With the Premier League season officially over, the especially frustrating part of the football year for Newcastle fans begins: the transfer window. For fans of other PL clubs, this is usually an exciting time due to the endless possibilities of incoming players.
Rival clubs like Leicester City and Brighton have already kicked off their transfer business with the signings of Ricardo Pereira and Florin Andone respectively. Meanwhile, our MD Lee Charnley has only released financial details of our 2016-2017 season to excuse the lack of progress in negotiations with Rafa Benitez.
The juxtaposition of these two circumstances is very indicative of the problem that has plagued Mike Ashley’s ownership for years. While our rivals are constantly striving for improvement, Mike Ashley prefers to try his luck with Newcastle United. To successfully run a football club, a proactive approach must be favored over the risky, reactive one that Mike Ashley has consistently opted for.
Look to Liverpool for an example. Just this week, they were thrashed by Real Madrid in the worst way possible. Sure Real Madrid is a juggernaut and Liverpool is only a couple of years into Klopp’s project, but they had a fighting chance before their mistakes from the past came back to haunt them. The odds were always against them, but they will be kicking themselves for the way in which they lost the Final.
No one, other than maybe the cynical Sergio Ramos, could have predicted that one of Liverpool’s front three would have to be withdrawn from the CL Final due to injury. While injuries might not always result from such deliberate tackles, they happen all the time and teams must plan ahead for them. That being said, Liverpool’s lack of depth is absolutely shocking.
Being forced to bring on a barely-fit Adam Lallana destroyed Liverpool’s signature frontline press and subsequently their gameplan. Of course it’s not easy to backup any player of Liverpool’s front three given the sheer quality that Mane, Firmino, and Salah individually and collectively possess. However, a-like-for-like substitution would have definitely been preferred.
In regards to the other obvious problem, Liverpool have had years to properly replace Jose Pepe Reina and have yet to do so. Surely, the Merseyside club will now be extra motivated to right their wrongs this summer, but they have already paid the a steep price for their past inactivity: a fair chance at the Champions League trophy.
Now back to Newcastle’s never-ending fiasco, the release of financial records, or what I prefer to call propaganda, was only meant to weather the storm that has resulted from the lack of progress in Benitez’s contract talks. It’s glaringly obvious that management had been saving this information for a truly dire situation, and they finally have one. Fans are rightfully upset that the management is struggling to extend Rafa Benitez’s tenure at Newcastle.
The idea behind releasing this propaganda was simple. Ashley and Co. hoped that fans would be more understanding of the situation with this information in mind. Now there’s no denying the fact that Mike Ashley did provide some vital funds during the Championship season and that Charnley did turn down his bonus at the end of the championship season.
With the inclusion of these facts in the propaganda piece, they hope to demonstrate that they were held accountable, to some extent, for their respective roles in the club’s relegation. However, these actions should not be glorified in the way that they had hoped. The fact remains that Ashley and Charnley are most responsible for the relegation of the club and that the two have done the bare minimum to stabilize Newcastle’s status in the Premier League. They were lucky that Rafa Benitez was able to work his magic and save the club.
So when Charnley states that Mike Ashley and himself “will continue to provide backing” to Rafa Benitez this should not be perceived as a good thing. The summer preceding the Championship season was the only time that they have ever provided adequate funds to Rafa Benitez. Apart from that, they have been lax in their backing of Rafa Benitez in the transfer market.
Through the years, we have seen that Mike Ashley only reaches into his pocket for transfers when the security of his investment is threatened. If Newcastle is to build on this season, Lee Charnley and Mike Ashley need to stop practicing this reactive approach.
The result of the 2015/2016 relegation season demonstrates that this method is just too risky. While they were fortunate that this reactive approach in the transfer market worked during the 2016/2017 Championship season and this season, they should not get arrogant. Achieving promotion did not always look likely in the Championship season, and avoiding relegation did not always look likely this season.
Charnley and Ashley should not attempt “to continue backing” Rafa Benitez in the same way that they have in the past. They must learn from the drawbacks of this reactive approach in the transfer market and show some real ambition.
More and more clubs in the Premier League are adopting a proactive approach to the transfer market. Failing to do so will only put Newcastle behind their competition.