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Opinion

Mike Ashley returning to the cunning plan of 11 purples at Newcastle United?

1 year ago
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Fair to say that Mike Ashley has had plenty of cunning plans since buying Newcastle United back in May 2007.

Many of these relating to the transfer market.

Rather than simply trusting the manager to guide the club on which players are needed and which positions need strengthening, instead we have seen a lot of extreme and rigid tunnel vision schemes.

The Newcastle United owner thinking that there might be a magical way to cheat the system.

He kicked off with an experience is everything as he backed Sam Allardyce with a high wages older players plan, some of them such as Viduka and Geremi clearly having a little bit too much ‘experience’ before arriving at St James Park.

A bit like the endless new diets that are invented on a regular basis, Newcastle fans have then seen French only, young with high potential resale value, plus even the starvation diet – when for 18 months (February 2013 to Summer 2014) Mike Ashley didn’t allow a single player to be bought.

Clearly somebody who has a very high opinion of himself, one of Ashley’s other cunning plans was The Colour Purple one.

This involved aiming for 11 ‘purples’, these being your group of 11 star players.

Ashley and his people gave other colours to the other groupings but basically, you then had 11 players of another colour title who were cover for the 11 purples but a level of quality down then 11 young players of yet another colour where the aim was supposedly for them to be developed/recruited to be covering the coverers.

The trouble with this and other ‘clever’ schemes is that as always, they are absolute nonsense.

They are ideas that non-football people come up with whilst sitting around the boardroom or vomiting into the pub fireplace in Mike Ashley’s case, without taking into account that so many other factors then come into play. Whether injury, loss of form, failure to develop, bad buys, not enough investment, with the net result of not enough insurance policies to competently guard against disaster/relegation.

At the time, the reasoning that was widely reported went something like this, Mike Ashley couldn’t see the point of having more than 11 ‘purples’ as if everybody was fit and available, you were guaranteed to be paying somebody very high wages to do nothing.

Rafa Benitez wouldn’t go along with Ashley’s daft ideas and was subsequently starved of funds.

However, Rafa’s priority even with such limited money was to try and guarantee he had two players of at least a certain quality for every position. The Spaniard believing this was necessary in case of injury AND it guarded against complacency and players taking their position for granted.

In his time at St James Park, Rafa Benitez at one time or another dropped captain Jamaal Lascelles, Gini Wijnaldum, Jonjo Shelvey and many others, nobody could take their place for granted.

Moving back to the present day and the summer 2019 transfer window, it looks an awful lot like back to the days of 11 purples.

Spending an alleged £40m on Joelinton yet failing to properly strengthen the rest of the squad to a reasonable extent.

In Dubravka, Lascelles, Schar, Lejeune, Longstaff, Hayden, Ritchie, Almiron and Joelinton, you have a core of nine potentially very decent, or better, purple players. Add in Jonjo Shelvey and Paul Dummett, you get up to to 11, although it has a bit of an unbalanced look.

The very belated signings beyond Joelinton have seen Jetro Willems (loan) and Allan Saint-Maximin arrive in the last 48 hours.

However, it is still very much relying on a team instead of a squad.

Will Mike Ashley get away with his latest strategy and gamble?

We are about to find out.

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