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Lee Charnley – Quite astonishing looking back at what he ‘said’ when becoming NUFC MD 7 years ago

5 days ago
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Mike Ashley statement, Steve Bruce foreign holiday, Lee Charnley in hiding – What’s the problem?

Just another international break that Newcastle United fans have been enjoying…

With Newcastle United looking a shambles, certainly defensively, in the three defeats and fortunate draw against Southampton, the news that Steve Bruce was in Portugal, rather than spending an intensive two weeks of preparation for a visit to Old Trafford, was laughable, though not a surprise for fans.

Which kind of sums up the ‘expectations’ supporters have of Newcastle United these days.

Just when you think they can’t sink any lower, they prove you wrong…speaking of which, Mike Ashley also chose this shambolic time to throw his latest hand grenade into the mix.

The owner releasing that ridiculous statement on Friday, indicating that Newcastle fans were deluded if they’d expected any loan signings on top of the one transfer concluded, a £20m+ deal for Joe Willock to be paid in instalments.

Mike Ashley forgetting to add the name of Lee Charnley on the end of his daft statement, which also sought clearly to point a finger of blame at Steve Bruce. Amidst rumours of Bruce not happy about the lack of transfer backing, the Mike Ashley statement indicating that the Head Coach was fully aware that if Willock was bought then it would mean no money for anybody else.

Why there was no name attached to the owner’s statement is an unanswered mystery, although usually when something daft is shoved out by Mike Ashley, Lee Charnley is normally used as his shield, the NUFC fanbase largely happy to believe this is more stupidity / incompetence from the hapless Managing Director.

As a bit of background to the Lee Charnley stuff below, this is what The Athletic had to say about him on 10 June 2021:

‘With his shaven head and thick-rimmed spectacles, he is a distinctive figure, but biographical details are scarce. Senior figures who were at the club when he joined remember Charnley as the “office boy”, or the “tea boy”, someone who used “to hand out the team sheets at reserves games”, an administrator who was “entirely unremarkable”. He is a survivor, “the last man standing”, according to one.’

If you had no idea who Lee Charnley was and simply read some basic ‘facts’, you might well think he was some kind of latter day Mr Newcastle United.

The 43 year old from Lancashire has been at Newcastle United for 22 years now, has been a Director the last 13, as well as Managing Director for over seven years.

So what qualities does Lee Charnley have, that makes him perfect for the job?

Well, whilst not that competitive for your typical Premier League MD, the latest official Newcastle United accounts showed that Mike Ashley had paid Lee Charnley £675,000 for the 2019/20 season, more than double the 2018/19 figure.

The perception of Newcastle fans is that Charnley’s handsomely rewarded in return for deflecting as much blame / flak away from Mike Ashley as possible, whilst in the totally ridiculous way NUFC are run, Lee Charnley is now the only token named director at the club and the only person, officially named as an executive working at St James Park.

Despite all of these years as a club employee, including so long as a Director and then MD as well, the vast majority of Newcastle fans have never even heard him speak!

Researching this article, I revisited the official club statement (see below) and Lee Charnley ‘quotes’ when he was appointed Mike Ashley’s Managing Director in April 2014.

What a bonus it was when I found out what he had claimed / promised as his vision for the future of Newcastle United under the Ashley and Charnley leadership…

“The Club has never been in such a stable and healthy financial position, which gives us the best possible platform from which to grow. I am confident that with our dedicated, hardworking and loyal employees, together with Alan Pardew and his backroom staff, we will progress the Club, both on and off the field over the coming years.”

Only two years later Newcastle United were relegated, Mike Ashley’s second in only seven Premier League seasons.

“…we will not pay over the odds or make knee-jerk decisions. Every player we sign represents a major investment and mistakes are costly which is why we will continue to be prudent in our transfer dealings. This is the reality of a well-run football club like ours.”

Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley forced Rafa Benitez out of the club so that the owner could fulfil his mad quest for NUFC to pay £43m for striker Joelinton (6 goals in 72 PL appearances and can’t even get in the team these days).

“As a board we will continue to make the final decisions on all player transfers.”

Within only two years and after overseeing his second NUFC relegation, Mike Ashley was forced to bin this, at least temporarily, in order to get Rafa Benitez to sign his three year contract to dig Ashley out of the mess he’d created. However, Ashley moving back to his favoured position where the manager (or head coach…) has no say on transfers, when Steve Bruce was plucked from the Championship.

“Our transfer policy and strategy is very clear and will remain unchanged. We will focus on identifying and recruiting young players whose best years are ahead of them, which in nearly all cases means players in their early to mid-20s and not beyond.”

Only one player (Willock) signed in summer 2021 so impossible to tell what ‘strategy’, if any, Ashley now operates. However, the signings of Carroll, Hendrick, Gillespie, Wilson, Fraser clearly seeing a major shift when it came to the running of the Titanic / Newcastle United…

“…it is crucial that we have a youth development strategy that is producing home grown talent who can develop and feed into the system, thereby contributing to the depth within our squad.

“Our Academy’s Category One status gives us an excellent platform for maximising the potential of the region’s young footballing talent and providing the best possible opportunities for local youngsters.

