Now bear with me on this one. I was sort of asked this question yesterday when someone said to me Sunday was a brilliant way to finish the season, with us winning at Fulham and every other result going our way meaning a 12th place finish and a significant cash boost.
But I thought about it and my reply was “was it though?”
In terms of money coming in – every league places is worth a few million quid these days – and league position I guess it was, but in terms of being able to buy Joe Willock and seeing the departure of Steve Bruce it wasn’t!
Willock’s goal added to his ever-increasing price tag once again and the 12th place finish probably said one thing to the onlooking Mike Ashley – ‘Bruce can definitely keep us up until I finally find new buyers’.
I’m pleasantly surprised by our turnaround over the past two months and give credit for that period, but I’m not going to change my opinion on the manager. Up to and including that Brighton debacle I couldn’t understand how he’d survived. The football was atrocious and the results even worse.
Remember those 2 wins in 22? I do. It also included only being able to knock Newport County out of the League Cup on penalties. Allowing Sheffield Utd their first win of very few in the season and not being able to beat Brentford reserves. I was vociferous in calling for Bruce’s head.
In the same vein I acknowledge and credit him with being a part of what has come since that Brighton game. You can’t say it was his fault for what went before and then give him no credit for the turnaround. Yes, the players had to respond and did but he deserves some credit as well.
But if there’s no takeover we’re told, via The Mail’s Simon Jones, that only £12m (plus player sales) will be in the kitty to spend in the summer. That means no Joe Willock for starters and probably means we have to sell ASM and anyone else that might fetch money to revamp the squad – and I think we all agree it’s a squad needing revamping.
Remember too that Ashley having received a huge £769m boost to his personal wealth could sack Bruce, keep ASM and let a new manager buy pretty much who they wanted too. But we all know that’s never ever going to happen even if Ashley was richer than the PIF. He only spends when the need is there to do so, and he currently sees a team nowhere near relegation in the end (we finished 17 clear of Fulham!) and, as a result, a side he has no interest investing in while he waits for the arbitration case.
Plus, if there’s no takeover then Bruce is going nowhere as Ashley would have to pay compensation, which to him would be wasted money he’s not going to part with. Ashley will merely point to the finishing position and the plaudits lauded on Bruce by the overzealous media.
All of which means to me that perhaps Sunday wasn’t a good day for NUFC as it may well have just doomed us to another season of relegation struggle possibly without ASM and probably without Willock as well.
This in my opinion is the ultimate reason not to celebrate the run at the end of the season too loudly and why I feel we face a summer that may be paved with tarmac and grit rather than gold.