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Newcastle Priced Out Of Moves For Bundesliga Strikers – Report



In Callum Wilson, Newcastle have a quality striker who is a reliable source of goals. The 29-year-old was named Newcastle’s Player of the Season after banging in 12 goals and adding 5 assists during his inaugural campaign.

Wilson’s arrival was outside Mike Ashley’s strict transfer policy of only paying money for players under the age of 27. Ashley sanctioned the £20m move and it paid off big time last season.

As has been the case for the past few years, Newcastle are again in the hunt for a striker this summer. The futures of both Dwight Gayle and Andy Carroll are uncertain at the moment. Gayle has reportedly agreed on a new 3-year-deal while Carroll is mulling over the offer of a one-year extension.

Even if both strikers sign on the dotted line, Newcastle will still need at least one more forward in the door. Gayle’s contract offer serves two purposes. He’s a decent back up striker when fit and if a suitable offer comes in for him, Newcastle can get a decent fee.

Carroll’s days as a starting Premier League player are likely over. The bruising striker does provide some value in the dressing room and as a late-match substitute. Though if the Premier League reduces the number of players on the bench this season, he probably struggles to make the matchday squad.

Sasa Kalajdzic– Newcastle priced out of move

What Newcastle need is another goal scorer in the ranks. They cost money. Something which Steve Bruce has precious little of this summer. The Athletic, in their scouting guide for Euro 2020, have named two internationals that Newcastle have tracked but just can’t afford.

Early last summer, Newcastle were briefly linked with an interest in Wolfsburg striker Wout Weghorst. The Dutch international fit the bill as a goal machine. Heading into last season, he had scored 38 goals in two seasons with the Bundesliga club.

According to The Athletic, last summer Newcastle along with Tottenham made preliminary advances for the Dutchman. Nothing further materialized and the 6’6″ target nan stayed with Wolfsburg firing them into the Champions League.

He had an outstanding season bagging 25 goals and 9 assists in 41 appearances. Wolfsburg won’t stand in his way of a move to another club but it would take £25m to start negotiations. Even if Newcastle had that to spend, Weghorst probably wouldn’t trade in Champions League football.

The other striker Newcastle reportedly really admire is Stuttgart’s Sasa Kalajdzic. He’s another giant standing 6’7″ and is more of a realistic target than Weghorst. Kalajdzic turns 24 in July while Weghorst will be 29 when the season kicks off.

He has just 2 years remaining on his contract and Stuttgart are bracing themselves for offers this summer. The Austrian international is being tracked by Everton, Tottenham, and West Ham for a potential move this summer.

Newcastle are basically ruled out of the running as he would command a fee similar to Weghorst’s. Kalajdzic’s stock has soared after scoring 17 goals this past season. He missed much of the previous one with a serious knee injury.

So Newcastle’s limited budget will force Bruce to look at free agents or loan signings to get in another forward. Josh King seems like a perfect fit despite not being a guarantee for goals. There should also be some potential loan opportunities by the start of the season.


167 comments so far

  • Mund

    Jun 10, 2021 at 7:41 AM

    Comment #121

    Dondatta13

    Good to see you about mate 🙂

    Hopefully in the not to distant future every lost soul off the blog will return in joyous mood

    2
  • anxer

    Jun 10, 2021 at 8:03 AM

    Comment #122

    Anyone else received an email from NUST this morning about the fan led review into football?

    “NUST invited to give feedback in private meeting to Tracey Crouch on the ‘Fan-led review’ into football
    Next week Alex Hurst and Trust Chair Greg Tomlinson will speak to former sports minister Tracey Crouch and her panel of appointed experts, to provide the feedback of members of the Newcastle United Supporters Trust on what must be improved in English football.

    The ‘Fan-led review’ will explore ways of improving the governance, ownership and financial sustainability of clubs in English football, building on the strengths of the football pyramid.

    NUST is the only Supporters Trust outside of the Trusts from the ‘Big Six’ English clubs to be invited to a private meeting.”

    So after this fan led review gets pushed to the fore again due to the furore over the ESL, and the behaviour and behind the scenes shenanigans of the ‘Big 6’, the Govt responds by….. Only inviting the trusts from the Big 6 (and us) to a ‘private meeting’. You could not make this sheet up. What about Leeds, Villa, Leicester, etc etc?

    5
  • Mund

    Jun 10, 2021 at 8:07 AM

    Comment #123

    anxer

    Aye I got mine.

    I don’t like these preparations of a fan led review as it sounds the complete opposite than being anything but fan led.

    1
  • Mund

    Jun 10, 2021 at 8:14 AM

    Comment #125

    10 years ago today this special player joined! Where the fck has that time gone?…

    https://mobile.twitter.com/NewcastleFansTV/status/1402886113715441664

    1
  • Mund

    Jun 10, 2021 at 8:16 AM

    Comment #126

    Good point I’ve just saw on Twitter with regards to the measly fine the self imposed top 6 got.

    West Ham got fined 30M for the signing of Tevez because there was one clause wrong in the contract but these greedy fckrs joining the Super League get fined just short of 4M each?

    Absolutely stinks to high heaven

    6
  • anxer

    Jun 10, 2021 at 8:25 AM

    Comment #127

    Yeah Mund I agree it sounds anything but fan led.

    I know the Trusts of the so called big six were as against the ESL as anyone else’s, maybe even more so, but I think this just sends out entirely the wrong message.

    On a positive note, maybe the fact we were invited too is an indicator we’re also about to join Europe’s elite. We can hope anyway, fingers crossed!

    3
  • Mund

    Jun 10, 2021 at 8:27 AM

    Comment #128

    anxer

    Good post mate and let’s hope so.