Our aim is to be the best Academy in the region by a considerable distance, ensuring that the most talented local players end up at Newcastle United, not elsewhere.”

Newcastle United’s arguably two most promising youth prospects of recent seasons left for other clubs ASAP, Lewis Gibson to Everton and Bobby Clark to Liverpool.

Meanwhile, the Longstaff brothers have been totally messed about, especially regarding contracts. Sean Longstaff is set to be out of contract at the end of this season (June 2022) and is still on the same money / contract he signed in December 2018 BEFORE he had played a single minute of PL football. The midfielder reportedly on money that is only between 5% and 10% of what Jonjo Shelvey and others earn.

“The Club has long been focused on keeping football affordable for our supporters and that will remain a priority for us.”

Despite over 10,000 season tickets unsold and over 8,000 empty seats for the Southampton match, the cheapest adult ticket (outside of the family enclosure) for the Leeds game is £40.

“Our average attendance for league games so far this season has been more than 50,000, making us the third best supported club in England. We want to see St James’ Park full throughout the season…”

Under Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley, in seven years Newcastle have progressed to become the seventh best supported PL club and as for ‘full’…December 2019 saw Ashley handing out 10,000 free season tickets to fill the empty seats.

Average Premier League Crowds 8 September 2021“Of

“We are also committed to our current strategy in relation to communication between the Club and its supporters. At the beginning of the season we launched a new Fans Forum, with members representing our diverse fanbase. It has been an open, honest and productive forum and it will continue to be our primary means of direct supporter communication and engagement.”

Newcastle United Fans Forum meetings were supposed to take place four times a year but they had been decreasing all of the time, ending up with only two in 2016, two in 2017 and two in 2018.

Indeed, there has been only two Newcastle United Fans Forum meetings in 29 months and none at all in the most recent 14 months (last one in September 2018) before on Friday 29 November 2019 the club made an official announcement that they were permanently at an end.

Mike Ashley breaking all the Premier League rules on the club having proper regular dialogue with fans, too afraid to have the fans forums in case of any awkward questions. This despite the club writing the minutes AND choosing who was on the fans forum.

Our three core income streams – broadcast, matchday and commercial – it is only our commercial income that we are able to affect to any great degree, especially given our commitment to keeping ticket prices affordable for our fans.

“We have made great strides in this respect recently…”

Hmmm….

Commercial Revenue Premier League Clubs 2007-2020

“The extra revenue we are able to generate from commercial deals translates ultimately to the amount of money we have available to invest in the Club.

“We will look, where possible, to use this revenue to invest not just in the squad, but into improving other areas of the business, including the stadium and its facilities, the Academy, the first team Training Centre and more.”

Hmmmmmm…

Premier League Spending

“Supporters will be aware that we have recently announced plans to build a new multi-million-pound state-of-the-art training complex which we hope will be completed in early 2016. This is our vision and strategy for the years ahead.”

Mike Ashley announced in 2013 that this ‘state-of-the-art’ training complex was essential if Newcastle were going to be able to compete and that it would be built ASAP. Still not a single brick laid.

“The purpose of this statement is to communicate with our supporters in an open and transparent manner and we hope that it provides a clear outline of our intentions.

“I can assure supporters that the board and everyone associated with the Club aim to make Newcastle United the best it can be, pound for pound.”

Lee Charnley apologised on 11 August 2019 on behalf of himself and Ashley, the date of Steve Bruce’s first match, for the shocking and totally unacceptable lack of communication from the club hierarchy. Promising that things would massively improve from that point on and no longer just relying on the manager / head coach speaking / communicating with media and fans.

Two years on, somehow communication and the ‘transparent manner’ has got even worse!!!

Newcastle United Official Statement – 7 April 2014:

Newcastle United have announced the appointment of Lee Charnley as the Club’s new Managing Director.

Lee, who previously held the position of Football Secretary and has been a director at the Club since 2008, has taken up his new role with immediate effect.

Owner Mike Ashley will also be formally appointed to the Club’s Board of Directors, joining Lee and Finance Director John Irving.

Speaking after his appointment, Lee outlined the Board’s plans and expectations for the Club.

“It is a real honour to be confirmed as Managing Director,” he said.

“I have been with the Club for almost 15 years and have seen a great many changes in my time here.

“The Club has never been in such a stable and healthy financial position, which gives us the best possible platform from which to grow.

“I am confident that with our dedicated, hardworking and loyal employees, together with Alan Pardew and his backroom staff, we will progress the Club, both on and off the field over the coming years.

“Our immediate priority of course is to finish this season as strongly as possible. Our minimum target for this campaign was a top ten finish, but I can assure our supporters that everyone at Newcastle United will do their utmost to ensure the Club finishes in the highest league position it can.

“At the beginning of the season all our staff and players were incentivised should we finish in tenth position and above, and our commitment to achieving this will continue right up until the final whistle on 11th May.

“To their credit, the players, led by the captain, agreed to this incentive scheme despite our 16th place finish last season.

“Looking ahead to future seasons, our primary focus will remain the Premier League.

