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Graham Carr names players he recommended to Mike Ashley – Aubameyang, Varane, Maddison, Ziyech…

3 years ago

Graham Carr was Mike Ashley’s main man.

The Chief Scout having the biggest say on which players Newcastle United should sign.

Well, the biggest say until the recommendations reached Mike Ashley, who had the final say.

However, that all changed when Rafa Benitez came in, rather than puppet managers / head coaches such as Pardew, Carver and McClaren, the Spaniard was only willing to sign his three year contract in summer 2016, if he was given the final say on which players came into the club and who were sold.

It still meant Mike Ashley could veto any signings BUT no players could be forced onto Rafa Benitez.

Mike Ashley accepted he had no choice but to accept Rafa’s terms after he (Ashley) had relegated the club for a second time, this was the beginning of the end for head scout Graham Carr.

With his power massively diluted, Carr eventually then left Newcastle in June 2017.

In a new excellent interview with The Mail, Graham Carr has spoken about his family (son Alan etc), as well as his time at Newcastle United of course.

In the interview, Carr has detailed the frustrations of working with Mike Ashley, no more so than the events of summer 2012, or rather the lack of them.

Newcastle had experienced a surprise breakthrough season, ending up fifth in the Premier League, with that mainly down to Carr recommended signings such as Ba, Cabaye, Tiote, Cisse and Ben Arfa.

Clearly a time to invest in the squad on top of that fifth place finish but incredibly, Mike Ashley refused to allow any net spend whatsoever, with a number of squad players sold and the very average squad player Vurnon Anita, the only incoming signing.

Talking about that summer, Graham Carr says about Mike Ashley that summer: ‘It baffles me to this day why the club did not kick on. It wasn’t in my hands, sometimes you just don’t know why. That disappointed me.’

Carr also detailed how he had to handle Ashley if he wanted to have any chance of convincing him to buy anybody: ‘I learned you had to be positive with Mike, convince him. He couldn’t understand why we’d want Hatem and Jonas Gutierrez, two left wingers, on £40k. I knew Hatem could be brilliant, so I cut in, ‘He’s a No 10, actually, and he can cut in from the right’. That was it, done. But he had this plan — buy them younger than 25, with sell-on value. If I asked him to spend £10m on a 29-year-old, he’d f.cking laugh at me. Over time, that plan hasn’t worked. But I do believe that he meant well.’

As for the ones who got away, Graham Carr lists some of the real stars of the future that were ignored when he recommended them: ‘If the club were honest and went through the records… Hakim Ziyech, Wilfred Ndidi, James Maddison. I saw Raphael Varane play for Lens when he was 17 and I called Derek Llambias (managing director) that night. You get excited when you spot one. Mike and I went to Saint-Etienne to watch (Pierre-Emerick) Aubameyang. Mike just said, ‘Who am I watching?’ You recommend them, but then you just don’t know what happens sometimes.’

Graham Carr arrived at Newcastle United in February 2010, replacing Dennis Wise as the go to man on transfers for Mike Ashley.

Nothing is ever that clear at Newcastle United, as to who is really in charge and doing whatever at any time, as evidenced by the fact that Lee Charnley has to answer to Ashley’s man Justin Barnes at the football club.

However, despite not having the title, Graham Carr (pictured to the left of Ashley above) appeared to act more as a Director of Football, rather than a mere Head Scout.

With the likes of McClaren and Pardew having no say on transfers in and out of the club, Carr was behind the players who did come into the club, until the arrival of Rafa Benitez in March 2016.

I make it that 46 players were brought in during the reign of Graham Carr, before Rafa Benitez came in.

I have rated all 46 of the Graham Carr signings, including loan signings, from the sublime to the ridiculous.

I have split them into five categories.

My choices have been made based on a combination of factors: their ability, how much they cost, how much they actually contributed at NUFC, as well as any transfer fee that may have been received when they left.

So based on ability, Moussa Sissoko would be nowhere near being a very good signing BUT with Tottenham paying £30m for a player who cost only £1.5m, he can’t be rated as anything other than a success in these ratings.

All comments gratefully received…

Very Good

Cheick Tiote, Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba, Moussa Sissoko, Loic Remy, Gini Wijnaldum, Ayoze Perez, Jamal Lascelles, Hatem Ben Arfa


Papiss Cisse, Jonjo Shelvey, Andros Townsend, Aleksandar Mitrovic


Davide Santon, Mathieu Debuchy, Yoan Gouffran, Daryl Janmaat, James Perch, Ivan Toney, Kevin Mbabu, Karl Darlow


Gael Bigirimana, Vurnon Anita, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Massadio Haidara, Olivier Kemen, Florian Thauvin, Chancel Mbemba, Jack Colback, Mehdi Abeid, Rob Elliot

Very Poor

Stephen Ireland, Shefki Kuqi, Dan Gosling, Sol Campbell, Sylvain Marveaux, Gabriel Obertan, Romain Amalfitano, Luuk de Jong, Siem de Jong, Remy Cabella, Emmanuel Riviere, Facundo Ferreyra, Henri Saivet, Seydou Doumbia, Curtis Good


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