Rafa Benitez has put Newcastle United into a great position.
Despite one of the weakest and underfunded squads in the Premier League, the NUFC Manager has Newcastle in 13th place and a game in hand on many rivals with only eight to play.
This is all building up to a massive Summer at the club, which could quite literally make or break our ambitions for the football club.
However, forward planning has never been a feature of Mike Ashley’s ownership, as trying to survive in the Premier League from one season to the next appears to be the only plan, spending as little money as possible in the process.
Earlier this week I wrote an article (see below) that was published by The Mag, which explained that this Summer more than any other, needed quick action and advanced planning by Newcastle United.
Bad news on Friday morning then, as the Chronicle say that their information is that no talks are planned about either a new contract for Rafa Benitez (he only has one year left to run) or the Summer transfer budget and player recruitment, until mid-May at the earliest, after the season has ended.
This is crazy really, as if everything is left until after the season ends, both Rafa’s contract and talks on transfers/budget, then the talks would be taking place only three weeks before the Summer transfer window opens on 9 June 2018.
Any normal club would be planning now…
Yes you can’t say at the moment Newcastle are definitely staying up but you can plan ahead on the basis of IF/WHEN that happens, what is the plan and what is the transfer budget, which would then allow Rafa Benitez to get straight to work lining up early signings. Something which is surely essential given this Summer’s time constraints and the additional issues caused by a World Cup as well.
The Chronicle – Friday 23 March:
‘As of last week, club sources indicated that nothing was on the table and there had been no serious talks with Benitez, nor has he had any contact with Ashley since January.
There’s been no contact from Mike Ashley or Lee Charnley about a new deal just yet and that could stay that way for some time yet.
Nothing moves quickly at Newcastle, though, and while some clubs would be keen to get things underway in terms of recruitment ahead of next season it is probably going to be mid-May at the earliest that we see any movement on actual contract talks (for a new Rafa Benitez deal).
Benitez wants full control of football decisions but at a club that looks carefully at every penny spent it’s not always easy for the Toon boss to get his way.’
The Mag – Tuesday 20 March (my article):
Rafa Benitez had a number of players lined up to join Newcastle United last summer (2017) as soon as the transfer window opened.
The United boss using his experience and contacts to add vital new signings to a squad newly promoted from the Championship.
Rafa even decided to knock a holiday on the head, in order to get his preparation work done, to make sure these players could be brought in quickly, to head off interest from elsewhere.
Mike Ashley blocked these early moves.
Instead, Rafa was then playing catch-up as with his early plans shattered, he was then left competing against the other clubs for the players he needed.
With Mike Ashley allowing a far lower net spend than clubs such as Brighton and Huddersfield, it was a near impossible job to bring in the necessary quality.
Rafa later said that he couldn’t even compete with the other two clubs when it came to competing on wages.
The Newcastle Manager also made reference once the 2017 summer transfer closed, to the fact that it wasn’t just the amount of money available to spend that was important, Benitez making clear that freedom to wheel and deal and get deals done when he wanted it to happen, was just as important.
The key message being that to get an advantage over the opposition, who had more money to spend, was to act early and get signings made before it became an auction that Newcastle were almost certain to lose on any given player.
This morning has seen details of an interview Rafa Benitez gave in Spain made public.
The Newcastle boss talking to a group of journalists about the possibilities moving forward. Rafa talked a lot about making sure mistakes of the past weren’t repeated at the club, especially with regard to bringing in the necessary quality this summer.
This interview has been very much seen as the NUFC Manager getting in early to tell Mike Ashley of his expectations this summer, after three transfer windows on the bounce where Rafa was left furious at the end of each of them and went public with his unhappiness.
Having had a look at various dates this summer, it isn’t difficult to see why Rafa Benitez is getting stuck in early, in sending a message to the club’s owner.
Last summer was bad enough when it came to the position Ashley put Benitez in – but this coming summer there is really no time for messing about.
Just have a look at these dates:
13 May 2018 – The 2017-18 Premier League season ends
28 May 2018 – Pre-World Cup friendlies begin
9 June 2018 – Pre-World Cup friendlies end
9 June 2018 – Summer transfer window opens
14 June 2018 – World Cup 2018 begins
15 July 2018 – World Cup 2018 ends
9 August 2018 – Summer transfer window closes (at 5pm)
10 August 2018 – The 2018-19 Premier League season begins
Basically, after Newcastle play their next match (31 March at home to Huddersfield), you then have six weeks until the end of the Premier League season (13 May).
Then less than four weeks later the Summer transfer window opens (9 June).
However, to complicate matters, there will be international friendlies going on during that period, so many potential transfer targets will be kept busy.
From the transfer window opening on 9 June, this season you now have only two months later both the transfer window closing (5pm on Thursday 9 August) and the Premier League kicking off (Friday 10 August).
If Rafa Benitez is messed about by Ashley once again, then it could be catastrophic.
All of the above is also without even then factoring in the possibility of a takeover happening at long last.
If that is going to actually happen, then Mike Ashley has to get a deal sorted ASAP once safety is assured this season. It will really be unforgivable if Newcastle ended up heading into the transfer window with signings delayed due to waiting for agreement on buying and selling Newcastle United.
Obviously an overwhelming number of fans want to see this takeover happen but we could do without any repeat of the type of circus Ashley set in motion, when waiting until a couple of months into this current season before putting the club up for sale. That proving undoubtedly a distraction for players, manager and fans, as Newcastle ended up going on a run of only one point from a possible 27.
A win against Huddersfield should then see plans being put in place as to what is intended to happen, ahead of eventual safety being achieved.
Forward planning isn’t something Mike Ashley has ever agreed to at Newcastle United but it is desperately needed ahead of this summer.