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Opinion

An all new way of running the club under Mike Ashley as pragmatism strikes?

1 month ago
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You might have noticed that Newcastle United have made five signings so far this summer.

You may also have noticed that all five new boys were with Premier League clubs this season, or have been in the past.

All five are also from the UK or Ireland.

Asked about the signings made this summer, Steve Bruce has said that a big factor in the decision making was the lack of time between the 2019/20 season ending and the 2020/21 kicking off. Only seven weeks instead of the usual thirteen or so weeks.

The NUFC Head Coach saying the thinking was that the club needed players who could integrate as quickly as possible, without factors such as getting used to a new league, country, language, culture etc etc.

Who would have thought it, pragmatism striking at Newcastle United under Mike Ashley’s rule? Although no explanation as to why it was thought ideal to wait until only a few days before the season kicked off, to make the three biggest signings.

Definition

The definition of being pragmatic is: ‘Dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations.’

In football terms you could say that being pragmatic is all about each transfer window, looking to bring in (as well as keep) the players who will be the best fit for the coming season.

A shame that a year or so earlier (and many of the seasons before), Mike Ashley hadn’t heard about this ‘pragmatic’ thing.

As in, having a top class manager in position, who ‘sensibly and realistically’ you should do everything possible to keep.

As well as Rafa Benitez being (non-pragmatically…) pushed out, Mike Ashley was also happy to see the back of player of the season and involved in 18 goals (scoring eleven and seven assists) Salomon Rondon and the 2018/19 top scorer with 12 PL goals, Ayoze Perez.

So, were those decisions ‘based on practical rather than theoretical considerations’, all so that Mike Ashley could force through the £40m+ signing of Joelinton and the return to a scenario where the owner has a puppet head coach, rather than a manager with final say on transfers?

Well ditching the ‘practical’ 23 goal partnership of Rondon and Perez for the two goal ‘theoretical’ partnership of Joelinton and Carroll didn’t work out too well.

So an all new way of running the club under Mike Ashley…?

Hmmm, well maybe not quite.

The only pragmatism that Mike Ashley was interested in, was what was needed to try and ensure (on a budget) no relegation this season. The owner knowing this is absolutely vital if he does indeed have any hope of still pushing through the sale of Newcastle United, at a significantly inflated price above market value, to the Saudis.

So rather than young players from weaker overseas leagues who may be worth more money in years to come, it was simply a case where instead, Mike Ashley went 180 degrees and was only really interested in what new signings would be worth to the team this current season.

So £20m on a striker who turns 29 in February and has had two serious ACL operations and will see his value only drop from this point, then have little or no sell on value if staying at Newcastle more than a couple of years.

Similar with free transfers Fraser and Hendrick, Mike Ashley agreeing to inflated wage deals that he would never previously have done for Premier League players running down their contracts, obviously in the expectation / hope that he (Ashley) won’t be responsible for paying these wages beyond some or all of this 2020/21 season.

The reality is…

Any transfer window should be a mixture, rather than a single track policy that excludes other types of signings.

A budget decided on and then a manager tasked with finding the best mix of signings using the available money.

Yes, nice to see Newcastle signing a striker such as Callum Wilson who has a decent record of scoring goals in the Premier League. However, not so great if you have a rigid policy that then prevents you giving somebody like Allan Saint-Maximin a try, widely acknowledged to still be Newcastle’s player, certainly when it comes to getting the team moving up the pitch.

The only pragmatic plan should really be to get the very best people inside the club from top to bottom.

The best board of directors, the best professional team off the pitch led by the best possible CEO / MD, the best football manager…and of course the best possible players. Not to mention of course the best possible investment in your infrastructure of Academy, training ground and St James Park.

We will only reach that level under the best possible new owners. Otherwise, if Mike Ashley remains, we can only expect yet another chaotic shift of direction in the near future, when it comes to the transfer market, and everything else for that matter.

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