Comment: This is the time for everybody who cares about Newcastle United to stick together
Newcastle United fans, and everybody else who cares about our great but mad club, need to stick together like never before.
When it comes to uncertainty, Newcastle have become specialists at it under Mike Ashley.
Living from one season to the next, trying to stay in the Premier League on the minimum spend possible.
The odd high spots then seeing Mike Ashley’s minions claiming it was all part of a ‘five year plan’, though they then failed to ever explain where two relegations fitted into their supposed long-term strategies.
With his October announcement, it appeared/appears that even Ashley realises the game is up, that the chaotic and manipulative way he runs the football club, ensures that disaster is always potentially just around the corner once again.
The momentum gained from being promoted and last day second tier champions was expected to be built on with realistic transfer cash available for Rafa Bentez to tackle stage two of the rebuild.
Instead, the Newcastle manager watched both Huddersfield and Brighton have a net spend of over £40m each in the summer as they tried to do everything they could to guard against instant relegation back to the Championship.
As for Rafa Benitez, he found the early summer transfer moves for key targets blocked by the Ashley regime, then despite repeated requests/warnings for the club’s owner to honour his transfer window promises, the manager was left totally undermined and exposed – having to look for bargains to shore up his squad.
Instead of the new better quality first choice goalkeeper, left-back, number 10 and centre-forward, there were budget buys for the likes of utility defender Manquillo at £3.5m and unwanted Stoke reserve striker, £5m Joselu.
Rafa Benitez drained every last drop of potential from his quality lacking squad when putting early points on the board this season but now the lack of investment is showing through.
Even just a few injuries have left the squad/team looking badly exposed.
As well as very average bargain priced squad members who arrived in the summer, Rafa Benitez has also had to rely on players who weren’t even guaranteed a game every week in the Championship, the likes of Perez, Diame, Hayden and Atsu all left having to be relied upon.
In any performance that goes wrong, the manager and players have to take their share of responsibility and especially when that is part of four defeats on the bounce.
However, it is vital to remember that there is only one real villain of the peace and it isn’t Mohamed Diame.
If you wanted to create a template for how to try and shoot yourself in the foot in Premier League football, then Mike Ashley has done exactly that.
Despite a £40m transfer surplus under Rafa Benitez in summer 2016, Mike Ashley refused to allow the manager any signings in January, which could have helped ensure promotion and more importantly brought in players who could be settled in for the Premier League campaign that beckoned. Kevin Keegan did this brilliantly when signing the likes of Andy Cole and Scott Sellars during the 1992/93 promotion season.
That failure to back Rafa in January has then been compounded by only an £11.5m transfer net spend this summer.
On top of that, Mike Ashley chose to undermine and make Rafa’s job even tougher, by creating unrest with his infamous Sky Sports interview that he timed to go out on the first weekend of the season.
Then in October we saw the club officially go up for sale, making you question why would any Premier League club owner do this, instead of in the summer with minimum disruption to what happens on the football side of things.
Yes Rafa Benitez might have picked different tactics on Saturday and maybe selected different players in some positions but just like at Old Trafford a week earlier, it would simply have been a case of swapping deckchairs on the Titanic.
A bit like the boring England selection debate, there are no brilliant options being overlooked for Newcastle United.
Ayoze Perez has offered next to nothing going forward this season and as for the likes of Mitrovic and Aarons, well the United boss watches them in training every day and obviously doesn’t see what some of his armchair critics/doubters see.
Bottom line is that Newcastle United will only have a better team when they sign better players, to go with the small base of decent quality ones already at the club, including one or two likes Lascelles and Merino who couldn’t start yesterday or at Old Trafford.
Both Lukaku and Pogba cost more than the entire Newcastle side they faced last week, Rafa and the fans didn’t expect those type of signings.
However, yesterday Watford had £30m front pair Gray and Richarlison running rings around Newcastle’s defence and that kind of spending could and should have been allowed this summer. A couple of decent signings up front could have papered over a lot of cracks this season at St James Park.
So, this is a time to grin and bear it and stick together with both manager and players.
The day can’t come soon enough when Mike Ashley leaves this football club.
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