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Mike Ashley PR campaign now moving up through the gears as Rafa Benitez contact ends in 8 days

3 years ago
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Looks like things are set to go up a few notches with Mike Ashley and a PR push in the coming days, weeks…

It feels like the entire football club is in limbo.

On Friday night, George Caulkin of The Times gave us an update, saying that from what he understood, a takeover of Newcastle United is nowhere near close and Rafa Benitez is ‘going, going and almost gone.’

Newcastle fans have looked at the end of Rafa’s contract in eight days time (30 June 2019) as not necessarily a moment when decisions are sure to have been made – but as a minimum supporters and no doubt media as well, will expect that surely Mike Ashley will have give some kind of update/explanation/clue as to exactly what is or isn’t happening, or likely to happen.

However, never say never with Mike Ashley.

He is more than capable of making no public comment, either directly from himself or via the football club.

Instead, we could well see simply a ramping up of a Mike Ashley PR campaign by stealth through the media, as so often we have seen in the past.

On Saturday morning the Chronicle have reported on the Rafa Benitez contract position ‘Sources at United are saying that a deal remains on the table for Benitez with a lucrative salary and around £50million to spend next summer.’

When has signing a new contract ever been about how much the manager would be paid? However, no doubt if Rafa Benitez does walk away we can be sure that Mike Ashley’s people will suggest that pay demands formed part of Rafa’s reason for walking.

As for bragging about £50m being made available this summer for transfers, you really do have to wonder why Mike Ashley was so keen to go down this line of making public how much would be made available for transfers when the latest accounts were made public in April, which other club does this???

The fact that Ashley/NUFC put the story out as a £100m transfer pot made available to Rafa Benitez story was even more embarrassing/manipulative, as when you read the actual details this was over the course of the next two years. Talk about trying hard to put a positive spin on it!

Having £25m per transfer window to spend over the next four windows is hardly earth shattering anyway and history has shown us that what is promised isn’t always delivered either, plus we are so used to weasel words like ‘every penny’ and there was widespread reporting that tis £25m per window could well have to include the wages as well of any potential signings.

The bottom line though is that just like his personal pay, the exact amount made available isn’t necessarily what Rafa Benitez has as his priority, instead it is the freedom to operate as he sees fit in terms of signings in and out, plus pressing the urgent need for proper investment in the Academy and training complex – Mike Ashley having said in 2013 that a new state of the art training complex was essential ASAP as it was key to being able to compete.

Recent days have seen Sky Sports putting Dennis Wise up on Wednesday to say (see below) that Mike Ashley cares about Newcastle and that ‘He will only sell to someone who will take it forward.’

Whilst yesterday (Friday) it was Talksport putting up Steve Harmison (see below) to say that Newcastle fans would ‘never forgive’ Rafa Benitez if he now walks away when his contract ends, claiming the club being in a total mess would be then down to the departing manager, rather than Mike Ashley.

I have put together a range of quotes below and very looking back at the very first one, Rafa Benitez eight weeks ago most concerned about the negative impact a delay in recruitment/pre-season preparations could have, saying ‘every day counts’…Rafa Benitez on 30 April saying ‘There is no timescale really (for an agreement to be reached)…but every day counts. You want to do everything possible to start working on things (for next season).’

This is the real story of course, Rafa Benitez the consummate professional who knows exactly what this football club needs and the dangers of letting things drift and drift, whilst on the other hand you have Mike Ashley, always prepared to leave things up in the air and gamble on getting every last drop of benefit for himself, or instead then walking away and get his people to play the PR blame game…

The Chronicle today (22 June 2019):

‘Sources at United are saying that a deal remains on the table for Benitez with a lucrative salary and around £50million to spend next summer.’

Steve Harmison speaking on Talksport – 21 June 2019:

“I can’t believe Rafa will leave, if he says he loves the club as much as he does.

“I can’t believe he would leave, saying what he says – He loves the club, he wants the club going forward, he wants the best for the club.

“And to leave…This would be the heartbreaking thing for Newcastle and the fans and for him.

“If he leaves Newcastle four, five days, before they go back for pre-season, with no real transfer targets, very much little uncertainty, they (Newcastle fans) would never forgive Ashley…but they would never forgive Rafa as well. 

