'Bullish' Mike Ashley's latest Newcastle United takeover move examined along with surprise deal
It’s been a busy week at Newcastle United – on and off the training pitches.
Head coach Steve Bruce and his players returned to the club’s Benton base for the start of pre-season training.
But that wasn’t it. The club also announced new deals for Federico Fernandez, Jacob Murphy and Dwight Gayle, and confirmed contract extensions for Paul Dummett and Fabian Schar.
And today United revealed their new home Castore kit.
Here, writers MILES STARFORH and JORDAN CRONIN give their views in this Q&A on the week’s events.
What do you make of the new home kit?
MS: “I like the granddad collar, but I’m less of a fan of the wider stripes. We’ve seen them a few times over the years, and I’m never really liked them. What is a step forward is the ethos which Castore have brought to kit design. The club will now have bespoke designs, not the off-the-shelf kits which characterised it’s long-running association with Puma. That’s a positive.”
JC: “Well, it’s a definite improvement on the Puma kits, purely because it’s a design that alludes to the proud history of Newcastle United. The granddad neck collar is a lovely touch, perhaps in honour of the Entertainers. I’d prefer for the stripes to be thinner, but I’m not going to knock it, it’s a solid effort from Castore, as it’s got a personal feel to it.”
What is your reaction to this week’s contract news?
MS: “I think the contract for Fernandez was the most significant given his importance to the team. Bruce couldn’t afford to lose arguably his most consistent defender. Importantly, the club, which has previously been reluctant to keep players into their 30s, has seen the value of keeping a 32-year-old at St James’s Park. Now the club has done most of its contractual housekeeping, the focus will now shift to incoming signings.”
JC: “I was thrilled to see Fernandez sign back up as he was the main concern. Newcastle, under Ashley, usually wouldn’t see the value in a 32-year-old defender, but the classy Argentine still has a lot more to give. Dummett’s one-year option was exercised, but similar to Jacob Murphy, I thought he had played his way into earning a long-term deal at the back end of last season. Schar could be one to watch this summer.”
Dwight Gayle has signed a new three-year contract, but do you see him having a long-term future at the club?
MS: “This deal seems to make more financial than footballing sense given that Gayle was a bit-part player last season, and didn’t really show any form when he was called upon. The club, with this deal, has stopped a valuable asset leaving for nothing. It’ll be interesting to see if he does have a future under Bruce after two difficult years.”
JC: “I like Gayle, he’s a natural goalscorer, but, sadly, not a consistent Premier League one. I was really surprised to see him handed a three-year contract. From a playing point of view, it doesn’t make much sense, especially after his struggles last season. From a business point of view however, it makes perfect sense. Gayle is an asset for any Championship club – and perhaps the club are waiting for a decent offer to arrive. Or, maybe, Bruce genuinely sees value in having Gayle in his squad. He’s always claimed to be a big fan of the player, despite rarely using him.”
What do you make of Jacob Murphy’s new six-year deal?
MS: “I welcomed the deal, as Murphy showed some form last season, especially in the all-important final couple of months of the season. His best years are ahead of him. The length of the deal, however, has raised eyebrows, and fans want to see Murphy – who settled into the right wing-back position well – build on his best run yet in the starting XI.”
JC: “I was a little surprised by the six years, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with it. Murphy came on leaps and bounds last season, and it was magnificent to see. He’s a boyhood fan who gets the club, and wants to grow with it. He’s got a great mentality, attitude – and is a hugely likeable character. He’s at a good age too.”
What is your view on calls from Amanda Staveley and Mike Ashley for the takeover arbitration hearing to be held in public?
MS: “Staveley and Ashley have attempted to put pressure on the Premier League ahead of the arbitration hearing. They’ve made a compelling case for transparency, and it’ll be interesting to see the Premier League’s response. Ashley, certainly, seems very bullish. He must feel that his legal team have put together a strong case, and the Premier League cannot delay things forever.”
JC: “After 15 months of leaks, uncertainty and "no comments”, I think it’s only right fans get to hear what’s really happened behind the scenes. If the Premier League has nothing to hide, then what’s the issue? Fans are the heartbeat of football, and I would argue that the Premier League is doing the Newcastle fanbase a huge disservice by keeping it confidential.”
What is your reaction to Staveley’s recent interviews?
MS: “What has been particularly encouraging has been her commitment to this deal, despite a difficult year. Staveley has been working on this for years, and is determined to see it through. She’s a very determined buyer, and Ashley is an equally determined seller.”
JC: “I think she has spoken really well, and comes across as an extremely determined figure. Could it be one last push from her side? Possibly, but it’s pleasing to see she’s fighting hard. It’d be a great shame if she is unable to acquire the football club, because she quite clearly has a lot of love and passion for it.”