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Mike Ashley informs Steve Bruce he has more than 3 games to turn it around – report

3 weeks ago
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It is business as usual for Mike Ashley at Newcastle United.

A fifteenth season now well underway, six weeks and six games without a win, despite four of the six matches having been at St James Park.

Out of the League Cup at the first attempt and in the relegation zone, now facing two tough away games before a second international break.

Mike Ashley hasn’t been to a single match so far, Lee Charnley is still in hiding, whilst Steve Bruce has actually reached a new embarrassingly all-time low in the Newcastle United press conferences this season with the nonsense he comes out with, before and after matches.

However, despite his lack of physical presence at St James Park, that is not to say this Premier League club owner doesn’t still pull the strings at St James Park in a very hands on way behind the scenes.

Mike Ashley refused to allow even a free transfer or loan deal once Joe Willock was signed in a deal that would see his transfer fee paid in instalments over a number of years to come.

With Steve Bruce appearing to publicly murmur his disapproval with the owner for the very first time in his 26 months at Newcastle United, Mike Ashley quickly slapped him down with that humiliating (for Steve Bruce) statement that was released by the owner 19 days ago (see below).

Coinciding with that ridiculous public statement from Mike Ashley, claims were made elsewhere that the owner was giving Steve Bruce three more games to turn this particular NUFC HMS Titanic around, as we look yet again to be steaming towards the iceberg marked ‘relegation battle’, a battle that may not be easily won this season with only Norwich suggesting they might be as feeble as the bottom three who went down last season with 28 points or less.

Since that Ashley statement and claims of Bruce having three games left to save his job, Newcastle United have had two matches that have seen a 4-1 hammering at Man Utd and a fortunate 1-1 draw with Leeds who should have had the game sewn up by half-time.

However, despite the ongoing failure, a new report from the Chronicle says that Steve Bruce hasn’t got just this away game at Watford on Saturday to save his job. Indeed, they say their information is that Mike Ashley has made clear that he will give the NUFC Head Coach far longer than another 90 minutes of failure on the pitch, instead they say that the owner will only possibly take action ‘if Newcastle become cut adrift in the relegation zone going into the winter period.’

Now, like many of you I am vert dubious as to exactly what level of inside info the Chronicle have on Mike Ashley’s thoughts and thinking, considering that these days they appear to get pretty much zero special info and exclusives, plus official public club access appears no different to what what every other NUFC media gets. In contrast, Craig Hope (who is currently banned by Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce and has been for a long time) at The Mail has had exclusive after exclusive with behind the scenes info at Newcastle United, particularly issues concerning his best mate, Steve Bruce.

However, that is not to say that I think the Chronicle aren’t on the money with the overall picture they are painting. It is just that my guess would be that they are simply surmising what is the state of play at Newcastle United, using information / background that we are all aware of, rather than any special information.

As we have seen time and time again, so long as his latest patsy stays loyal and doesn’t speak out of turn, Mike Ashley is very very reluctant to sack him / them, regardless of what a mess the team is on the pitch. Kevin Keegan, Chris Hughton and Rafa Benitez on the other hand, all forced out of the club by Mike Ashley for non-football reasons.

Mike Ashley didn’t pay a reported £6m compensation to land Steve Bruce and the other Steves from Championship Sheffield Wednesday because he thought they were the most capable football management unit he could possibly get…nor will he be rushing to pay Steve Bruce the reported £4m he would be due if he was eventually sacked.

We all know the backing Steve Bruce has had from Mike Ashley, indeed far more spent on players during Bruce’s reign than any previous Newcastle boss in history. However, even when in a period of over four months in 2020/21 mid-season Newcastle only won two of twenty one matches, there was absolutely no indication that the sack was coming Bruce’s way.

With NUFC currently on a run of ‘only’ six games (four of them at home) without a win and four of them defeats, it would be remarkable if Mike Ashley suddenly had an attack of common sense.

In his daft 3 September 2021 statement, Mike Ashley declared about the supposed positives of this current NUFC squad and the positive signs from April / May 2021…’top six of the form table over the final nine fixtures, the club at all levels maintains a strong belief in its current squad.’

