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Opinion

Steve Bruce latest on new contracts for key players just adds to the shambles at Newcastle United

6 months ago
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It is 162 days since Steve Bruce took his first Newcastle United press conference ahead of a competitive match.

The mood wasn’t great as Newcastle fans  had been left reeling by the actions of Mike Ashley.

The  NUFC owner making no attempt to keep the club’s only two reliable goalscorers and reverting to a system where Mike Ashley himself had the final say on transfers, which had included the bizarre £40m signing of Joelinton to bring the necessary goals, even though his best previous league season was eight goals in the very weak Austrian league.

Most importantly, Mike Ashley had forced out Rafa Benitez and reverted once again to the lower leagues, bringing in a head coach so desperate for the job, he would agree to only have power over training and selecting  the team.

Clearly feeling the pressure and anger of Newcastle fans, the club and Steve Bruce included a rather bizarre subject in the head coach’s very first competitive match press conference.

Instead of talking about the match, Steve Bruce bizarrely insisted on new contracts for players being the big topic of discussion.

Despite making no effort over the entire summer to extend anybody’s contract, Steve Bruce suddenly insisted on the very eve of the first game, that new contracts were imminent with a host of key players, to ensure they felt properly rewarded and would of course be tied down for longer.

It looked a blatant/typical Ashley PR move at the time, with Steve Bruce happy to read from the prepared script and so it has proved.

This is what Steve Bruce said on 9 August 2019 at the pre-Arsenal press conference:

“The club three years ago blew away the Championship.

“The players brought in were too good for the Championship.

“And those players, five or six of them, are still the nucleus of the squad.

“They deserve big credit and that is why I want to reward them (with new enhanced contracts).

“I have had a conversation with Lee Charnley and he feels exactly the same too.

“We’ll be sitting down and talking to four or five of them to make sure that cornerstone remains.

“It is vitally important that the ones who have been here, they deserve a big pat on the back.

“They deserve new deals which we need to tie them up to and I think Lee (Charnley) has already spoken to two or three.

“He (Isaac Hayden) has indicated he is willing to sit down and talk to us – I’m delighted of course.

“Him and Matt Ritchie and the goalkeeper and the captain (Jamaal Lascelles), there are probably four or five we want to talk to.”

We now find ourselves 162 days later and not a single player who was part of that Championship team and then came up and performed so well in the Premier League, has agreed a new contract.

The only player to sign a new contract has been Martin Dubravka and that came almost three months after Steve Bruce first insisted new contract were imminent in terms of being agreed with key players.

In countless interviews/press conferences since, Steve Bruce has continued to insist that new deals were set to be imminently announced and has named various other players also set to agree new deals but absolutely nothing has happened.

The only conclusion to draw is that either Newcastle United aren’t in reality making  any real effort to get players to sign new contracts and/or what they are offering is nowhere near good enough to persuade players to commit themselves further.

The club haven’t even been able to agree terms with 19 year old Matty Longstaff, it has now gone on for months with Steve Bruce continually claiming the younger Longstaff will sign a new deal but the reality now is that with his current deal (reported to be only £850 per week/£44,000  a year) ending in June, Newcastle would receive only £400,000 development compensation if he decided to leave.

Asked on Friday yet again about the farcical contract situation at Newcastle United and especially the situation with the Longstaff brothers (Sean Longstaff”s current contract was agreed before he had played a single minute of Premier League football, so will be on minimal money compared to most of the team/squad, apart from his brother!), Steve Bruce said:

“Once we get January (transfer window) done, we will concentrate on those (contacts)…

“Particularly young Matty who keeps on scoring goals and is doing as well as his brother at the moment.”

This raises all kinds of questions.

What was going on in the five months before the January transfer window arrived, why weren’t new contracts sorted then?

Why can’t new contracts be agreed with current players as well as trying to bring  in new players?

All it needs is for Mike Ashley and his minions to decide what they want to offer a particular player to tempt them to sign, then the player and his people/agent(s) to say yes or no, with then maybe a bit of rejigging and adding a few more quid or extra year on the deal if that is needed.

If you really want certain players to stay, it makes no sense not to try and tie them down for longer, especially when so many players have so little time remaining on their current deals. In total, 16 of Newcastle’s current 26 man first team squad have contracts with 17 months or less to run.

With the likes of the Longstaff brothers, so much seems to be relying on the fact that they are Newcastle fans, yet if an ambitious club such as say Leicester or Wolves came in and took a punt on Matty Longstaff, such a low compensation figure having to be paid and offered him proper Premier League wages and painted a picture of what could be possible at a non-Ashley ambitious club, why wouldn’t he be tempted?

Likewise the more experienced players amongst our small group of better quality performers, if the likes of Wolves and especially Leicester came in for them, why wouldn’t they look at Ayoze Perez and think, why not?

Of course, we also have the possibility that Newcastle United have indeed made offers to various players and they have all said no, with the exception of Dubravka, obviously Mike Ashley and his people wouldn’t be wanting to broadcast that.

The only way to sweep away these doubts/worries is that rather than just speaking about it and putting out endless positive PR spin messages that end up having no substance, Mike Ashley needs to make credible contract offers to Newcastle’s best players to tie them down AND buy some better quality players to help convince them that it is worth staying at St James Park

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