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Opinion

Message to Mike Ashley – Not a case of signing young or old players, only good players

6 months ago
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It goes without saying that Mike Ashley selling up is by far the best scenario for Newcastle fans.

Failing that though, you would think that if he is going to cling onto the club, certain realities would surely at last dawn on the NUFC owner.

Top of these of course is that he has to convince Rafa Benitez to stay at the club, otherwise you just know for sure that a third relegation under Mike Ashley will be on the cards.

Obviously Rafa wants to lift the whole club into the 21st century, from the Academy, the training complex, right through to the first team squad.

It isn’t ideal, but it is possible to get by without sensible investment in the first two, though not the third area.

Last season Rafa worked his magic and on a very limited budget not only kept Newcastle up, but achieved a top ten finish.

This campaign, Rafa was set an even tougher task, given no budget at all for players, apart from a fraction of what he could raise from selling players. After a tough start, the Spaniard and his players are now showing every sign that survival, and maybe a little extra again, could be possible.

Thinking you can keep cheating the system, even with a quality manager such as Rafa Benitez, would be foolish in the extreme.

I have a feeling that unless the club’s owner significantly changes his position, it most definitely won’t be third time lucky next season, regardless of who the manager is.

Rafa Benitez has made two things clear when it comes to the transfer market.

The NUFC boss repeatedly saying that he needs more cash to spend, a decent amount and not unrealistic fortunes.

However, just as importantly, Rafa has stated that he needs to have the freedom to spend whatever budget he does have available, in whichever way he sees fit.

This is of course 180 degrees different to what happened with Alan Pardew and Steve McClaren, both so desperate for the job that they agreed to come to Newcastle with zero say in what happened on transfers in and out.

A policy that is surely doomed to failure and so it proved.

A bit like a serial dieter who tries the latest fad one after the other, Mike Ashley allowed Sam Allardyce to waste a fortune on older/experienced players, including free agents such as Cacapa, Viduka and Geremi.

Then it was a case of almost solely trying to pick up younger/bargain players from Ligue 1 who could grow in value.

For some time a policy existing of not buying any players over the age of 26.

Then you had the disastrous response to near relegation in 2015/16, which was only buying younger players from the weaker Belgian, Dutch and French leagues, whilst a decent level of money was spent, once again the focus on future possible rising values rather than the essential need to avoid relegation in the immediate future.

In the bizarre workings of Mike Ashley’s mind he probably convinces himself that he has been proved right, due to Mitro, Mbemba, Thauvin and Wijanldum selling for around £65m (could rise to £69m) when they were bought for around £50m.

That is if you conveniently ignore the fact that Ashley and Carr’s failed transfer policy/policies ensured a second relegation under Ashley.

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Rafa Benitez wants total freedom to sign players because he has the knowledge and experience, the manager knows tying yourself rigidly to a one track transfer policy is just plain daft.

Every club should be simply looking to bring in the best possible players, with the emphasis on strengthening the team/squad where it is most needed.

Whether it is players who are young, old, or somewhere in between, sensible ambitious clubs will realise that you have to spend across the age/experience range, as well as mixing it up when recruiting from home and abroad. You also have to spend sizeable money where necessary (goalscoring and creative) and break that 2005 club transfer record, as well as picking up bargains such as Ki, Dubravka and Fernandez at times.

Ki and Fernandez might turn 30 before the end of the season and at the moment will be set to leave for nothing in 18 months time (both were given only two year contracts), but what value can you put on their contribution in this three game winning room. They were both instrumental in all three victories and are improving those players around them as well.

It is widely reported that Mike Ashley has blocked Rafa Benitez from doing all kinds of transfer deals, a lot of them due to age of players and/or the short-term nature of their likely stays and (no/limited) resale values.

It is just plain daft to employ a top class manager such as Rafa and then counter his plans as to how progress the team and club, particularly when it comes to which signings are needed.

If Mike Ashley doesn’t sell or change his ways then for sure, Rafa Benitez will walk, once again Newcastle employing a puppet as manager who will just be grateful to have the job and accept whatever crazy transfer policy the owner decides to adopt.

Having seen light at the end of the tunnel, we can’t let the darkness descend once again.
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