This past week Rafa Benitez wrote a heartfelt passage in his blog about Matty Longstaff’s goal against Manchester United.
Rafa has been a looming presence since he left Newcastle so unceremoniously three and a half months ago. He has seemingly every month popped up with something to say about his former club and its fans.
It’s usually something sentimental about the Newcastle area and its people. Though there is often an ever so slight dig at the ones who run the club.
His latest remarks are no different as he spoke about Matty and his delight at seeing Geordies in the Newcastle side. This is what he wrote last week:
I was really pleased to see Matty Longstaff scoring the winning goal for Newcastle; he was great when he was training with us and it was a good decision from Steve Bruce to make him play.
I was also happy to see a few Geordies playing together at the same time; Carroll, Sean and Matty; surely it shouldn’t be difficult to see the benefits of investing in the Academy? £4m every year for 10 years means £40 m (one player); one ‘Longstaff’ every year for ten years seems good business to me.
The £40m could be seen as a reference to the Joelinton transfer and how maybe the money could be better invested in other ways. One of those ways is upgrading the Academy.
Interestingly, Benitez mentions one ‘Longstaff’ every year. Rafa is clearly indicating that Newcastle should be investing in the Academy by bringing in local youngsters.
Well, Lee Charnley has echoed these very sentiments in an article in the Athletic. This is what the managing director now says about the Newcastle Academy:
“To see Sean do it last year and Matty get his opportunity – and he looked like it was his 25th or 50th game, not his first – was so pleasing for everyone,”
“I think it was fantastic, and we’ve seen the public reaction, not just the Newcastle public. I saw what Gary Neville tweeted after the game.
“We want to be the best academy in the region. Between nine and 16, it will be an academy with boys predominantly from the local area. There will be exceptions, but, generally, it will be local.
“People say it might be because of this reason (not wanting to spend money) or that, but it’s not. It’s a conscious decision to get local boys, because we want local boys to see what’s happened with Paul (Dummett), Sean and Matty, and say that’s who they want to be.
“They’ll know, if they’re good enough and work hard enough, they’ll get an opportunity at their hometown club. That’s what we want.”
We are very happy to hear that this is in the club’s thinking. However, when it comes to fruition is another subject.
The club did do some restructuring of the Academy over the summer which was planned when Benitez was still at the club. They also appointed Shola Ameobi as a loan coordinator for the lads ready to go out on loan.
This was what Rafa said about the Academy overhaul in March
“We will have an idea how to improve things and we have waited too long to do it. But now it is a good sign. My future is not linked with that but it is still something positive.”
“I have been talking with Ben Dawson in the past and he told me the idea for this year. It is not that I am deciding. I am just informing.”
“To be fair we have been talking about it with them for a couple of years now.”
It was also reported over the summer that money would be invested in getting some top young talents for the U-23 side. This season three free agents were signed and are now playing for U-23 coach Neil Redfearn.
The improvements to the Academy have been in the works. However, as Rafa stated in March, it took far too long to get underway. This is one of Lee Charnley’s big weaknesses, he is just too slow to get things done.
Lee’s recent comments about having the best Academy in the area stocked with local talent could be seen as a reaction to Rafa Benitez’s comments in his blog. While we do think the timing is suspicious it may be just a coincidence since Lee was being interviewed about local talent.
However, the timing is suspect and he basically confirms what Rafa said in his blog. It is also in contrast to what Lee said earlier this year while trying to defend the club’s inability to keep Rafa on Tyneside.
Charnley had said a few months ago that the priority was going to be on the squad. This was at a time when he inexplicably starting taking shots at Benitez at the start of the season.
He and Rafa had been engaged in a bit of a back and forth in the press in which Charnley claimed Rafa went to China for the money but Rafa insisted it was due to the club’s failure to keep its promises. One of those promises was to upgrade the training facilities and the Academy.
This was Lee Charnley’s reasoning in August for not upgrading the facilities like Rafa had expected:
“What we have said is, it is about priorities. There is a pot of money. Where is the greater need? At this time it’s on field.
“It’s not unreasonable, the pot of money can only go so far. You go and spend it on the training ground it means there is less to spend on the team.
“Spend it on the Academy, there is less to spend on the team. Spend too much on wages, there’s less to spend on the team.
“That doesn’t mean we don’t spend in all those areas, because we do, but our view has been at this point in time the priority is what goes on to the field. It doesn’t mean we don’t want to update the training ground.
“Does it mean at some point in time we would like to update the training ground? Absolutely, yes. It is about priorities. It doesn’t stop us doing what we need to do on a daily basis.
“Our pitches are very good, our gym is perfectly adequate and functional. Do we have a swimming pool or water facilities? No.
“Would we like to have it at some stage? Absolutely.”
Well, it looks like he has come around on the Academy if what he said in the Athletic is truly part of the club’s plans. His quote, “Spend it on the Academy, there is less to spend on the team” flies directly in the face of what he is saying this week.
His original comments were from August 14th so just two months later, Charnley is talking about the importance of the Academy.
This is a must in our opinion to start a process of keeping local youngsters in Newcastle. We truly hope that it will be followed up on. However, with Lee Charnley at the helm it may take a while to be fulfilled.