Why Newcastle United is the one club where giving the Manager total power makes total sense
Newcastle United is out on a limb.
It is a football club which is run in a totally different way to any other in the Premier League.
The lack of people (officially) employed in executive/top roles is miniscule compared to any other.
On top of that, the ones who are employed in any kind of senior position, have only a fraction of the authority/responsibility that their counterparts do at other top clubs.
Newcastle United don’t have a board of directors, they have only one named director (Lee Charnley) because it is a statutory requirement.
Newcastle United don’t have a team of senior executives running the off the field stuff, instead they have one (Lee Charnley). Who earns a fraction of what other chief executives/managing directors get at rival clubs, Charnley acting more as an office manager/caretaker, somebody to take the blame instead of Mike Ashley when anything goes wrong.
So what you really have is a shell of a club when it comes to senior staff, with instead those from Ashley’s inner retail/business circle such as Justin Barnes and to a much lesser extent, Keith Bishop, pulling the strings at NUFC mainly from a distance on behalf of Mike Ashley.
The thing is, this minimalist Mike Ashley model could just maybe be a successful one BUT there is one major flaw in the cunning ‘plan’ he has for Newcastle United.
He wants absolutely NO ONE at the club to have any real power.
There is a lot of talk these days about how at top football clubs in the modern era, managers can’t expect to have the same kind of power and influence as they did in previous decades.
Back in the day managers were just allowed to get on with it, you tended to have no real infrastructure at football clubs, just a board of directors who tended to be well meaning local businessmen who accepted they knew nothing about football and who relied on handing all authority/power over to a manager to organise the first team, reserve set-up, scouting, youth set-up, transfers in and out and so on.
At your typical Premier League club now you will have a proper board of directors (sometimes two boards) who will set overall strategy and often will include people with a football background. They also will have a team of senior executives working alongside the CEO/MD trying to maximise the club revenues and support the manager and football side as much as possible.
Then many will also have a Director of Football, there to oversee the football side, support the manager and take a lot of weight off his shoulders.
Newcastle United are still ran very much on the old amateur basis where the club is not filled, in any way imaginable, with people in senior positions able to make important decisions and with proper budgets.
Mike Ashley for once should have been able to recognise what was in front of him.
Rafa Benitez wanted a big project, potentially one to last a decade or more until he finally retires.
Why didn’t the owner think, what a stroke of luck!
A top class manager landed in his lap, who could see the potential of Newcastle United even when relegated! Rafa wants to be hands-on all over the club, why not hand him the budgets and the keys and let him get on with it?
Newcastle don’t have all that other stuff – board of directors, team of executives, director of football, proper managing director and so on.
Here is someone in Rafa Benitez who has been there, seen it, done it, who want to rebuild the club from top to bottom, to sort the youth/academy system, sort the scouting, get in his own coaches throughout the club and has a long-term strategy to progress the first team squad.
Maybe it is simply a character flaw (of the many) in Mike Ashley, that he can’t stomach the idea of handing control to somebody else.
So instead Newcastle United have ended up with this ramshackle set-up.
An MD in Lee Charnley who has no real power/authority to make decisions, a head coach who only has authority to train and pick the team, with just everything else binned – such as having the state of the art training complex which was promised in 2013, the much-needed revolution at the Academy and so on.
Who decides what happens at Newcastle United?
Who acts/reacts when things are going wrong?
Who decides which players are bought and sold?
Nobody has a clue in reality, it is just like a big game for Mike Ashley.
A game where Newcastle United constantly loses.
He has already relegated Newcastle twice in 10 Premier League seasons, with three or four other near misses, this season is going to be another struggle. Whether it proves in the end to be a ‘successful’ struggle, remains to be seen.
This Mike Ashley model doesn’t work but maybe you could get away with it and even thrive, if you managed to get a top manager willing to be all powerful and all responsible, as Rafa Benitez wanted to be.
Instead we watch on as the football club lurches from one season to the next, a roll of the dice on whether it will survive this time.
Much as Steve Bruce is clearly not up to the job, what reason would there be to get rid of him if Mike Ashley insists on everything else continuing as it is at the club? Nobody with the ability and credibility is going to come and work under these current arrangements, we would be simply replacing Bruce with somebody just as bad, or even possibly worse. I shudder to think who it could/would be.
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