Surely after three or so more games then, Mike Ashley would be reassessing his positivity after nine fixtures of this 2021/22 season, unless something very positive happens against Watford and Wolves away, then Spurs at home. Ashley of course failed to say in his statement what that run of two wins in twenty one matches had suggested…

If Newcastle United were to sack Steve Bruce then at the start of an international break is usually seen as the best idea at normal clubs, getting somebody in with a bit of time before their first match in charge.

The second international break of this season comes after Wolves away on Saturday 2 October when there will have been seven Premier League games completed, whilst the third international break comes after eleven PL matches, which would be after Brighton away on Saturday 6 November, a game preceded by Spurs home, Palace away and Chelsea home.

Knowing Mike Ashley, talk of change only happening potentially if cut adrift heading into winter…if by some miracle Steve Bruce was sacked, you could just imagine it happening around when we play Brentford at home on 20 November, quite possibly / probably just pushing Graeme Jones into the chaos as caretaker manager ahead of nine Premier League  matches in a five week congested period starting with Arsenal away on 27 November, a game which is then closely followed by Norwich and Burnley both at home within the following seven days.

Strap yourself in, this could be a bumpy ride ahead…

Mike Ashley statement released via Newcastle United – 3 September 2021:

‘Newcastle United would like to provide supporters with an update in relation to the approach taken to the summer 2021 transfer window.

Our commitment to being run in a sustainable manner, which secures the financial viability of the club, is a longstanding one. This does not come at the expense of being ambitious, and it is built on the core principle that we will spend what we have.

The cash generated each year through matchday and non-matchday activities, plus any transfer fees received from player sales, determines how much is available to spend. This relates not only to first team playing squad expenditure, but to all other areas of the club. In simple terms, there is one pot of money and spending in one area reduces the amount available for others.

In a ‘normal’ year, our operating model would generate sufficient funds to enable us to make one or two quality first team additions, as well as investing in other areas. This approach takes time and requires careful management and long-term planning, ensuring that we spend the money we generate wisely to benefit the club.

The last two years have been challenging, with Covid-19 having a considerable impact on the club’s finances and therefore the amount of cash we have available to spend. Internally, all parties have long been aware of the budgetary parameters under which we are operating.

Ahead of the summer transfer window and having made a significant impact after arriving on loan in January 2021, Joe Willock was identified as the club’s primary target.

Once it was confirmed that the player would be available on a permanent deal, a collaborative decision was taken to pursue this option. All parties were aware as to the implications for further squad consolidation, with the collective view being that securing Joe Willock was the right priority. There was a shared understanding that further additions to the playing squad would be heavily influenced by player trading, both in terms of available funds and space in the squad.

The deal to bring Joe Willock to the club was formally completed on Friday 13th August 2021 and we are beyond delighted to have secured him.

Our preference to pay transfer fees up front, rather than spreading payments over several years, is well documented. We believe this approach to be in the club’s long-term interests, giving the club far greater certainty and control over its spending in future windows and seasons.

In negotiating/securing this deal post Covid-19, we acknowledged the need to make an exception and, on this occasion, have spread the transfer fee over instalments. We did so this summer to secure a player who we know makes us stronger and who our head coach was unequivocal in his desire to sign.

Since summer 2019, the club has made nine permanent signings and taken five players on loan. Our net spend over this period is c£120m* (£160m spent on players and £40m received from sales). We have delivered on our commitment to spending what we have, and indeed because of our business this summer, have spent more to secure our primary target. To suggest otherwise is misleading and claims that money has been taken out of the club are wholly untrue.

For context, this summer, Sky Sports reported that Newcastle United’s net spend was the tenth highest in the Premier League. The club retained its best players despite the obvious financial challenges.

Having finished last season in 12th place in the Premier League, and in the top six of the form table over the final nine fixtures, the club at all levels maintains a strong belief in its current squad. We have a talented and committed group of players who have shown that they are fully capable of delivering and we ask all our loyal supporters to get behind their team, because we are stronger together.

*Net spend includes assumptions around contingent transfer fees (often dependent on player appearances/league status etc) and those considered likely to fall due at some future date as well as any guaranteed deferred fees. Likewise, not all the fees due to the club have necessarily been received to date.

Put simply, £120m represents our best estimate of the spend the club has made or has committed to make because of the deals done during the five transfer windows since summer 2019 onwards – which is not the same thing as the actual cash in and out during that same period. This approach reflects the reality that trading done in any transfer window flows through into the club’s day to day cash balances over a period of time.’

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