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Opinion

Newcastle United transfer folly

2 years ago
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So this Newcastle United season has finally kicked off with a 2-1 victory over Bournemouth on Saturday, only three months late but better late than never. We were made to sweat it out and should have been out of sight at half time but hey-ho, a win’s a win.

It wasn’t just the win, it was a magnificent performance that’s been long overdue and Salomon Rondon showed what getting a proper striker on the pitch can do. You could have been forgiven for thinking that his second goal had came out of The Entertainers scrapbook. Replace the names of Ki Sung-yeung, Kenedy and Rondon, for Peter Beardsley, David Ginola and Les Ferdinand respectively and you’ve got one hell of an underrated goal.

An article appeared on The Mag after the game highlighting the fact that this particular goal was scored for nothing relatively speaking, Ki was free and Kenedy and Rondon are on loan. It’s this Newcastle United transfer folly that gets fans backs up as it only inspires thoughts of what could be achieved if the manager was afforded the budget of say a Bournemouth (less than 12,000 fans at home but can afford £25m players??).

It’s a transfer policy that has been rinsed and repeated ever since Mike Ashley took over, it’s his business strategy after all. Go into an institution that’s failing (and likely in financial trouble), trim the fat of it (asset strip if you like) and then look to see where profits can be made.

When he first bought the club in 2007, he was allegedly shocked at the supposed debt that the club had. Now, I’m not here to say what the debt was or if there was a debt at all. It was common knowledge that previous chairman Freddy Shepherd had spent money the club hadn’t received yet, notably on Michael Owen and Albert Luque for a whopping £26m before factoring in sky high wages and this was quite reckless, 10/10 for ambition but 3/10 for financial nous.

There has been a school of thought that Ashley didn’t do his due diligence which leads you to conclude one of two things, either he was reckless with his takeover and didn’t care, or he did check the books like any businessman would and thought he could soon trim the fat off Newcastle United. You can decide for yourselves, but all I do know is Ashley had only been owner of the club for a year, and Michael Owen was offered to Liverpool (Credit- Kevin Keegan) and reports were rife that the whole squad was up for sale.

In the space of two years after taking over, James Milner was sold under the nose of Kevin Keegan for £12m, Owen and his hefty pay packet had gone on a free, Shay Given had been flogged for £8m as the club seemed ‘happy to take the money’, according to Given himself. Even Charles N’Zogbia left in the wake of Joe Kinnear’s ‘Insomnia’ comments and because he wanted a club with more ambition, as he didn’t think it was possible at Newcastle and £6m was instantly banked. All on players the owner didn’t pay for outright.

Within two years of buying the club, Ashley had stripped it of the excess fat but as a consequence of not having a clue about football and hiring and trusting his own cronies ahead of actual football people, he had it relegated and in turn had a huge chunk of its value wiped off.

If the lessons that were handed out in the loss of a court case to Kevin Keegan and the relegation were heard by the owner, they certainly weren’t learned from. The notion that Ashley took the hit of relegation from his own pocket is highly debatable, especially considering that Owen, Duff, Viduka, Martins, Bassong, Beye and Geremi all left the club. That’s some fat trimming.

Once promotion was assured, there was still very little by the way of investment in the first team. Again, all I do know is that top scorer Andy Carroll was flogged for £35m and his replacement was free agent Shefki Kuqi. That’s some almighty fat trimming.

Over the course of the following year, we get a decent round of recruitment with Yohan Cabaye, Davide Santon, Hatem Ben Arfa, Demba Ba, Cheik Tiote and Papiss Cisse – the result was a 5th place finish. Funny that.

Sadly, the constant desire for profits would see stagnation and only Vurnon Anita was added after that fifth place finish and then the side was broke up once again, with Ba and Cabaye netting £30m profit while Newcastle all too predictably struggled. I believe that Newcastle finished fifth in 2011/12 despite Alan Pardew, rather than some brilliant management from him and let’s be fair, you could hardly struggle with the side he had, but that was the time to invest again, but sadly those profits must come first.

Once again profit was reaped from Cabaye (£20m) and Demba Ba wasn’t replaced with a signing, only with loanee Loic Remy. Where does all this money saved and profit go I wonder?

The following season we took compensation for manager Pardew and he wasn’t replaced for 6 months, instead the laughable talents of John Carver were left to keep us in the league by the skin of our teeth. Now we can laugh, but this was starting to get silly with regards to how much cutting back could be done and more importantly, realistically get away with. Season after season of relegation struggle will catch up with you in the end and so it proved, with another relegation, more parachute payments, squad trimming and cost cutting with Moussa Sissoko and others banking the owner a £40m profit.

When substantial money was given in 2015/16, it was to the bumbling buffoon Steve McClaren. If Rafa Benitez was given the money that the former England manager was afforded, I’m sure he would have spent it on wiser buys than Gini Wijnaldum and Aleksandar Mitrovic, although that pair eventually produced a £20m profit compared to what they cost.

This summer saw Rafa Benitez generate a net transfer profit through sales, at a time when investment was required to kick on from a good 10th place finish last year. Now I remember when Mike Ashley once stated that he was willing to put millions into the club every season…

Only time will tell if the cycle repeats itself, but I’d bet Rafa won’t stay beyond next May, if he doesn’t get cast iron assurances over money for squad building, or we are a Championship club again through broken promises and lack of substantial investment.

The money has to be going somewhere and anybody who still thinks this owner has a debt owed by the club is deluded.
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