regular thing, whilst panic buying to try and stave off relegation has also happened a couple of times.

Signing Papiss Cisse in January 2012 when well placed in the Premier League, stands out like a sore thumb in all our new years under Ashley.

About time all Newcastle fans had another happy new year to celebrate.

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