Sunday, September 14, 2008

The hard sell

For sale: Premier League football club based in the north-east of England. Thousands of passionate fans, millions of pounds of debt. History of near-success and spectacular implosion. Buyer should have lots of money and in all likelihood a very GSOH...

The club is not even as attractive a prospect as it was when Mike Ashley bought it. The frankness and candour of his statement, which is also at times irritatingly emotive, may have been designed to convince the fans of the scale of the problems he's found himself confronted with, and the work he's done behind the scenes to resolve them, but is also likely to be rather off-putting to anyone daft enough to contemplate lodging a bid. We don't want prospective buyers knowing exactly what they'd be letting themselves in for, really, do we?

Ashley's decision to sell up was inevitable, really. He claims he's "no longer prepared to subsidise Newcastle": "I am not stupid and have listened to the fans". But if he knew that forcing King Kev out would lead to the fans doing the same to him (as he surely must have if he isn't stupid), why did he not just put the club up for sale with Keegan still as manager and avoid the shitstorm he's stirred up?

In the statement, Ashley also takes pains to refer to Keegan as "a legend at the club and rightly so", but also reiterates his commitment to the current set-up, which was again the subject of discussion when he and Keegan met for surprise talks on Friday: "One person alone can't manage a Premiership football club and scout the world looking for world-class players and stars of the future. It needs a structure and it needs people who are dedicated to that task. It needs all members of the management team to share that vision for it to work."

Look, Mike - no one said it could be done by one man. But one man - the manager - has to have the final say, or it has to be very clear that responsibility for transfer activity is not in his hands. Clearly, neither was the case at Newcastle.

(In case you're after a match report, Paul will be picking over the bones of yesterday's appalling defeat to Hull tomorrow.)


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