Newcastle United: How the new owners endured a stormy first management month

BBC Sport Insight online

Eddie Howe was portrayed when he was unveiled as Newcastle’s new manager
Howe was appointed boss of Newcastle on 8 November

When Paulo Fonseca finished his third interview for the Newcastle United vacancy, he must have felt confident that he had got the job.

Yes, some of the questions weren’t what he could have expected – some were about fans, one about his relationship with the media, and many weren’t football-specific, ones that allowed coaches to explain how they improve teams.

But that wasn’t unnecessarily worrying – more than one person who took part in discussions with Newcastle has said the questions asked to managers are more reminiscent of those asked by fans than those asked by elite club officials.

But even though Fonseca’s talks were over, the process was nowhere near over.

His potential employers still had a final round of interviews with the other remaining candidates, Eddie Howe and Unai Emery.

Then, even before they could happen, Fonseca was told that the club was heading in the other direction. Over the weekend, after a 3-0 home loss to Newcastle, Chelsea got the news that the job was not his and he is no longer needed. The new owners of the magpies had a husband – it was Villarreal’s former Arsenal boss Emery.

Except, of course, no deal was made and the events of the next few days confused Emery to the point that she walked away from the opportunity to take over one of the richest clubs in the world.

It was one example of how Newcastle’s new owners have endured a tumultuous month since they took power from Mike Ashley in an explosive publicity, not the slightest controversy.

Brief introduction of the gray line

In a club interview last week, Amanda Staveley – the woman and co-owner who was about to take over – described her first month at St James’ Park as “quite exhausting.”

“Every day every 24 hours, except for a few hours of sleep,” he said, reflecting on the time pressures and commitment required.

“It’s been exhausting, inspiring, but the welcome has been so exceptional and special. We don’t want to deceive anyone. One of the things is to communicate with the fans that if we make mistakes, we’ll pick them up quickly. but very rewarding. “

And no doubt there have been mistakes.

Almost exactly a month passed between the takeover of the £ 305 million Saudi-backed club and the announcement on 8 November that former Bournemouth boss Howe will succeed Steve Bruce.

But the news also came well over a year after sources close to the new owners reported the deal was imminent. It proved premature and the potential owners at the time retreated.

Although the deal did not take place, the delay meant that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), financier Staveley and the Reuben brothers had time to plan.

Yet when he was present, the leader was not fired immediately. Bruce was only allowed to continue one match when he took charge of his 1,000th game, a 3-2 loss to Tottenham, and told reporters in advance at a news conference that they were “deserving a punch” when they said he was to be fired.

But those stories had content – again, the briefings proved inaccurate, anyway for a few days.

When Bruce finally left, on October 20, the search for a supervisor – which could have started much earlier – really started to work. However, it would prove to be protracted and lacked a clear direction despite all the time that had elapsed since the owners knew the deal was possible.

Amanda Staveley is watching Newcastle's match against Tottenham
Staveley and his comrade’s new owners received a happy reception as they took part in a 3-2 loss to Tottenham on October 17 – Bruce’s last Magpie coach.

Eventually, they landed on Howe, of course, but along a detour. Staveley later spoke of the former Bournemouth Manager being a “perfect fit”. But he was not the first choice.

It was Rafael Benitez – but it quickly became clear that he was not leaving Everton.

Staveley and husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi turned their attention elsewhere, and Emery was high on their list.

Emery showed real interest in the job and Newcastle was convinced they had a husband. There were again widespread reports in the media that Emery was due to be appointed and the deal was almost done.

Except it wasn’t, and once again the information had proved unreliable.

On November 2, Emery had an important Champions League preparation with Villarreal and asked to be alone to focus on that match. But as the start approached, these reports became even more accurate – this would be his last game in leading the Spanish team. More press conferences.

Those leaks made Emery’s life harder. And if the business had to be run this way, did it create a suitable work environment? Emery felt unreasonably pressured.

His son, the Villarreal players, and Fernando Roig Nogueroles – the owner’s son in charge of day-to-day operations – all told him to stay, the latter on the field after winning the Young Boys and then also on the phone. 1 night.

The decision was made and reveal BBC Sport just a few hours after the end of the Villarreal match.

It was an embarrassing turn for Newcastle’s new owners, but an indication of what could be generously described as a naive approach, or less charitable, to describe a lack of understanding of these processes.

The role of Ashley-led CEO Lee Charnley is also confusing. Why was he in video calls with candidates or their representatives when his own role was – and still is – unclear? Why has no new CEO been appointed?

The answer to at least the first question is that Charnley will stay in position and hope to stay.

And this is an example of one of the problems the club is facing. There is an old structure that needs to be inspected and possibly demolished while a new one is being built.

As the business continues, games are played and the January transfer window blurs.

The club has approached Atletico Madrid defender Kieran Trippier and did so before Howe was selected. So who’s calling? Football doesn’t have a leader and there was no manager at that point, so whose vision is this?

The new owners are grateful to report their mistakes openly. They have privately apologized for the mistakes they accept they have made. They know they need to improve, but now is the beginning and the transition. Staveley said so much last week.

When attention shifted to Hoween – the owners had previously either had discussions with Benitez, Fonseca, Emery, Roberto Martinez, Lucien Favre, Joachim Low, Xavi and Antonio Conte, had considered them or offered them as part of their lengthy searches – caretaker Manager Graeme Jones remained. in the dark.

He took power against Brighton 6. November, a 1-1 draw that meant Newcastle recorded the start of the longest unbeaten season in its history.

What caused the delay in choosing the right candidate? It became known that the information was at the heart of Newcastle’s executive decision-making process, to which Staveley referred last week.

“We, and PIF in particular, are a very process-driven organization. One of the things we have learned in football is that things are progressing incredibly fast,” he said in an interview.

“We met and talked with Eddie some time ago. We talked about meeting him during Mike’s time [Ashley] led the club. But we had to do a perfect search in the market to find the perfect fit, and Eddie is the perfect fit. We couldn’t have imagined bringing in a better manager, he’s so dynamic.

“One of the things we do a lot of managerial analysis is analytics and data. He got such high scores by all means.”

In addition to reliance on information above other football criteria, negotiations with Howe’s assistants also resulted in a delay in his appointment. In one case, it was less than £ 200,000.

It has sent a contradictory message to the market – aren’t they the richest club in the world? Some sources see it as an indication of what might come, especially if the club drops, and others said it was a clever way to lower expectations for players and managers.

The Reuben brothers have been offered the support of a network of experts in their efforts to make better decisions and better understand the processes of football. The club looks at how things are done and tries to improve.

It’s been a challenging first month and several false starts. Have they finally found the right man? Does it even matter if they don’t get the right structure in the short term?

Only time will tell.

Additional reporting by Alistair Magowan

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