Disaster looming for Newcastle United as impact of Mike Ashley wilful neglect comes to surface
The idea of long-term planning at Newcastle United has always been something Mike Ashley has never considered.
The club’s owner having only one basic plan, to try and survive another season in the Premier League at the lowest possible expense.
Laying down foundations to ensure the health and competitiveness of NUFC beyond that, having no interest for Mike Ashley.
A bit like a home owner constantly thinking they might sell their house in the near future and so what’s the point of spending money on it, so Ashley has done the same at Newcastle United.
Not a penny spent on the infrastructure (St James Park, training ground, Academy) that doesn’t have to be, meaning each new season sees Newcastle United back to square one, or worse, and having to start again.
This was a massive part of why there was never ever a chance of Rafa Benitez staying, the Spaniard had a grand vision of improving every aspect of the club to allow it to make progress year on year. A plan to include a totally revamped Academy, the essential state of the art new training ground Mike Ashley said in 2013 would be built ASAP, as well as of course realistic levels of transfer funds at first team level and the freedom to spend them as he (Rafa) saw fit.
From time to time Mike Ashley and / or Lee Charnley will speak, or release quotes, talking about wanting to create a production line of their own talent through the ranks and providing the finances to achieve that, however, their actions say otherwise.
Mike Ashley has increasingly relied on loan deals and free transfers, with six of the nine signings made whilst Steve Bruce has been here proving the point, Carroll and Gillespie on frees with then Rose, Willems, Bentaleb and Lazaro on loans.
In recent months extended contracts have been agreed with older players such as Dubravka, Ritchie, Carroll and Shelvey, yet Newcastle fans 20 year old Matty Longstaff and 22 year old Sean Longstaff are left hanging. Matty will leave in the coming days and the club receive only £400,000 development compensation, whilst Sean is still on the peanuts deal he signed almost 20 months ago before playing a minute of PL football.
Freddie Woodman is a great young prospect but the 23 year old simply keeps getting another year added to his contract and there appears no visible plan to try and convince him his future is at SJP long-term.
Rafa Benitez always said the plan was to build a team to get out of the Championship and then a need to build another one for the Premier League. Not to instantly change the whole team but to swiftly over a number of transfer windows revamp a promoted team. However, Mike Ashley went back on his promises and so Rafa ended up having to rely far longer on far more of the Championship team / squad, with budget buys and loans to then help Newcastle survive and get by.
Which has then ensured that even this season, Newcastle are still relying on a core of players from that Championship season: Shelvey, Ritchie, Yedlin, Lascelles, Hayden, Darlow, Dummett, Gayle. Along with budget signings made by the Spaniard that have come up trumps, mainly in defensive positions: Fernandez, Dubravka, Schar, Manquillo and Lejeune.
Trying to add the necessary quality on a strict budget in more attacking positions was always going to be more tricky (impossible), as we have found to be the case with Joselu, Atsu, Murphy and Muto, whilst Mike Ashley refused to allow any offer to be made for loan signing Rondon, despite him being player of the year and directly involved in 18 PL goals (scoring 11 and 7 assists). On the very final day of the January 2019 transfer window, Ashley at last allowed Rafa a PL level money attacking player and no surprise that at £20m Miguel Almiron has proved to be one of the best NUFC players these past 18 months.
Sadly, it now looks as though we could be heading into a perfect storm, where the refusal of Mike Ashley to put down foundations and plan ahead, is set to really catch up with us. With seemingly no imminent approval on the takeover expected, NUFC are set to be really badly impacted by the failure to allow proper structured investment in the first team squad, no revamp of the academy or facilities, then no attempt to keep promising young players who have come through.
Newcastle United have a rapidly ageing squad, a squad with many players having little time remaining on their contracts, then we have Steve Bruce who appears to have zero interest in giving any young players a chance in this run of meaningless matches of the current season.
The age of the current squad of Newcastle United players by the end of the 2020/21 season:
32 – Dubravka, Carroll, Fernandez
31 – Clark, Ritchie,
30 – Gayle, Lejeune, Darlow, Saivet
29 – Dummett, Schar, Shelvey, Atsu, Gillespie, Lazaar
28 – Muto
27 – Lascelles, Manquillo, Yedlin, Almiron
26 – Hayden, Krafth, Murphy
25 – Aarons
24 – Joelinton, Saint-Maximin, Woodman
23 – Sean Longstaff
21 – Matty Longstaff
These are the players currently on permanent contracts at the club and already with one of the slowest teams in the division, that is only going to get worse without serious investment.
ASM and Almiron are quick but stick out even more due to those around them.
As things stand, I don’t see Sean Longstaff wanting to stick around as he and his brother are messed about, Hayden only has a year left on his contract and will surely make his long expected move south to be closer to family, Yedlin isn’t brilliant but had pace and he will be also leaving.
I find the talk from Steve Bruce unsettling about potentially buying Rose and Bentaleb, neither has shown anything to suggest they improve the team.
The thought of having an ageing ever more slowing team next season based around Shelvey, Ritchie, Bentaleb, Rose, Joelinton, Krafth, Gayle, Lejeune, Clark, Carroll, Schar, Dummett etc, is going to be dangerous situation. That is not of course to say none of these players are assets but certainly you need a far better balance in a team than can be supplied by the current NUFC squad, as things stand.
We have already this season seen a ridiculous over reliance on the pace and skill of ASM, as well as to an extent Miguel Almiron, so without a serious addition of quality and retaining our best, especially younger, players, 2020/21 is set to be a serious struggle.
The tactical nous of Steve Bruce is a whole other issue / worry but the fact of the matter is that if Liverpool win on Sunday, the form of Newcastle United since Christmas will read four wins in twenty Premier League games and two of the four wins were against ten men.
If the Saudi PIF led consortium don’t come in to transform the club / situation, just how much faith do you have in Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce to turn it around?
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