Various sums of money have been bandied around showing the different investment in players at Manchester United and Newcastle United following our somewhat predictable 4-1 defeat at Old Trafford down there on Saturday evening. Right now it’s difficult to conceive of a Mike Ashley owned Newcastle United investing anything like the monies Man Utd weighed in for Pogba, Lukaku et al. That’s probably an unfair comparison because Man Utd is one of, if not the biggest clubs in the world with a global commercial operation, the like of which is unknown anywhere else in football.
There was a time, fading from memory when Newcastle United could go toe-to-toe and the Reds of Old Trafford didn’t look upon a victory over us as “standard” as I over-heard a couple of their fans comment as we made our way away from one of football’s great behemoths. Under Ashley the gap between the Uniteds of Barrack Road and the Borough of Trafford has opened up into what now looks like to be an unbridgeable chasm.
We’ll only become depressed if we continue to muse upon the differences between Man U and Newcastle United however. It’s a somewhat sobering thought that should our club change hands in the next few weeks the price to be paid for it is likely to be less than the summer transfer spending of the two Manchester clubs. By sobering, I mean completely depressing.
Under Mike Ashley’s appalling stewardship the club’s reach to the top of the PL has drifted further away than ever and now we find ourselves playing catch-up with the likes of Burnley, Southampton, West Brom et al. Mike Ashley has achieved absolutely nothing at our club. Without Rafa I really believe the disaster engulfing The Mackems could very well be us.
It’s way back in the days of Joe ‘kin Kinnear when the club spoke about investment in the academy and the training facilities but typically nothing has ever happened. In a decade I don’t think SJP has had a lick of paint and there is a general air of grubbiness around the place. That’s symptomatic of a club neglected in every possible way and on every front. I don’t need to comment on the playing staff because good lads as they are they are bargain bin with the club’s biggest asset, Rafa Benitez having his expertise stretched to the limit in keeping our club in the PL this season.
Every game we lose should push Ashley a step closer out of the door. He is, according to his own statement, a willing seller, prepared to be flexible about the terms of a sale of the club and has mentioned instalments and all the rest of all of that. That’s fine for Ashley to say that to the media but whether it represents his real negotiating position is probably something only Amanda Staveley’s PCP team can tell us and they won’t be doing that any time soon. His words are completely unreliable. Anyone remember the Keith Bishop patter about a new contract for Rafa a few weeks ago and our manager not having a clue what he was talking about?
I’m as impatient as the next Mag for this takeover to go through and to be rid of Ashley for good though that is only part of the story. What has to follow Ashley is manifold with ambition, vision and competence as the starting point. To be fair, no-one knows a thing about whose money is behind the bid but I’m fairly confident (as I’ve always been) there is no-one looking at The Toon’s books beyond Amanda Staveley and PCP.
Nothing I’ve heard from the various sources who all know a bit of this and that suggest the bid is in trouble and I can’t say it’s progressing as quickly as might be expected or not. None of us have any experience of any of this and none of us know how much dough is involved in the whole deal beyond the wild, largely unsubstantiated speculation in the media.
What did shock me however was Rafa disclosing he does not know his budget for January if the takeover does not go through. How can players be scouted, discussions with agents proceed etc without that information? It is a damning indictment of the way Ashley runs our club and speaks volumes for the manner in which he treats key employees at United. There is no-one more important to Newcastle United than Rafa Benitez.
I find it inconceivable Rafa would agree to stay on at United with no change to the club’s status quo at the top. A man of his calibre could walk into a top job and you just have to note a manager with the busted reputation of David Moyes getting the West Ham gig to get how fortunate we are to have Benitez at United. I’m pretty confident Evertonians would get over themselves about Rafa’s former Anfield affiliations and roll out the red, er blue carpet for Rafa at Goodison, a club based only an hour from his family home on the Wirral. I’m pretty certain it is the prospect of a takeover at United that is keeping everyone’s favourite Senor in NE1. For all of the love there is for Rafa on Tyneside I’m not conning myself that means our supremo would allow himself to be systematically trashed by poor treatment from Ashley and his utter lack of ambition and affection for Newcastle United.
We are likely into the most pivotal 4 – 5 weeks in the recent history of Newcastle United – probably since John Hall rang Kevin Keegan after KK made his comment about everything at the club “not being like it looked in the brochure” back in 1992.
If the deal stalls and is dragged on further into the summer with no investment in players (and I’m going to make the leap there will be no money for Rafa in January) then the task of keeping the team in the PL becomes even more difficult.
I’m not raising these points because I’m afraid the takeover isn’t going to happen but rather to underline its importance that it does.
And to ensure that the pressure in all of this should be full square on Mike Ashley.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
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