The short term future of Newcastle United became a lot clearer this week when owner Mike Ashley announced that the club were no longer up for sale. The Magpies also firmed up their structure on the pitch with the permanent appointment of Chris Hughton on an 18-month deal.
While the announcement was not entirely unexpected it is still a bitter blow for the supporters who can’t wait to see the back of Ashley. It is the second time he has put the club up for sale only to take it off the market again. With so much uncertainty in the boardroom and the hiring and firing of managers it is hardly surprising Newcastle are in the position they find themselves in. Ashley’s hopes of selling the club on for a quick profit seem a long way away now and he must hope that Newcastle can earn an instant return to the megabucks of the Premier League to drum up some interest from potential buyers. The chances are that Ashley will try to sell the club for a third time if they can return to the top flight. In order to do that Newcastle will need to invest some money to strengthen their squad in the January transfer window. Although Ashley has pledged to invest £20m of his own money into Newcastle it remains to be seen how much of it will go towards new players.
If Ashley announcing he was staying on was bad enough, the news that he will be seeking to rename St James’ Park will engulf the flames of controversy even more. St James’ Park has been home to Newcastle United since their formation in 1892 and it seems unthinkable that it could be renamed with a sponsor’s branding. While it is a generally a good idea to sell the naming rights of a new stadium, such as The Emirates, it seems wrong to re-name one of England’s finest old stadiums. A club statement read: “Newcastle now aims to move forward on and off the pitch. The club aims to maximise its commercial revenues; this includes renegotiating its club sponsor and kit deal, which expire at the end of the season, as well as welcoming offers for the stadium naming rights for next season.” St James’ Park will forever remain St James’ Park in the fans eyes and financial analysts believe they will struggle to find a company to pay big money for the naming rights.
The club confirmed that Barry Moat’s attempt to buy the club had fallen through as he was unable to meet Ashley’s £80m asking price. Newspaper reports suggested he had offered £60m up front with £20m to be paid next season but that was still not enough. None of the overseas groups appeared to make much progress in their takeover bids. Despite a large wage bill there is still great potential at the club with a large fan base, modern stadium and good training facilities. Yet there seems little interest in a club that has potential to be one of the biggest in the country.
The permanent appointment of Hughton had little of the fanfare that has met the appointment of previous managers. His appointment has been met with a slightly lukewarm reception on Tyneside and it is unlikely he will be paraded to the fans amid mass media hype. He brings solidarity and dignity to the position and is generally very popular among the players. Although there are some doubts over his tactical ability and force of personality to persuade players to join Newcastle, Hughton deserves a chance for guiding the club to the top of the league. Hughton, in his first ever full-time management position said: “It is a very proud day for me to be named as manager of this magnificent club. I thank Mike and Derek [Llambias] for their support and will be doing everything in my power to get the club back into the Premier League at the first time of asking.”
Hughton will have to wait a while for his first game as permanent manager as Newcastle are not in action this weekend. They will have to wait till Monday night when they face Sheffield United at Bramall Lane in a televised encounter. The Magpies will be without Zurab Khizanishvilli after the appeal against his red card for violent conduct was unsuccessful. However they could be boosted in defence by the potential returns of Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini and Danny Simpson from injury.