    Endgame now and it’s only a matter of time.

    2
  • simon376

    Jun 10, 2021 at 8:32 AM

    Comment #129

    Just caught up afrer an early night coz of man flu

    Wor B

    Your Drs trip was similar to mine, day I got told I have pernicious anemia, was asked how much I drink, I came back with something that sounded under the weekly limit and she said you should drink more, I asked for that in writing and could I have a prescription, said sorry mean you can drink more, I said too late you said it now

    1
  • simon376

    Jun 10, 2021 at 8:34 AM

    Comment #130

    Mund

    If you like rum, get yourself a bottle of mount gay from Barbados, Asda sell it. First time I went over there, its the main drink and the locals love it. Brought a bottle back for someone who thought it was a joke until he tasted it, just beautiful

    2
  • Mund

    Jun 10, 2021 at 8:37 AM

    Comment #131

    Simon

    Beautiful stuff mate 🙂

    I remember the first time I had it and my mate told me to go to the bar and order 2 double Mount gay’s with Coke and I was like you are taking the piss! 😆 but ofc he wasn’t and it is delightful

    0
  • cleveleysbob

    Jun 10, 2021 at 8:38 AM

    Comment #132

    Morning Mund, head OK today mate, yesterday another matter!

    Magic, from last night, sorry but crashed out, and yes fully recovered from the previous days Gin Fest 21 thank you. Hope you and yours are rickety boo?

    Jail, from last night, again sorry, crashed out and I agree about the malts, yummy, just had to leave them alone for the good of my digestion system. Just the way I’m built I reckon, I can have the odd tipple OK, but if I have a session on any “dark” spirits I regret it deeply next day, but strangely fine with Gin or Vodka.

    Round up finished.

    2
  • Adamn_92

    Jun 10, 2021 at 8:38 AM

    Comment #133

    A fan led review can only be purely fan led if it involves every supporters trust from all clubs, surely? If NUST weren’t involved it just shows bias to the top 6 again, it still does tbh.

    In other news, I’m really hoping we hear some news out of the AGM meeting today. I hope the other 14 clubs don’t bottle their chance to really let their voices be heard and give it to the league. Imagine if the other 14 clubs banded together to form some sort of strike?

    3
  • Mund

    Jun 10, 2021 at 8:40 AM

    Comment #134

    Morning Bobs

    I wouldn’t expect anything less day after you’re birthday mate 😎

    0
  • simon376

    Jun 10, 2021 at 8:43 AM

    Comment #135

    Mund

    Oh how I would love to go back over, ist time had a week in Florida with another into Barbados, was cheaper than 2 weeks in Florida, was delayed for 27 hours going out and virgin just handed me 50% off next flight, meant got 2 weeks there the next year for under £500, lets say there was a lot of that drunk

    2
  • Adamn_92

    Jun 10, 2021 at 8:46 AM

    Comment #136

    I can’t check as skybet is blocked here at work, but apparently Rafas odds have been suspended on him to be the next Everton manager.

    1
  • Mund

    Jun 10, 2021 at 8:59 AM

    Comment #137

    Simon

    That’s unreal that mate! I’d take a delay all day long for a cheaper holiday next year 😆

    0
  • anxer

    Jun 10, 2021 at 9:02 AM

    Comment #138

    Yes Adam, just checked on there and betting is suspended on Rafa. Nuno is 5/6. I can see Everton appealing to him, he could live at home with his family for the first time since leaving Liverpool. I couldn’t hold that against him

    0
  • martoon

    Jun 10, 2021 at 9:09 AM

    Comment #139

    Adamn_92 @136 – just looked and you’re right – favourites are:
    Nuno Espirito Santo 5/6
    Christophe Galtier 4/1
    Graham Potter 4/1

    then way down the list is
    Rafa Susp – which I presume means suspended?

    1
  • cleveleysbob

    Jun 10, 2021 at 9:10 AM

    Comment #140

    Don’t think the bin dippers would appreciate that mind. 🙂

    1
  • Mund

    Jun 10, 2021 at 9:11 AM

    Comment #141

    Charnley getting praised on Twitter by a few

    0
  • DrGloom

    Jun 10, 2021 at 9:13 AM

    Comment #142

    Mund – must be P.R team, he’s absolutely useless

    4
  • cleveleysbob

    Jun 10, 2021 at 9:13 AM

    Comment #143

    I don’t understand the way bookies work.

    Could being suspended on the Everton job have anything to do with all the money going onto him joining us?

    It would seem fair to me that if they think he’s coming here to not take money off customers betting on other clubs. Am I just naive? 😉

    1
  • Mund

    Jun 10, 2021 at 9:15 AM

    Comment #144

    Gloom

    I agree but he is doing some good stuff behind the scenes that I didn’t realise

    0
  • Adamn_92

    Jun 10, 2021 at 9:17 AM

    Comment #146

    Anxer, Martoon, thank you for checking 🙂

    I think sometimes suspended is when they have a strong feeling that it’s going to happen, there’s a few rumours of him talking to Everton today so the fact his odds are suspended give that a bit of credibility I guess. Or vice versa and the bookies are going off of rumours.

    Cleveleys, I think you’re giving too much credit to betting companies 😉 if they thought he was joining us there’s no chance they’d suspend betting on him joining someone else, they’d be wanting all that wasted money haha

    2
  • Mund

    Jun 10, 2021 at 9:19 AM

    Comment #147

    Bookies have suspended bets for years but its not a sign that it’s a guarantee to happen kind of thing

    0
  • cleveleysbob

    Jun 10, 2021 at 9:20 AM

    Comment #148

    Morning Simon, similar thing happened to me in Florida.

