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Opinion

Mike Ashley lights fuse on third Newcastle United relegation and then real crisis

4 weeks ago
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Mike Ashley is in familiar territory.

The absent landlord with a skeleton staff running his football club, led by more Caretaker with the keys than Chief Executive, Lee Charnley.

Newcastle United like a little valued and little thought of distant Sports Direct store, that is left to its own devices with zero care and attention.

In 115 years, Newcastle United had been relegated four times up to 2007.

As we approach the end of 14 years / seasons under Mike Ashley, Newcastle United are now the bookies favourites to take the third relegation spot and make it three NUFC relegations for Ashley in what will be these last 11 Premier League seasons under him.

We might get lucky and stay up…but there again we might not.

If Fulham beat Leeds at Craven Cottage on Friday and Brighton win against Steve Bruce’s team on Saturday night, I think NUFC are doomed.

Even if we get a draw at Brighton, so long as Fulham still win, that would be enough to have Newcastle bottom three and I doubt very much we would ever emerge from there again this season.

The whole club is set for a massive fall as Mike Ashley has very much just relied on getting the club sale and passing on the ever growing mess to new owners.

Hoping for this sale of the club to the Saudis for well above market price, Mike Ashley has let the club slide ever further, letting a host of players see their contracts run right down, whilst giving certain players extended contracts just to help try and get through the remaining time before the sale could be completed / allowed.

Back in 2016 fortune very much smiled on Mike Ashley yet again.

Despite his malignant and chaotic running of the club producing a second relegation only six Premier League seasons after his first, Ashley was so so lucky to have Rafa Benitez willing to sort the mess out AND the financial side was laughably kind to the NUFC owner as well.

This is an extract from the 2015/16 Newcastle United accounts when they were released in April 2017, for the period up to 30 June 2016:

‘Subsequent to the balance sheet date the club has generated a net surplus of around £40m in respect of changes to the playing squad, a substantial proportion of the player sales are on deferred terms and will be received over the next 3-4 years, with the result that in the year ending 30 June 2017 there will be a net cash outlay with respect to these transfers.’

So basically, summer 2016 saw Newcastle United sell players for around £90m+, which then allowed Rafa Benitez to get £50m+ to rebuild the entire squad pretty much, at the same time a profit of £40m generated for Mike Ashley once buys and sales were taken into account.

In summer 2016, NUFC sold the likes of Sissoko, Janmaat, Townsend, Cisse, Cabella and Wijnaldum to easily generate around £90m+ of sales.

In addition, the wage bill was significantly lowered further with the following all either seeing their contracts end or heading out on loan – Coloccini, Steven Taylor, Obertan, Marveaux, Doumbia, Thauvin, De Jong, Krul, Toney, Armstrong, Mbabu, Saivet and Riviere.

Yes Rafa Benitez ended up with some £50m+ to spend BUT with losing 19 players listed above from the squad for starters, he had to put together a pretty much entirely new team to get Newcastle out of the Championship. With 11 permanent signings and one which was a loan to buy (Atsu), Rafa invested that £50m+ very wisely, some like Lazaar and Gamez not working out, but overall a massively successful rebuild in just a couple of months. Quite amazing to have 30+ moves in and out of a club in one transfer window and the man in charge holding it all together still.

Fast forward to the present day and I just see pain ahead if relegation happens this time, with Mike Ashley still the owner and to make matters far far worse, Steve Bruce still in position.

Giving further contracts to the likes of Ritchie and Shelvey has been a disaster in my opinion, with the wages they are on and their ages, we would struggle to even give them away now. Short-term decisions made to try and help Mike Ashley  through this period before a club would hopefully go through, instead of refreshing the squad with the level of business needed in and out.

If relegated, we would see Wilson, ASM and Almiron leave for starters, both because they’d want it and Ashley would demand it, to cut costs and generate money to subsidise the relegation. However, with Covid driving down prices and Wilson 30 next birthday, I think NUFC would only bank around £35m-£40m at very most for the trio.

I’m guessing they would look to find a club to loan Joelinton to and get them to pay most of his wages if possible, as nobody would make an offer to buy which would be within a million miles of what Mike Ashley would demand to save face.

As things currently stand, the following will all be out of contract this summer – Carroll, Gayle, Schar, Fernandez, Murphy, Atsu and Willock.

I wouldn’t see Ryan Fraser fancying Championship football and both Hayden and Lascelles I think would see it as time to call it a day and see if they can restart their career elsewhere. I think Dubravka the same with age very much against him, having belatedly made it in one of the big European leagues.

Newcastle United left with a very slow ageing team which would include some real hopeless players such as Krafth and Hendrick, alongside Ritchie and Shelvey, plus some grafters like Dummett, Clark and Manquillo.

A base of a team that as I say is slow and ageing and lacking creativity and goals.

One rare positive could be local lads Elliot Anderson and the Longstaffs but they have been so badly handled by Steve Bruce, you wonder how they would react, especially the two brothers, at suddenly been seen as valuable members of the first team squad.

With a bit of a fire sale, you might well see over £50m of sales, however, I doubt whether much of that would be allowed for rebuilding. It would be similar to summer 2009 when anything that he got an acceptable offer for, Mike Ashley sold, yet gave Chris Hughton nothing. The then caretaker NUFC boss starting a promotion campaign with only frees and loans as new additions.

A new manager bounce in recent weeks would surely have produced more than the three points from the last three games and also a chance of avoiding what I see now as a certain defeat at Brighton.

If relegated and no sale of club, this summer would be an austerity special under Mike Ashley, if then Steve Bruce remained on top of all of the above…I would say very little chance of promotion at the first attempt.

If that then happens and you don’t get straight back up, it can become very much a slippery slope as you have seen at so many other clubs.

Prevention is always preferable to a cure but unfortunately Mike Ashley prefers to wait until the iceberg hits before deciding something might have to be done, instead of the sensible route of changing direction earlier and avoiding the iceberg altogether.

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