So takeover speculation has re-appeared but whether it's a PR stunt to divert attention away from Mike Ashley's recent pathetic treatment of people working for his companies or it's actually real, the Telegraph (who've reported on deals being agreed for transfers involving Miguel Almiron, Ayoze Perez, Joelinton and Danny Rose before Sky in the past eighteen months) have reported that paperwork was submitted to the Premier League last Tuesday. Meanwhile, George Caulkin wrote in the Athletic that the Public Investment Fund (PIF) in Saudi Arabia are prepared to invest fully in the club whilst both sides are hoping to get the deal done and expect no mishaps, he's also suggested that Amanda Staveley has been working on this potential takeover for almost a year. Anyway, I though I'd cover what our next owners need to change at the club, whether it's PIF or another group. Some of these aren't as important as others but things I'd like to see changed.
Ambition in the transfer market and managerial appointments
The big reason for the fanbase hating Mike Ashley is his failure to invest enough in the club and his choice of managerial appointments. Had he either backed Kevin Keegan during the summer of 2008 or sold the club to Sheikh Mansour when he was interested, can you imagine where we'd be as a club (OK, I wouldn't want anyone to do dodgy enough things to get us banned from UEFA competitions). Instead, Keegan left after seeing James Milner replaced by the unknown Ignacio Gonzalez whilst also discovering that the board were willing to listen to offers for players such as Joey Barton and Michael Owen behind his back. This started Ashley's reign of terror, which has seen us appoint Joe Kinnear (four years after his last job, which was an unsuccessful short stint at Nottingham Forest as they suffered relegation to League One), Alan Pardew (sacking Chris Hughton despite how he re-united the dressing room was bad enough then replacing him with someone recently sacked by League One Southampton was ridiculous), Steve McClaren (two weeks after he was sacked by Championship club Derby) and Steve Bruce (also sacked by a Championship club (who'd win promotion under his successor) within a year before arriving at St James' Park).
Bruce is doing better than most of us expected but I think PIF would want a better manager in and they have to back him properly with money because as we all know, Rafa Benitez had a long term version to get us playing in Europe again but without the money to back him up, he could only manage mid-table finishes in the Premier League, which led to him leaving upon expiry of his contract last summer. Ashley's failure to back him but allow a total of around £115m to be spent across McClaren and Bruce's summers here combined plus around £50m after relegation in 2016 suggests that he only wants Premier League football, this is further backed up by him only buying players in January when we have something to play for in the league. If PIF hire a good manager and give him enough money and full control on transfers, good times can be around the corner.
As we know, the club needs to build a new training ground or re-develop the current one. Whilst the gym equipment was upgraded and the indoor artificial pitch was resurfaced (to lower to chances of injuries) in the off season of 2016, we need to see a lot more, with the main change that should be made being to build an indoor swimming pool for players to relax after training (rather than empty bins or paddling pools). I think whoever does come in next, whether it's PIF or someone else, will have a look at giving us better facilities at the training ground.
Our academy hasn't been the same since Kevin Keegan's decision to scrap the youth teams during his first spell as manager. Kenny Dalglish brought them back when he succeeded Keegan as manager but the only players I can think of that have come through our academy and become a first team regular for us are Steven Taylor, Andy Carroll, Paul Dummett and the Ameobi (who weren't very good anyway) and Longstaff brothers. Rolando Aarons could've made the list if it wasn't for injuries but this really shows that we need to invest more money into the academy, when talking about Matthew Longstaff's winning goal against Manchester United in October, Rafa Benitez made a point that investing £4m a year into developing the youth can really save clubs quite a bit of money.
If PIF buy the club, hopefully they'll use the emergence of the Longstaff brothers as a platform to help the academy to produce more young talent. Examples of clubs that could be looked at for producing excellent youth include Southampton, Ajax, Porto, Sporting Lisbon and Anderlecht, if PIF do invest well into the academy, who knows how many local lads could follow in the footsteps of Sean and Matthew Longstaff? That's as long as they don't get thrown in too early but do get enough chances (to decrease their chances of going elsewhere for more first team football like Fraser Forster did).
The stadium certainly isn't as big an issue as what I've already talked about and I don't think this would really be talked about if Ashley had backed Rafa properly but I would personally love to see some black and white seats in the stadium or even seats that are all black apart from some in the East stand, with white seats to display "NUFC". It may have been a PR stunt to decrease the negativity at the club after Rafa left but recently, we have at least sign the big Sports Direct logo taken down from the top of the Gallowgate stand whilst more designs have been made around the stadium, including a billboard of our current squad around the Gallowgate west corner. What I would also love to see would be a fanzone, something that a lot of clubs have (as people may have seen in away day match vlogs on the channel), this can allow fans to enjoy some pre-match activities and refreshments, this is of course something we have had at St James' Park open days but it would be good to find an appropriate area to have it (it would help if the council could close the Strawberry close for a certain amount of time before after matches). In streets leading to stadium, we should also look to include billboards of past and present Newcastle players in my opinion.