Recently it’s started to occur to me more and more that Newcastle are really following things by the book.
You may be confused by what “by the book” actually refers to; it’s an actual book – Soccernomics, about business in football.
Some of you may have read it, and some may not but I’ll sum up the main bit I’m referring too.
The bit I’m going on about is the transfer side of the book and the chapter about Lyon and their transfer policy which was introduced by Jean Michael Aulas.
I could look into them on a Lyon perspective and quote the book, but I’m not, instead I’m going to show how they match up to Newcastle and how they’re going to make us an effective force in the Premier League, without blowing huge cash.
Wisdom of the crowds: Many clubs just have a manager and a chief scout who look at players than suggest them to the board. Lyon had a group of scouts, plus a club legend, the owner and the manager sit down to work out their transfer targets. Ours certainly isn’t as in depth, but we have Alan Pardew, John Carver and Willie Donachie who all go and watch players. As well as Peter Beardsley in his new role helping to sign young talent, we have Graham Carr our chief scout who recommends players to be signed. Below him will be other scouts who recommend players also, this shows that we use “wisdom of the crowds” by consulting lots of people before making decisions on the players.
Sign players between the ages of 20 and 22: We’re not quite as strict as Lyon on this part, but we do aim to sign no-one over the age of 26 and we look to snap players up as young as possible and for as cheap as possible. We never pay big money for a real youngster as you don’t know how they’ll perform and if they’ll improve, we only spend above 3 or 4 million pounds on a player who has proven themselves to be a good player, but are not over the hill yet.
Ridiculous bid? Sell him: The best example of this is a certain Andy Carroll, some people say we are a feeder club because of it? Is that really true? Lyon have sold Florent Malouda, Eric Abidal, Mahamadou Diarra and Michael Essien all for big money along with other players, but they’re still a top team, they just replaced them with other players. That’s the key and it’s something we’re lacking a bit at the minute, but it’s coming, slowly. Also to reduce problems players should be replaced before they’re sold, something I feel we may be doing with Cheik Tiote if we sign Benjamin Corgnet.
Players need time, especially when relocating: Lyon dedicated a lot of their time on helping their foreign players bed in, which reaped the rewards. Brazilian players often struggle away from Brazil, but Lyon have helped Fred (doesn’t sound very Brazilian), Edmilson, Juninho and others settle in France and produce brilliant football. They do that by sorting houses for them, sorting out interpreters and bedding them in slowly. That’s something we have definitely done with our Italian, Davide Santon. Davide was slowly integrated into the first team and it looks like it’s paid off, he knows his team mates, he has a better grasp of the language and he knows what the Premier League is about – It should also be noted he has a translator, something else to help him settle in.
Stars of big tournaments are overvalued, ignore them: I can’t really mention Newcastle in this one, simply because we haven’t done it recently. Other teams have been sold the dummy though, for example Sunderland. Asamoah Gyan after a good world cup signed for them for around £13 million, he’s now plying his trade in the UAE.
Certain Nationalities are overvalued: You have to be able to understand the market, and buy accordingly to it. Lyon know that it’s not worth buying an Englishman or even some Spaniards when you can buy a top class Frenchman for half the price. The perfect examples are Albert Luque, Michael Owen and Yohan Cabaye. Michael Owen cost Newcastle around £17 million and he paid back very little of that in effort. Albert Luque cost us around £11 million pound and did very little also. Yohan Cabaye however, he cost us under £5 million and he’s been a revelation on Tyneside, there are exceptions obviously, like Jean-Alain Boumsoung, but we all know he was involved in dodgy payments – Thanks Souness.
Centre forwards are overvalued: This one is an odd one for me to be honest, how can a centre forward be overvalued and be avoided if you need one? But anyway, we didn’t buy one in the summer, we managed to pick one up for free who’s been absolutely brilliant in the form of Demba Ba. We were happy to spend money on other players such as midfielders and defenders, but were reluctant to shell out the cash for a forward, just a thought that they may be thinking about this part of Aulas’ plan.
Personal problems, no worry: This is the big one that relates to NUFC in my opinion. Lyon think if a players has personal problems it can be a bonus, they usually come at knock down price with very little competition as they are seen and treated as “damaged goods”. The club then deal with them however is best and gets the best out of the player. We’ve first done this with Hatem Ben Arfa, someone we got for a cut price of £7 million due to personal problems, without any other clubs wanting the flying Frenchman. But one of the whole reasons I was inspired to write this was our pursuit of Ravel Morrison.
Ravel Morrison is no doubt a brilliant talent, but he has personal problems at Man Utd and has failed to fit in with Fergie’s very strict regime and it seems like they’re going to offload him. Some fans would say stay away, but for a rumoured £1-2 million pounds we could get a young player with immense talent and if we could curb his attitude problems we’d have a £10 million pound player within a few years.
Yes, Jean Michael Aulas has come under criticism from his own fans, and he gets abused every time he sells someone’s favourite player but he always appeases them when he brings them silverware the next year.
Obviously we’re yet to win anything under Mike Ashley, but despite him selling Andy Carroll and Jose Enrique we’ve managed to sustain steady improvement over Alan Pardews spell in charge with us looking favourite to come 7th in the table this year, so we’re improving while making money. That’s Surely a good thing?
Since our return to the Premiership we’ve signed 12 players: Hatem Ben Arfa, Cheik Tiote, Yohan Cabaye, James Perch, Dan Gosling, Sylvain Marveaux, Rob Elliot, Demba Ba, Davide Santon, Gabriel Obertan, Mehdi Abeid and Sol Campbell.
Only one of them players was signed by us when he was over the age of 26, and that was Sol Campbell who was a free transfer. Hatem Ben Arfa, Sylvain Marveaux, Demba Ba and Davide Santon all were being avoided due to injury or disciplinary problems.
Yohan Cabaye and Cheik Tiote were heavily scouted and watched many many times by a number of different NUFC representatives. Rob Elliot is a goalkeeper, who are noted as undervalued and Dan Gosling was a free transfer due to a contract loophole, more extensive research.
That shows how much thought now goes into the transfers at Newcastle United and it really does show how we’re following the “Lyon Approach”. Anybody who is still sceptical of this and believes it doesn’t work, take a look at Lyon’s success.
When Aulas took over Lyon in 1987 they were in the second tier of French football, since then they’ve won the Ligue 2 once, Ligue 1 seven times, 4 coupe de France, 1 coupe de Ligue, 6 Trophee des Champions and although they haven’t won it they’ve held their own in numerous Champions League campaigns.
I’m not saying this is going to win us the league, because in France they have different competition but there’s no reason why if we stick to this plan we cannot keep progressing up the league and be a threat to the teams challenging for 5th and 6th and be a constant top half side.
I know some fans won’t like it, but we’ve tried the spunking money up the wall approach and that has won us absolutely nothing, so why don’t we all give this method a try and see what this brings?
Time will only tell, and so far, it’s looking good!