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Opinion

This could easily have been achieved under Mike Ashley ownership at Newcastle but he refused to do it

5 months ago
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As we sit waiting for the Newcastle United takeover to (hopefully) materialise at Newcastle United, thoughts turn to…

What will happen after the change of ownership has gone through?

Will new owners invest in the academy, spend money on the training ground, improve/expand St James Park, and most importantly in an immediate sense, reverse the shameless decision by the current regime to furlough workers?

My guessing is that they will gradually work through all four of these issues but to the casual fan, the crux of the matter will be how much spending will go where it matters – on the pitch.

Over the last 13 Mike Ashley years, provided the team remains in the Premier League, progression through investment in the team hasn’t been remotely a priority, simply doing just enough to try and survive was the plan. What about though the new owners vision to improve the team?

Just how much investment would it take to improve matters on the field? The answer is surprisingly less than one may think.

Mike Ashley could (and should) have provided such investment last summer. There were decisions to be made that were no-brainers to anyone who wanted to progress the club. Rafa Benitez and Salomon Rondon were the obvious solutions to two basic problems that we have currently with the manager’s chair and scoring goals and they would have been covered financially by not signing the flop that is Joelinton.

Last summer was a great example of when to build on what had previously been achieved and by that I mean two steady finishes in the Premier league (10th and 13th). The gap between ourselves and the top six isn’t as unreachable as it may sound.

Things also need not be too expensive and this is where there is good news for prospective new owners. It had been speculated that Salomon Rondon was asking for £150k a week (I have my doubts) and it was said by Ashley himself in his bizarre statement that Rafa Benitez wanted more money. The implication that he went to China “for the money” was made directly by Lee Charnley in the matchday programme before the opening game against Arsenal last August. I have my doubts on both the player and manager supposed ‘demands’ but even if true, it’s hardly bank busting even under Mike Ashley and the rewards would have more than covered the outlay.

It really is that simple. Rondon’s goals and Benitez’ tactics as opposed to Joelinton’s lack of goals and a Head Coach who self-proclaimed that he doesn’t do tactics, would have had Newcastle United in a European qualifying spot this season. That’s something I’m all but certain of and bearing in mind Joelinton cost £40m, there’s something to learn from this sort of error with regards to spending when it’s not required.

As an aside, you can’t just replace a full squad, it simply doesn’t work. Ripping up a side and bringing in many new players and expecting everything to just fit into place is a recipe for disaster and a top manager will know this. I suspect a manager of the standard of Steve Bruce will just accept any investment/players that they receive regardless of how they are going to fit into the team.

The way to build a side is slow and steady. Granted, the quicker you can get the players in and playing together the better it will be for all concerned (another thing Ashley hasn’t done in the past) but simply spending £200m or whatever on players isn’t a guarantee of success, nor is it even necessarily necessary. Every man and his dog knows the position that our team needs strengthening most and that is at centre forward. If new investment can source a 15 goals a season striker then the club won’t be scrapping for mid-table positions next season, it will be finishing in a European spot.

Depending on how the side sets up (I’m happy enough with five at the back) then the part of the side that DOESN’T need looking at is at centre back or goalkeeper. To know you have a sound defensive unit takes a lot of pressure off the recruitment side of things. In fact, it saves a fortune in today’s market, just look at £80m Virgil Van Dijk down at Liverpool. Something less for a manager and new Managing Director to worry about.

The rest of the side is ok if not spectacular but once again, I wouldn’t advocate throwing money about like confetti. Sorting out Matty Longstaff’s contract will be a high priority as paying him a half decent wage by Premier League standards will save going out and finding a similar (or better) player as that would cost £20m+ in today’s market, something which holds no guarantees of success anyway.

We have a mixed set of abilities in the form of Jonjo Shelvey, Sean Longstaff, Isaac Hayden, Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron. Maybe this area could be trimmed but it’s a squad game and simply scrapping a whole host of players is unfeasible. Personally, the players I’d have out the door are Andy Carroll, Emile Krafth, Javier Manquillo, Christian Atsu and Rob Elliot, as well as the loan trio of Rose, Lazaro and Bentaleb.

I’m no football scout but once a competent MD is in place, a good manager won’t be far behind, as it’s unthinkable that Steve Bruce will retain his job if the club is to go forward and get on with player recruitment.

What’s that I hear you say? I’m jumping the gun as the Newcastle United takeover hasn’t happened yet? Well I agree with you and until it does we should be cautious. But there is one strange thing about what I’ve said above.

It ALL could have been done WITH Ashley owning the club. There’s nothing I’ve said here that he couldn’t have overseen on his watch. He’s simply refused to do any of it.

It’s false to say that Newcastle fans are expecting money to be just chucked at the club in reaching for success. It never worked in terms of winning trophies NUFC did it in the mid 1990s and early noughties, even though those times were enjoyable and the teams we had were good.

Sensible planning and modest spending will be a VAST improvement on what has gone on over the last 13 years.

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