Monday, September 29, 2008

Nigerian group submit Newcastle bid

BBC Sport are reporting that the Nigerian consortium linked with buying-out Newcastle have now submitted a bid. If true, it shows how fast things can move in the world of Premier League football!

According to the report, the bid was placed on Friday (Sep 26) evening and is the only one currently on the table - although several other parties are thought to be interested in buying the club from the disenchanted, and under-fire, Mike Ashley.

It's not clear quite how much cash the Nigerian's have, though it's clearly nowhere near the amount available to Manchester City (though they are arguably the richest club on the planet, so that's not surprising!). Earlier reports have suggested a bid in the region of £350million.

Chris Nathaniel, the UK businessman fronting the bid, stressed a lot of work needs to be done on the club's infrastructure and the secret bidders do not want to blow all their money on the purchase and have nothing left to finance other areas, such as transfers.

When asked how much the bid was for, Nathaniel told the BBC: "We can't at this stage, that's confidential between ourselves and Newcastle, but a bid was put in on Friday evening. There's been no timeline given by Newcastle but we hope it will be sometime soon.

"What they don't want to do is spend a load of money to buy the club and have no money to buy players and to work on what is a quite a troubled infrastructure."

Newcastle declined to comment and the identity of the Nigerian bidders remains top-secret. This may just be the opening shot in a bidding war, but at least (for non-Newcastle fans, that is) this group do not seem to have enough cash to buy anything more than a couple of league places.

However, as I mentioned earlier, Newcastle remain an attractive target for potential investors and, given the current football climate, it would be no surprise whatsoever if another, far, far richer group now step forward and show their hand.

There's no point in hating Man City

Graham Fisher has penned an interesting blog entry over at, where he admits to hating Chelsea following their takeover by Roman Abramovich, but having no such feelings about Manchester City.

It's an interesting thought. Perhaps, without wanting to put words into somebody's mouth (or should that be without forcing their fingers towards a keyboard?), it may be because the Chelsea takeover was the first mega-money takeover and those that have followed have been caused by the first.

Sure, takeovers are nothing new. But the Chelsea deal marked the first time somebody came along with the attitude of "hey, I'm a billionaire, I don't care about making a profit, let's get some trophies in any way we can". And, of course, Chelsea and Roman achieved their aim..

Those who own Man City clearly have far more cash than Roman - though when it comes to these sorts of sums, does comparing bank balances really make any difference? Probably not, as their modus operandi appear to be similar - ie spend, spend, spend, win, win, win!

Other traditionalists may not even hold anything against Roman and Chelsea. For it is quite possible to point towards the Sky takeover of English top-flight football - for that's what it was, for all intents - and argue the door had already been opened at that point for the mega-money men.

As soon as the Premier League, backed by Sky (or is that "controlled"?), offered a platform for the super-rich to get one over other super-rich people, and on a global scale, it was only a matter of time before it was exploited. They buy bigger and bigger yachts, give more and more money to charity, do whatever they want to win a big-money piddling contest, and football club ownership is just the current fad.

So is it worth hating Man City? Is it worth hating Chelsea? There are probably reasons to do so, but few have anything to do with money. If they remained the same clubs they were 10-15 years ago, there is no doubt two other teams would be in their position.

From a sports entertainment viewpoint, something top-flight football has been for years, it will certainly be interesting to see how much damage the two clubs, and their owners, do to each other during the upcoming few transfer windows. Interesting until it leads to the death of football, of course...

What's best for Newcastle?

What more can be said about Newcastle United? Probably quite a lot! While they are struggling and have become something of a joke, the situation at St James' Park is no laughing matter, as they will not be the last team to suffer.

Newcastle, for too many years, overspent in order to try and compete with the so-called "big boys". They have a massive, rabid fanbase of truly knowledgeable football lovers (which is a good thing, no doubt about) but have seemingly lacked restraint in terms of spending money.

It's understandable, football is in a boom period and has been for some time. So why not throw cash around in order to try and please your fans - they do, after all, deserve some sort of success. Sadly, though, the boom in football appears to be skewed and now the divide between sections of the Premier League is more pronounced than ever.

But what does the future hold for Newcastle? Can they recover and go on to actually achieve something in the modern game (not a dig, it's proven by the trophy cabinet!)? I honestly think they can - but it won't be in a way I could approve of.

When the Middle Eastern billionaires, or trillionaires, took over Manchester City, they did so after reportedly considering a move for Newcastle or Arsenal.The story goes that Arsenal didn't want to sell and the super-rich group opted for Man City. That Newcastle were mentioned is not surprising - and logic suggests there will be other interested parties out there.

Now, a takeover of Newcastle by a group with mega-money would turn the club into a true footballing force far easier than the Man City "project". Newcastle, as mentioned, have the fanbase, the stadium and - crucially - a proven track record in attracting decent players to the club.

Man City have the stadium, decent fans (full credit to the tens fo thousands who turned out to back them in the third-tier not too long ago) but they lack the proven track record in signing top players. Hence having to throw silly money around in the summer, a pattern that will surely increase until enough mercenaries improve their reputation.

Newcastle, may I be so bold as to suggest, would be genuine top-four challengers very soon after such a takeover (a hypothetical one, of course) and could go all the way. When Liverpool are taken over by Sheikh Mohammed, or a consortium, they will be poised to go all the way. Man City, when things settle, will potentially be able to go all the way.

So, as things stand, it's feasibly that within two or three years, Newcastle, Man City, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea (Arsenal are a puzzler) could all be challenging for the title. It would be wide open, albeit a fake version of football driven by billions and billions.

The only question is whether an owner would want to buy into Newcastle when four other teams are already challenging. For once a group of five mega-money teams start competing, there will be no way back for football. A sporting and spending Cold War will have begun.

So what is really best for Newcastle? Their fans would surely disagree, but I would suggest relegation. Spend a few years in the Championship while the money in the Premier League causes an explosion - then Newcastle will be perfectly placed, with their deserving fanbase - to stroll back and dominate, unaffected by the top-flight fiasco.

Aston Villa: Football's best PR spinners?

Aston Villa must have one of the greatest bullsh...erm, public relations machines in the Premier League. Just a few days after only 21,541 turned out to see them humbled by QPR in the League Cup, striker John Carew has been wheeled out to praise the fans!

There is something disturbing about the system at Villa Park. It's understandable that boss Martin O'Neill has managed to make people believe he is better than he is - his media whoring has caused that - but that fans of such a traditional club fail to realise they have sold out to American gold is puzzling.

As for Carew and his words (presumably the words of the PR team, players don't actually say their own words these days - and that goes for any top-flight team), Villa appear to have turned into American wrestling of a while back, by using the logic "if we don't mention the past, it didn't happen!"

There is, of course, the chance Villa have decided to use the article on their official site to the fans who stayed away from the QPR game - perhaps even suggesting it was the fans fault the Championship side emerged victorious, and not the disinterest of the players or the tactical ineptitude of the manager.

Carew (well, it's in his name!) said: "There's nothing better than a packed Villa Park cheering us on. The players are going to need all the support they can get this season with Villa striving for success in a number of competitions."

So if that part of the article is intended as a dig at Villa fans, then I take my hat off and salute the Villa Spinners. And, incidentally, I would agree with them - real football fans don't pick and choose their games and it wouldn't happen with real (ie lower league) football clubs to such an extent.

There are still real fans left in the English Premier League, but a quick comparison of Villa's previous league attendance to the QPR debacle suggests they only account for around 50 per cent of those who attend matches - and it will be that hardcore who suffer the most when football explodes and dies.