    Flight home was overbooked and Delta wanted 4 volunteers to step down. Kept making announcements until final offer was $110 cash per passenger + Business flight to Frankfurt with connection back to Manchester. Grabbed their hands off $440 + upgraded overnight flight and use of Frankfurt lounge and got back less than 3 hours after original schedule.

    Kids weren’t too happy, but I was. 😀

    3
  • JohnJ

    Jun 10, 2021 at 9:21 AM

    Comment #149

    Optimistic prime

    Jun 9, 2021 at 9:59 PM
    Comment #179

    Previous thread – “Let the man that hasn’t sinned through the first stone”

    0
  • cleveleysbob

    Jun 10, 2021 at 9:23 AM

    Comment #150

    Thanks guys, not a gambler, so genuinely don’t know how system works. 🙁

    1
  • JohnJ

    Jun 10, 2021 at 9:25 AM

    Comment #151

    @ 149

    Throw! 🙂

    1
  • DrGloom

    Jun 10, 2021 at 9:29 AM

    Comment #152

    Explaining Lee Charnley, the ‘mysterious character’ who runs Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United

    George Caulkin and Chris Waugh

    The biggest decision of Newcastle United’s season was a non-decision; sticking with Steve Bruce and letting it ride. By the final whistle on the final afternoon of a wearing campaign, the team had won five of their last eight fixtures and for Lee Charnley, who runs the club on behalf of Mike Ashley, its unconventional and reluctant owner, finishing 12th in the Premier League represented a form of vindication. Waiting had worked although, as usual, the club’s managing director was saying nothing.

    This was not a miracle, not even an “achievement”, as Bruce himself admitted, although given the trauma of their 3-0 defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion in March and a run of two wins in 19 league matches from mid-December to early April, it was quite a turnaround. Amid the financial ructions of pandemic football and with a takeover saga chugging along, a third relegation to the Championship of the Ashley era — and a second on Charnley’s watch — was unthinkable. By the end, it was enough, albeit played out to the sound of silence, with no explanation, no context, no expression of bullishness or thanks.

    On a personal and professional front, last month brought Charnley welcome news, with HM Revenue & Customs dropping a four-year investigation into the club, which had seen Newcastle’s offices raided in 2017 and electronic devices seized. As part of Operation Loom, Charnley had been arrested and then released without charge. “I’m delighted for Lee, in particular, who has had to fight it all,” Bruce said. “Dark forces” had been conspiring against the club, Ashley claimed.

    What Charnley thought of it remains unknown, as do his views on season-ticket refunds, the prospective takeover, the government furlough scheme which the club has used, the aborted Super League, players taking a knee, structural reform of the game or the price of fish because, as usual, he was saying nothing. No club in the Premier League has such an aversion to communicating with their own fans and surely no leading executive is less visible than Charnley, who does not even have a Wikipedia page. And he is Newcastle United’s only director.

    It contrasts hugely with just how visible and voluble Newcastle, as a club, are. Charnley has presided over one of the most turbulent spells in club history, encompassing their relegation in 2016 and recovery under Rafa Benitez, the Spaniard’s painful 2019 departure, a club-record £40 million splurge on Joelinton, 10,000 season-ticket holders walking away, Ashley’s desperate attempts to sell up, a poisoned relationship with the Premier League over the stalled Saudi-backed takeover, and the dramatic effects of the pandemic which took a wrecking ball to every club’s accounts.

    And, really, Charnley should not be such a stranger. After all, he is the ultimate Newcastle insider, who rose through the ranks over more than two decades until Ashley gave him the top job in 2014.

    With his shaven head and thick-rimmed spectacles, he is a distinctive figure, but biographical details are scarce. Senior figures who were at the club when he joined remember Charnley as the “office boy”, or the “tea boy”, someone who used “to hand out the team sheets at reserves games”, an administrator who was “entirely unremarkable”. He is a survivor, “the last man standing”, according to one.

    He is also a human being, one who has been part of the furniture at Newcastle for years; he cares about results, the club and the people who work there. In private, he will speak passionately about the team and everything around it, arguing his case. He can be spiky and also personable; both authors can testify to that, whether from press briefings about the accounts or other meetings. That humanity is important to recognise. There may — quite often — be a lack of common ground, but he is not just a suit.

    His quiet climb and antipathy to publicity — as well as a salary which, for a long time, was the lowest for a top-ranking Premier League director — makes it easy for people to dismiss him. Ashley’s long string of contentious decisions and broken relationship with the fans casts another shadow; to many supporters, numbed by years of mediocre football and controversies, Charnley must be a “yes man”, someone in the firing line but who has no real power. The truth, however, is more nuanced. There is some empathy for his position. Plenty like him.

    What cannot be denied: he does not have an easy job. Ashley has always been a maverick businessman with a flickering attention span. He now wants out. Fans want him out, and they also want better. Managers want more, players want more. And Newcastle themselves are less, stripped to the bone. “Charnley knows he is on borrowed time,” a source says. “When a takeover happens, he’ll be asked for the alarm codes and the passwords and be told to leave.” For now, though, he is captain of a ghost ship.

    Over the past few weeks, The Athletic has spoken to myriad people inside and outside the club, from colleagues and former colleagues, to players, staff and agents, and fellow executives at other teams. All of them agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, which is kind of appropriate.

    The questions they were asked were fairly simple. What is he like? Is he good at what he does? What are the demands of his role? And the biggest one of all: Who is Lee Charnley?

