Recent weeks have seen Newcastle United revisiting their eve of season statement.
With Newcastle fans left in disbelief at a summer transfer window that had delivered a £20m+ profit rather than the quality of player that was desperately needed, Mike Ashley and his minions somehow got Rafa Benitez and Jamaal Lascelles to put their names alongside Lee Charnley in a joint statement of positivity (see below) the day before the first match.
It was typical Mike Ashley, fans left in disbelief at the line that was being spun of the squad being magically so much better despite such a shocking failure to allow investment.
Many supporters gutted that the manager and captain had been willing to go along with this but guessing that with the transfer window now closed, there was little point in dissenting, instead hoping to somehow produce decent results purely via the use of unity and positive thinking.
Three months and 11 games on, Newcastle haven’t won a single match via unity and positive thinking.
Newcastle fans so far proved correct in their worries about the dismal failure to invest in players who are fit for purpose and giving extra impetus to the ongoing protests against the club’s owner.
When asked recently about the fan protests and especially the planned boycott of the Newcastle v Wolves match on Sunday 9 December, Rafa Benitez said that he wanted to see the fans in the stadium supporting the team.
Obviously he was never going to tell them to stay away but should have maybe gone down the line of saying he understood the fans needed to do whatever they think is right – but for those at the match to get behind the team.
Nevertheless, the manager’s quotes produced headlines that said Rafa Benitez tells fans not to boycott.
On Thursday we saw a similar story with Jamaal Lascelles.
It is difficult to imagine that there weren’t at least some conversations in advance of the captain meeting the media after his new contract was announced, about the best line to take in terms of the current dismal situation at the club. Conversations that would have possibly included Rafa Benitez but certainly would have involved some of those doing Mike Ashley’s bidding.
In his interviews Jamaal Lascelles trying to bring more unity to the club but stumbling in the process.
No need to bring ‘Nice Guy’ Mike Ashley into the conversation, just so long as fans, players and manager are on the same page that is what’s important.
After his initial comments on Thursday, Jamaal Lascelles did later appear to try to clarify and dilute the more contentious things he’d said earlier. Attempting to get the message over that he was simply trying to improve the situation.
However, surely the captain should have accepted that involving Mike Ashley in any way, either of his own volition or having been prompted to do so by Ashley’s people beforehand, was going to produce a negative – rather than his supposed intention of producing more unity and bringing people together.
The reporting of the new contract and Jamaal Lascelles’ press conference/interviews did see a couple of key points conveniently ignored.
Lascelles already had five years to go on his contract and this was conveniently missing from pretty much all the reports I read, I bet most neutrals assumed that the captain’s existing contract was winding down when reading about this spectacular new six year one.
It is so transparent a PR story for Mike Ashley, the new Lascelles contract, that it is painful. The owner desperately looking for a positive story that portrays him in a better light – convincing the popular Lascelles to stay for six more years etc etc – whilst conveniently ignoring that he was already tied down for five of those six years.
Another point that didn’t make most (any?) reports was that whilst Jamaal Lascelles is now asking Newcastle fans not to protest or boycott, this summer he and other senior players led the squad in going on strike, refusing to carry out their media duties until Mike Ashley backed down on agreeing an acceptable bonus schedule for the players this season. The fans of course overwhelmingly backing the players in their stand against the owner.
The bottom line is that apart from Mike Ashley selling up obviously, the only thing that will bring more positivity and unity, is the team winning matches. By refusing to properly back Rafa Benitez, Ashley has made that very difficult – lets just hope it doesn’t prove to be a case of making it impossible.
Newcastle United official announcement – 10 August 2018:
As the transfer window closes and attentions turn to the start of the season, we wanted to make this joint statement, on behalf of everyone at the club.
Doing good business in a transfer window is about ending the window clearly stronger than when you started and we believe we have done this. The view we all share is that we have a better squad now than the one that finished tenth last season and all involved have worked tirelessly to make this happen.
Collectively, we must extend praise to Steve Nickson and his recruitment team. Their operations are year-round, but they have worked day and night in recent months to support efforts to enhance the squad.
We are all excited about the seven players who have joined us this summer. Their combined experience in the Premier League and at an international level – with three of them appearing at this summer’s World Cup for their respective countries – cannot fail to strengthen us.
Martin Dúbravka and Kenedy have already proven themselves to be fantastic players here and we are confident that Ki Sung-yueng, Fabian Schär, Yoshinori Mutō, Salomón Rondón and Federico Fernandez will be excellent additions to the dressing room.
Given our finishing position last season, we already had a team of players who were more than capable of performing well in the Premier League. They have shown heart, guts and determination and the inference that they are ‘Championship’ players and not good enough is unfair and untrue. The players all believe in themselves and in the quality of the squad, and we all believe in the players.
Now, it’s about all of us pulling in the same direction, for the good of the club. This came through strongly in a recent positive call between our owner and senior members of the squad, who agreed that better dialogue going forward will benefit all parties and is in the best interests of the club.
With the transfer window now closed, the focus should be on unity and getting behind the efforts on the pitch.
We know our supporters are incredibly passionate and we know that passion will be channelled into supporting the players we have in black and white on Saturday, and every matchday thereafter home or away.
Lee Charnley, Managing Director
Rafa Benítez, Manager
Jamaal Lascelles, Captain