As Brad Pitt was wowing us by showing the innate genius of Oakland Athletics’s General Manager Billy Bean, who achieved so much more than their payroll justified, little did we know that in the North-East of England another club was waking up from its slumber to rise into prominence using a similar ai???moneyballai??? philosophy.

With the number of billionaires increasing in football by the day it has become an unofficial arms race of sorts where the owners are shelling out amounts unheard of on players who at best could be labeled mediocre. And all this in the name of success, as we know from common belief that the more you spend the higher the probability is of success. We all have been lead to believe what we all know ai???if you pay peanuts, you get monkeysai???.

Clearly, someone forgot to mention this to Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias. They have been cooking up what the Wall Street Journal calls ai???Soccer’s Cut-Price Revolutionai???. Many can claim Ashley to be just the figurehead and neglect his contributions to such a huge project but credit goes where itai??i??s due. His new ideas werenai??i??t conventional and thus came with it huge media and mass criticism.

Like many others, he bought a football club for A?134 million to ‘show off’ but it cost him more than he had bargained for. Unable to grasp the finances, the on field requirements as well as the powerful emotion of the Geordie people, he went on a downward spiral and took the club ‘down’, quite literally, with himself. He was even forced to put the club on sale. Having failed in that aspect, he and Llambias owned up to their mistakes and buckled up to run the club their way and to make it a success both financially as well as on the field where it really mattered. 3 long years, 6 managers and even more controversial decisions later, Newcastle Untied as well as Ashley and Co., are getting deserved accolades.

.

Villan-Turned-Heroes?

.

Itai??i??s hard to put it in words about how Ashley, Llambias and the club have overcome all the odds stacked against them to achieve success. In doing so, Newcastle have laid down a blue print of healthy success which other clubs with lesser finances can follow. Neither Ashley nor Lambias have ever been adored like Billy Bean or Peter Brand in Oakland; neither did they have any books written by someone like Bill James to look upon while deciding on their future course.

On the contrary, they were loathed and despised by the general public in Newcastle with abuses being constantly hurled at him at the ground by protesters as well as on the streets. Some of it were even justified since the appointment of Dennis Wise and Tony Jimenez as directors of football didnai??i??t turn out to be such a wise decision after all.

This really makes it even more emotionally harder to care for a club whose fans just plainly want you out of there. Being a successful businessman as he is, Ashley never paid much heed to them and along with his colleagues went about rebuilding a club which had been tortured both emotionally and financially. With many a shrewd decision on players’ movement and their keen business acumen, they have been able to wake up a sleeping giant of English football and bring them within touching distance of European-level fame.

However, it hasnai??i??t been Ashley and Llambias alone all the way. They had laid a blueprint down for the success of the club but needed people who could execute their plan to the core. In came the ai???mannas from heavenai???. The due diligence of their chief scout Graham Carr and manager Alan Pardew have played huge roles in such a turn around.

Even former manager Chris Hughton deserves accolades for rescuing the sinking ship in that single year back in the Championship. Ashley may not have known it then but that one season spent by the toon outside the Premiership rather came as a blessing in disguise, where they could offload high earners who didnai??i??t produce enough and didnai??i??t give a darn to what happened to the club (the Duffs, Martins, Owens and Vidukas of the world). Hughton brought the club together in this time of turmoil with a number of players who stood up. They, thus, avoided what ultimately became of Leeds, Nottingham and Wednesday.

Having secured Newcastle a comfortable mid-table position in the first year back up, Hughton was removed in favour of Pardew which at that time was quiet a gutsy move, one that was heavily criticized by all and sundry. This made Pardewai??i??s job no easier than it already was, but the gamble has paid off handsomely. One year later, Hughton is now a figure of the past, although not forgotten.

If this wasnai??i??t enough for Ashley and Co. to make themselves unpopular on Tyneside, they followed it up with an even more controversial one, selling the clubai??i??s no.9 and fan favourite Andy Carroll for a record British record transfer fee of A?35million to Liverpool. This brought the ire of the whole of Geordie nation on him. But an year later, the decision has been vindicated.