    Before a seismic final-day, survival-ensuring victory over West Ham United in May 2015, Ashley gave a rare TV interview inside St James’ Park. He accepted that the blame for Newcastle’s failures lay at “my door”.

    “After the game, Mike came into the chairman’s suite, gave everyone a hug, shouting, ‘Get in!’,” a former senior employee says. “He ordered everyone drinks, turned to Lee and said, ‘Well Lee, this is your job now. This is your club. Get on with it’.”

    On the face of it, Charnley is the main man, tasked with running a business that turns over £176.4 million a year.

    The reality is less straightforward. Even before he was desperate to sell, Ashley was unpredictable and prone to bouts of disinterest in Newcastle — a relatively small part of his retail-and-leisure empire — with a close circle of associates. Justin Barnes, a loyal lieutenant, has considerable influence and is the main liaison with the prospective buyers, but no official title.

    At a Fans’ Forum in 2018, the club stated that Barnes is a “conduit” between Ashley and Charnley, is not paid by Newcastle and, “while he will give his view in discussions, he does not have decision-making powers”. Keith Bishop, meanwhile, is Ashley’s long-serving PR man, the self-titled “Bishop of Soho” who once counted Nancy Dell’Olio, the ex-wife of former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, and Russell Grant, the celebrity astrologer, among his other clients. Both men have been regulars at matches. This is not a typical set-up.

    Charnley replaced Derek Llambias, who was in charge when Kevin Keegan resigned, when the club were relegated in 2009 and then came straight back up, and when St James’ Park was briefly renamed the Sports Direct Arena in 2011. The former casino manager from London was close to Ashley.

    “Derek would often have massive ding-dongs with Mike,” one senior ex-employee says. “That seemed to be the nature of their relationship and, in many ways, it worked.

    “Derek wasn’t a pushover and he’d fight some difficult battles. By the end, he ‘got’ Newcastle. If he knew something was wrong or needed doing, he’d give it back to Mike. In Lee, you’ve pretty much got a yes-man, trying to predict what Mike would want him to say and then saying it. He has to go via Keith and Justin to get anywhere close. Derek took a lot of punches, but it felt more dynamic.”

    Another former employee agrees.

    “Mike has left a lot of responsibility to Lee, but Lee is just his yes-man and won’t stand up to him. Derek did; he had real barneys with Mike.”

    “Ashley gets Charnley to do the things he doesn’t want to do and Charnley just does what Ashley tells him,” a figure who has worked for Newcastle on first-team matters says. “You think to yourself, ‘He’s a nice lad, he’ll try his best’, but as soon as anything remotely complicated comes up, he has to talk to Ashley and Ashley doesn’t have a clue.

    “If you can’t even do a free transfer without talking to Ashley, it means you have no power. For me, he was an administrator — not even a managing director. Sometimes I would feel sorry for him, but I don’t think anyone would tell you he has a great vision. He was just in the middle and it’s about surviving. That’s no way to run a club.”

    “It feels like you’re speaking to someone who knows they cannot give you any answers,” says one agent. “Lee constantly says he’ll ‘need to check with Mike’ — like he has to run every little thing by his boss.”

    A similar perspective is offered by a Charnley-era Newcastle player. “I felt quite sorry for him sometimes,” he says. “He’s a decent guy and he knows football — with the best will in the world, you can’t say the same about the owner. I like Mike, but he’s not immersed in football in the same way.

    “With Lee, I get the impression he knows what the club needs, but he just can’t do it. If he had a button marked ‘yes’ and was able to press it, the football side would be much better, but there’s no ‘yes’ button at Newcastle. Everything has to be run past Mike or Justin.”

    Charnley is viewed as Ashley’s “yes man” by some but others see that as a smokescreen
    A rival executive believes this is a smokescreen. “I don’t think Lee has to report back to Mike,” they say. “If Newcastle need a left-back and it would cost them £40,000-a-week, Lee will be trying to get them for £30,000. He’ll say, ‘There’s no way Mike will pay that’. That’s what I do — the owner doesn’t even know I’m negotiating.”

    “Charnley is 100 per cent in charge of negotiations,” one intermediary agrees. “What he’ll do is put himself in the middle to make it seem like he’s not. But what he says to Ashley, Ashley will go with. If he goes to Ashley and says, ‘This needs to be done for these reasons’, it’ll happen. He knows how to get Ashley on board. He has a lot of autonomy.”

    The player disputes that version. “It’s not a tactic. It’s really hard for Lee — it’s not simply about getting a yes or no from Mike, it’s about getting the timing right. Newcastle is a small part of Mike’s life, so Lee will say, ‘I can’t go to Mike with it this week’. He has to pick his moments, but football doesn’t work like that. With transfers, the longer you wait, the bigger the risk of losing players.

    “It’s the same with contracts. He’d have to get Mike’s sign-off. Mike has his own views about players’ worth, but it sometimes feels random and they don’t offer contracts based on that worth anyway. It’s ridiculous. (Chairman) Daniel Levy wouldn’t have to go to (owner) Joe Lewis at Spurs and ask about offering Harry Kane an extra 10 grand a week. He’d be told to f off and get on with it.

    “Lee is the fall guy; he’s the one who gets it in the neck from everyone, whether it’s Mike, the manager or the fans. He’s not really a chief executive because he isn’t able to make the decisions, he has to pass them upwards.”

    In other ways, Charnley is left to fend for himself. “It’s just him, without any support system,“ says an insider. “The club is completely pared down. Beyond the first team, it’s all down to the bare bones. It’s a big club being run like a small club, and Charnley does a good job in many ways.”

    As another source explains: “There is no ‘board’ as such, no accountability beyond the MD. It’s just Charnley and then the departments below him. That is unique in football and businesses of that size.”