“To walk away then, he (Rafa Benitez) has known for six months what this contract is, he has wanted more power and more money, he’s not going to get neither, so he’s got to live with it.

“So for him to walk away now, that would be heartbreaking for Newcastle fans because he knows what that parameters are.

“He should have walked, or he should have said…I can’t deal with this, so if it doesn’t change, I’m leaving when my contract finishes and gives Newcastle time to plan accordingly.”

Dennis Wise speaking on Sky Sports to David Craig at Royal Ascot – Wednesday 19 June 2019:

“I know Mike Ashley…

“…and he cares for Newcastle.

“Even if the (Newcastle) fans say he doesn’t.

“He runs them (Newcastle United) in a structured way.

“He is not there to pile hundreds of millions into the club.

“He will only sell to someone who will take it forward.”

The Mirror – 2 June 2019:

Quoting a Mike Ashley ‘source’:

“Mike (Ashley) is starting to think that it’s another publicity stunt, which will ultimately end in the club remaining unsold. He now wants those representing the Sheikh to either put up or shut up. We’ve had fake Sheikhs before. He’s hoping this isn’t another one.”

Keith Downie who covers NUFC for Sky Sports – 26 May 2019:

“I’m told lawyers, agents and others are now involved in going through the finer details of the (new Rafa Benitez) contract.

“It’s kind of just the way Newcastle do things really, they never do it easily or quickly.

“There’s plenty of sticking points, Ashley has ran the club in a certain way over the last 5-10 years where they only sign players of a certain age. He doesn’t like signing players over the age of 26, 27 who don’t have any sell-on value.

“That’s something Rafa Benitez wants to change. He wants to change the wage structure, he wants to sign players who will earn more than £100,000-a-week.

“At the moment Newcastle’s highest earner is on £75,000-a-week. There’s certain things he wants to change. It’s not that he wants to be given £50m or £100m every transfer window.

“Benitez feels he’s been not so much lied to…but he feels promises haven’t been kept in the past, so he wants all these assurances in writing.

“I suppose with Newcastle and the way they are and the way things have gone in the past, no one will actually believe that until they see it in writing and he’s standing inside St James’ Park with a scarf above his head.”

Rafa Benitez talking before final game (Fulham) of the season about upcoming meeting with Mike Ashley (took place the following week) – 11 May 2019:

“If we have a meeting at the end of the season (to decide what will happen), you know that the owner has to be around (and attend it).

“If we are close and we have similar ideas, it will be easier.

“If not, maybe you have to keep talking, or maybe not…

“Until you sit down and start talking, you will not know where you are.

“My message has been very clear from day one.

“The potential of this club is there.

“Can we try to achieve what we want to achieve? Yes. I think we have to.

“Which is the way to do it? That is the key.

“I can say yes or no to a player but still I don’t control the finances.

“It is not that you can guarantee anything.

“It is not a question of whether I believe him (Mike Ashley) or not, it is about what we are trying to achieve.

“What do we have? Can we go here?

“I am going to this meeting in a positive way because we have that potential and we can do a lot of things better.

“If we do that, we will have more chance to be closer to the top ten.

“Do I think we can change everything in one window? Be in the top six? No.

“Can we get closer? Yes.

“We can head in the right direction and they know my idea and my vision.

“It is about how can we find a position where everyone is…I won’t say ‘totally happy’…

“But (a position) where you can manage and improve things.”

Rafa Benitez after the home defeat to Liverpool – 5 May 2019:

“It’s always special when you do well and go around and see smiles on the fans’ faces, it’s emotional but really good at the same time.

“We have had and will have conversations over the next couple of weeks [about the contract position] and see where we are.

“It is so simple, you have the potential, you can feel the potential and the passion of the fans and what it means to them.

“We have to compete with the teams that are around us but it’s not easy.

“I am really proud and pleased because we stayed up but I would like to compete for something more.

“Hopefully we can go closer and match the ambition of the fans.”

Rafa Benitez – 30 April 2019:

“There is no timescale really (for an agreement to be reached)…but every day counts.

“You want to do everything possible to start working on things (for next season).”

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