Mike Ashley is keeping very busy.
Not in terms of trying to persuade Rafa Benitez to stay of course, instead he has his PR minions furiously preparing the ground for when/if the manager leaves.
Whether Rafa will walk or not is obviously the 64 dollar question, which is no doubt also close to the transfer pot Benitez has been offered…
Jonjo Shelvey going to Russia, will he or won’t he, was what kept the media rampant after the actual Premier League season had ended.
Of course he was never going to be selected, not necessarily because he didn’t deserve to be included but Southgate had made his intentions clear when not picking the Newcastle midfielder, or Lascelles, in any of his previous squads, including a 27 man one in March. However, this was never going to stop the media going overboard to get the clicks and fill the pages.
Likewise, Rafa Benitez is/was never going to go to West Ham.
All kinds of reasons why that would never happen but you only need to accept two things.
Firstly, if he left Newcastle he could/would go to a far better club that them.
Secondly, Rafa might have to operate under a total joke of an owner at Newcastle but he loves the fans and there is total mutual respect. To then go to a club where the supporters have acted as they have in the past season, no way he would lay himself open to that.
This is not to say Rafa Benitez definitely won’t leave St James Park this summer but if he does, it won’t be to join Sullivan, Gold and that set of fans.
It looks obvious that both Mike Ashley’s people AND Rafa’s, have been using the West Ham circus to push their own agendas, feeding the media messages from ‘sources’.
However, on the Ashley side of things, his PR people (his main PR goon pictured above, two to the left of Ashley) are up their usual tricks.
I have increasingly seen headlines which claim to tell us what ‘Rafa is demanding’ to take the West Ham job.
These are all pushing the idea that the Newcastle boss is only interested in getting more and more money, for both himself and to spend on players.
I have seen claims he is ‘demanding’ at least £8m per year for himself and at least £100m to spend on players this summer.
It was interesting to read a very good recent piece by George Caulkin who covers Newcastle United for The Times, he said that it was more about the freedom to operate as he sees fit that Rafa Benitez was most bothered about, not the actual exact budget figure. The ability to spend the budget just on one player if he wanted to, and to recruit any player he wants, without having to go through Lee Charnley who then goes to Mike Ashley to have final yes or no.
Also interesting that Caulkin said that he knew Rafa’s representatives had ‘laughed off’ the idea that Mike Ashley was prepared to allow the manager an £80m budget this summer, with the actual figure set to be far far lower.
Mike Ashley is always happy for Newcastle United to stumble along from week to week and season to season, with no long-term plan/strategy whatsoever, apart from hoping to survive each season in the Premier League. However, when it comes to his own profile and how Newcastle United will reflect on him, he is ALWAYS planning ahead.
We saw the obviously pre-planned statement that was released straight after the victory over Chelsea, once again offering ‘every penny’.
However, the West Ham coverage is also showing he is very much active with his PR people.
I have no doubt it is they who are pushing the stories about Rafa’s supposed demands at West Ham.
The long-term planning coming into operation because if/when Rafa Benitez does walk away from Newcastle United, we will then see these headlines repeated, with Mike Ashley’s PR people trying to get Newcastle fans to believe that these kind of unreasonable figures, £8m+ a year in wages and £100m+ summer transfer budget, were why Ashley could never have kept the manager happy.
You always hope common sense will win the day but 11 years of Mike Ashley gives us little hope, ‘winning’ a battle of wills with the likes of Kevin Keegan and Rafa Benitez appears to be what it is all about with the club’ owner, rather than trying to run Newcastle United in a decent and ambitious way.