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Opinion

The Nuclear Winter that will be left behind at Newcastle United if this happens

10 months ago
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It might seem that sacking Steve Bruce and bringing in a modern manager will solve our problems at Newcastle United in one move – but it won’t be as easy as that.

Let’s say we employ Thomas Frank, who is currently at Brentford.

Now put yourself in his shoes. First thing he’s going to want to do is bring in new players.

Assuming Mike Ashley will give a new manager money to spend (which isn’t a given), the first thing Ashley will say is move some out before you move some in, in order to free up some wages from our stretched bill. This is all well and good usually, as most clubs have saleable assets. McClaren had Wijnaldum, Sissoko, Janmaat, Mitrovic, Thauvin.

Had Frank taken over from Rafa Benitez, we had a few that could be used to free up funds. Most of our defence were being looked at and admired. Schaar was linked with Arsenal and Juve, Dubravka with big teams, Lascelles with England, Sean Longstaff with Man Utd, Perez with Leicester, Almiron was looking very good. We could have still possibly sold outliers like Clark, and Gayle. Our older players like Ritchie and Shelvey, and Colback were nearing the end of contracts and could have been released to free up wages. In the eyes of an incoming manager, it was a healthy squad, the only deadwood on long contracts – Atsu, Aarons, Lazaar, Saivet, Murphy and Muto, most of whom are on smaller wages.

Fast forward 18 months and assess the squad from the eyes of a prospective manager.

Dubravka, Lascelles, Schar and Lejeune, have gone from being the best defence outside the top six and along with Sean Longstaff rumoured to be collectively worth appro £150m+ to now being worth about £40-50m. Our saleable assets are Dubravaka who is still worth about £15-20m, Darlow who is now worth about £12-15m+, Lascelles and Longstaff (£15m each), Wilson who is still worth £20m providing he can keep scoring, ASM who is worth £25m, and Almiron who is worth £15m. Playing in an attacking team the latter two would be worth double or treble.

Now assess the deadwood which are players that we will not be able to move because of their wages and poor performance or age/ injuries. We now have Shelvey £80k, Ritchie £50k, Hendrick £45k, Joelinton £80k, Krath £45k, Dummett £40k, and I’m going to add Fraser on £80k+ as he has barely played for a year and I doubt we’ll see much of him. We also have the very real prospect of Bruce giving long contracts out to Murphy, Gayle and Clark. Clark is OK but I suspect a modern manager would shelve him and he’s not getting any more valuable as time goes on. Murphy is another risky one, who could come good, but it’s all based on the back of one or two decent games. All worth a one year extension, but Bruce seems to give out three year deals for these types presumably to keep the dressing room.

Looking at the squad this way, you’d have to say that Steve Bruce is the bomb that landed on our team, but the players he’s bought, the players he’s ruined, and the players he has gave big contracts to, will be the nuclear winter that will mean we are in big trouble for at least the next three years when we can finally start shifting the new and upcoming wave of massively paid deadwood. In a nuclear war, the damage from the bombs wouldn’t be half as bad as the resulting radioactivity and a nuclear winter that would put the earth in a permanent night, dropping temperatures so low that it would be almost impossible to grow crops for five years or more.

This is what we have to look forward to if Bruce is allowed to continue to have a hand in buying players or dishing out contracts to his loyal soldiers. Probably the only thing that has saved us long-term, is that Pardew etc weren’t bringing in their own versions of Hendrick and Geremi, Carr was finding younger players we could keep selling.

You only need to look at most of his other clubs to see examples. Hull, Sunderland, Birmingham, Wigan all went down with ageing squads loaded up with worthless ageing grafters and ex-big six players on huge wages that they couldn’t shift or afford to pay in the championship, and they all either went bust or almost went bust. Bruce doesn’t plan long-term. Everywhere he’s been, he is living day to day just trying to hang on to his job. Why should he plan for the future when he’s never survived more than a couple of seasons? His aim is to keep his job, not build a club.

Of course, a new modern manager is likely to be able to get a tune out of these players and could turn a few into stars, so they wouldn’t necessarily be deadwood. But many of these players are too old and too slow to play in a modern high press system. A modern manager would possibly relegate Shelvey, Ritchie, Joelinton, Krath, Hendrick, and Dummett to Colback status and Ashley couldn’t accept that loss of wages, which would equal about £300k and a large chunk of our budget. How can we be competitive if we end up paying out this much every week for nothing?

And then there’s Fraser. Will we ever see him play a full season or even half? Bruce has turned us into a Bruce team similar to all his other teams, and the danger is, these modern managers are smart. They might take a look at the players and realise they can’t perform their miracles on this nuclear wasteland. It might only be the familiar dinosaurs, who fancy their chances of getting the best out of the likes of Hendrick and Ritchie, that are circling our carcass of a club.

Will our managing director see any of this unfolding before it’s too late? Of course he won’t. He’ll be digging out his list and ringing Moyes or Dyche to come and help.

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