Mike Ashley usually flies into the training ground in the final days of the season.
The owner meeting manager and players then flying back off in his helicopter.
The visit usually followed by messages fed to the local and national media, saying the visit was very positive and the owner is committed etc etc
This season there has been no flying in, indeed Mike Ashley hasn’t been sighted at St James Park since the opening day of the season.
Not there at SJP to thank Rafa Benitez and his players after the 3-0 hammering of Chelsea and a positive season in trying circumstances, instead it was reported that Mike Ashley is away on holiday.
What we did get though was the ridiculous PR statement released on behalf of Mike Ashley only minutes after the final whistle, promising full support and ‘every penny’…again.
Cutting through the nonsense, the ever reliable George Caulkin, who covers Newcastle for The Times, has given a very interesting overview of exactly where we are at, with regard to Rafa Benitez, Mike Ashley, Amanda Staveley, and transfer budget…
The report reveals that Amanda Staveley (who George Caulkin has interviewed and he has had regular insights from the Staveley camp) and her investors are still interested – but not at the hugely inflated £400m Mike Ashley is now said to be asking, at least £100m more than the club is actually worth.
The report also tells us that Mike Ashley is now actively trying to drum up interest in America to buy the club, little surprise when so many PL clubs are already under American control.
On the eve of the final game of the season, The Mirror claimed Mike Ashley was prepared to give Rafa Benitez an £80m transfer budget this summer (a message fed by Ashley’s people…?) but Caulkin says that Rafa Benitez’ advisors have ‘laughed off’ those claims, with the reality being nowhere near that.
As for Rafa signing a new contract, the journalist questions just how the Spaniard can ever sign an extension when there has been such a breakdown in trust, with Mike Ashley misleading the manager so many times, and so many realistic transfers he has set up, Ashley’s running of the club has not allowed to happen.
George also says that it is not just about transfers and how much the budget is, it is also about Mike Ashley refusing to properly invest in the ‘infrastructure’ – particularly the Academy and training facilities.
All interesting stuff…let’s hope Mike Ashley finds that gullible mega-rich American who likes black and white stripes and is prepared to pay whatever it takes…
Some brief extracts from excellent latest George Caulkin piece in The Times:
‘At the heart of the matter is trust. For three transfer windows in succession, Benítez believes months of work in identifying players and setting up deals was wasted. Last January, he wanted a couple of new additions to guarantee promotion and got nothing. Last summer, he wanted Newcastle to act quickly to bring in a goalkeeper and a striker. Four months ago, he wanted to clear up that mess and was restricted to loans.
The record books show that Newcastle went up as champions and have now finished tenth, yet Benítez would argue that both accomplishments were jeopardised by the club’s lack of action. Why take that risk? And why make life more difficult for yourself, when some prudent investment would remove that stress and give you something to build upon? The table says one thing, but this has been a season of toil and it has taken a toll.
In a PR statement released on Sunday night — the sportswear retailer is away on holiday — Ashley was quoted as saying, “I will continue to ensure that every penny generated by the club is available to [Benítez].” Every penny is impossible to quantify if Benítez is not told what that budget is (reports he will be given £80 million are laughed off by his advisors), nor if he cannot control when it is spent.
When Benítez attempted to sign Willy Caballero on a free transfer from Manchester City last summer, the club demurred. Newcastle already had too many goalkeepers. Benítez pushed and eventually Lee Charnley, the managing director, took it up with Ashley. No dice. Yet when they brought in Martin Dubravka in January, the manager’s logic immediately became obvious. Dubravka has changed the team.
Benítez does not want a repeat of this season, but how can he be persuaded things will be different? It is impossible to put a guarantee of funds into a contract, let alone a guarantee that he will be listened to. How can he trust them again?
Through his representatives, Benítez has told Newcastle to demonstrate their commitment by showing they mean business this summer; do that and he’ll sign. Newcastle tell Benítez that unless he extends his deal they will struggle to convince players to join them, a claim that is undermined by the fact they are still up for sale. In those circumstances, what would Benítez be agreeing to?
A logjam can always be broken and perhaps one phone call (between Ashley and Staveley) is all it will take; more talks are scheduled for this week. Creative tension has been a theme over the past two years and in the end, Benítez has always stayed. To repeat: he is still under contract. Yet they stand again on a precipice and, as usual, they have been pushed there by Ashley, who has the wit to recognise that Benítez is vital but cannot make the next big leap. If the manager is so important, then prove it.’