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Opinion

Directing this at Steve Bruce just enables the deflection Mike Ashley craves – Need to move on

4 weeks ago
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Mike Ashley is now in the 13th season of his Newcastle United reign.

Whilst Steve Bruce has been NUFC Head Coach these past four months.

So what is the state of play for Newcastle fans at St James Park?

With the (third of the season already!) international break giving us all time to reflect, we have asked some of our regular/irregular contributors a few questions…

Next up is Jamie Smith:

What were your expectations and what have you judged to be the reality of each of the summer signings? Were they the positions Newcastle needed to strengthen and were they the right individuals?

Emil Krafth – We needed full back cover for definite but early signs are that Yedlin is a better option here. May come good as it’s too early to judge harshly but hasn’t impressed so far.

Joelinton – I think it’s fair to say Rafa was right in his “good, but not that good” assessment. It’s clear that the price tag is a massive millstone around his neck. He’s worked hard when horribly isolated and I think there is the possibility he’ll fire when that next goal arrives. Huge responsibility given our desperate need for a goal scorer to back up Ciaran Clark.

Allan Saint-Maximin – We have needed an attacking playmaker for years and for all that he needs a goal, this kid looks the part. It’s probably a unanimous opinion that, having settled down in the last month or so after injury, ASM has been the reason for the team’s upturn in form. Brilliant to watch and already becoming a bit of a cult hero.

Andy Carroll – I actually think this has been a great move. I said for years if you could get him on a pay as you play it would be well worth it, and I didn’t expect him to have managed the six appearances so far. It seems a large percentage of our fans have never set foot on a football pitch and maybe don’t appreciate what it gives a team having a nuisance like him in the opposition box for the end of a match. The big ‘if’ is whether this level of participation can be maintained or even improved on. Personally, I see anything he adds as a bonus, so can’t complain at all.

Jetro Willems – I’m a Dummett fan but we’ve needed left back cover for years. Willems has been brilliant as a wing back, contributing massively in attack (how many goals has he been involved in?). Get him signed up properly.

Newcastle United have 15 points after 12 games, have Steve Bruce and his team deserved that number of points based on performances or have they deserved more/less?

Feels about right on balance. Some teams could make cases they deserved more against us earlier in the season maybe but statistics warp the truth. Our game is based on strong defence, soaking up pressure and breaking, and things like possession % tend to look bad, whereas in actual fact they’re utterly worthless if you can’t transfer it to goals.

With everybody fit what would be your first choice central midfield pair and do you think they are good enough, or does a better option need to be signed to replace one or both?

I think Longstaff and Hayden are the safe choices, although the last two performances since Shelvey came into the team have seen far more chances created (and taken). It’s good to have the options to rotate I suppose. I’m sure most positions in the squad could be improved on but maybe the development of both Longstaffs could be limited if money was spent here. If we were to buy in January I’d go for more firepower.

Did Mike Ashley make any serious attempt to keep Rafa Benitez and was Steve Bruce his first choice replacement?

Definitely not, it was set up so there was an offer to Rafa that they could say was a genuine effort, but was clearly so restrictive that they knew he’d never take it. Him going to China then gave the option to blame it all on greed and it looks like Ashley has got away with it.

Bruce was definitely not the first choice, as Sam Allardyce has said that he was offered the job, along with probably another few people too savvy to work under these conditions.

I would say though, I think we need to move on from this. The problems at the club are with the ownership and anything directed at the manager just enables the deflection Ashley craves.

What are your feelings about Ashley selling off the land opposite the Gallowgate for a personal profit after buying it from the club, realistically ending any chance of ever expanding St James Park in the future?

My main issue is Ashley (legally) transferring club assets to himself to make a quick profit, this is likely not an isolated incident of this and it’s a major problem with MA owning NUFC that gets little media attention.

I don’t believe that this land is that essential to any development of SJP, the main issues to the south would be the road and the metro and I actually think it’s close to impossible to expand the ground without it being financially unviable, e.g. if you could add eight thousand seats to the Gallowgate but had to tear half of it down to rebuild towards this it wouldn’t be worth the cost or hassle. Ashley selling the land is another slap to the club but I fear if we focus on the expansion issue and it’s inaccurate, we’re in danger of losing credibility.

Is there more chance of Mike Ashley selling if Newcastle are doing well or badly on the pitch?

Doing well, most definitely.

The mackems would accuse us of obsession but I think it’s well worth keeping an eye on Sunderland to see how things can pan out if the whole thing goes belly up. Their owners are mysteriously moving money around to the point I can see another year in League One creating a financial crisis and this is all after Ellis Short did them a massive favour by writing off huge amounts of debt.

Ashley will not do that, he’d continue gambling on making a buck out of the club and would never cut his losses. The best bet is that somehow there’s a degree of overachievement that brings wider appeal to the club.

This then needs to align with a need for Ashley to free up collateral for another strand of his business to make him actually get serious about selling. Barring a fans trust fund being seriously feasible (I don’t think it is) then this is the most likely escape.

Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf

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