The Mike Ashley statement arrived like clockwork, shortly after the final whistle on Sunday.
From his perspective, this season could not have gone any better, safely mid-table with minimum spending.
You might read his statement hoping that he finally understands his mistakes…but pretty much every line of that statement is calculated to offend.
It starts off innocuously enough
“I would like to thank Rafa Benitez for his magnificent achievement this season.
“I would also like to applaud the players, led fantastically by the captain Jamaal Lascelles.”
So far, so good, but he soon outlines his intentions for next season neatly.
“On many occasions throughout the season they have been described as a Championship side, which I personally consider to be derogatory.”
In other words, this squad isn’t as bad as people are saying.
To some extent, he is right, it is derogatory to call them a Championship side when their very endeavour has kept them up. However, the squad had an advantage over other relegation squads. It was managed by Rafa Benitez. The squad itself is very substandard, highlighted by the fact that the best players are on loan.
Stop to think for a second that Elliot and Darlow (no disrespect to either) were starting first choice keepers. Huge respect to both for the effort they did put in this season but they are not good enough to start.
It’s no surprise that Newcastle’s revival this season started with the arrival of a new keeper. And that too, on loan, because Mike Ashley doesn’t see why Rafa needs to spend.
Kennedy, another player on loan, has been a star player since arriving. Shelvey has been transformed by Rafa Benitez into a more mature player. However, the likes of Joselu have tried and tried hard, but for example, his lack of finishing ability is just not acceptable at this level.
So yes, Mike Ashley, the core of this squad is a Championship squad, with some quality players. Loan players aren’t guaranteed to stay at Newcastle. Interestingly, even Merino started off as a loan signing this season.
“Rafa, as always, has my full support, and contrary to some media reports that portray me as a pantomime villain, I will continue to ensure that every penny generated by the club is available to him.”
Rafa Benitez has Ashley’s full support…That’s a shocker. How could a manager who performed a mini miracle and netted Ashley millions, not have the full support of the owner. The true intention is in the second line though. Every penny will be available to Rafa, but this is a continuation of club policy and simply repeating what he has said often before, meaning nothing is really going to change.
The kindest interpretation of this would be that Rafa will now have Premier League money to spend, where previously he didn’t have it. This also ignores Benitez’ main issue, that is, those who close the deals at Newcastle United are nowhere near as competent as needed. It isn’t just that Ashley isn’t spending money, there are quite a few loan signings that Newcastle just could not close, because those negotiating weren’t competent enough. Of course, Ashley won’t address this.
“Finally, I would like to thank the fans for their unrivalled support of Rafa and the team throughout the season.”
In other words, please spend on a new season ticket and continue filling the stadium.
It’s also an attempt to put pressure on Rafa, and try to paint him as the villain, who might leave. It won’t work. We all know what a bond he’s managed to form with the fans, and we will support him through thick and thin, regardless of who owns the club.
He’s the only person at a high level inside the club who gets what the club is about. He’s not asking for a lot, but if you really will make every penny available to him, that would be a great start. But that’s not really true, is it? It’s just more of the same.