Lee Charnley has given an extensive interview today mainly on the search for a new head coach but a lot of different questions – fourteen in all – were put to him.
In an attempt to get the word out to Newcastle fans – here are the fourteen questions and Lee’s responses.
Lee Charnley with Mike Ashley
1) Why is it taking so long to make a decision?
Some people won’t believe this but the approach for Alan from Crystal Palace came as a surprise to us. We didn’t expect it. People have asked us whether – because of the way the second part of last season went and the way we started this season – we had a contingency plan in the background. We didn’t. I didn’t have a number of candidates/options in the background, which some clubs do have when a Manager has a difficult period. There was no deal already in place for someone we could bring in. His leaving at this time was unexpected.
During the difficult periods our focus was on supporting Alan. I hope people are starting to realise now that when we feel we have the right person in that position, indeed any position, our focus is on supporting them in order that together we can ride through the rough periods that, inevitably, come.
Everything is not always going to be great or perfect but we think that as an organisation, one of our strengths is how we react and the support we give people when things aren’t going particularly well. The majority of which is private and behind the scenes which in my opinion is the way it should be.
People may well say that the position we now find ourselves in isn’t ideal and I accept that to a point, but as I have stated Alan’s departure came as a surprise. I must stress and repeat that we parted with Alan on very good terms.
I would re-iterate the quote I issued at the time of his departure in that we moved on significantly as a club during his four years, on and off the field, and Alan played a big part in that and I thank him.
2) Has there been interest in the job?
We’ve had about 80 applications of people interested in the role. That’s people within football.
Clearly a number of those can be easily discounted but what has been left is a good number of individuals who have different qualities, experience and strengths – some of those are willing and available to come now, others not until the summer.
The important thing to stress here is that there is a process I have been working through the same as I would if I were looking for any other senior member of staff. It’s not a case of someone getting the job because he’s a friend of a friend or he knows someone.
It is a proper structured process which I believe will in the end give us the best individual for the job. When we put the statement out when Alan left we chose our words very carefully in terms of what we would be looking for as a replacement.
We are looking for a head coach – that will be his role – we’re moving away from the traditional manager, in terms of title and perception.
3) Can you explain the role of head coach at Newcastle?
Our overall strategy and structure won’t change – we’re looking for someone who will work within our parameters and will buy into and work with us in terms of what we do and how we operate.
The traditional English manager who would want full control is not what I’m looking for – they don’t fit within our structure or strategy.
This isn’t something new but it’s a refinement of the role Alan Pardew had. It’s a greater clarity for whoever gets the job, in terms of what they do, what their role is and what they can speak to the media about.
That way everyone – players, supporters, media – are clearer. He’s the head coach, not a traditional manager. He doesn’t have the final say on transfers and doesn’t get involved in every aspect of the business.
His job is to coach the players and implement and oversee a philosophy that goes through the first team, the reserves and down through the Academy to improve the players and to ensure we get the best out of them.
4) Will the head coach have some say on transfers?
The new head coach will have to set out to us what his playing style is, what his philosophy is and what he looks for in his team because that then impacts on what we look for in terms of recruitment. It all works together.
The head coach picks the team. We don’t interfere in that. If the relationship works in the right way and everyone is going in the same direction and believes in our strategy and policy then there is no point in us buying a player that the head coach doesn’t want because he doesn’t play him and we don’t get the best out of our investment.
When someone says: ‘Does he have any say on transfers?’ Yes. Does he have the final say? No he doesn’t. There’s a difference there. We hope it’s a happy marriage.
We want someone who sees the bigger picture because my thinking will always be medium to long-term. When people talk about what we’re going to do in this transfer window, I am looking at the next transfer window and the window after and what impact it will have on that.
Are there better opportunities if we wait three or four months rather than committing now? It’s trying to find that balance but also an individual in a head coach that trusts us. If we say ‘You aren’t going to get that now but you will in the summer’, it’s someone who is prepared to say ‘OK’ and trusts us to do that.
It’s also someone that for example, if we were to get an offer for a player that is at a value that we want to take, isn’t nervous about getting a replacement. There has to be a trust. We want to make things better and improve things but sometimes our timelines might not meet.
His requirements might be short-term but our view on some occasions may well be we’d rather wait because we can get better options and better value. Between me and the head coach and Graham, it’s a relationship that will have to develop. He will have to trust and believe in what we do.
5) Is this another long term appointment?
We see this as a long-term decision.
We’ve got a number of options: clearly my preference is to try and find someone to bring in now. However, because it will be a long-term commitment, if I have to wait until the summer for what I believe is the right individual then I would rather wait than actually take someone now who I think isn’t the best fit.
I’m not going to take someone who is free and available now if we have a better option and options by waiting until the end of the season. I know that won’t be an entirely popular point of view but for me that is the most sensible thing to do. It is about the medium to long term and ensuring we get the ‘right one’.