    “What you need is a management team of people who lead football, finance, commercial, so on. They don’t have any of that,” says the top-flight executive.

    Newcastle are the only top-flight club to have just a solitary “director” listed on the Premier League’s website. In October 2018, they responded to a Fans Forum question about why they did not have a conventional board. “The club has a senior management team which meets regularly and has an awareness of all aspects of the club on a day-to-day basis,” they said. “Major decisions at the football club are made by the managing director and, where appropriate, the owner.“

    “He’s a one-man band,” another senior ex-employee says. “Nobody can do anything without Lee’s say-so.”

    A former associate concurs: “Lee has always run things quite tightly. People don’t tend to do things until they get Lee’s go-ahead.“

    Little wonder then if decisions on relatively minor issues become snarled.

    “I would blame Lee for that,” one of the former employees says. “If he can kick the can down the road, he does. With transfers or big purse strings, he’s probably waiting for the nod from Mike. On some smaller decisions, I honestly think he gets it off his table for the day and thinks, ‘I’ll wait for them to ask again’. That was one of my big frustrations.”

    “You can ring him up, although there are times he just disappears,” says the player. “It’s like he’s in his office looking at his phone thinking, ‘Oh no, what does he want? I can do without this’.”

    COVID-19, a loss of funds and Ashley’s desire to move on from owning the club have not improved Newcastle’s dynamism. “It’s a club in a transition period, as if it’s been sold, with the owner basically washing his hands of it, when in actual fact it might never be sold,” a former employee says.

    The former first-team figure laughs when it is put to him that Charnley might deserve credit for not sacking Bruce after that Brighton defeat in March. “Why do you think they didn’t fire him?” he says. “Because they didn’t want to pay (compensation). Full stop.”

    However, patience is also a stated policy.

    In a rare 2015 interview, Charnley said: “When we feel we have the right person in that position (head coach), indeed any position, our focus is on supporting them in order that, together, we can ride through the rough periods that, inevitably, come.”

    Unlike the combative Benitez, who publicly urged Newcastle’s hierarchy “to do things right”, Bruce has kept any frustrations in-house; the head coach has been the focal point of fan unrest at his hometown club. “The Bruce relationship is fuelled by Lee’s bad relationship with Rafa, who had his life every single day,” one agent says. “I did feel sorry for Lee at that stage, because he was stuck between Rafa and Mike, who were like two fighting parents. He was in the middle of this cat-and-mouse pi**ing contest.

    “To have Steve must be like a breath of fresh air. It feels like a case of, ‘I’m glad he’s taking the sht, because it means I’m not’.”

    Charnley is said to find life easier with Bruce, after conflict between Benitez, right, and Ashley (Photo: Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)
    Yet stasis is also entrenched at Ashley’s Newcastle, at Charnley’s Newcastle, and was so long before anyone had heard about coronavirus or suspected that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund might want to buy the club. Upon his appointment, Charnley spoke about a new “multi-million-pound, state-of-the-art training complex, which we hope will be completed in early-2016”.

    There may have been decent reasons for it — on-field struggles, relegation, Ashley’s determination to sell — but this is another can that has been kicked down the road. There have been upgrades at the Benton complex, a fresh look and an expanded gym, but does it speak of an organisation straining for excellence?

    “There’s no pool, or other stuff which would be standard at most Premier League clubs,” the player says. “They hate it when people say this, but it’s not fit for purpose. Injured players have to work their rehab around Zumba classes at the local David Lloyd (gym)!”

    That last bit, said with tongue in cheek, is comprehensively denied by the club, while Ashley has previously stated: “Our training facilities have improved significantly during my tenure. They are fit for purpose and very clearly do not have a negative impact on performance.”

    When Charnley joined Newcastle, he had “a head full of black hair”. It was the turn of the Millennium, Bobby Robson was manager and the Blackpool-born administrator arrived as assistant club secretary.

    Over more than two decades, while the manager has changed 17 times, and ownership has passed from Sir John Hall and Freddy Shepherd to Ashley, Charnley has gradually been promoted until, in April 2014, aged 36, he became Newcastle’s most powerful employee. Yet, to many of his colleagues, he remains a “mystery”.

    “I certainly didn’t see him as future manager-director material,” says a former club official. “Great on the administrative side, but entirely unremarkable.”

    Having previously worked for the Football League at its old offices in Lancashire, Charnley joined Newcastle under Russell Cushing, then the club secretary. As part of his role, Charnley coordinated off-field matters for the reserve team, who were based at the city’s Kingston Park stadium.

    “He was always very well organised,” says a source. “But whenever I spoke to him, he always said he was ‘acting under instructions’. That sums him up, really.”

    One former player describes him as “a likeable guy”, and another as “one of the lads”.

    Former colleagues liked Charnley, even if he was reserved, and viewed him “as a real team player before he became a bigwig”, who regularly attended staff nights out. “He’s quiet; he doesn’t shout from the rooftops, he’s not lairy or busy, he just gets on with his job,” says another ex-employee. “I’ve never heard him say a bad word about anyone or raise his voice. He’s polite, courteous.”

    After Ashley bought Newcastle, Charnley assumed the club secretary role in 2008, a position that saw him become a director. For five years, he worked under Llambias, before running the football side of the business once the former MD left in 2013, while John Irving dealt with commercial operations as finance director.

    “It worked quite well,” says a source. “When Derek left, it was like we had two MDs. John was really switched on with the business side, based at the stadium, and Lee was good with the football side, based at the training ground.”

    Within 12 months, Charnley was made MD. “Mike would go to the training ground to discuss transfers with Lee, who did the paperwork, so they built a close relationship,” the source says.

