Newcastle fans are coming to terms with harsh realities. This will be another season of looking over our shoulder to the three relegation spots and the £35 million paid by Liverpool for Andy Carroll in January will not be making an appearance on the pitch in the form of a collection of new, high profile signings. Free transfers have been the only recruits with a telling statement from the club that a portion of the £35 million went on signing on fees, agent fees and expenses in relation to these transactions designed to further diminish the fans expectations even further. Having seen Kevin Nolan depart to West Ham, Newcastle fans now face the unsavoury prospect of two more first team regulars from last season Joey Barton and Jose Enrique leaving the club with no likely replacements on the horizon.
The transfer saga alone has been an embarrassment. After being linked to big name players like Kevin Gamiero and Wayne Bridge it remains obvious that a first team left back is required alongside a strong forward. Also obvious is the weakness of our squad in general, there is no strength in depth and key injuries would see us struggling against even the weaker league sides. Youngsters Haris Vuckic and Shane Ferguson have been lauded by Alan Pardew during the pre-season but the emergence of these two young players only papers over what is a clear squad weakness.
The real reason the footballing world is laughing at the Toon at present is Joey Barton and his use of Twitter. Barton has spoken out strongly against the board via Twitter saying that the clubs lack of investment as a double-cross to the fans. He is probably right, but criticism from the inside is far more damaging to the criticism of a former player or third party. Barton really has nothing to lose, he is a rich footballer earning approximately £77,000 per week so what does it matter to him if he is fined for disrepute? He may be fighting the good fight but he is clearly in breach of club discipline and causing as many problems for the club as he is highlighting. It is easy for him to justify his ranting as championing the greater good, but it simply highlights the chaos we know exists anyway and he hardly has a reputation for tolerance.
The upcoming financial fair play restrictions will take a generation to fully integrate itself with the clubs returning to sensible pay for players and the expectations of the players expected to move into line with these restrictions. In many ways, owner Mike Ashley securing Newcastle Utd financially and making progress in relation to spending is a good thing, but only if this strategy ultimately results in a more secure footing for buying better players as a result. A football club lives or dies by results and this concept appears completely missed by the current owner and board of directors. Ashley is a businessman who is seeking to increase his net worth as a businessman always does. He does not frivolously spend money and wants players in the vein of Chieck Tiote who are scouted and purchased for small transfer fees then sold on in the future for a huge profit.
Why is Barton being released? Consider that Mike Ashley is personally bankrolling the club to the tune of £25 million per season and you can understand why a player taking to Twitter to air grievances whilst earning £77,000 per week will be instantly cast aside. Ashley simply does not want to give this player anymore of his money and will continue to seek to make the club financially viable. This is achieved in business by reducing costs, so saving £77k per week as well as ridding the club of an outspoken volatile player will certainly have its attractions for the clubs top brass.
However, it is possible that citing poverty is a ruse in itself. At a stadium tour I was told that Newcastle is second only to Man Utd in terms of corporate earnings. Add to this corporate success that 52,000 paying fans come to every home game paying at least £40 each for the privilege and you begin to wonder if the club is genuinely in such bad shape. If you accept the line that Newcastle is a losing proposition as a football club, what state do smaller clubs with less revenue find themselves in?
The reality is stark right now. If we do not sign a quality left back and quality forward we will be fighting a relegation battle again which will be awful for all concerned. Hopefully the board can at least see the financial repercussions the club faces if we are relegated and if they care about nothing else they should care about that. We still have time to make some good decisions for a change. Over to you Mike.
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