6) How close are you to making a decision?
I hope that by the end of this week I will have a better indication of where we sit. I’ll know the really, really credible individuals who would be of real interest to us and from there, whether a decision can be made now or whether that decision can wait until the summer.
There’s a wide range of options. There are some people who genuinely can’t move now, whether that be for personal reasons, contractual or a whole host of things – they can’t come now. There are some that can, whether they are tied to other clubs but have a compensation element involved or are out-of-work.
What I have done so far is go through them, with Graham’s input, and really refine the candidates. I needed to make sure those individuals understand what the role is, understand what is expected of them here, understand the pressures that come with this role and understand what their philosophy is and the culture they would create and develop here.
7) Are you going to appoint a “yes” man to this position?
I’m confident at the end of this process the individual will be best suited for what we’re looking for and can work within the structure we have. I don’t think anything works and you’re never going to move forward if you have ‘yes’ people in key positions.
I know people label me as someone who says yes all the time, but believe me, if I said yes to everything suggested I wouldn’t last very long. It doesn’t work that way. They have to challenge me, I have to challenge Mike over things – that is how management works. That’s what I expect from all of my heads of department.
But do I want someone in who will continually try to change our strategy or put obstacles in our way? Clearly not. They will have to aligned with what we are doing.
8) What types of candidates are Newcastle looking at?
I know that the individual who comes in will be credible and best suited for this role. First and foremost, they have to be a good coach and with a track record of developing players and giving young players a chance is important.
For me, style of play is important. How they conduct themselves is also important as the head coach will play a key part in how the club is perceived through his conduct on and off the field.
9) What will happen in the January transfer window?
I saw the stuff Gary Lineker tweeted saying we’re hanging back from appointing a head coach so we don’t have to sign anyone which isn’t correct. Are we delaying to get through the January window? Absolutely not.
In all honesty, the January window is not one we ever envisaged being particularly active in. That’s partly because of the amount of business we did in the summer but also because January is a difficult market to operate in.
There are very few options whereby a club can achieve the quality required and also get value. There is often a reason as to why a player might be available in January.
We were forced to bring players in a couple of years ago in January because of where we were in the league and some of those transactions we brought forward from the following summer at significant cost.
As a general principle, January’s not an attractive window. Another important thing to note and something often not mentioned is Premier League teams are only allowed to name 25 players – we’re currently at 25.
10) Will Newcastle sell any players?
I would never, ever rule out selling anyone because the worst thing I could do is over-promise and under-deliver. You will never, ever get me saying never but I would say we’re very difficult sellers.
We make it very difficult for people to get our players. We put them on long-term contracts. We are not easy sellers, despite that perception. As we sit here today I can’t envisage any player we want to retain leaving.
11) Are you looking at new ways that Newcastle can communicate?
I think we do communicate but we need to find a better way to communicate.
Our view was that Alan was the one who was front and centre and will take all of the questions on all areas of the club. Alan was then left, sometimes, in a difficult position answering questions that he probably wasn’t best suited to answer.
This is an opportunity for us with a new head coach coming in – there’s more clarity about his role and what he does. His role is coaching and that’s what he can talk about. If that’s the case it’s only right that I then support him in terms of the messaging going out.
If I’m saying ‘Only talk about team selection and the games’ there needs to be another voice. I think the information has been out there, through the fan’s forum and through the statements, but it’s how we get it out there that needs to improve.
12) Will you be taking a more prominent role personally?
I’m not someone who courts the media or has relationships with journalists giving them on or off-the-record information about players or any other elements of club business. I want to go about our or my business quietly and professionally. That’s where I want to be.
I do however accept we need to look at how we communicate and I think if we do that it will certainly help on lots of different levels.
Contrary to popular belief we don’t disregard people’s views – however our intention and focus and what we always aim to do is make decisions that we feel are in the best interests for the football club. They won’t always be popular and won’t always be liked but we make them for what we believe are the right reasons.
13) Has the role of Chief Scout Graham Carr changed?
On the football side we look at it as a triangle. That’s me, the head coach and Graham.
Graham’s role won’t change. In terms of this process he will be heavily involved and will support me with his knowledge, his feedback and his contacts to get some background information on the people we’re speaking to.
This will support other research and feedback we have sought and will seek on our preferred candidates. It’s a joined-up process we’re in. Clearly he will continue to be an important part of what we do in order to move forward on the field and his relationship with the head coach is something that needs to be strong.
14) Is Mike Ashley going to sell Newcastle and buy Rangers FC?
There is nothing to say on this other than to repeat what we said in the statement in September – I’d refer everyone to that.
It’s good that Lee has given that interview and he has done his best to communicate fully.
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