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Must Read: Mike Ashley ‘interview’ attack on Rafa Benitez answered point by point

7 months ago
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Mike Ashley has gone for it big style.

Given a platform by Martin Samuel, his mate at The Mail to put out a very lengthy PR statement.

The statement having a go at pretty much everybody regarding the ongoing mess that is Newcastle United.

The Newcastle fans figure highly in his thoughts/sights but Rafa Benitez was arguably the biggest target in his tirade.

Here are some of the points Mike Ashley made in his attack on the former manager and I have done my best to answer them and put a true perspective on them.

Mike Ashley extracts from his ‘interview’ with The Mail:

“He took the totally soft option, took the money and went to China. That disappoints me. If he’d gone back to Real Madrid, or a top six club in the Premier League, I get it. But it was about money and all he had to do was say that from the beginning.”

Real Madrid was not an option and no PL top six club was recruiting.

So the option was to either stick with Mike Ashley’s Newcastle where he had been persistently misled and not backed, or else look at other alternatives. That was the only choice and no surprise Benitez didn’t want to tie himself any longer to Ashley.

“My view always was we had to keep Rafa. For my own personal safety we had to keep Rafa. I thought he had us offside, he had us cornered, it wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right….”

Personal safety? We’ve heard that one before.

After Kevin Keegan walked away and successfully sued Mike Ashley for constructive dismissal due to lies told him about control of transfers Ashley said he couldn’t go to matches any more because Northumbria Police had said they couldn’t guarantee his safety. When the media asked Northumbria Police, they confirmed that there had been no contact whatsoever with Mike Ashley or his minions.

“It puzzles me why any fan thinks I wouldn’t want him. I’m not the thickest person on the planet. Why wouldn’t I want excellence? Why wouldn’t I want this manager? Accuse me or many things, but not that. We couldn’t have done any more.”

Well, apart from Kevin Keegan, Mike Ashley had never pursued excellence before and of course we later found out that Keegan had been lied to from the start, told he had control of transfers when that was not the case.

After is disastrous running of NUFC and ensuring a second relegation of his short reign, Mike Ashley was so desperate to get instant promotion back to the Premier League, he changed his usual stance on managers/head coaches.

With JFK, Pardew, Carver and McClaren there was no pursuit of excellence, none of them would have got a job at another Premier League club at the time they were appointed. The same is the case with Steve Bruce now, it is a fact that no PL club would have considered him this summer, as for example Brighton proved when replacing Chris Hughton.

Mike Ashley wants yes men who are so desperate for the job they accept it with no power or authority apart from picking the team. Then follow orders at press conferences, as we have already seen with Steve Bruce.

“It wasn’t even as if it was him (Joelinton) or Salomon Rondon. And we told him that. We just wanted Joelinton secured.”

At any time during his loan year at the club, Mike Ashley could have secured a permanent deal for Salomon Rondon, which would have proved some ambition and a sign of goodwill to Rafa that promises would finally be kept now. He didn’t. No offer has ever been made by NUFC/Ashley for Rondon, even after Rafa left. Mike Ashley would never have allowed Rondon to be signed due to his age, even though Rafa repeatedly stated he wanted him.

Back at the start of March, Rondon said he’d had meetings with Ashley’s people, was desperate to stay and had told them what he wanted in order to agree to sign long-term. No offer ever came.

“We delivered Rafa’s number one target in January, Miguel Almiron, but Hoffenheim wouldn’t sell Joelinton. Then in February they said we could get him early, but it would cost £40m. He was a name we had discussed with Rafa, and our recruitment people had him top of their list. I thought it was one of those that would keep drifting away, but no, we had it done…it was that he thought the £40m for Joelinton wasn’t worth it. It’s too much and the club shouldn’t spend it.

“And very occasionally, I get to be me in this world. So here’s the deal. I’ll pay £20m of it personally. Nothing to do with the club. Above and beyond the budget. Rafa valued him at £20m. So that’s what would come out of the club budget. The rest, £23m – I’ll pay. And he still didn’t sign it off. Looking back, I think he knew for a long time he was going to China because it was like we couldn’t do anything. Joelinton was the test.”

My head is spinning with this one above, so many different things.

In summer 2018, Newcastle made a profit of £20m+ on deals in and out, then after the window closed, the club (via the Fans Forum minutes) said that signings hadn’t been made because players wouldn’t come and so that then meant money was left over. Mike Ashley then took £33m out of the cash flow to pay back ‘debt’ to him. Any decent ambition owner would never do that, they would leave the debt lying and rely on getting a decent price when eventually selling the club, not risk relegation thanks to lack of investment in the team.

So now we are supposed to believe that only months after taking £33m out of the club, Mike Ashley was then willing to donate £23m of his own cash. If you believe that then you really are a lost case.

Also, just what is so special about Joelinton? Why was it so essential to get somebody with such moderate stats? Two average years in Austria and then a total desperation to sign him after a decent half season in the Bundesliga?

We all hope he will be a success at NUFC but nothing points to him being a guaranteed success. Why weren’t other clubs as desperate as Newcastle to sign him?

“Newcastle have a record of their correspondence with Benitez which includes the openness to an eight-year deal, and a pledge of £20m to improve training facilities.”

This is at odds with what Lee Charnley stated on 18 April 2019, saying no chance of the training complex (promised in 2013) being delivered any time soon  AND stating it would have had to be paid for out of money supposedly intended for signings.

“We are looking at a training ground building project that is potentially going to be between £15 m and £20million.

“If you were to ask me now, do I think we are best served spending that on a new training facility or spending it on improving the team, now, today in the short-term, I think that money is best spent on the team.

“We have revisited the plans that came out and we now have a different design. We have also got a different build structure.

“In my experience, has a player turned round and said I’m not signing for Newcastle United because of your training facilities? No. Did it stop us getting promoted out of the Championship, did it stop us finishing tenth, did it stop us having a good season this season? No.

“Rafa talked about things he knew we couldn’t do and then, when we were in a position to finally do them, and launch the big surprise – no. It’s not the money he asked for that upsets me. What if we hadn’t got Joelinton? People don’t realise Rafa had the say and we couldn’t conclude the deal while he was still our manager. When he left he knew we were signing Joelinton. So he can’t say we lacked ambition.”

Mike Ashley put out that statement on 24 June 2019 saying Rafa was definitely leaving. Yet it was fully 30 days before they signed Joelinton. Why?

Only a fool would believe they were waiting for Steve Bruce’s or anybody else’s agreement. If the signing was all agreed in February, why wait so long and make even more mess of this summer?

Joelinton will have only just over two weeks of pre-season with his new teammates and the team/squad went to China without a centre-forward available to play.

“Newcastle United could not have done any more to keep Rafa Benitez. I can look anyone in the eye and say that. It was impossible to do more.”

If Mike Ashley can indeed ‘look anyone in the eye’ about anything, why does he refuse to do so? Why doesn’t he do a proper interview on TV where he is asked proper questions and has to give proper answers, answers which can then be challenged by follow-up questions? Instead of these embarrassing PR set-ups on Sky or willing friendly media such as Martin Samuel.

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