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Ashley's challenge

Ashley has aroused a lot of emotion on Tyneside, to say the least, since his first arrival. On the roller coaster ride that is NUFC, can we expect a surge up, or a plunge down?

A quick look back tells us to expect the unexpected. Allardyce was backed with cash before his team underperformed and the masses were delighted to see the return of the prodigal son, Keegan.

Everything went pear shaped as promising young players were sold, not replaced and Keegan walked. In came the less flamboyant but foul mouthed Kinnear only to miss the last part of the season following further heart problems with another local hero taking the helm as we sank towards relegation.

Next, a poor pre-season was rescued by Hughton, statistically the most successful manager in league football for the Mags. He brought the team together through modern management methods learned from his extensive study outside football. Promotion as Champions was no mean feat with a team shorn of over 40m of talent.

So in came Pardew, a consistent under-achiever despite huge funding for the divisions he was in given the investment that he was privileged to receive. Not a popular choice, he lived off the unity within the squad on his way to 5th place. The players openly gave tribute to Hughton.

That charismatic side gave way to the Foreign Legion, the likes of Barton and Nolan shipped out while Smith and company were marginalised. It was interesting to see how the new look chic Newcastle dealt with the visit of Arsenal when the rebels managed such a spectacular come back nearly 3 years ago. As it turned out, the gap in quality was revealed.

So an unexpected, argualby fortuitous, qualification for Europe was followed by a lack of investment until relegation threatened the huge cash flows from Premier League football. When push came to shove it seemed that those revenue streams could not be given up lightly, even though the value in the squad could have been realised in the transfer market to subsidise another underachievement.

So here we are, a new season with a squad that has an abundance of talent assembled on the cheap. The Geordie Graham Carr has collected some amazing talent largely from the French market of players who have been approaching the end of their contract. Combined with what are called "home grown" players such as the Dutch international Tim Krul and Nigerian discovery Shola Ameobi, Newcastle United could be the best represented club in Brazil next summer.

The squad started badly, away at Manchester City, the spectre of a bid for Cabaye hanging over us. He was out, the same as the bore draw at West Ham and the drab home in against Fulham. Cabaye and Remy came together for a more impressive win at Villa Park before ruining it all against Hull and a lacklustre performance giving the Mackems a first win of the season.

It may have been coincidence that the season took off, as France needed to beat the Ukraine to progress to Brazil. Consecutive wins against striker crisis Chelsea, despondent Spurs, Norwich and West Brom before another lifeless dip against Swansea followed. The comeback arrived against a weakened restructuring ManU. An easy win against Palace and then at home against 9 man Stoke pushed us to the fringes of Europe, a whisker behind Champions League before the benchmark team of Arsenal came to St James`. We were found wanting.


As we head into the new year the transfer window is upon us. What can we expect? January was the time that Carroll was sold without a replacement. It was the time that Cisse arrived, that Ba was sold without a direct replacement and that a lorry load of migrant labour arrived to barely salvage a poor season.

January can be a time to push on or a time to realise assets. It could be argued that the best way to push on is to change a manager whose containment tactics are hit or miss. The time for him to have gone was arguably last summer.

Newcastle United are mere points from safety. Whispers around the market include a big money bid for Cabaye, an Italian raid for Krul, Santon to Milan, a return home for Colo. On the sidelines, not even getting a place on the bench are Steve Taylor, Jonas and Marveaux, Gosling on loan at Blackpool, perhaps never to return, a reflection of bargain basement buying. There is capacity to move them into the squad as others move on or ship them out to improve quality. It could go either way whether Ashley feels safe and wanting to cash in or ambitious and wanting to move on.

The scarey thing for supporters is that this is a time when some player valuations are sky high. A world cup could enhance or break a player`s worth. The best assets could go.

There is another way. Our striking assets up front are relatively bare. Cisse hardly gets a look in, with Remy merely on loan from the Championship. Shola is at the end of his contract. After a 25m transfer surplus over 5 years, we remember that the obscene Wonga deal was supposed to provide another Cabaye every year.

The top clubs are still vulnerable to an intrusion from outside. Chelsea can keep clean sheets for now, ManU are struggling to maintain their Champions League income, Spurs are adapting after Bale and AVB. Behind City and Arsenal is room for an ambitious club. This could be the best opportunity for a tilt at a return to the top flight of Europe, an investment with all the revenue that brings.

A small proportion of reinvested profit might just push us from the top 20 to the top 10 richest European clubs. The profit level can increase exponentially. The return on capital can be immense for years to come, especially given the Financial Fair Play regulations which inhibit progress from those left outside.

Over to you Mr Ashley, what do you want your legacy to be, do you want a tatty advert for a tatty shop, do you want to make a small investment in quality with the prospect of a fortune or do you want to bleed a proud club that you have made mediocre? This window will tell if you have any class at all.




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The Journalist

Writer: Rexn  Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Thursday January 2 2014

Time: 10:00AM

 

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