After a campaign which saw relegation avoided by just five points and a summer where manager Alan Pardew narrowly escaped with his job, Newcastle United will lie in the top six this Christmas
After a campaign which saw relegation avoided by just five points and a summer where manager Alan Pardew narrowly escaped with his job, Newcastle United will lie in the top six this Christmas just six points off the top.
This comes as a surprise to many, and no doubt to owner Mike Ashley who all but set the season’s target when he offered a bonus to the playing staff for finishing inside the top ten. Yet with half the season gone things have turned out better than anyone would have predicted and Champions League football is a real possibility.
Uncertainty for the future of United
But this puts owner Mike Ashley in a predicament; invest in the January transfer market and attempt to really battle the top four or continue within the same minimum spend transfer strategy.
Many Magpies feel they already know the answer.
Yet Mike Ashley is a businessman and you wonder at what point he will wake up and see that a football club battling for the Champions League is a club more profitable than one simply making up the numbers. Qualification into Europe’s most elite competition is said to be worth in excess of £50m, a sum that surely would appeal to Ashley.
If he takes out his check book this January and spends £20m on the three or four players that Newcastle United need then he could quite easily find himself reaping the rewards. Of course we all know that Mike Ashley doesn’t like to spend anything more than he needs too and therefore the position he finds the club in now, may just confirm for him that you can battle the top four without the need to spend millions.
A necessary gamble
That is naivety on his part.
I like to think that at one point Mike Ashley had to take the gamble with his business and plough in money to make that next step, that he took a risk and it paid off. I like to think that he might do the same with Newcastle United at some point and should they beat Stoke City on Boxing Day and grab something on New Year’s Day at home to Arsenal then January could be the perfect time for him to change his ways.
It’s clear to many that if Newcastle are going to maintain this run of form then they need a few players, particularly a striker who can take the load of Loic Remy, a right back and a winger. If Mike Ashley sanctions these deals and Joe Kinnear somehow pulls them off then the Champions League football could quickly become a reality.
But what about Mike Ashley’s tendency to sell the club’s best players to the highest bidder? With so many players performing at the best of their ability, such as Cheick Tiote and Yohan Cabaye, should a club come knocking with a big money offer don’t be surprised to see a star leave.
In an ideal world, any offers would be knocked back with an unequivocal no but in reality, we all know Mike Ashley’s number one priority is to make a profit.
And some sceptics would question whether Pardew could handle the pressure of managing a squad expected to qualify for European football, would he repeat previous mistakes? Would it take him a season to get it right? If Mike Ashley was to go for it in January then Pardew would be expected to make a real go of it, something that perhaps Ashley himself isn’t too confident that he can do.
Yet many would say that Alan Pardew has redeemed himself from last season’s travesty and that he deserves a fair chance to battle for the top four. He’s certainly set the club up for the challenge but now it’s down to Mike Ashley to show his true commitment to the club and turn the challenge into an all-out attack.
The players will need to see this commitment, the indication that Mike Ashley has the ambition to win things for the club otherwise all the hard work will be for nothing and Newcastle United will sadly remain a stepping stone for players.
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