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Opinion

This is looking like a Newcastle United gamble that Mike Ashley will once again lose

4 weeks ago
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Well, once again it looks like it’s Back To The Future at Newcastle United.

Back in 2015, Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley mercifully didn’t persist with the John Carver experiment after former manager/egotist Alan Pardew walked out and (with a lot of advice coming from Graham Carr) they turned to former England Manager Steve McClaren.

Now his pedigree was half decent. He had won things in his managerial career including the League Cup with the smoggies down the road and he had been by Sir Alex Ferguson’s side when Manchester United won the treble in 1999. You don’t get to that stage if you’re a nobody just winging it.

But he simply wasn’t good enough and the players he had were likewise. That’s the position we find ourselves back in right now.

The trouble as always at Newcastle United is the owner and his policies. It was abundantly clear that the scouting system that was in place under McClaren was merely there to parachute players into the training ground for the Head Coach to work with, regardless of their suitability for the league that they were going to be playing in.

You can list any number of players that have been bought at Newcastle United that haven’t been up to scratch for the Premier League and the similarities from the signings made under the McClaren set-up, mirror the one currently facing us with Steve Bruce.

Back in 2015 we brought in players Aleksandar Mitrovic, Florian Thauvin and Chancel Mbemba who were clearly not ready for the Premier League and all for fairly sizeable money at the time. Those three cost close to £40m with only £14m Gini Wijnaldum actually looking half decent. It was only when the crisis of relegation arose the following January that Premier League experience was paid for in Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend, that we started to look better. A competent manager (too) late on in Rafa Benitez also helped.

In the first half of this year, the owner was hell bent on not supplying former manager Rafa Benitez with sufficient funds to take the club forward. He then went out and replaced Benitez with a manager/head coach that is continuing to prove that he is even worse than Steve McClaren was. This brings me on to the signings made in summer 2019.

Put simply, they are largely not good enough for the Premier League. The Joelinton signing needs to be highlighted as another example of where bringing in a player who hasn’t done too badly abroad into the Premier League doesn’t work. There is no way he is a £40m player.

That’s not to say I have a problem in signing him but if the club has indeed paid anywhere near £40m for him, then that shows either the awful recruitment procedure I’ve already highlighted, or a massive financial lie. We were told (via the words of Mike Ashley of all places) that Rafa Benitez said not to pay more than £20m for him and that is roughly where his value seems to be. And my opinion on that decreases with each passing game. He’s certainly not a striker.

The thought that we could have had Salomon Rondon for £16m frightens the living daylights out of me that the policy makers at the club think and operate in the way that they do. Fair enough, there wasn’t a lot we could have done to keep the goals that were scored by Ayoze Perez (although showing ambition and re-negotiating his contract would have helped) but Rondon was the playmaker in last season’s team that did so well towards the back end of it. Ask yourselves the question…would we be better off with Rondon or Joelinton?

There have been flashes of good play from both Allan Saint-Maximin and loan player Jetro Willems but to say we’ve upgraded on what we’ve lost would be a massive fib. It all comes down to that Premier League experience that is vital to relative success.

In the summer, out went Mo Diame, Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez and in came Joelinton, Saint-Maximin and Andy Carroll. That’s far too much Premier League experience to lose and also that’s two players who will need time to adjust and a player that seldom makes 20+ league appearances a season. Hardly an improvement and actually a recipe for disaster. Just where are the goals coming from I ask you? Certainly the Head Coach doesn’t know.

And then we come back to Bruce himself. His waffle is almost as laughable as his managerial record. He can accentuate as many positives as he likes, he can point to the victories over both Spurs and Manchester United as often as he wants, but those results paper over a multitude of sins. The main one being that both those clubs are in the worst state they’ve been for many a year.

After the Chelsea defeat Bruce stated that “We had some unbelievable opportunities” despite not having a shot on target all afternoon. “We have had an unbelievably difficult start and no disrespect to the teams we play next but we have got teams that we think are going to be in and around us.”

What the . . ? The “difficult” start consisted of Brighton and Watford at home and Norwich away and we’ve took two points out of those games and were largely battered. Wouldn’t you think those three teams would be “in and around us” at the end of the season?

You can’t get by on minimal possession if there is someone good enough to score a couple of goals. Rafa Benitez knew that, which was why he was pushing for Rondon’s signing regardless of the Joelinton deal.

Would we have gone on to great things under Rafa Benitez? We will never know. But one thing is for sure, only an idiot would chuck such a  chance of that to the four winds. In slamming the door on Benitez, Rondon and to a lesser extent Perez, this dipstick of an owner has, not for the first time, gambled the Premier League future of Newcastle United.

Constantly ripping defeat from the jaws of victory and deliberate sabotage are two different things. Newcastle United has a history of doing the former but since Mike Ashley bought the club, he has made an artform of doing the latter.

On the basis of what I’ve seen in the nine games so far and the chronic lack of goals, it’s a gamble Mike Ashley will once again lose…

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