There were some revealing quotes in Rafa Benitez’s latest press conference, where he delivered some clear frustration and a cry for unity in equal measure. It’s clearer than ever that this club is just not going to progress under the ownership of Mike Ashley. This isn’t fresh news and most fans will have come to their own realisation on this months or even years ago.
But finally having a world class manager deliver the news we all knew as fans made it sink in all the more. Ashley needs to sell up and let the club progress.
The lack of investment – It’s not like Rafa didn’t warn him
“I was very clear in my meetings, and I was right. I was right because I was telling them this, that, that.
“Because we cannot change these things now, what you have to do is concentrate on West Brom. But again, I will say, the message is very simple: we knew that could happen.”
Rafa clearly warned Ashley over the summer that investment was key to help shape us into a club capable of competing in the Premier League. Prices may have been ridiculously inflated, but Ashely’s done it on the cheap once again. You can be sure Joselu, Manquillo and Murphy weren’t players high on Rafa’s shopping list. It’s a very clear dig at Ashley. I warned you that this could happen – Rafa is essentially telling Ashley that he should now realise that relegation is a real possibility, and that he should’ve heeded his ‘clear’ summer warning.
On this lack of investment, the graph below shows just how farcical this claim was and also our spending in the summer. A good scouting system, being tough sellers, finding ‘hidden gems’ are always desirable but your whole transfer strategy can’t be to cut corners. As we continue to find out, a lack of investment is a sure fire way to ensure failure on the pitch.
We can’t even compete financially with Huddersfield?!
“We have to compete against Huddersfield & Brighton but we couldn’t sign the players they signed or pay the wages they paid.
“We are where we are because we did what we did. We couldn’t sign players and couldn’t pay wages or the fee.”
— The Chronicle (@ChronicleNUFC) November 27, 2017
This was the most depressing part of the press conference and a stark reminder of just how much we have declined under Ashley. I am sure the potential of the NUFC is what keeps Rafa here, but the sorry truth is that under Ashley, this is where we are. Although relegation was in partly caused by Ashley, I could still have accepted not even being able to compete with the likes of Watford and Bournemouth for this season. The logic being that the TV money had increased the year we went down and we missed that gravy train for 12 months, so it wouldn’t be another season until we would also get those benefits.
But not being to compete for players against Brighton and Huddersfield – far smaller clubs and ones we can above last season in the Championship – is just not good enough.
It is worth noting that we did have TV money which dwarfed the Championship for a few seasons before we went down, something neither of these sides had. Quite why we can’t spend like they can, which isn’t vast in today’s market, is down squarely to Mike not wanting to invest any money. This reality makes a mockery of his claim of Sky Sports we can’t compete with the likes of Manchester City.
January – investment relies on a takeover
“But in January, it could be even worse [and we may not be able to strengthen], so we have to stick together and be sure that until the end of the season, we maximise what we have.
The excitement of a potential takeover still lingering, but with time running out as far as a pre-Christmas sale goes, the message from Rafa was to dampen expectations. I get the sense he is waiting this season out, staying loyal to the club in the hope we have new investment come the summer. That would be plenty of time for Ashley to sell up but would leave Rafa with the tough job of keeping us up with his squad of players. Despite a poor run, we are still on track for this and two wins from our next six games puts us on 20 points at that the half way stage.
If there is no news soon, perhaps a deal could be agreed in principle with a new owner to buy in the summer, on the condition we stay up. It would be classic Ashley to then gamble and leave Rafa short in January once again.
Let’s hope the takeover happens ASAP to stop us falling any further under Ashley’s poisonous reign. It’s the key to any success and real future with Rafa Benitez in charge.