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IS Ashley Really Baldrick?



As one eagle eyed observer on TOTT spotted, Newcastle squad list appeared, at first sight, to be hastily assembled with the players not even listed in alphabetical order:

Sol Campbell, Steven Taylor, Shola Ameobi, Joey Barton, Danny Guthrie, Peter Lovenkrands, Jose Enrique, Alan Smith, Leon Best, Fabricio Coloccini, Jonas Gutierrez, Steve Harper, Kevin Nolan, Wayne Routledge, Danny Simpson, Ryan Taylor, Mike Williamson, Xisco, Fraser Forster, Tim Krul, James Perch, Cheik Tiote, Hatem Ben Arfa.



Some clubs listed their players in a more traditional way, starting with goalkeepers, moving through defence, then midfield, to the forward line. Some did follow alphabetical order.



Briefly, Premier League teams have had to nominate squads of up to 25 players. These are to include 8 "home grown" players, with a maximum of 17 overseas players. Home grown is defined as players who have spent 3 years in the English and Welsh systems prior to their 21st birthday. Players under 21 at the start of the year in which the season starts do not have to be nominated. Any number of under 21 players can play without needing to be nominated.



That all sounds convoluted, and whilst there might have been initial alarm that, arguably, our hottest prospect Andy Carroll was not nominated. However, with his 21st birthday being in January 2010, he is still, according to the rules, under 21.



Those of us who looked out for clues to transfer activity will have monitored during the summer how many players we could still bring in. The final Toon list is 23 players, 16 of which are home grown, allowing for 2 more to be registered, regardless of nationality.



Perhaps surprisingly, only 4 clubs have had too many players to register them all. Spurs have left the injured Woodgate on the sidelines. West Brom have Luke Moore, the striker with an abnormally low strike rate, out of their squad. Man City have left a goalkeeper unregistered, whilst Wolves have an apparently idle Michael Kightly and veteran Michael Hill out of their lists.



To have gaps in the ranks, while short of a left back and apparent lack of depth in experienced strikers, would seem negligent, until it is observed that Premier League Champions, Chelsea, have only nominated 19. All of Arsenal`s "home grown" players over 21 are foreign nationals.



Suddenly we are left looking for the coherence in Newcastle United`s strategy.



As for the listing, what did appear random to some can be explained by expiry of contracts. Campbell is on an initial one year deal, with Steven Taylor`s contract due to expire in June 2011. The players are then listed according to date of contract expiry, with alphabetical order then taking over. Steve Harper appears to be out of order, unless he has quietly agreed to a contract extension. Keen observers will note that Enrique also appears out of order until it is realised that his last name is actually Sanchez. The structure of the list suggests forward planning.



To have the option of signing 2 players in January, without having to offload any currently registered players, suggests that some thought might have been given to having a margin to play with, in the event of a need to bolster the squad if early season results give cause for concern. There is certainly cash available, with the wage bill and other costs reduced since the last Premier League campaign, and losing Nicky Butt during the summer.



Parachute payments, season ticket sales, merchandise and transfer installments from sold players, such as Bassong, Milner, Given etc suggest that the club should be, relatively speaking, cash rich.



The clues then lead to a mystery to be solved. Perhaps the contract wranglings with Steven Taylor provide more clues.



If Taylor does not re-sign, Campbell is waiting to have his contract extended, surely some motivation for when he plays this season. Andy Carroll will need to be registered for next season, but none of the other "under 21s" will. If Taylor does not re-sign, then the likes of Kadar, Tavernier and others join Campbell in the queue to take his place.



More worryingly, 6 players in the above list, from Ameobi to Smith, have contracts which are due to expire in June 2012. Arguably, Lovenkrands, Smith and Shola could be expected to be beyond their prime. Barton`s track record may make him unattractive to big clubs, with the promising Guthrie, and now accomplished Enrique potential causes for concern.



Regarding registration, the following Under 21 players will need to be nominated for 2012-13: Gosling, Lua Lua, Kadar, Soderberg, Tozer and Zamblera, all of which will be considered "home grown".



Suddenly, 2+2 seems to potentially equal 4. Newer players, such as Tiote, Ben Arfa and Gosling have the potential to become the nucleus of a decent team, just as more expensively assembled squads become subject to the infamous Platini proposals. Players whose contracts will be up will be challenging younger talent for long term contracts at a cash rich club, capable of challenging for honours.



Instead of the apparent madness in their method, there may really be method in their madness. Does Ashley really have a cunning plan?






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The Journalist

Writer: Ken Waugh  Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Monday September 6 2010

Time: 7:36AM

Your Comments

Hey, Baldrick is a beloved character, do not compare him to Ashley!
Seabourch
As much as I've lambasted the board, it seems like they may be starting to learn some things. I think they'll always be apt to do something annoying or insulting though and it'll take a long time (if ever) for some fans to get to the point where they aren't automatically slated for a decision. And whether this is for anything other than a means to an end, is debatable. But for now, we may benefit with a prolonged spell in the top flight.
bowburnmag
I was one of those screaming for Ashley to get out of my club 2 years ago but, hard as it is to admit it's looking more and more like his influence could be good for Newcastle. He's made some hard choices which have cost him and Newcastle dearly but those choices clearly had to be made. The spending was unsustainable and we were heading to do a Leeds. He inherited a lot of problems and players like Owen who I'm starting to think were the reall villains of the peace. The prem is carrying debts of 3.4billon and with assests of only 3.8billion they'll have to sort it at some point. The football bubble is deflating so teams like Liverpool, Man U and others will also have to struggle through this process in the future. Whatever we think of Mike Ashley he's a succesful businessman and its unlikely that he wants Newcastle to fail, his policy means that Newcastle have got the jump on everyone else on making the harsh cuts. He's got the club developing in youth and experience at the right price. I ask all supporters to look in their hearts and answer me this question. Would a player like Andy Carroll have been banging in hat-tricks in the first team under the Shepherd regime or would they have paid 1000 times more cash than they spent on the academy and scouting network to bring in some overpaid mercenary like Owen, Boumsong, Luque, Hugo Viana...? It's looking more and more likely that Ashley will bring us the sustained success that this great club deserves and with us baying for his blood too! He's made mistakes and taken bad advice at times (Dennis 'not so' Wise) but I think we're starting to see that his general plan is sound. Lets just get behind the team and the board and maybe Ashley won't sell us to some debt ridden yanks at the first oportunity. He might even be a bit more willing to splash the cash if we need it in January. Wasn't it better when he was buying us all pints?
northathatoon
If it came down to spending Christmas with either Mike Ashley or the bloke who cleans the public toilets in Glasgow I'm sure most of you would opt for Wee Jock Poopong Mc Plop every time. Am I right?
fifthcolumnblue
 

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