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Is this new Newcastle United manager delay a major problem?

3 weeks ago

In some quarters, the new NUFC owners have come under fire for the time taken to appoint a new Newcastle United manager.

Should we be worried?

The most straight forward defence is that the takeover happened quickly. Ashley’s tribunal case over alleged anti-competitive practice yielded results, predicted in these columns, but perhaps faster than might have been anticipated.

We might expect potential new owners to have had a strategy in place.

In reality, whilst a short list might have already been compiled, sometimes the real world gets in the way. Given the timing, some of the top targets may have been employed last summer. Buy out clauses may be prohibitive, hence the immediate talent pool available may be limited.

For those of us who are supporters, we can take a shorter term view. We needed to get rid of Bruce. There is some quality on the market. However, the owners will want to consider their strategy for the short, medium and longer terms. Yes, there may be specialists in avoiding relegation, but is that the right thing to do?

In the short term, the immediate issue is to secure the Premier League place. In the longer term, we have an investment fund in charge who will seek to maximise the return on their investment. Given the valuations of other clubs, it seems reasonable to emulate the value of a club like Manchester United, currently worth £3 billion, from a stake of 10% of that, or thereabouts, if reports are to be believed.

This brings the question back to who is available and has the potential to progress through the different levels. Champions League places secure the next level of income.

It is worth a look back to where increases in club revenue are likely.

OK, so step 1 is to secure current revenues.

Step 2 is to progress and…

Step 3, to learn the lessons of history, both for our club and for our near competitors.

When the Champions League expanded to four English clubs qualifying, we were in the mix. Arguably, those in charge at the time wasted the opportunity, although the value of the Champions League qualification back in 2003 was not what it is now. The only signing that summer was Lee Bowyer on a free transfer.

It might be argued that Ashley’s biggest mistake was not to learn from the history. Yes, we finished on the fringes in 5th in 2012 but the only signing for the senior squad was Vurnon Anita. We failed to kick on.

It may also be in the pages of The Mag that a sensible strategy for any club is to push to the fringes and aim to take advantage of any lapses in the form of what was then the top four. After all, from 2004 to 2009, we consistently saw the same four (plus Everton for a season) of Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool using their extra funds to consolidate.

Spurs took advantage of slips by Liverpool in 2010, 2016 and 2019 to make themselves part of a top six. City slipped in 2011 and 2013, becoming a regular fixture from 2016. That is when Arsenal dropped out, struggling to both pay for their new stadium as well as competing with other moneyed teams.

This brings us to the dilemma for the new owners when it comes to appointing the new Newcastle United manager. The stand out candidate on the market currently is Conte. Is he a builder or is he one of those who refines teams for a final onslaught? Benitez has done both and is not ostensibly available. Wenger has built a legacy but is from the past, sadly perhaps.

So in terms of strategy, what do we go for? Yes, a short term saviour who we may pay off in a year. We could go for managers who know the league, shown themselves to have a philosophy of growth and a degree of loyalty, if so, the likes of Howe and Martinez spring to mind.

Of the others available, do any of them identify as having a philosophy that is consistent and in line with what we want to see? How do we identify another Wenger? There are plenty of managers who have won in what might be regarded as lesser leagues or as a one off but a huge element of risk attaches to all of them – Fonseca, Gattuso, Favre, Jardim.

In the past, there were managers who were obvious, sharing supporters’ passion for the club such as Robson and Keegan. We struck lucky with Hughton and Cox years ago. Of current managers who have that connection, perhaps Mourinho is the closest match but, like others, is tied to an expensive contract.

This decision can take time but not too much. There is one match before an international break and there are other clubs who may soon take up some of the available candidates as well as creating new candidates. In the ideal world, we will get a builder who has a dream to share with us.

Whoever it is, let’s support them to the hilt and hope for a good decision on the new Newcastle United manager this week. We need to plan for January to attract the players we want, for now and for the future.


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