    By June 2015, when Ashley relinquished his directorship and Irving departed, Charnley created the “Football Board”. Alongside the MD, it featured Steve McClaren, the then-head coach, Graham Carr, the chief scout, and Bob Moncur, a club ambassador and former Newcastle captain, but this board rarely ever met before being quietly disbanded during the 2016-17 season. Since then, Charnley, as sole director, has overseen day-to-day decision-making, having relocated from the training ground to an office on level four of the stadium, along the corridor from the boardroom.

    “It’s like two businesses, really,” says a former associate. “There’s the football side and the non-footballing side, and the non-footballing side is run like a small business, not a top-level sporting institution. They try to restrict every penny spent on the non-football side. Lee oversees a very well-run operation, with some very committed, underpaid people.”

    Although Charnley is close to what some refer to as his “inner circle” — which includes Richard Hines, the club secretary — the now 43-year-old does not socialise much with staff. Some claim he “doesn’t speak to some employees face to face, he texts and emails them”, which others refute, while some retort that he walks around staring down at his phone to avoid corridor small-talk.

    Most view Charnley as a “fair boss”. Staff Christmas parties are fully paid for, while Newcastle run a “very Ashley-esque” incentivised bonus scheme. Charnley waived his own six-figure bonus following promotion in 2017 and it is understood that he asked for it to be shared out among club staff.

    “There’s a side to Lee that a lot of people don’t know about,” says a source, referencing Charnley volunteering at the Newcastle West End Foodbank, without courting publicity, and his regular donations to NUFC’s Foundation. “He can be remarkably generous.”

    The issue, both internally and externally, is communication. When he was appointed as managing director, Charnley stated he would not “comment on the media speculation and rumours that exist in this digital world“, and Newcastle have become known disparagingly by fans as the “no-comment club”.

    “Information doesn’t seep down from above,” the ex-associate says. “There’s a culture of fear, a concern that whatever they say will make things worse. That comes from Charnley.”

    Even Newcastle’s intermittent public utterances about the takeover have been generic club statements, albeit remarkably incendiary ones. Charnley’s last in-depth communication with supporters came via programme notes at the start of the 2019-20 season, which he promised would become more regular. There have been none since.

    “He shows total and utter contempt for fans, treating them like pieces of meat,” says a former player. “It must be the only Premier League club that doesn’t have any communication with its fans.” Another reveals that former players, including himself, have reached out and offered their help, but the regime has not accepted it. “It’s just mind-blowing,” he says.

    “I don’t think for one moment Mike is saying to Lee, ‘Don’t communicate’,” says a former employee. “I just think Lee doesn’t want to.”

    A rival club executive understands Charnley’s position, though. “It’s hard, because everything you say is torn apart and I think that’s probably exacerbated at a club like Newcastle,” they say. “I get it, you have to talk, but it’s also the way some people are: ‘Do your job, keep your head down and then the less you say, the less it can be held against you’.”

    Throughout the pandemic, there have been what one employee describes as “waves of internal communication, peaks and troughs”; regular video updates from Charnley to employees after football was first paused in March of last year, but gradually less information. Some staff members are understood to remain on part-furlough, with more than one claiming to have received little reassurance over their long-term job security.

    Asked by The Athletic to clarify their position on furlough, the club declined to comment.

    Amid takeover rumours, of which there have been countless, Charnley is “usually pretty good at providing bits of information, trying to do his best”. An employee insists Charnley is “relatively visible” on the staff intranet system, Jostle, although that has “waned” as the pandemic has worn on.

    There is a perception that he prefers anonymity outside St James’. A source claims Charnley “sometimes heads out into the city almost in disguise”, removing his glasses and putting on a long coat and hat to avoid being recognised (one nickname for him inside the building is ‘Harry Hill’, due to a passing resemblance to the British comedian). He also regularly plays at a popular golf club in nearby Northumberland, with another source claiming he “goes early, so nobody can see him”. Given some unsavoury incidents in the past, and his apparent unpopularity among supporters, few blame him for being guarded.

    “He may be a mysterious character, but he is just doing his job,” a source says. “He shouldn’t be vilified for that, even if some decisions can be questioned.”

    “When you go to Newcastle’s boardroom, it’s only Lee and a couple of mates, and you think, ‘Where is everybody else?’” a Premier League executive says. “But they don’t have anybody else.”

    At many Premier League clubs, the chairman’s suite is bustling on a match day, full of directors “schmoozing”, doing the rounds. At St James’, the atmosphere is more subdued.

    “Charnley doesn’t pound the flesh, make himself visible,” a former employee says. “Sir John, Freddie Fletcher and Llambias were all brilliant at it, but Charnley just doesn’t do it. He doesn’t show those interpersonal skills. There’s no ambience in the suite now. He just sits on his phone and rarely speaks.”

    Pre-pandemic, sources claim Charnley’s table in the chairman’s suite was “never full”. Barnes and Bishop were often there, while Ashley’s helicopter pilot regularly enjoyed a pre-match meal, even though the billionaire has rarely attended games himself in recent seasons.

    “Charnley’s not the sort who goes around making a fuss of the ‘corporates’. Nobody high up bothers with that anymore,” says a long-term presence in the directors’ box. “On the rare occasions you do speak to him, he’s always very reasonable, but he’s hardly ever around for a chat. He rarely invites many, beyond his inner circle, into the chairman’s suite.”

    Officials at other clubs, however, have always found Charnley a welcoming host.

    “He was very courteous,” says one former executive. Another describes him as “warm and not a bad guy”, but “not one to talk about the politics of the Premier League or anything interesting”.

