There has a recent precedent of course, with chief scout Graham Carr having already been given an eight year contract back in June. Both Derek Llambias and his Public Relations assistants in the the local (Trinity Mirror Group) media such as Lee Ryder and Mark Douglas have been getting excited to the point of tumescence about this latest round of contract extensions, with Douglas even having the impertinence to tell we fans, his readers, how we must think and behave from now on. He suggested that like all fans (and unlike Ashley and Llambias), we are simply primitive, bed sheet wielding “knee jerk” creatures of impulse, but that we must now bow down in obeisance to Ashley’s longterm plan and restrain ourselves from any form of criticism should the club have a bad run of results.
However, with serial deceivers such as Llambias, Ryder and Douglas, it is usually more informative to take an close look at what they AREN’T saying as much as what they are. Despite the numerous words on what a forward thinking move this is, how it will bring “stability” to the club etc, there have been none at all on what the exact terms of these contracts are. The devil is in the details, and these are the facts which which will tell us more about what Mike Ashley’s true intentions are with these extensions. Hence it is hardly surprising that there have been no words whatsover about these from the club. Instead, we have Derek Llambias speaking in vague platitudes to Trinity Mirror’s flagship title, the Mirror. In amongst the rest it goes without saying that he didn’t forget his usual disdainful cheap shot at the last 25 years of Newcastle United’s history:
“You look at the last 25 years at Newcastle and it has only known drama, from the highs to the lows. They worked on those glory transfers and all the dramas behind them – glory and bust, with no success. What was the success? It was basically. ‘I’ve signed a player!’ That has to end. It has.”
Later, he went on to contrast this abject failiure of the Keegan years, the Robson years and so on with the great success he and Ashley have created at the club over the past five years, as well as the success of clubs with managerial stability such as Manchester United and Arsenal:
“There is no coincidence that Manchester United with Sir Alex has been there over 25 years and has created stability and with that has come success, and along with Arsene Wenger stability has come success. What we have achieved over the last five years has been tremendous, we have put a lot into the model, financially we are stable and that will continue and now it’s all about stability on the pitch, and having the right managing and coaching staff and chief scout. It is a fantastic move for us and those individuals.”
Llambias seems to have forgotten that there has been no shortage of drama and instability since Ashley took over the club in the Summer of 2007, with no less that seven managerial changes in that time as well as relegation. Despite this, Ashley and his cipher have persisted with the policy which arguably started all the instablity of the Ashley years so far in the first place, that of repeated dishonesty to the point of compulsion, both to managers and fans. As for Manchester United’s and Arsenal’s “success,” this has nothing whatsoever to do with 8 year contracts. Alex Ferguson has been on a one year rolling contract since 2004 and Arsene Wenger’s current contract expires in 2014. The club have offered Wenger an extension to this, though it is only for three years and Wenger himself seems to be in no rush to sign it. Hence, you can see from the Ferguson example at least, that it is success on the pitch which brings stabilty, not long managerial contracts and PR announcements
He went on to say:
“You can’t keep changing your manager because you have a bad a run.”
This from the man who sacked Chris Hughton despite him getting the club promoted, transforming the club’s scouting operation by bringing in Graham Carr and getting us settled in mid table in our first season. All this because he and Ashley felt that he wasn’t “aggressive” and “horrible” enough for his and Ashley’s tastes.
His hypocrisy continued when he also added later:
“We are pleased, very pleased we are doing something different in football, this eight-year deal is something different in football and it shows our commitment to where we believe we should be. Our model is not rocket science, other Premier League clubs do the same but over a four-year period. We have taken them from a very bad financial position to a very good position which will only get better, and we will continue to strive to make football affordable for our fans and to fill that stadium and by having entertaining football is the way of doing it.”
Actually, it isn’t that different. Kevin Keegan was awarded a TEN year contract by John Hall in the days of the “Entertainers” so it isn’t anything new even in Newcastle, though we all know what happened there! Sam Allardyce also had a similar 10 year contract too at Bolton Wanderers, something he described recently as “a blank piece of paper with little or no expectation.” Despite Llambias’s claim to have taken the club from a “very bad financial position” to a “very good position,” the club is still in more debt now than it was when Ashley assumed ownership over five years ago, being the third most in debt club in the Premership behind Manchester United and Fulham. So, as is the norm with Llambias, practically every word he said above is incorrect.
However, that is just background, and it’s high time I got to the main point of this piece, ie what could be the real reason behind these contract extensions for Pardew, Carver, Stone, Woodman and Carr?
The answer probably has something to do with the fact that Pardew is not on the same kind of salary as managers of similar clubs which are toward the higher end of the Premiership. He is actually on the same kind of salary as the managers of bottom end Premiership “yoyo” clubs, or top end Championship clubs. To put it in perspective, his £450,000 per annum is slightly less than Phil Brown received when he was manager of Hull City several years ago. Even though it is still almost double what his predecessor received, it would be easy for a relatively small club to make a far more lucrative offer to the man who was twice voted as “Manager of the year” last season.
Newcastle’s fifth place finish last term, and the recognition both Pardew, Carr and the rest of the coaching staff received for it will have alerted the parsimnious Ashley, driving him to lock not just Pardew, but also Graham Carr and the rest into as long a deals he could possibly get away with. Of course the reason for this is that any club who had designs on poaching Pardew and the rest would still have to pay hefty compenstion fees even though their salaries are relatively low. It also shouldn’t be forgotten that Roy Hodgson is no spring chicken and Pardew was also tenuously linked with the England position when Hodgson was chosen. Indeed, in Pardew’s response to being awarded his new contract, he expressed a wish to win both a World Cup and a Champions League trophy before he retired from the game, though he acknowledged that winning both would be impossible at Newcastle United, the first for obvious reasons and the second because Newcastle is run on such a tight budget under the Ashley regime
If these are the real reasons for the extensions, I think that it would also be a safe bet to say that the terms ralating to compensation for Ashley in the event of Pardew leaving the club will not be the same as those for Pardew should he be summarily sacked by the gruesome twosome, ie that Pardew or the others would receive their full eight years of salary should they be given the boot. It would also be safe to assume that lawyers would have burned much midnight oil writing exclusion clauses for every other contingency on Ashley’s side.
Now there may be more than a little speculation on my part above, however I am confident that these are far more likely to be the real reasons for this latest development than Llambias’s platiditudinous guff!