Comment: Mike Ashley is now following the Fulham model at Newcastle United
Over the course of Mike Ashley’s 12 years (and counting) reign, we have seen many claims of the ‘plan’ he is supposedly following.
The likes of former NUFC MD Derek Llambias and friendly media have pushed the idea of there being five year plans, or following the Arsenal model, then later the Aston Villa model.
All of it opportunist of course, with the fifth place finish of 2011/12 ridiculously being put forward as an end reward due to supposed careful long-term planning.
Shameless as always of course, as in the four years before that fifth place finish, it had included a relegation and five different managers, as well as a chaotic ever changing transfer policy.
Newcastle fans knowing fine well that the only plan is to try and survive season to season in the top tier.
However, I detect that we are now almost certainly set to go down the route of the ‘Fulham model’ moving forward.
Last season, it was little surprise to see Huddersfield and Cardiff go down. The Terriers had never really managed to get the quality upgrade to their squad and when workrate and commitment proved not enough, they collapsed. As for Cardiff, they were hot favourites to go straight back down and whilst they did better than expected, they too didn’t quite get enough of a quality upgrade, they spent money but it never really looked enough.
As for Fulham, like a lot of others I was surprised they went down, especially in terms of how feeble their resistance was. They had played good football to get promotion, appeared to have creativity and goals, so when they spent over £100m in the transfer market, with over £95m of that net spend, surely at the very least they would survive.
Instead, they were mathematically relegated on 1 April 2019, although they had in reality been down for some time. Still six weeks of the season to go and ending that with a 4-0 home defeat to Newcastle (just how long ago does that feel now…).
So what went wrong?
Well, the signing of Mitro made me a little bit interested and so as the Fulham season went on, I looked regularly at what their fans were saying.
Even when spending that £100m+ there were reservations for many, as manager Slavisa Jokanovic was understood to have no real say in which players were bought in, instead the owner thinking he knew better and following some crazy plan of his own.
Is this beginning to sound a little bit familiar…?
Fulham made some massive signings, Mitrovic one of only three who each cost £22m or more. The willingness to spend money was there but what was the plan and who was coordinating it? Why have a manager and then not allow him to be the most important person when it comes to choosing which players you need for your team?
In the midst of everything falling apart, Jokanovia was sacrificed in November, Claudio Ranieri only last three months, then once relegation was pretty certain, Scott Parker came in to prepare for building a promotion side.
A chaotic season for Fulham saw them start with five points from the opening six games, before then six defeats in a row.
Hopes were raised as they ended 2018 with a run of nine points from eight games.
However, in 2019 it was a case of played 13 and lost 12, with just one win and three points since December, leading to that very early relegation.
Fulham only had 17 points after 33 games and had conceded a colossal 76 goals, 17 more than the next highest total.
Only two clean sheers in those 33 Premier League games, a 1-0 home win over Huddersfield and that abysmal goalless draw at St James Park just before Christmas.
The final five games included three wins to give some vague hint of respectability but 81 goals conceded, said it all.
It seems all but impossible to spend over £100m, on top of having what looked a decent group of players, only to then end up in such a disaster.
So, Newcastle United.
A top class manager pushed out the door, an NUFC boss who repeatedly said that the biggest problem he was experiencing was lack of freedom to select his own signings. Regular media stories claimed that Mike Ashley would allow more money to be spent BUT only of it was signings that fitted his plan, which in his case is young players from foreign leagues with big resale potential.
So Rafa wasn’t allowed to buy 28 year old Rondon for £16.5m but now that a head coach has been appointed with no say on transfers, Joelinton is an imminent signing for up to a reported £48m.
What could possibly go wrong?
Taking into account Mike Ashley’s refusal to allow Rafa any net spend, it appears crazy to think we could now see major spending, possibly/probably in excess of £100m and Joelinton set to be the first of that ‘plan’…
I’m not sure I would like whatever plan Steve Bruce might come up with but just chucking players at him, no matter what they cost, isn’t a great idea.
We have been down this route before, Ashley appointing Steve McClaren as Head Coach and suddenly spending very big (by his standards) on Mitro, Mbemba, Wijnaldum and Thauvin.
Once you added the desperate moves for Shelvey, Townsend and Saivet in the January, around £85m had been spent…and Newcastle Unted were relegated.
Rafa Benitez had a plan, a plan that with backing could have made everybody happy, including the FCB.
Instead, we are now going (back) down the Fulham route with Mike Ashley and his hidden advisers choosing their own ‘clever’ signings, who will then be handed over to a Championship level manager (head coach..).
It isn’t just (not) spending money that Newcastle fans were unhappy about, it is/was the lack of a credible plan.
This is no way to run a football club.
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