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Mike Ashley accused by journalist of selling Newcastle’s family silver and replacing with borrowed or cut-price cutlery

2 years ago

Mike Ashley has been accused of selling off Newcastle United’s ‘family silver’ in recent seasons.

The owner then replacing with ‘borrowed or cut-price cutlery.

The accusation has come from Guillem Balague who is a close friend of Rafa Benitez.

The Spanish journalist referring to the disastrous failure to back the Newcastle manager since promotion, especially compared to the two clubs that were promoted at the same time.

Sky Sports recently reported that since promotion, Brighton had a net spend of £110m on players, Huddersfield £78m and Newcastle around the zero mark, if that.

Guillem Balague says that if Rafa Benitez ended up leaving because of the failure to make any proper investment in the squad, then Mike Ashley would ‘have to explain to the fans’ how losing the top class manager had come about. Only one thing wrong with that of course, Mike Ashley doesn’t care what any of us think.

Balague’s reference to ‘family silver’ may have also amused older Newcastle supporters.

I doubt if the Spanish journalist was taking too much notice of the power struggle for a late 80s/early 90s second tier Newcastle United – but if he had been doing so, he may have recalled how then NUFC Chairman further wound up the likes of John Hall and the Newcastle fans even further, when referring to the club as ‘the family silver’, before then Hall and his allies eventually managed to seize control.

Guillem Balague speaking to BBC Sport:

‘It is about money, of course, but not for Benitez himself.

He needs it for the club, and not just on new players but also for much-needed investment in the academy, the lifeblood of the club that in the long-term can help to raise it from its slumbers.

Backing on both fronts is conspicuous by its absence and much will depend on whether or not money is spent in the winter transfer window.

If it is not forthcoming then, despite Benitez’s claim that Newcastle will survive, there is a very good chance that they will be relegated and that he will be sacked – or even move on.

It would then fall to the owner, Mike Ashley, to explain to the fans just why he had dispensed with the services of a manager who maximised the potential of a side despite having to watch on helplessly as the ‘family silver’ was sold off around him and replaced, largely, with borrowed or cut-price cutlery.

Benitez’s reward for gaining promotion and Newcastle’s idea of preparing for a life in the Premier League was to have a net spend of about a third of what Huddersfield and Brighton spent in summer 2017. In fact, the net spend of about £20m still put them well in credit on transfer dealing during Rafa’s rule and streets behind the vast majority of Premier League clubs.

Ashley’s claim that he would “spend every penny generated” on improving the club has – to date – translated into a 2018-19 season in which he has made another net profit on the transfer market of about £7.5m.

What happens in the winter window will define the direction Benitez’s relationship with Newcastle takes. The impression local observers have is that he would probably not extend his contract unless they spend and Newcastle say they will not spend unless the manager commits to the club.

It is not a western-style stand-off between Ashley and Benitez, though. It is a matter of vision….

Benitez’s contract comes to an end next summer. As it stands he has a renewal offer on the table, but to be signed the club have to show enough commitment with a project that should be around improving facilities and results, not just survival.

Should Salomon Rondon – on a year’s loan from West Brom – continue to score for his new club then he may will dig them out of a hole, guarantee survival and once again Ashley will believe his approach has been vindicated. With Gayle having gone in the opposite direction to the Baggies, the two clubs should be able to sit down and work out a deal to suit all parties.

But it will probably take considerably more than that to ensure Benitez will be committing his future to the city that has adopted him as one of their own – and that is a real shame.’


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