Mike Ashley doesn’t have any pals left does he? He might be a money-spinner but I don’t know anyone (who cares about quality football) that has anything credible to say about his executive leadership of a football team and its management. And with JFK gone he’ll have to hire another sycophant to sit alongside him at matches - unless they're a paying journalist - see later.
When it comes to making money from the transfer market he may be a King Midas; making a 5-year rolling average net profit of £9M per season, total of £45M, staggering! But hey, look at Arsenal’s record. They are transfer profiteers too netting just under £1M per season and are vying for the title.
Ashley is allegedly copying the Arsenal formula of ‘buy young and sell a player at a vast profit when they are at, or just after, their prime’. So what’s different? Answer: leadership and management talent – as well as a few players.
Ashley (like most CEOs when they don’t know what to do) brought in an outside expert, JFK. Did, ex-casino manager, Llambias (who at long last I felt was coming to terms with his job) resign because he saw JFK’s appointment as a vote of no confidence – or was it his intimate knowledge of what working alongside JFK would be like?
Alan Pardew is only second in terms of longevity-in-the-job to Arsene Wenger. Many have had a right good pop at AP after the third Sunderland debacle in a row. I suggest that we are fickle with short term memories at times. The ManU away performance was sheer class. The Spurs away victory was through dogged determination. The Chelsea at home victory came through the courage to take the game to the arrogant-on-the-day superstars.
Yet AP is called a puppet because you know who is pulling the strings. Moneywise that’s true. But Pardew has had our team over-performing, I suggest, on several occasions – let down by some pathetic displays too – and hey, we are 8th in the league! (At least until we visit Stamford Bridge – ahem)
I don’t knock Pardew because he’s managing what could be one of the top 4/5/6 teams in the country with half the puppet strings missing and some of the others tied in a knot. If he were to fall on his sword and resign – he could hold his head up high and would get a good job elsewhere for the same if not more money – but perhaps not with a club of NUFC’s potential.
Speaking of potential: on 1st January I felt Newcastle were 4 key players short of a side that could compete for a top 4 position – two central defenders and two top class strikers. Why?
At Old Trafford I realised that the trio of Cabaye, Tiote and Sissoko would have walked into the ManU side. Krul is one of the best goalies there is. Our 5th in line full back, Dummet, would walk into many PL sides. WTF, with 4 more players, we cudda bin heading for the ECL!!! (Granted, we might need a Martinez or Pochettino to get us there.)
Instead, we flopped and then flapped at players by sending JFK, our ‘envoy’ with a magical bat-phone, along. Gawd knows what prospective players thought when he turned up with his Kebabs and Afra lingo.
I try to imagine JFK negotiating with razor sharp continental agents and players who seem intellectually bright. It doesn’t gel. I’m not surprised that he couldn’t get a single player to sign a permanent contract. All he managed was 2 want-away loanees – who if successful at NUFC will want away again.
I’ve said all along that Ashley wouldn’t sell Cabaye on the cheap, “probably no less than £25M”. I may have been proved right because there is an alleged £5M in bonuses attached to his contract. What did surprise me was that Ashley didn’t negotiate Cabaye’s sale personally. If Ashley has one talent, it’s negotiating the sale of a player for more than he’s worth (e.g. Messrs Carroll and dare I say Milner?). Instead he sent in his ‘envoy’. Afterwhich, Ashley apparently got JFK’s resignation (sic) because he wanted more money, money, money from the Cabaye deal – every cloud has a silver lining.
So – what fettle Mr Ashley?
What are your aspirations? To maximise short term profit by finishing 8th perpetually – so that NUFC don’t have to afford the extra cost of a bigger squad to avoid relegation whilst playing in Europa? Is that it?
And if it is – how inspired did Cabaye feel about your strategy? How inspired will Tiote, Krul, Sissoko, and Debuchey feel at the end of the season? How much faith will they place in your judgement of leadership talent (JFK, Dennis Wise pah!)? Will you match their career aspirations? I can’t see how.
Ashley’s NUFC (Inc) is making money. The team is safe to collect the PL bonus of a mid table position next summer. It/he’s doing well aren’t they?
BUT he cuts a lonely figure with no-one to turn to. He stands a leader who, I suggest, provides zero inspiration and shares no trust with his staff and players. He only gets warm words of support from the people he pays to sucker up to him. [If he does select another (not to be a buffer/suckeruper pls!) Director of Football – I hope he involves his manager in the selection.]
He’s all alone. Former players and managers mistrust him so we can summise that the current players do so as well. The fans despise him. The telly pundits (frightened of litigation) extol his litany of “strange decisions” instead of calling it as they see it. The press can’t get near him unless they pay for the privilege and only print nice things about him. (Tis a novel idea though; getting sycophants to pay for the privilege of saying nice things about you! That’s capitalism gone really weird.)
Maybe being King Midas isn’t that much fun after all. Maybe Mr Ashley will get bored. Maybe he doesn’t care; it’s about maximising a return on a moderate investment and nothing else. If so, all this negative chanting of “FCB out” will only demotivate the team and be water off a duck’s arse to the man it is aimed at. We will essentially contribute to the teams’ downfall – to which we’ll see a reshuffling of the team manager and his coaching staff (‘deck chair attendants of the Titanic’) for someone who can keep the Titanic, I’m sorry I meant Newcastle, afloat in mid table.
Until there’s a change in regime or dramatic U-turn in policy I expect profit without silverware at SJP in the foreseeable future. We’ll have hopefully a few ups when we buy the new-Cabayes from Graham Carr’s pool, followed by the downs when we sell them.
If we keep doing the same thing we can’t expect a different outcome. Meanwhile Nero fiddles whilst plebs (like me) keep trying to dowse the fires.
Howay the Lads
Paul C Burr Follow @doctapaul
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