    Although Charnley attends almost all away matches, during the pandemic there were occasions when “there was no representation from Newcastle whatsoever”, according to the official. Ashley’s pilot is often on the manifest, even if the billionaire is not. “You were allowed 10 (people) at away games and Man United always have a massive contingent,” the official says. “Smaller teams may bring three or four, but Newcastle very rarely bring anyone (beyond Charnley).”

    That is primarily because, as mentioned, besides a distant owner, Newcastle also have a skeletal executive structure. The Premier League’s website lists the directors at each top-flight club for 2020-21. Manchester United have 14, 19 of the 20 clubs have at least three and the average is five. Newcastle are the only club with just a solitary director.

    Charnley’s salary is also among the lowest. During his first three seasons as MD, he’s been paid £150,000 a year. In 2017-18, he received £300,000, half of which is believed to have been reward for a 10th-placed finish, while in 2018-19, his salary including bonus was £267,000. Ed Woodward, Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman, was the best-remunerated Premier League director in 2019-20, on £3.09 million; the top-flight average for best-paid officials at clubs was £1.4 million.

    While some claim Charnley has been “overpromoted”, fellow executives refute such “snobbery”.

    “I think that’s cr*p,” says the former official. “The best people in a club are always those who come through it; they know every element. Just because you don’t come from big business doesn’t mean you can’t be good at your job. He’s worked his way up at Newcastle, so he knows every aspect, all the moving parts.”

    Still, that manifests itself in his modest remuneration. “Everybody has to start from somewhere,” says the current director. “It doesn’t mean that someone handing out team sheets can’t become a useful and powerful executive. He was club secretary for a long time; that’s a critical role. For that person to become MD, which isn’t unheard of, it’s a cost-saving exercise. You get the best admin guy, who knows the club well, to run it because you’re saving money by not hiring someone experienced and expensive. But you’re also hiring someone who will do what you tell them to.”

    Charnley is still willing to stand his ground during Premier League meetings when necessary, even if he is not a typical top-flight director.

    “He would be quite vocal,” the former executive says. “He wasn’t shy. He holds his own, but only when he felt it was important to speak up. Some people in those meetings just want their voices heard.” The current official says: “If you stick him in a room with Ed Woodward, Christian Purslow and Steve Parish, he’d stick out. But there are many executives who don’t have that level of personality. He doesn’t say much and doesn’t dominate the room, but that’s not unusual.

    “Newcastle are very commercial-based. When there are debates, they would often be, ‘Why would I do that? It’s going to cost me money?’ That must come from Mike.”

    Since the takeover stalled, Charnley’s tone during meetings has sometimes been “negative”, says the source. “He isn’t happy with how the Premier League behaved,” the official says, “and that’s led to Newcastle almost protest-voting against things.”

    Unsurprisingly, Newcastle are understood to be the only club who opposed extending beIN Sports’ TV deal with the league. The Qatar-based broadcaster’s material was allegedly pirated by Saudi network beoutQ, an issue that has held up ratification of the prospective takeover. But the director claims there have been “two or three 19-1 votes now, and Newcastle have been the one”. Newcastle insist they only vote in the club’s best interests and not for political reasons.

    When officials deal with Charnley on a club-to-club basis, they find him to be “straight-talking”, “decent” and “just doing what Ashley tells him to”.

    The former director, in particular, offers a sympathetic impression of him. “My club dealt with similar things, where you’d be getting battered by fans for everything,” they say. “The job of the CEO is really tough.”

    Ashley has always approached football as an outsider. His drive for sustainability, to ensure the club “lives within its means”, has never been an issue in itself; in many ways, it is a sensible, laudable, objective. Just because something has traditionally been done one way, doesn’t mean it always should. The problem has been the application of that principle, which has led to contentious and sometimes ill-judged decisions, exacerbated by clumsy communication.

    Whereas many other Premier League clubs have sporting directors, directors of football or even dedicated contract negotiators (Newcastle’s inexplicable experiment with Joe Kinnear did not last long), it is Charnley who ultimately brokers transfers and contract extensions, with Steve Nickson, the head of recruitment, identifying potential targets alongside head coach Bruce, who has the final say on incoming signings.

    “There is no executive structure beyond Charnley,” says a source. “So things happen that you wouldn’t see elsewhere, like player contracts running down and their value being lost, or targets going elsewhere.” As one recruitment official puts it: “Every in and out and every contract decision at Newcastle happens on Charnley’s say-so. He’s the negotiator-in-chief.”

    Certainly, Ashley himself rarely intervenes when it comes to the minutiae. Bruce, like Benitez and McClaren previously, primarily communicates with the owner through Charnley, very rarely directly. When Bruce talks about “knocking down the door” to secure transfers, he is referring to the entrance to Charnley’s office.

    Charnley is respected for his “no bullshit” approach to transfers but his intransigence frustrates others (Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images)
    Again, there are contrasting verdicts on Charnley’s style.

    One agent describes him as, “Always fair and up-front about deals and what’s possible.” Another says, “Charnley doesn’t bullshit, which is more than I can say for other CEOs. He doesn’t give a lot of room for manoeuvre, but he doesn’t change the goalposts.”

    Others, though, describe some of his conduct during meetings as “rude” and “disrespectful”. They allege that he sometimes disappears “off grid” and does not respond to messages for long periods, before calling and attempting to resume negotiations days or even weeks later.

    “He says, ‘No’. That’s what he does,” a source says. “He will not be pragmatic, he will not look at what’s right, he’ll just say, ‘No’, and block it out. If you’re trying to negotiate something with him, he won’t think of the logic behind it. He’ll just say, ‘No, I’m not doing that’.”

