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Opinion

Mike Ashley refusal to allow investment in Newcastle United infrastructure produces this outcome

10 months ago
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Since last summer, the overwhelming focus has been on Mike Ashley forcing out Rafa Benitez and replacing the manager with head coac Steve Bruce.

Week after week, month after month, fans and media relentlessly debating how the team are doing under Bruce compared to Benitez.

Number of points, quality of football, lack of attacking threat, the luck, the success or otherwise of this season’s signings and so on.

Whilst the media and fans are putting all this focus on Steve Bruce and first team results/performances, Mike Ashley will be more than happy.

As it means there is almost zero talk or focus about the appalling lack of investment in the infrastructure at Newcastle United.

Not a penny spent on St James Park these past 13 years that hasn’t had to be spent, whilst Mike Ashley promised a new state of the art training complex in 2013, which was said to be essential if the club were going to be able to compete. Instead of the state of the art new complex, the investment has been in the form of a few tins of paint to do up the current one.

Quite shamelessly the club have milked the emergence of the Longstaff brothers for all they could get out of it PR wise.

Four months ago after Matty Longstaff had scored that winner against Man Utd at St James Park, Michael Walker of the Athletic spoke to Lee Charnley (see below).

It is laughable how Charnley talks about Sean and Matty Longstaff coming through, as if it is some kind of vindication of Ashley’s running of the club and especially the Academy.

Incredibly, Lee Charnley has the cheek to state that the aim is that ‘one player every year comes through our system and ends up in our first-team squad.’

So Mike Ashley refuses to allow any proper investment into the facilities/Academy/infrastructure and magically players will come through?

I have to say that surely you have to think that it is genes rather than Ashley’s NUFC that have seen the Longstaffs come through. We suddenly have two players come through and nobody else for years, I can’t believe it is a coincidence that they are brothers, the talent already there and it has carried them through despite the NUFC set-up.

This is the current table for the NUFC Under 18s:

Then this is the Under 23s:

As you can see, only League One Sunderland keep Newcastle off the very bottom of the Under 18s table.

Whilst for the Under 23s, they are in the second of two divisions so are actually 20th of 24 and only have Sunderland, two Championship U23 set-ups below them plus one (Norwich) that will be soon back in the second tier.

Season after season Newcastle United are failing in the younger age groups.

How does this add up to future ongoing success at first team level with players coming through???

The final insult is that Mike Ashley and  his people have milked the Longstaff brothers coming through and yet are refusing to make them acceptable contract offers.

Matty Longstaff earning less in a year than teammates are getting in a week.

Sean on a deal he signed before playing a minute of Premier League football, he has now made 27 PL appearances in these last 14 months since signing a contract.

Matty could now leave for only £400,000 compensation at the end of June, whilst Sean could quickly follow as they are so not valued by Ashley and his people, expecting them to sign on the cheap because they are fans.

Michael Walker article on The Athletic including talking to Lee Charnley – 11 October 2019:

Lee Charnley: “To see Sean [Longstaff] do it last year and Matty get his opportunity — and he looked like it was his 25th or 50th game, not his first — was so pleasing for everyone. I think it was fantastic and we’ve seen the public reaction, not just the Newcastle public. I saw what Gary Neville tweeted after the game (he praised the boys and said their performance made him happy).”

Charnley did not consider this an appropriate moment to discuss wider club issues — he was asked…

Charnley says: “We want to be the best academy in the region. Our vision is we want local boys to look at it and think it’s not going to be full of boys from London, Manchester or abroad. Between nine and 16, it will be an academy with boys predominantly from the local area. There will be exceptions but generally, it will be local.

“Other clubs may move boys around the country, sign them at 12, 13, 14, move their education. We’re not doing that. Consciously, we have made a decision not to do that and to give local boys the opportunity.”

Charnley knows there will be scepticism. Frugality will be an accusation.

“People say it might be because of this reason [no wanting to spend money] or that but it’s not. It’s a conscious decision to get local boys because we want local boys to see what’s happened with Paul [Dummett], Sean and Matty, and say that’s who they want to be.

“They’ll know, if they’re good enough and work hard enough, they’ll get an opportunity at their hometown club. That’s what we want.”

Charnley says the club’s “ultimate aim is that one player every year comes through our system and ends up in our first-team squad. That is what we want to achieve.”

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