The “Ashley Affair” Procurement Strategy
By David Donnelly
Monday 17 Oct 2011 09:21:00
Browse all David Donnelly articles

You have executed your promotion strategy to perfection, re-entering the Premier League at the first attempt. The wage bill is under control but is there enough talent in the squad to sustain a respectable position. Do you invest heavily to mount a charge for European football at the first attempt or consolidate and grow organically? Ashley in this economic environment austerity business and sustainability is the only realistic option.

Promotion at the first attempt was essential for the future of Newcastle United. If we had languished in the Championship for another season, the parachute payments would have been reduced significantly, the wage bill would need to decrease further resulting in established performers like Barton, Nolan and Coloccini departing, exposing the club to the potential of going into freefall like Southampton, Charlton or Leeds. It was extremely feasible for this to occur so getting the right balance between reducing the wage bill and retaining players capable of promotion was vital to success. Ashley achieved this and as a result we were in a much leaner and efficient position than ever before.

In adopting the Arsenal model, Ashley was going to try and unearth young talented players that can immediately boost the squad and help sustain the team in the Premier League and catch the eye of a bigger club with a bigger budget, making a profit and continuing to grow the club organically. This was going to be supported by free acquisitions or loan deals. The stand out player in this strategy was Cheick Tiote, a relatively unknown player signed from FC Twente for a fee in the region of £3.5m. (As with all Ashley transfers this was an undisclosed fee) Performances this season have linked him with big money moves to Chelsea and Arsenal. There is a potential profit to be made aligning with Ashley’s strategy.

Another interesting signing was the promising Dan Gosling. Young, talented and available on a free however he came with a long term injury. Ashley’s gamble was that if the coaching staff could get Gosling fit in a short period of time, get him in the team and performing there was the potential for him again to make a profit on a player that launched himself on the scene with the winning goal in the Merseyside derby. Ben Arfa on loan was a good deal, signing an obviously talented but temperamental player that could return to his club in the event that things didn’t work out. Ashley was weighing up risk in the investment and negotiated the best possible deal. Campbell was a good signing, experienced and free. One season supporting and educating the relatively inexperienced back line would only help in cementing the club’s place in the top flight.

Throughout the season I have analysed Ashley and the way that he has run the club, not from a playing view but a business. You do not become a billionaire without business acumen. Ashley has realised that buying the football club without due diligence was a mistake, one that he has to rectify in the only way he knows how – to run the club as a business. We supporters have to accept this fact in the interim. Until Ashley can find a buyer and recoup his investment I cannot see him leaving anytime soon. By eliminating emotion and looking solely at how the club is being run off the pitch I believe that Ashley will leave Newcastle United in a much better position than when he took over. Shepherd and Hall had led the club on an unsustainable path.

We will have our ups and downs, I was devastated that Carroll left, he was the first player since Shearer that I held as an idol. Yes he was wild off the pitch but he was young and had so much potential. £35m was just too much to turn down for half a seasons experience in the Premiership. Could it have been handled better with the supporters? Yes! Should the business have been concluded after a replacement had been identified? Yes! But realistically we were safe in the Premiership for another season, we had consolidated and the money was too good to turn down – Ashley negotiated an excellent deal. Will the money be reinvested back into the club? Only time will tell but I’m not holding my breath. Ashley is a businessmen and the only driver for these guys is money, not the fans or the football club but money! 

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