Before we detail Lee Charnley’s latest attempt to besmirch the character of Rafa Benitez, we’ll remind ourselves what an Employment Tribunal said about our erstwhile Managing Director in the case regarding the complaint brought against Newcastle United by Jonas Guitteraz. Right, here we are:

“at times appeared to be evasive and lacking in credibility”. 

That might sum up Charnley’s whole tenure as Mike Ashley’s man at St James’ Park.

Anyway, this is what Charnley said about Rafa in the club programme:

“We understand and expected the disappointment that Rafa’s departure caused. We strongly believe we went beyond what could reasonably be asked in order to keep him. But let’s be clear, he moved to China for money. The offer he received was too tempting. We understand that and there is nothing wrong with that. It was not something we could compete against. We wish him well for the future and thank him for all he achieved”.

Naturally, Charnley does not respond to complaints from Rafa at his own inability to move to close deals more effectively, the club’s level of salaries paid in the Premier League which is in the bottom six, the club’s net spend over the Ashley era and the lack of investment in the training ground. Neither does Charnley refer to every window bar one when Rafa was severely let down and even obstructed by himself and Justin Barnes. Further Charnley makes no reference to the meeting he was at in London with Ashley and Rafa when his boss encouraged Rafa to take the Spain job ahead of the 2018 World Cup. Charnley does not mention why, if Rafa is so motivated by money, he didn’t go to Spain two seasons ago when he was offered a similar opportunity to the one he has now.

Further Charnley makes no reference to the fact the club;s offer to Benitez contained absolutely no increase in salary whatsoever, despite the work Rafa had achieved in both returning the club to the Premier League and two successive finishes of tenth and thirteenth despite minimal investment.

Charnley does go on about poor communications but he’s said all that previously and nothing changes.

“I have to stress that every penny we make really does go into making this club better. That principle has been debated and questioned, but we are audited independently and have to provide regular financial information and updates to the Premier League so there is no hiding place. We firmly believe our shared approach and vision gives us the best possible chance of reaching the club’s potential and achieving our shared aims over the medium to long-term.”

That does not apply to the transfer of the lease of the land on Strawberry Place from a company owned by Newcastle United into the private ownership of Mike Ashley which he has subsequently sold at a profit he has retained for himself. Charnley himself had a role within that transfer and has on several occasions refused to provide detailed answers when it has been raised at the Fans Forum. The club has also failed to address complaints that its merchandising operation has onerous deals with Sports Direct in a similar manner to what it tied Rangers FC into. The club is one of only a few who now refuse to publish how many replica shirts it sells. Mike Ashley has extracted massive value from Newcastle United to provide his businesses (not just Sports Direct) with massive global advertising opportunities which have hugely benefited his interests to the disadvantage of the club.

Newcastle United’s commercial income has not kept pace with other clubs and that is due to the lack of vision and ambition for Newcastle United.

Charnley goes on elsewhere to detail how signings have been made this summer. It is clear Steve Bruce had absolutely no say in them. They appear to be signings made by Lee Charnley and Steve Nicksen, Head of Recruitment. I think it is quite surprising both men consider themselves to the be superior to Rafa Benitez in spotting young talent. It would surprise me if Lee Charnley would know how to put the cones out. Interstingly, Charnley has used £40m of club money to spend on Joelinton despite being told he wasn’t worth that money by an elite coach in Benitez and without any other club interested in signing the player. Between Rondon at United at Rafa’s request, Lee Charnley has played a significant role in bringing Mitrovic and now Joelinton to United. Let’s hope the latter is of more value than the former for Lee’s sake.

Anyway. Alan Shearer also had something to say at the weekend:

On Ashley 

“There is a lot of unrest in Newcastle because the life and soul really has been sucked out of Newcastle United over the last 12 years. They just want a bit of hope and this owner hasn’t given that. He himself has said in recent interviews he’d give himself one out of five for ownership. He as put his foot in it on more than one occasion he’s admitted, so that’s why there is so much unrest towards him. I think over the 12 years he has owned Newcastle United there has been a net spend of £67m, around £5.6m, £5.7m, on average per season, and that is another reason why fans are feeling they are having to put up with more than they should do. Some fans are going to boycott [the Arsenal match] on Sunday and I totally get that. No cup runs for such a long time, since Mike Ashley has been here, usually going out in the first or second round.

“I don’t think there is any ill feeling towards Steve Bruce, who is a friend of mine. I spoke to him before and after he got the Newcastle job and when he said to me ‘What do you think?’, I said I don’t think you should take it because I like him and respect him. I hope he does a fantastic job but I just didn’t want him to go the same way as Rafa Benitez, as Kevin Keegan and other managers that have been at Newcastle. Most fans want him [Steve Bruce] to do very well, the problem they have is with the owner.”

On the Takeover

“I don’t think they realistically expected a takeover to go through, it is copy and paste. It comes up every 18 months and nobody genuinely believes a takeover is going to happen. Something is only for sale if you have a willing seller. That is what I think and what the vast majority of fans think. Steve Bruce is a friend of mine and I love him dearly and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for him. Hoping and praying that he can do a great job but it is going to be very difficult for him.”

Despite Ashley and now Charnley attempting to blacken Rafa’s name and reduce his standing with the supporters (they did the same with Kevin Keegan following his resignation), Rafa Benitez sent a Good Luck message to Steve Bruce, his former players and supporters.