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Opinion

Newcastle United – Game of Thrones

2 years ago
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There I was looking forward to a summer of hanging out at the monument watching people throwing milkshakes at radicalised stockbrokers while contemplating some seamless self-improvement at NUFC. Rafa signs a new contract, gets the players he wanted and offloads those he doesn’t.

Silly me, I thought Game of Thrones had finished but no, the chaos of Mike Ashley’s ownership has reared its fat head again. This time the club is up for sale and possibly being sold.

(Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley pictured discussing the future above…)

While there can never be a bad time for Ashley to sell the club, this isn’t an ideal time, self-improvement ‘on hold’ until further notice. It seems that even in selling the club Ashley can damage it.

Time will tell if it is just another publicity stunt or the club actually does get sold, the bickering already seems to have started via the media which is a bit of a worry. That has been a sad strand of Ashley’s time at the helm, that the club has used the media to peddle its take-it-or-leave-it and no questions asked news. We will have to wait and see if this ill-timed sale costs the club the services of Benitez, Rondon, Perez and all, sick of waiting for a resolution and offered something more reliable.

As for any new owner, while anyone would be better than Ashley, the current speculation leaves me feeling like the footballing equivalent of Poland in World War Two, liberated from Hitler by Stalin. To counter that, a friend of mine suggested that any person who has enough money to buy a Premier League football club in 2019 must be what amounts to a horrible get. I take his point. Some are just horrible to get the job done. It may be that it is what the prospective owner, whoever that may be, does with the club that counts not how they got or make their money.

The news that the takeover was, well, ‘news’ to Rafa is a bit of a disappointment. Even at this late stage of the Spaniard’s contract Ashley still seems to be leading him a merry dance. I am sure that Rafa knows this and can dance a jig or two of his own, a career in football sort of sets you up for dealing with tossers.

I also have no doubt that the £6million salary and lack of a better offer is what mostly keeps Benitez here and when either of those scenarios changes he’ll be off. I would like him to stay.

I often despair of the lack of entertainment at SJP under him, but there was dramatic improvement during the past two seasons when more creative players came in and I cling to that hope that given a pot of money which is bigger than a Fruit Corner he might deliver both reasonably successful and entertaining football. A new owner also might make that ‘better offer’ much, much harder to come by.

I can take Rafa leaving for Juventus. Him leaving for Espanyol would be tragic.

‘Here, spend this’

Another Spaniard who might not be here next season is Ayoze Perez. No other player in the current squad divides opinion like the enigmatic number 10. He divides my opinion so it is no wonder as a set of fans we can’t agree.

For long periods of games, for long periods of the season, he seems anonymous, lightweight and petulant but defends for the team at the very least. When he is on a roll, he is always involved and scores vital goals. I have read that he is a confidence player but really, aren’t they all? People tell me that with the arrival of Kenedy last season and Almiron this season, he has more time and space in which to play and that is vital to a player like Perez.

Again though, give any PL player time and space and they should be much better, put them in a better team and they look like better players. So my opinion is still divided. His performances over the last couple of months have at least shown me that he makes as much of a contribution as most of our players.

Players like Perez always raise interesting questions about which players NUFC should keep or sell.

I can remember being shocked when United sold Andy Cole, no matter what happened afterwards I still consider it to be a mistake. Those reactions are rare though, I rarely get attached to players and would replace any of them as long as the replacement was better.

One of the big questions this summer is which players would you keep but I am happy to leave the buying and selling to Benitez. I have faith in him that whoever he sells and buys, it will be for the good of the team overall. For that reason, if Rafa wants to take or turn down the supposed £25million other clubs are happy to offer for Perez then I am happy to leave it up to him. Obviously, if Alan Pardew is manager on July the 1st then I would have a completely different view, probably because we’d be replacing Ayoze Perez with a 20% stake in Boots or M&S.

‘Worth breaking the bank for’

Of all the players that we have been linked with, Juan Mata is probably the one who I harbour a secret desire for it to be true. At the end of the season Benitez hinted that the club’s transfer policy had to change both in the respect of how much is paid for players and how much is paid to players.

I have no doubt that Rafa had a player like Mata in mind when he said it.

Mata would want double what any of our players are currently on. He would be completely worth it though. When I saw us defend our way to a 2-0 defeat by Arsenal, the Gunners had Ramsay and Ozil on the pitch, Mkhitaryan on the bench. Three quality attacking, creative midfielders. I reckon if we had one player like that, on that level, we would have finished about five places higher up last season. Mata is that sort of player, quick, clever and works hard. Well worth having and well worth changing your wage structure for.

It is the silly season though and at NUFC it is usually a bit sillier than others, all of this uncertainty means that a bit of gossip is all just a Game of Thrones.

No doubt by August everything will just be exactly like it was at the start. There will still be a Premier League football club, probably owned by the same person, possibly managed by the same person and definitely supported by the same people. A club which in many ways doesn’t deserve to be anywhere near the top of the Premier League but in other ways deserves to be top of it for ever more.

Mike Ashley’s Game of Thrones moving on to Season 13. Unlucky for some.

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