They didnai??i??t stop there and let three more stalwarts in Enrique, Nolan and Barton leave at the beginning of the season making them one of the favourites for the bookies to go down again. Newcastle are now pushing for fourth, only separated from Spurs by virtue of goal difference and 2 points ahead of big spenders Chelsea and 13 ahead of Liverpool, looking every bit deserving of the place they hold amongst the big boys of the Premier League.

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Has silenced all the critics!

.

Pardew, along with Carr, bought into Ashleyai??i??s philosophy and their scouting focused basically on young talent both known and unknown. Focusing mostly on mainland Europe, unconvinced that paying over the odds for overpriced and sometimes over-hyped English talent was the way to go about business, they raided France and brought in Cabaye, Ben Arfa and an impressive youngster Mehdi Abeid for a combined total of only A?10 million.

They brought in Demba Ba for a free and in January, gave him a partner of some calibre in Pappiss Demba Cisse from Freiburg. Even when criticized for lack of activity in the transfer market, they haven’t panicked and haven’t given into surreal transfer demands from the other clubs. The waiting game has worked wonders.

Newcastleai??i??s balance sheet goes from strength to strength as well reporting a meager A?3.9 million pound operating loss for the season, down nearly A?30 million on the previous year. Now, only owing Mike Ashley himself about A?150 million in zero interest loans, he strives to make Newcastle an independent successful entity on the financial front as well. This model of ownership may bode for more future successes as it separates itself from constant pumping of lifeline money for it to survive and compete.

The bigger picture looks a lot different from how it was a year back and there are virtually no words to describe the turnaround that this sleeping giant has encountered in two years, from fighting to hold down a place in the league to fighting for a place in Europe. The players have undoubtedly helped.

Newcastleai??i??s trouble brewed from an uncertain front office and now Ashley and co. has turned it into Newcastleai??i??s greatest strength. They may never be popular figures on Tyneside due to the turmoil they had caused but every Geordie in their heart knows this turnaround wouldnai??i??t have been possible if everyone at the club from top to bottom werenai??i??t involved in a concerted effort.

The judgement may still be out for some, but Newcastle have done it before under Keegan and Sir Bobby. May be it is time again. The club sets the mood for the whole region. It is a club of the people and for the people of Newcastle; they live and breathe by it. St. Jamesai??i??s Park (now renamed) is referred to as the ai???cathedral on the hillai??? and is more important than the church itself.

Newcastle and Ashley hold the key to how much further they want to go. It is their time to rise. It is a refreshing change in attitude brought about by the club and hopefully, will set a precedent for other less resourceful clubs to follow. And long may it continue.

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This post is written by Souvik Roy Chowdhury

Follow the author on Twitter @souvikrc

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9 Responses to “Newcastle United Owner Mike Ashley Deserves Credit For His Own Version Of Moneyball”

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  1. JP...from The Rock says:

    Very well put and it’s just great to be a Newcastle fan these days 😀

  2. FootieFan says:

    amazing article mate. I am neither an EPL nor a geordie fan. But their fans are legendary and this article is a fitting tribute to both great geordie entities: the club and the fan

  3. Lucas Brandt says:

    similar to what olympique lyon did, which ended up with 7 years of ligue 1 domination. Interesting to see is whether the strategy can progress a club from great, to amazing. we will see if newcastle can do what lyon couldn’t.

  4. Luke says:

    Great article. In the last paragraph there is a spelling error though. It is great to be a fan and thanks for spending time to write this!

  5. An Indonesian Geordie says:

    Great article…but, can anybody translate it into Indonesian?. I feel so happy seeing NUFC goes to Europe, and I’m proud to be one of NUFC fans. Howay the Lads.

  6. sangeeta says:

    well written…..good work!!!!

  7. Aditya Sharma says:

    Demba Ba, Pappiss Cisse, Ben Arfa, Tiote, Cabaye… what a brilliant squad they have assembled under everyone’s noses! I don’t know what tactics (moneyball or otherwise) they used to pick them out, but they deserve serious credit for doing it. And Pardew deserves his share of the credit because the squad plays so well together as a team now.

  8. Abhik says:

    Brilliant article…Well researched piece with fluent language..