Dennis Wise's pro-Mike Ashley alternative facts just don't bear up to scrutiny at Newcastle

The thing is, Dennis Wise really didn't have much to say, at least in public, when he worked for Newcastle United.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 21st August 2018, 2:18 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st August 2018, 2:25 pm
Dennis Wise.
Dennis Wise.

So why is he talking so much about the club now?

Money, of course. He's being paid as a pundit by Bein Sports in Qatar.

Rafa Benitez.

And Wise – who had an ill-fated spell as executive director (football) at St James's Park during Kevin Keegan's second spell in charge – had a bit to say over the weekend when he apeared alongside Richard Keys, Andy Gray and Sam Allardyce for Newcastle's game against Cardiff City.

The discussion was centered around Rafa Benitez's unhappiness with a lack of investment from owner Mike Ashley.

And Wise – who shunned interviews during his time at the club – had some alternative pro-Ashley facts for viewers.

Over to you, Dennis.

Mike Ashley.

Wise said: “Rafa, in his first two seasons, spent £102million and brought in 18 players, so how much do you want?

“I think he's come out and said 'I’m not a country, I’m a person', and he can’t compete with all these countries going out and buying these players. I’m not spending the money the Man Citys of this world are going to spend.

“He came out and said it. He did a fantastic interview where he explained it all.

“What he does is he gives managers the money and they can use it in the manner that they use it. Obviously, they're complaining that they made money over the transfer window, but what's wrong with that?

“It’s part and parcel of the business. If you trade well, then well done to you – full credit."

Yes, Benitez has spent money since taking over at Newcastle, but the club has made a profit, overall, on transfer dealings during his tenure.

This summer, the club had a surplus of around £20million on transfer fees, and Benitez, promised "every penny generated by the club" a few months ago, was understandably unhappy.

And has Benitez been able to spend the transfer budget as he sees fit? Benitez may well beg to differ, having lost out on a number of targets in recent windows.

Wise went on: "I look at the situation, and I look at Rafa, and I think that people haven’t really credited Mike for bringing Rafa in. I thought it was a fantastic masterstroke to bring him in to the football club – they needed him at the time.

“To go and get a manager like that and bring him in – I don’t think Mike got a pat on the back for that. He won’t, because, unfortunately, that’s how people perceive Mike – they don’t think he does anything right for the football club.

“But he does. He does a lot for the football club, and he won’t sell that football club to somebody who will strip it.”

Yes, Ashley did bring Benitez in, and it was a masterstroke. And Benitez has rebuilt the team – and turned in a profit.

So why hasn't Ashley done everything he can to ensure he stays at St James's Park? As it stands, Benitez is likely to reluctantly walk away from the club at the end of the season when his contract expires.

And there's more.

“He has got that club in a comfortable position," added Wise."Yes, he has got a problem with the fans, because they don’t like him, but he has got it in a strong position, and they are gradually building.

“When he first took over that football club there was a lot of debt at the football club. He had to put a lot of his money in and he had to clear the debt and he decided ‘I want to clear the debt’, so he loaned the club the money.

“He has put a quarter of a billion pounds into that club since day one.

“I was at the football club when Sam (Allardyce) had just left. I came in about three weeks later, and I have seen the kind of wages these players were on, and it was far too high for that football club.

“They were on long contracts and therefore certain things had to be sorted out and certain things had to be addressed.

"That football club's in a lot better position than it was before Mike.”

During Ashley's tenure the club has been relegated twice and fought a number of relegation battles. There's been a fifth-placed finish in 2012 – and a Europa League campaign the following year – and last season's 10th-placed finish.

In the decade before Ashley bought Newcastle, it was never relegated and regularly competed in Europe – and qualified for the Champions League.

Is the club REALLY in a better position? Has there been enough investment in the training ground, the Academy or St James's Park?

What the club had before Ashley's arrival was ambition, and that's the crux of it.

Benitez has ambition for the club, but, it seems, Ashley – who put the club up for sale last year – doesn't share that ambition.

On Benitez, Wise said: “I look at it and Newcastle as a football club – I would be interested to see where he thinks he could go if he left Newcastle.

“You look at the job there, and I think it's a fantastic job what he's doing. Fair play to him, they got relegated and he brought him up, but Mike gave him the money to get them up.

“He then gave him money to spend, and they finished 10th and this season. They have swapped a few people over, and, OK, they made a profit, but I really don’t see what the problem is."

So Ashley "gave him the money" after relegation? Let's remember that the money two summers ago, when the club made a profit of £30million, came from player sales. In reality, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool came up with the cash – and Ashley let Benitez spend half of it.

Benitez, we know, won't be short of offers if and when he leaves United.

But where will Newcatle go without him? Can Wise answer THAT question?