“Our preparations for the summer transfer window have already begun of course, and our challenge is to make sure we spend the funds we have available in a careful and considered way in order to ensure that we get the maximum benefit from every pound we invest in the squad.

“We will continue to operate in a financially responsible manner and live within our means. This Club is financially strong and there is money to spend if the deal is right and we are confident a player can add quality to the squad.

“That said, we will not pay over the odds or make knee-jerk decisions. Every player we sign represents a major investment and mistakes are costly which is why we will continue to be prudent in our transfer dealings. This is the reality of a well-run football club like ours.

“We can be proud that we already meet, and in fact exceed, the requirements of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations and in our latest set of published accounts we recorded a profit for our third consecutive year.

“We will continue to manage our finances in this sustainable manner and will not accrue debt in order to achieve short-term gains.

“It is also important that we don’t over-promise and under-deliver for our supporters, players and staff. False expectations lead to disappointment and frustration, hence why we will keep our transfer business confidential and will not be drawn into commenting on the media speculation and rumour that exists in this digital world.

“As a board we will continue to make the final decisions on all player transfers. Clearly, however, the manager and his team have a very significant involvement in such decisions and will be instrumental in making recommendations in relation to the squad.

“Our transfer policy and strategy is very clear and will remain unchanged. We will focus on identifying and recruiting young players whose best years are ahead of them, which in nearly all cases means players in their early to mid-20s and not beyond.

“We don’t look at transfer windows in isolation, but rather as a full trading year, and our intention for the first team is to sign one or two players per year to strengthen the squad.

“In addition, we aim to strengthen the squad underneath the first team in order to make sure we have a strong group of players pushing our regular first team for a starting place each week. This is essential to bring out the best in everyone and provide an important element of continuity to the squad for the longer term.

“To achieve that it is crucial that we have a youth development strategy that is producing home grown talent who can develop and feed into the system, thereby contributing to the depth within our squad.

“Our Academy’s Category One status gives us an excellent platform for maximising the potential of the region’s young footballing talent and providing the best possible opportunities for local youngsters.

“We have invested heavily in our Academy to achieve Category One status and have made significant improvements in terms of staffing, infrastructure and facilities. Our aim is to be the best Academy in the region by a considerable distance, ensuring that the most talented local players end up at Newcastle United, not elsewhere.

“This is why it is important that we grow and strengthen our links with the local community. A strong relationship between the football club and the region is of great mutual benefit and it is something we are committed to.

“Some fantastic work is already undertaken by the Newcastle United Foundation, as well as by our Academy staff, reaching out to local boys clubs, engaging with schools and community groups and providing soccer school coaching programmes around the region.

“The Club has long been focused on keeping football affordable for our supporters and that will remain a priority for us.

“Our average attendance for league games so far this season has been more than 50,000, making us the third best supported club in England. We want to see St James’ Park full throughout the season and we will continue to operate a ticketing policy and pricing structure that keeps Newcastle United one of the most affordable clubs in the Premier League, encouraging family attendance and rewarding our most loyal supporters with long-term price guarantees.

“We are also committed to our current strategy in relation to communication between the Club and its supporters. At the beginning of the season we launched a new Fans Forum, with members representing our diverse fanbase. It has been an open, honest and productive forum and it will continue to be our primary means of direct supporter communication and engagement.

“The commercial side of our business will also be an important priority for us moving forward. While at the moment we can’t compete with the commercial strength of the top six, whose income from sponsorship and advertising deals dwarfs other clubs in the Premier League, we will work hard to drive up our commercial income to give ourselves the best possible chance of competing on the field with those wealthier clubs.

“Of our three core income streams – broadcast, matchday and commercial – it is only our commercial income that we are able to affect to any great degree, especially given our commitment to keeping ticket prices affordable for our fans.

“We have made great strides in this respect recently, having secured the most lucrative sponsorship deal in the Club’s history, with Wonga.

“We are delighted to have them as a partner from a commercial perspective but also because of their desire to work closely with our supporters and in our local community.

“There is however still a lot of work to be done to ensure we are maximising every commercial opportunity available to us. Our plans to host the stadium’s first music concert since 2007 this summer, together with our participation in a high profile pre-season tournament this August in Germany, are evidence of the type of commercial opportunities we are pursuing.

“The extra revenue we are able to generate from commercial deals translates ultimately to the amount of money we have available to invest in the Club.

“We will look, where possible, to use this revenue to invest not just in the squad, but into improving other areas of the business, including the stadium and its facilities, the Academy, the first team Training Centre and more.

“Supporters will be aware that we have recently announced plans to build a new multi-million-pound state-of-the-art training complex which we hope will be completed in early 2016.

“This is our vision and strategy for the years ahead. The purpose of this statement is to communicate with our supporters in an open and transparent manner and we hope that it provides a clear outline of our intentions.

“We all want to see Newcastle United improve, but we are convinced that the best route to achieving this is to do so sustainably, building each season without risking the financial health and stability of the Club.

“I can assure supporters that the board and everyone associated with the Club aim to make Newcastle United the best it can be, pound for pound.”

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