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Opinion

Mike Ashley pet journalist now admits only Rafa Benitez standing between Newcastle United and relegation

6 months ago
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Mike Ashley and his PR sidekick Keith Bishop, have a number of media and journalists who they can usually rely on.

Towards the top of that list is Mike Ashley pet journalist, Graeme Bailey, who has regularly pointed the finger of Rafa Benitez, and defended the club’s owner.

In the past, the former Sky Sports journalist has consistently stood up for Mike Ashley in any Newcastle United debate, particularly when his mate Graham Carr was also at the club. Often trying to portray the Ashley/Carr disastrous transfer strategy as some kind of success.

Graeme Bailey now writes for the Gambling Times, which coincidentally a certain David Craig has also written/writes for, that being the same David Craig/’Craigie’ who conducted the embarrassing Mike Ashley ‘interview’ that appeared on Sky Sports last summer.

I have given a reminder below of some of his (Graeme Bailey’s) previous ridiculous articles in support of Ashley.

These include in February 2017, telling Rafa to stop complaining when he wasn’t allowed to spend a single penny in January 2017, to ensure promotion and start building for the Premier League. In that February attack, Bailey claims that Mike Ashley will allow £100m of spending in summer 2017 if Newcastle are promoted, the figure ended up being just over £30m.

Then July 2017, with once again Mike Ashley failing to back his manager (and not allowing £100m spending, or anything close…), Graeme Bailey stated that ‘Newcastle United have insisted they will back Rafa Benitez in the transfer market’ and supported the Ashley line that Rafa shouldn’t be going public with how he had been misled and let down.

This was followed by December 2017, Newcastle struggling with a weak squad due to lack of investment, Graeme Bailey  saying ‘…are they right to place all their faith in the Spaniard?…a possible takeover of the club, which if anything gives Benitez the ideal shadow to cover the tracks of his failing side.’

Then he went on to say: ‘It is very easy for Newcastle fans to blame owner Mike Ashley for their current plight, but let’s not forget who spent the last £100million to leave the club’s coffers – who sanctioned every single deal…’

Firstly, Bailey was exaggerating Newcastle’s/Rafa’s total spending up to the January 2018 window (when Rafa wasn’t allowed to buy anybody…), having spent less than £90m, around £50m to rebuild in summer 2016 when £90m of players were sold, then only another £30m+ last summer (2017) to try and compete in the Premier League.

Much more than that though, how laughable that in all this mess it is consistently Rafa Benitez who Graeme Bailey is doubting/blaming and not Mike Ashley.

However, there is a hilarious punchline.

Ahead of this 2018/19 season, Graeme Bailey has previewed each club and when it comes to Newcastle United, he predicts the club to scrape survival in 17th place, declaring: ‘I am not convinced at all by Newcastle, I think they have had a poor summer in the transfer market and are in real danger of going down, I am giving them the benefit of the doubt only because of the Rafa factor.’

So Graeme, admitting a disastrous summer transfer window under Mike Ashley (yet again) AND that the only thing which can save Newcastle United is Rafa Benitez!

It shows just how extreme Mike Ashley has gone this time, when even somebody like Graeme Bailey is admitting what the story is at St James Park. Newcastle United almost £30m in profit on summer transfers, the lowest net ‘spend’ of any Premier League club, whilst rivals are spending big and even the likes of Fulham and Bournemouth are spending close to £30m on single players.

The Gambling Times review ahead of 2018/19 Premier League season:

See below for a preview on every club for the top-flight season ahead, including predictions from former England, Crystal Palace and Tottenham midfielder Andy Gray and our own Football Insider Graeme Bailey.

NEWCASTLE UNITED

Last season: 10th

ANDY SAYS: 14th – Newcastle will get what they want here, they will stay up and at the end of the day that is the task that Rafa Benitez has to fulfil and he will.

GRAEME SAYS: 17th – I am not convinced at all by Newcastle, I think they have had a poor summer in the transfer market and are in real danger of going down, I am giving them the benefit of the doubt only because of the Rafa factor.

Graeme Bailey – 19 December 2017:

“Newcastle fans are looking for a spark, they’re looking to Rafa Benitez – but are they right to place all their faith in the Spaniard?

…a possible takeover of the club, which if anything gives Benitez the ideal shadow to cover the tracks of his failing side.

Benitez has spent more than £100million since taking charge, he spent over £30million this summer – but since he took over, it is easy to argue this Newcastle squad is worse.

It is very easy for Newcastle fans to blame owner Mike Ashley for their current plight, but let’s not forget who spent the last £100million to leave the club’s coffers – who sanctioned every single deal…

Benitez is one of the highest paid managers in the Premier League – he needs to start earning it.’

Graeme Bailey – 1 July 2017:

‘Newcastle United have insisted they will back Rafa Benitez in the transfer market but are growing increasingly frustrated with him venting his annoyance through certain sections of the media.

Back page headlines last weekend and subsequent reports suggested that Benitez was considering his future unless he got funds to bolster his squad.

Newcastle sources are now insistent that they are providing funds to bolster the squad but Newcastle hierarchy are not happy by what they perceive as Benitez driven reports.’

Graeme Bailey – 5 February 2017:

‘Rafa Benitez wants to run Newcastle United, which is admirable but maybe he should concentrate on giving the club some success first – something which he is yet to do.

Benitez came in late last season and oversaw their relegation to the Championship, armed with the best squad in the division and then a dozen signings to boot – is it unreasonable to ask him get on and secure promotion? No.

So why throughout January do we hear Benitez bemoaning United’s spending? Early in the month owner Mike Ashley sat down with the manager and director Lee Charnley and vented his anger at the senior management at the state of both the squad and their season.

Ashley, and rightfully so, believes the current squad is ‘miles away’ from being a Premier League one and on top of that feels that a host of the summer signings were very poor.

With that Ashley has demanded his transfer supremo Graham Carr – who was concentrating on foreign scouting for the last 8 months or so – is brought back into the decision making process in order to try and get their business plan back on track.

And Newcastle fans have reacted with anger at Ashley and Carr again being in control – but the Magpies supremo knows he will have to spend in excess of £100million on squad improvements this summer as promotion does look firmly on the cards. However, if you are spending sums like that you cannot be wasting it.

Benitez needs to stop questioning Ashley…

If a deal is there to be done, it will be done – but as it should be, only for the right terms.’

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