    There is another way of looking at this, of course. Agents are not renowned for their altruism and Charnley could simply be protecting his club by taking a tough stance during discussions, just as intermediaries do on behalf of their clients.

    “They are a disaster on transfers,” says the Premier League director. “They overpay; they are looking at free transfers and paying higher salaries. When you’re looking at a player, and if they’re considering Newcastle too, you normally don’t do it because they pay quite high salaries.”

    For the most part, though, Newcastle are renowned for being frugal with transfer fees. Joelinton is very much an exception.

    Instead, the Miguel Almiron transfer saga of the January 2019 window is a better representation of how Newcastle and Charnley have operated.

    From an early stage, Charnley made it clear to MLS club Atlanta United that Newcastle would pay £16 million up front, potentially rising to £21 million with add-ons, and that they could take it or leave it. Atlanta expected Newcastle to return with another offer but Charnley held firm and, almost two months later (the MLS season had ended in early December), the deal was agreed on pretty much those initial terms. Money was saved, but the delay frustrated Benitez, who believed it placed the team’s position in jeopardy. Why wait and gamble? Why not give him more time to work with the player?

    “They are belligerent to the point of being detrimental to themselves,” an agent says. “Mike Ashley’s policy is to try and extract as much value as possible, even when it isn’t there. When it works, great, they make a decent profit. But when it doesn’t, they shoot themselves in the foot. They try to extract every penny they can out of every deal; that makes dealing with them a grind.”

    Value works two ways.

    When it was all over, Charnley pushed to his feet and looked skyward.

    Newcastle had done their best to lose, faltering when two goals up against 10-man West Ham and, for the final few minutes, their managing director had cradled his head in one hand. This was an uncommon demonstration of public feeling, but it was also a high-stakes moment; 2-0 up with 20 minutes left had become 2-1 and then 2-2 before Joe Willock popped up with the winner.

    St James’ was empty on April 17, 2021, but the pressure was tangible and Newcastle’s victory, their second in succession, brought sharp relief. They were up to 15th, nine points clear of the bottom three with six games remaining and a storm was dissipating. That was an unlikely scenario four weeks earlier when Brighton away happened and Bruce’s position felt borderline untenable. Charnley’s response was a very human one, but why wouldn’t it be?

    It is not a new observation, but it can be difficult to understand an ownership model which has often turned logic on its head, and Charnley does not actively help that process.

    Perhaps he has been burned too many times by journalists, perhaps he feels everything he says is picked apart, perhaps it has gone beyond that point, perhaps he distrusts the spotlight. Perhaps he just wants to keep his head down and get on with it.

    A week or so ago, The Athletic approached Newcastle and told them we were writing a profile of Charnley. We wanted to paint a picture, to explain the mechanics of what he does and what he’s like. We had spoken to a lot of people by then, but if Charnley cared to contribute, we would be happy to listen, on or off the record.

    The offer was politely considered and declined.

    11
  • Mund

    Jun 10, 2021 at 9:31 AM

    Comment #153
  • Mund

    Jun 10, 2021 at 9:31 AM

    Comment #154

    Thanks Gloom 🙂

    0
  • simon376

    Jun 10, 2021 at 9:49 AM

    Comment #155

    Bob

    Stuff like that is amazing. I didnt complain at all, just took my %50% voucher, night in hotel evening meal and breakfast with another £10 to spend at airport. Some kicking off and ripping up voucher, I thought whats the point, even better when home and checked the price for the next year

    0
  • Adamn_92

    Jun 10, 2021 at 10:05 AM

    Comment #156

    Mund

    Apologies I can’t view that link (think anything bet related is blocked here at work), so sorry if I repeat what’s said there at all. Cleveleys, I think some people and gamblers often see a suspended bet as an indication that the bookies have had a tip off about something. So in this example maybe a tip off that Benitez is close to being the new Everton manager. Bets can be suspended by a bookie also just as a form of waiting for something (possibly in the works) to develop. An example of this is in game betting, so say you want to bet on Newcastle to score the next goal, they would suspend that bet if we had a dangerous attack or a penalty for example.

    The only reason I find the Rafa to Everton odds suspended interesting, is that as far as i’m aware that’s the only club they’ve suspended it on. Meaning they must believe there’s something in it as it’s only the one club. They haven’t done it for Newcastle or multiple clubs or just suspended bets on him joining anyone, they’ve singled out Everton. So my guess is they’ve had a strong tip off from someone that they highly trust, enough to believe there’s a strong possibility of it happening.

    2
  • geordietom

    Jun 10, 2021 at 10:08 AM

    Comment #157

    simon …

    a few years a go while flying back from egypt , the cabin crew were coming round with a card to fill in saying you could win a free holiday of your choice , i said to wor lass it’ll be a waste of time any way she filled it out a few days later the travel company phoned and said youve won a holiday , we booked to go back to egypt , i never told her since then it’ll be a waste of time …

    2
  • Mund

    Jun 10, 2021 at 10:09 AM

    Comment #158

    Adam

    There is plenty other reasons for suspended betting but ofc you could be right and it might have something to do with a tip off. There has been plenty of suspended betting that doesn’t happen so I guess all we can do is wait.

    I think Everton would be very appealing to Rafa. It’s the kind of club that suits his own vision.

    Just another waiting game 😆

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  • geordietom

    Jun 10, 2021 at 10:10 AM

    Comment #159

    Adam …

    OUR the bookies dont want to take a massive hit …

    2
  • geordietom

    Jun 10, 2021 at 10:11 AM

    Comment #160

    OR*

    0


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