Sky Sports have had some shameful episodes in the past where Mike Ashley and Newcastle United are concerned.
The broadcaster happy to side with the owner against the fans and Rafa Benitez, at it s shocking worst last August (2017) when screening that embarrassing ‘interview’ with Ashley, which was basically a free PR platform for the NUFC owner to push his anti-Rafa/fans agenda, as his mate David Craig hosted.
However, this latest one is maybe even worse.
Covering Newcastle United for Sky Sports, Keith Downie has now claimed that the reason for this disastrous transfer window is down to Rafa Benitez (and Mike Ashley) being stubborn, as though this total mess is something the manager should be taking equal blame for.
The Sky Sports man pointing to Rafa refusing to sign a new contract as something that would legitimately explain why Newcastle United wouldn’t be spending any money.
This current disaster that is currently unfolding is solely down to Mike Ashley.
So was it Rafa Benitez not extending his contract that was the valid reason for no players bought in January 2017, or a net spend of less than a third of what Huddersfield and Brighton spent in summer 2017 – when Rafa said Ashley had broken promises and he couldn’t compete on wages or transfer fees with those two clubs, or January 2018 when once again no players were bought despite being in the middle of a relegation fight?
Is it Rafa not signing a contract that has prevented Mike Ashley breaking Newcastle’s 13 year transfer record, including in the nine seasons before he (Rafa) arrived?
This is not normal, many/most clubs will have owners and managers who have different ideas as to what should happen in the transfer market but in normal clubs the outcome isn’t that no money is spent!
At the beginning of June, the Chronicle (see below) reported that Mike Ashley was refusing to give Rafa Benitez a transfer budget unless he signed an extension to his contract.
We all laughed because surely even Mike Ashley would be stupid enough to do that to try and win a battle of wills…
Then earlier this week (see below) when Rafa Benitez at last went public with his transfer frustrations (for this latest window), he made particular reference to the contract situation, saying that well run clubs don’t ban spending in the transfer market just because their manager might have only a year left to go. They keep on going building the team/club.
It is of course also out of order for anybody, including Sky Sports, to pretend this is only about Rafa Benitez wanting loads of cash to spend in the transfer market.
Newcastle United are a shambles and 11 years of Mike Ashley has seen relative pennies spent on the infrastructure of the club – St James Park itself, the training complex, as well as a failing Academy in urgent need of a massive revamp and investment.
Rafa Benitez has made clear that he sees the Academy and the state of the art training complex that Ashley promised five years ago, just as essential to the future of the club, as it is spending cash on new signings.
This mess is not due to a battle of wills, it is down to Mike Ashley refusing to allow Newcastle United to be a club that will try to be as good as it possibly can be, on and off the pitch.
As for Keith Downie’s assertion that the ‘only people being hurt out of this are the Newcastle supporters’, this is not true. Rafa Benitez is a world class manager who is basically wasting his time at Newcastle after risking his reputation when taking over a club that was all but relegated already when he took over. What could Rafa be achieving elsewhere with proper/normal backing, he must look at West Ham (and others), the Hammers already having spent some £85m net on players this summer…and ask just what is he doing staying at NUFC?
Keith Downie speaking on Sky Sports:
“There’s a massive stand-off happening here, a huge stand-off.
“The only people being hurt out of this, are the Newcastle United supporters and the club itself.
“Newcastle United finished tenth last season, that should have been a platform to then go on and build.
“Rafa Benitez though has one year left on his contract.
“There have been two offers made to Rafa Benitez to extend his contract this summer.
“He has turned them both down because he wants to see the club’s hand first.
“He wants to see what kind of money they are going to spend in the transfer window.
“They haven’t done that yet, so he is waiting on them spending money.
“The club are waiting on Rafa signing a new contract.
“Both Mike Ashley and Rafa Benitez being stubborn here and it is the club that are being punished and Newcastle have essentially stood still from last season.
“They have signed three players, two of them in Kenedy and Martin Dubravka were there already, so no change, the third is Ki Sung-yueng, a free transfer from a relegated club.”
Rafa Benitez – 17 July 2018:
“Mike Ashley said (on the final day of the season) that ‘every last penny’ was available…I don’t do the numbers and so I don’t know exactly what it means. We are fine in terms of profit so maybe you have to ask Lee Charnley, he has the numbers.
“I am trying to do my best in these conditions, that is what I can say.
“I don’t think an extension is an excuse for anything…because if you sign a one year extension what does that mean for the players you sign on a five-year contract? This is nothing, it is not an issue. A lot of clubs have managers and they then finish a contract but still they improve the squad to be sure that they (the club/team) are better.
“Still, I don’t think it’s an issue with my contract (as to why the training complex and Academy can’t be invested in now) – I told Mike (Ashley), Lee (Charnley) and Justin (Barnes). They know that if we do the right things (and make proper investment), then I am keen to stay here for five years, or whatever.
“But they have to do things in a way that…for me as a football professional…there is a way to do things and we have to be sure that we do those things..
“If you sign an extension for a lot of years then the main thing and the first one has to be the Academy, then all these (other) things, you have to have everything in place…
“I am really pleased with the fans, the city, and the atmosphere at the games, the staff are professional, everyone.
“We have all the potential to grow and to be a top side, a proper top side.
“I hope that I can still strengthen the squad (this summer).”
The Mag – 7 June 2018:
An interesting, but worrying, update on the situation regarding Mike Ashley and Rafa Benitez.
As it stands..
Rafa Benitez has so far refused to sign an extension to his three year contract which has only one more year left to run.
Exactly three weeks into the transfer window and with only three and a half weeks to go until pre-season training begins, the only signing Newcastle have made is Martin Dubravka, a deal that only had a very limited time limit (like Christian Atsu a year earlier), whereby the agreed £4m buying figure that was part of the loan arrangement, had to be triggered by a certain date.
Taking those two things into consideration, The Chronicle have given us a worrying update.
They say a stand-off has developed between Mike Ashley and Rafa Benitez.
The report says that the owner is refusing to give the manager a transfer budget this summer, until Rafa signs a contract extension.
Meanwhile, the local newspaper says that the manager is refusing to sign any new contract, until he sees ‘evidence’ that Mike Ashley shows the ‘desire’ to back his manager with what needs to be done.
A classic Catch 22 situation but one where everything should point at Mike Ashley, as to the one who needs to shift.
Rafa Benitez has achieved everything asked of him.
The manager delivering instant promotion, 10th place in the Premier League, and even a profit in the transfer market in his five transfer windows so far.
Rafa has an established record of bringing success to football clubs, the plan that needs to be put in place, as shown when taking Valencia to two La Liga titles and Liverpool to two Champions League finals, winning one of them.
When it comes to football, Mike Ashley has been proven to be a total failure, with two relegations and a few near misses already.
What needs to happen is common sense for anybody to see.
It was the luckiest day of Mike Ashley’s football life when after sacking Steve McClaren belatedly, Rafa Benitez approached NUFC offering his services.
Even Ashley wasn’t foolish enough to turn that one down but will he prove foolish enough now to not back the best manager he will ever have?