The transfer policy that could lead to a bright future at Newcastle

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley

Has he got one thing right?

Un-fancied Newcastle United have to date defied pre-season predictions and are currently unbeaten in their first five matches, sitting pretty in 4th place in the Premier League.

Last January, they cashed in on England international Andy Carroll, who transferred to Liverpool for £35 million and he was soon followed out of the club in the summer by other high-earners Kevin Nolan, José Enrique and Joey Barton. Despite making large profits on these players, Pardew’s moderately cheap summer transfer dealings may have surprised neutral onlookers. However these cheaper replacements are all part of owner Mike Ashley’s shrewd but somewhat unpopular transfer policy.

Ashley, who introduced this transfer policy after the Magpie’s relegation from the Premier League, recently said:

“We have to be certain that our targets have the strengths and skills that complement the current squad and the balance of the side. The fee we received from the sale of Andy Carroll was a windfall, but it’s not money we can afford to waste, so prudence and adherence to our strict transfer policy is important. We will not compromise our transfer policy by making rash and costly signings that are not right for this club.”

Under this strict transfer strategy, the club have established an extensive European scouting system under Chief Scout, Graham Carr. His mission is to find talented youngsters in countries like France where the pay discrepancy between the English and French leagues means Newcastle could double a potential signing’s weekly wage and it would still be not be close to that enjoyed by Joey Barton and the like during the previous wage system.

Consequently, Newcastle have preferred to look abroad for their latest recruits with the hope that they will find better value for money and as a result only former West Ham striker Demba Ba has any experience of playing in the Premier League out of this summer’s arrivals.

Naturally Newcastle supporters would have liked to have seen a marquee signing arrive this summer using the money made from the Carroll transfer but life is not that simple and you have to question whether this sort of transfer would have been beneficial for the club in the long run? You only need to look back a few years to see the full effect of exorbitant wages at St James Park and Ashley is just trying to prevent a similar situation occurring in the future.

Last weekend’s accomplished performance against Villa was the most convincing evidence yet that the players signed to replace the departed – for humble fees and on sustainable salaries – are indeed gifted enough to achieve the club’s objectives and not purely on the balance sheet.

Cutting outlay without slashing quality has required astute recruitment. French international Yohan Cabaye was the best player on the pitch against Villa, looking particularly effective alongside the formidable Cheik Tiote. Costing just £4.5 million, Cabaye, a French double-winner with Lille last season, looks to be something of a bargain if he can replicate that kind of form in the Premier League. Midfielder Sylvain Marveaux, a Bosman arrival from Rennes, definitely fits Ashley’s money-saving approach and add to that fellow French youngster Mehdi Abeid in addition to the return of flying winger Hatem Ben Arfa from his long term injury and you can understand why there is much excitement on Tyneside about the side’s unbeaten start to the season.

New signings Cabaye, Marveaux and Adeid all penned five year contracts while Cheik Tiote also recently signed a five-year extension to his deal. This should help secure long term future of club and therefore is a win-win situation for them. If these players turn out to be a success after a few years, they will still have a considerable length of time left on their contract to allow Newcastle to receive a large transfer fee. However should they prove incapable of making it in England, they would be able to move back to France with the Magpie’s likely to recoup the fee they paid for them in the first place.

One major criticism of this policy is that it could limit how far the club could progress as you are unlikely to reach the highest echelons of the English game by selling your best players and not replacing them or replacing them with unknown players. Ashley’s rational transfer policy may be based around maximising the fee received should they decide to sell these players but what is the point of building a young talented squad if they are just going to offload them to rival clubs in the future?

Despite this issue, the much maligned Mike Ashley deserves some credit for trying to run a sustainable football club. The days of bringing in older and expensive players, like Michael Owen, who demand high wages and long contracts, are long gone. The main ambition now is get value for money in transfers while also recruiting young, hungry players who want to play for the club. Newcastle is certainly developing into a stable well-run Premier League club that operates within the financial constraints set down by the board. If Ashley’s strategy prolongs this success, how long will it will be until other clubs start to follow suit?

So what do you think about Ashley’s transfer policy at Newcastle, leave your comments below and also follow me on twitter @aidanmccartney for even more discussion about the biggest issues affecting the beautiful game and probably a little bit about Scunthorpe United.
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