A few days have passed now since arguably Newcastle’s worst deadline day in recent memory. We have had some bad one’s for sure but to not strengthen this time round ,when we desperately needed additions, feels like a mistake that is going to have serious consequences.
Farce on deadline day
Newcastle fans are used to staying up to disappointment every August and January but this was particularly alarming. It became clear early afternoon no business was going to be done, indeed, a panic loan move for Southampton’s reserve left back even failed to materialise. We have been told all window we need to move players out to free up the wage bill and space in the squad, before we can invest.
Lazaar was loaned out despite us having no cover at left back and De Jong, Hanley and Riverie were shipped out too. It was also finally the end for Tim Krul who was incredibly loaned out to a relegation rival. He may not be part of our plans but to loan him to Brighton of all people seemed odd. It was clear we needed at a minimum, a striker and a number 10 all window.
Dwight Gayle was even effectively floated on the market for a few days to no avail and now must be re-integrated into the squad. There has to be serious questions raised as to whether Lee Charnley is good enough to to retain his position as deal maker for NUFC. However, the likely wider issue may well be that heperformed his role perfectly for Ashley, cutting the wage bill and gambling with our Premiership future with the smallest outlay possible. The claim that Charnley reports to Rafa now seems more ridiculous than ever.
Newcastle’s lack of ambition
After a decade of ownership, Ashley has not really showed any desire to take Newcastle to the next level. We got lucky with some excellent scouting to sign the likes of Cabaye, Ben Arfa and Tiote to propell us to that one season in 5th but after that, success has dried up. After two relegations, finally securing a world class manager made fans think Ashley has finally learned from his mistakes; it is his investment after all.
However, Benitez looks to be joining a list of manager’s who have been alienated by our owner. Keegan famously said that Newcastle will go nowhere under Ashley and this statement is more poignant than ever. Mike did another of his Sky interviews saying we can’t complete with Man City and we certainly can’t. Despite press sterotypes, Newcastle fans know this and do not expect top four.
However, a net spend of a measly £11m this window just isn’t good enough and when Brighton and Huddersfield have net spends of over £30 and £40m respectively, you know this was a deliberate and calculated lack of ambition. Every Premier League team has broken their transfer record in the last 24 months as TV money floods into the Premier League, whilst we still sit on the Michael Owen record transfer of over ten years ago. When Ashley bought the club, we had the third largest ground in the UK and now it will soon be the 9th as our rivals continue to grow and invest. In the meantime, Ashley’s focus has been to block planning permission so we can’t extend St. James’ – even after his tenure.
We have consistently been in or around the top 20 ‘richest clubs in Europe’ for turnover in the last decade and have sold our top players for good money when offered. The quality of players we have brought isn’t inspiring either. Merino looks a find and there are signs of promise with a few of them but when we had a weak squad originally we shouldn’t be gambling on promise, or players who didn’t cut it at other clubs. Some signings may be questionable calls by the manager but when he is forced to shop in the bargain basement it is clear not all signings are going to be a roaring success.
To not back the manager this window is another massive mistake and the issue is that Ashley doesn’t learn from his mistakes, quite the opposite. We simply go from one error to another under his ownership and are forced to consume a diet of soundbite interviews through Sky every twelve months (not NUFC TV or club statements) while he promotes his other business interests in the public eye. This window showed a remarkable lack of ambition. It is particularly hard to swallow as having a manager like Benitez gives us all the cruellest thing in football, hope. Hope we can build something and once again compete in the top half regularly.
Does Rafa stay?
The marriage between a world class manager and owner such as Ashley is always at the forefront of the press. Since Rafa has arrived there has been a steady stream of speculation of how long we can keep him at NUFC. Now more than ever, this seems at breaking point. Benitez is at Newcastle because he wants to be near his family in Liverpool, has a rapport with the Newcastle fans and could see potential in the club.
After being undermined like this though, the most likely thing keeping him at the club is his contract, if stories are to be believed. Apparently any club wanting Rafa has to pay Newcastle £6m, which I think most clubs wanting him will pay. The issue for Rafa is he apparently has to pay that same figure to the club if he resigns. So effectively, Rafa could stay until another club comes in for him, which won’t be long you would imagine. West Ham have been linked and may make their move should they sack Slaven Bilic.
Newcastle fans will react as they did against West Ham and back Rafa to the hilt. Whilst he is here, he is our hope of staying up and building something, so we need to show him our support. If he leaves either through resignation or to another club I think the vast majority of fans would not blame him. Then you feel it would be the latest crisis and the biggest of Ashley’s reign, with many fans genuinely close to breaking point.
A dull international break may just allow everything to calm down and hopefully come January the club will try and rectify the lack of ambition this summer. Though being NUFC and Ashley, I wouldn’t hold out much hope for that and you get the sense there is far more fallout to come over the coming months.
About Simon Riddlesden
Lifelong Newcastle United fan and East Stand season ticket holder. Observations from a supporter who has followed NUFC during Champions League participation and through relegation, taking me from Milan to Scunthorpe.