It’s not news that Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is not a likeable figure among the club’s fanbase. However, the relationship between the owner and the fans has turned even more toxic this summer.
This is a huge summer for the Magpies as they have undergone some major changes. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that decisions taken this summer are likely to have long-term implications for the club.
Benitez’s departure leaves huge questions
The biggest setback to Newcastle was their inability to tie down manager Rafa Benitez to a new deal. During his time at the club, the Spaniard guided the Magpies to the Championship title and two mid-table finishes in Premier League. Undoubtedly, Benitez was the most high-profile manager to take charge of reins at Newcastle in recent years, and his exit could have serious repercussions. Considering the restrictions, he worked under, Benitez did an impressive job at Newcastle. Magpies’ tenth-place finish in 2017-18 was a testament to his capabilities as a football manager.
Benitez, who has taken up a high paying job in China, blamed the lack of vision at Newcastle for his exit. However, Ashley has a different version of events. In a recent interview, Ashley has blamed the Spaniard for going after money by taking up a job in the Chinese League. He told Daily Mail: “If you come out and say the things he did you would think it was football club first, Rafa second, money third. I’d say it was money first, Rafa, then the club last.
“He took the totally soft option, took the money and went to China. That disappoints me. If he’d gone back to Real Madrid, or a top six club in the Premier League, I get it. But it was about money and all he had to do was say that from the beginning.”
Ashley has responded to Benitez’s exit by appointing Steve Bruce in the hot seat. Bruce is an experienced manager, but this appointment can only be described as underwhelming. The former Aston Villa and Hull City boss has spent most of his managerial career bouncing back and forth between the top two tiers of the English football. And, his most notable achievements are either leading Championship sides to promotion or guiding Premier League sides out of relegation battles.
Hence, it’s not really a surprise that they are one of the favourites in the betting market to suffer relegation this season.
Mistakes in the transfer market
What makes matters worse for Newcastle United is that they have lost their top two goalscorers from the last season. Salomon Rondon, who was a loanee from West Bromwich, has decided to follow Benitez to China. Ayoze Perez has joined Leicester City after the Foxes decided to activate his £30m release clause.
Perez’s departure has further infuriated Newcastle fans and recently even Ashley admitted that it was a mistake on his part. Both players together accounted for 25 of Newcastle’s 42 league goals last season, and the Magpies must replace these goals this summer.
Is there any silver lining?
Newcastle have signed Joelinton from Hoffenheim in a club-record £40m deal. The 22-year-old Brazilian is a talented prospect and his arrival has somewhat lifted spirits at the club. Miguel Almiron, who signed for a £21m deal in January, is also expected to play a bigger role this season.
However, it would be foolish for Newcastle to rely all their hopes on a young talent who scored just seven league goals last season. It’s quite clear that Newcastle need further reinforcements, but would they come? Newcastle fans desperately hope so.