What hap­pens now at St James’ Park?

BIG SUM­MER AHEAD AF­TER REL­E­GA­TION FEARS VAN­ISH

The Chronicle - - Nufc - By LEE RY­DER Chief sports writer lee.ry­der@trin­i­tymir­ror.com @lee_ry­der

NEW­CAS­TLE United are vir­tu­ally safe in the Premier League for an­other sea­son and have se­cured an­other mas­sive in­jec­tion of TV money af­ter sur­pass­ing the 40-point mark. But what hap­pens now, and af­ter talk of both the owner and the first-team man­ager’s fu­ture have been con­tin­u­ally parked dur­ing United’s bid for topflight sur­vival, surely the time has come to get talks under way? Here are the ques­tions that New­cas­tle fans are ask­ing af­ter their side en­sured that talk of rel­e­ga­tion can be ban­ished for an­other year. Does Mike Ash­ley still want to sell the club and is Amanda Stave­ley set to re­turn with a new of­fer?

Ash­ley’s le­gal team have not been told to re­move the club off the mar­ket and there­fore the Sports Di­rect mag­nate is still open to in­com­ing bids.

De­spite in­ter­est form Stave­ley be­fore Christ­mas there have been no fresh of­fers from the PCP Cap­i­tal Part­ners.

Ash­ley was open to stag­gered pay­ments when he ini­tially put the club up for sale but the deal be­tween the owner and PCP Cap­i­tal Part­ners fell through be­cause the two par­ties could not agree a po­ten­tial rel­e­ga­tion clause on the price.

With that no longer a fac­tor a new bid must be struc­tured by PCP Cap­i­tal Part­ners, but whether Ash­ley has raised the ask­ing price re­mains to be seen.

Ash­ley was said to be open to bids around £300m last year but with more TV money guar­an­teed this could be a fac­tor to the club’s value.

The 53-year-old knows he is sit­ting on a profit-mak­ing ma­chine at New­cas­tle if he con­tin­ues to op­er­ate the club in a sim­i­lar man­ner, but with prices in the trans­fer mar­ket set to soar again this sum­mer it would be a huge gam­ble to try to scrimp and save on the re­cruit­ment front and ex­pect sim­i­lar re­sults. Are New­cas­tle likely to ad­dress the sit­u­a­tion pub­licly?

As we know Ash­ley rarely speaks in pub­lic and his last of­fi­cial in­ter­view as with Sky Sports back in Au­gust when he told fans he could not com­pete with the top clubs.

Man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Lee Charn­ley has also not spo­ken to the me­dia for some time and usu­ally sends out any mes­sages via press re­leases.

The club will hold a fan fo­rum later this month and must re­lease the in­for­ma­tion from that meet­ing to their fan­base.

Un­less there is a change of heart in the com­mu­ni­ca­tion depart­ment, that

is po­ten­tially the next time fans will get an inkling of Ash­ley’s in­ten­tions at St James’ Park.

Will Ash­ley of­fer Rafa Ben­itez a new deal?

Rafa Ben­itez’s cur­rent deal runs out at the end of next sea­son and clubs in the Premier League and abroad have him on their radar.

The fact he has guided New­cas­tle to the top 10 with a shoe­string bud­get has merely en­hanced his rep­u­ta­tion on the man­age­rial cir­cuit.

But now it re­ally is crunch time for Ben­itez and Ash­ley.

Af­ter en­dur­ing three dis­ap­point­ing trans­fer win­dows, the Toon boss is de­ter­mined to get some as­sur­ances on a trans­fer kitty.

With the TV money guar­an­teed for next sea­son he should be due around £80m to £120m in prof­its to spend on new play­ers – or at least that should be the case if Ash­ley’s stance is the same as last May.

Back then he said: “I’ve con­firmed to Rafa and Lee that they can have ev­ery last penny that the club gen­er­ates through pro­mo­tion, player sales and other means in or­der to build for next sea­son.”

Ben­itez won’t sign a new con­tract un­less he is guar­an­teed a de­cent amount to spend but the vibes seem as pos­i­tive as they can be from the Ash­ley side in that he is pre­pared to talk.

Ash­ley has not at­tended St James’ Park this sea­son but sent close aides Charn­ley and PR man Keith Bishop to the dress­ing room area to con­grat­u­late Ben­itez in the last two home matches.

Ben­itez is open to a 10-year stay but only if the con­di­tions are right.

What does Rafa Ben­itez want to do in the trans­fer mar­ket in the sum­mer?

The Toon boss is keen to add more qual­ity to his squad and while com­pe­ti­tion is cur­rently thriv­ing at United’s train­ing cen­tre, he wants to beef up his strike force, find an­other winger, add more cover in the full-back depart­ments, and po­ten­tially bring in an­other cen­tre­back and goal­keeper, if Matz Sels is sold this sum­mer.

Ben­itez has been keep­ing a close eye on all of the Euro­pean leagues this sea­son and ex­tended his scout­ing net­works.

How­ever, he knows that New­cas­tle need to start get­ting trans­fers set up if they are to en­sure they are ready to go when the next win­dow opens.

Ben­itez was left an­noyed last sum­mer af­ter hav­ing deals ready for Willy Caballero and Tammy Abra­ham on loan, only for them to fall through af­ter slow re­ac­tions from his board re­sulted in Chelsea and Swansea City pip­ping United for the duo’s sig­na­tures.

If a con­tract is agreed Ben­itez will want a swift ac­tion plan in the sum­mer win­dow.

Rafa Ben­itez cel­e­brates the win, and hit­ting the vi­tal 40-point mark, with Kenedy

United play­ers cel­e­brate Matt Ritchie’s goal against Arse­nal, which se­cured the win and ef­fec­tive Premier League safety

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