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Opinion

Newcastle United – Trust issues

3 weeks ago
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Nobody ever said it would be easy supporting Newcastle United.

Well if they did they were lying!

Following Newcastle United has always been a rollercoaster ride and probably always will be, so just a case of strapping yourself in and desperately holding on the best you can.

Obviously, it will massively depend on how old you are, in terms of how you would trace the path of your NUFC rollercoaster ride, the longer you have been strapped in, probably the less likely you are to overreact to any sudden lows or highs.

Of course, on 7 October 2022 everything changed.

Basically, the rollercoaster had all but broken down for 14+ years, with all the passengers stranded. Pretty much anything that did happen apart from 2011/12 was a low, with twice the safety brake totally failing and Newcastle United freefalling into the Championship.

As I say though, the new Newcastle United owners arrived and everybody celebrated the departure of Mike Ashley, at long last.

This is where the media get / got it so wrong, for the overwhelming majority of Newcastle supporters, first and foremost the celebrations were about at last getting rid of Ashley. The identity of the new owners very much secondary to that.

We know all the arguments and controversy that has surround the Saudi PIF part of the new ownership but purely in terms of the club possibly being able to start and try to compete now, the possibility had opened up. Not forgetting as well (as all the media do, for whatever bizarre reason) that another part of the new ownership involved the richest family in the UK.

Almost ten months later and we now know a lot more about how this new Newcastle United is possibly going to look. The new owners keep things very close to their collective chests but occasionally put information out through friendly media, as well as things becoming public beyond their control, such as the accounts and other filings that legally have to be made public at Companies House, likewise the improvements at the training ground that had to go through council planning approval and therefore open to the public gaze.

So, now we are at this point getting on for a year later, I find it very strange that a fair few fans appear to have trust issues with the Newcastle United owners and the people who they have appointed.

Basically, doubting the decision making of all at St James’ Park, especially when it comes to the transfer market.

Now, like the rest of you (and pretty much the entire media, all of the time), I don’t have inside information as to what the plans are, why decisions are made and so on.

Which means, it is all down to trust, at least in my opinion.

Once the Kevin Keegan thing happened, I never trusted Mike Ashley. Why would you??? However, some people did and at various stages over the course of his 14+ years, the penny dropped for everybody but the most deluded. Mainly those who don’t want to believe the truth because that then means admitting the club is a total joke and has no chance of ever succeeding under this ownership. Of course it was far far worse than that, as Ashley’s ‘plan’ never even included any ambitions in terms of trying to be successful on the pitch. His only plan was for the club to get by on the lowest spend as possible, whilst surviving in the Premier League and helping him personally…and his tat empire, to get as rich as possible via free / next to nothing global advertising / promotion via the Premier League’s worldwide TV exposure.

Which brings us to this new lot.

A vocal minority of fans now doubting / not trusting the new Newcastle United owners. Or at least not trusting their judgement.

What I know for sure is that a lot of people believe what they want to believe. They might slag off the entire media all of the time BUT if they read something that they want to believe…

A story went round that Lucas Paqueta has been made available by Lyon for £34m, leading to plenty of these Newcastle fans screaming (from their keyboards) what are the club doing???? Why can’t the owners and Eddie Howe, Dan Ashworth etc see this, it is so obvious!!!

Naturally, doing all-nighters in their bedrooms (still living with the parents) on Football Manager has absolutely given them the depth of knowledge and experience, that qualifies them better than those who actually do this for a living in the real world.

Not only Paqueta (one of the best attacking midfielders in the world, first choice for Brazil, but Lyon would sell him for £34m and no other club would be offering more than that…really???) but get Moussa Diaby as well, surely that makes absolute sense. Never mind the cost or whether he would actually want to come to Newcastle, just get him. These people make up lists of players that NUFC should sign, as we all do, BUT they are convinced that it is so easy to actually do in reality. I even see them convinced that certain stellar targets could even be got on a loan now (which means absolutely no excuse for Newcastle not to sign them) because of something they might have read online. Exactly why clubs would let their best players leave on loan, instead of keeping them or selling them to a host of other clubs who would pay good money now, doesn’t seem to enter their heads.

I am very open minded about the Newcastle United owners, in terms of how they run the club, their intentions when buying NUFC, what their plans are and so on. Unlike many others, I don’t see them as Santa Claus figures, who have descended on St James’ Park with their only intention being to make life better for Newcastle fans.

