It’s beginning to look a lot like stalemate on the Newcastle takeover.
Mike Ashley wants more money, Amanda Staveley wants to pay less, and the club is heading straight for the rocks.
My yuletide message of festive cheer is as follows: I urge all true fans to celebrate like the old Bender Squad on a Friday mission to oblivion (younger readers: this was back in the days of Peter Kelly and John Burridge) on each and every occasion the Toon crashes to defeat this season (which will be most of the time).
Yes, in my judgement, which as is well known is far from infallible, we stand a better chance of a brighter future if we go down one more time.
Amanda is, like all businessfolk, a gambler. Mike loves a flutter so much he has a job that requires him to back his intuition with money all the time, but the selfish oaf also sprays his dosh around casinos and betting companies in his spare time as well.
The thing is, I think Mike has made a gamble this season that has already gone wrong. He guessed that we would have a struggle against relegation but would survive. But if we believe what is written in the Financial Times, Amanda’s team has looked at our results in the last eight games and decided that the Toon has a sixty five per cent chance of going down.
In consequence, Amanda is not inclined to ask Mike for a chunk of cash back in the event we are indeed relegated. No, she thinks the presumption should be the other way around, and Mike should have to ask her for a bit more money if we manage to stay up.
Of itself, I don’t see this as an insuperable snag. It is just a relatively minor issue of who should get the use of tens of millions of pounds in the few months in which the club’s fortunes are being decided.
But it suggests Mike is being characteristically stubborn, and illuminates what I think is a bigger problem, which is exactly how much the club is really worth. Amanda clearly doesn’t think Mike’s valuation is correct. She seems to think Newcastle should be priced south of £300m if it’s in the Premier League. Mike thinks the correct amount is a hundred million more.
That is a difference from Amanda’s point of view of around thirty per cent. That is a hell of a difference.
Mike would think of coming down to her price level only, I reckon, if we were relegated. But he is gambling that we stay up. He thinks Rafa can pull it off, because, as I have observed before, he doesn’t really think there is much difference between a cheap footballer and a cheaper one. He can see that expensive footballers are better, but he would never buy one of those. He knows he has a good manager, and believes that will make the difference.
But I don’t think Amanda is going to pay him what he requires if we defy gravity and contrive to stay up. Remember – she walked away from Liverpool, and Liverpool had its own ground, a stellar cast of players, and a proper infrastructure. At Newcastle, we have none of those things. The wretched club is a shell, needing massive investment.
At the end of this season someone might pay him the £400m he thinks his tenure has made appropriate and we are still in the Premier League. But, if they don’t, Mike is on the TV gravy train one more season. He will gamble on staying up all over again. As I say, I think this perennial gamble has gone wrong for him already, but a near-death experience this season won’t stop him thinking it will all go right next year.
It’s possible that, as time goes on, the pressure will get to Mike. He may fold. He may think it is not worth the candle. He may indeed take the money and run. This may indeed be the basis of Amanda’s own gamble.
But it is not just bloody-mindedness that is stopping Amanda upping her offer, I don’t think. She knows that Newcastle need hundreds of millions of pounds of investment. And another hundred million on the purchase price is not going to help produce the ready funds Rafa needs.
What it comes down to is that Mike is being greedy, and Amanda is not playing his game. It will need relegation to sort Mike out.
Unless he behaves atypically, Mike will trash his own investment, lose our best ever manager, and shut out a deal for a sale that would get him off his bed of nails with dignity. We will sink into the Championship, and this time the vultures will be rewarded. Who knows? Amanda might be one of them.
And it’s what we all should be hoping for.