That is immaterial to me. I simply judge them on what they do at Newcastle United, how they run the club, who they appoint, what decisions they make and so on. Then how these decisions etc impact what happens on the pitch.

When it comes to appointments, they have taken on Eddie Howe, Dan Ashworth and Darren Eales, all well respected and with a track record of achieving in their roles.

In running the club so far, the NUFC owners have backed the judgement of Eddie Howe and others with around £160m to spend on seven players, so far.

Inheriting a mid-season situation / shambles which looked like certain relegation, under the new owners that has been turned around to an eventual eleventh place finish and the third best form in the Premier League in the final 19 games.

Amazingly, it looks to me like they just might have got one or two things right, so far.

Unless you only started following football in recent days, you will know that in football, unlike pretty much any other  business, you can do everything right BUT once the whistle goes, things can go against you. Heaven forbid, you might even lose the odd friendly or two by the odd goal, in games where results most definitely don’t matter.

The reality is that football clubs that are well run on and off the pitch, if they make enough correct decisions and show ambition, invest sensibly, then they will almost certainly succeed in the longer-term.

On what I have seen so far, I trust what the Newcastle United owners are doing, in terms of that building a better club on and off the pitch. They have shown ambition, spent money, appointed high quality people, then entrusted them with deciding which players the money should be spent on. This is doing things properly, the absolute opposite of the 14+ years of Mike Ashley.

Look at the January transfer window.

The owners and Eddie Howe signed up Kieran Trippier and Chris Wood early in the window so they could impact as many games as possible. Wilson’s likely season ending injury picked up on 27 December 2021 saw the owners and Howe make the brave and ruthless decision to pay Wood’s £25m release clause because United didn’t have a Premier League level striker available for the rest of the season. In Wood’s 15 PL starts, Newcastle picked up 29 points, whilst Burnley who lost their first choice striker were relegated.

Wood and Trippier helped Newcastle pick up four points from six in their two January PL games, it would have been two wins but the last minute against Watford saw poor defending by Almiron and Lascelles, gifting a last gasp equaliser.

With the next PL game not until 8 February 2022 (Everton at home), not as much of a desperate rush to bring in additional reinforcements, so Premier League experienced and ready to hit the ground running…Dan Burn and Matt Targett arriving on deadline day (31 January 2022). Newcastle had unsuccessfully made repeated efforts to sign Diego Carlos and Sven Botman in January but admitting defeat (temporarily in Botman’s case) turned to Geordie boy Dan Burn. What a signing he proved!

He and Targett for a combined £16m (Burn £13m transfer fee and Targett £3m loan fee) were the key additions who helped Newcastle stay up.

Bruno Guimaraes actually signed up the day before that pair and he has been the absolute cherry on top of the icing on the cake.

A calculated risk, this signing of Brazil international midfielder Bruno has proved inspired. Who knows what would have happened had Newcastle gone down!!! With a World Cup in November, could / would Bruno have really played in the Championship???

Anyway, he clearly wasn’t signed primarily for the relegation fight, as Eddie Howe didn’t give him his first start until mid-March at Southampton, it was then April before Bruno first started a game at St James’ Park.

Big brave decisions all around and they all came off, almost like they had a plan…

Moving on to this summer and the owners, Eddie Howe, Dan Ashworth and others, have bought Pope, Targett and Botman early, in time to have a full pre-season with the rest of the squad.

A bid was accepted for Hugo Ekitike by FC Reims but he ended up choosing PSG instead.

We have three buys who are all ready and primed for the new season, with now attacking signings set to be added. Far more difficult signings to make, goalscorers and creative players, I absolutely trust the people / process at Newcastle United now, to make the best decisions as they see them.

Once they step on the pitch there are still no guarantees BUT I think Newcastle United is now operating as an ambitious Premier League club and is employing the right people, who even more importantly are then been backed to use their judgement.

Inevitably, some things won’t work out, but that applies to everybody in any line of work who has ever been in a position where they have to make decisions.

If by the time Newcastle United kick off against Nottingham Forest, the rest of the Brazil squad haven’t joined Bruno Guimaraes and Joelinton at St James’ Park, then maybe there is a valid reason why it hasn’t happened, so far…

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