Reality begins to bites for Newcastle United

NEWCASTLE United have begun restructuring for life outside of the Premier League but the most important decision of all is not expected until next week.

NEWCASTLE United have begun restructuring for life outside of the Premier League but the most important decision of all is not expected until next week.

The Journal understands the Magpies are moving ever closer to creating the conditions which will allow Alan Shearer to become their next permanent manager, but no announcement is expected this weekend.

Around 150 full and part-time employees of the club have been laid off and recently-acquired coach Colin Calderwood interviewed for the vacant manager’s job at League Two Chesterfield as United scale back their operation in light of their reduced circumstances. Television revenue alone is expected to fall by £30m now the club is no longer part of the world’s most glamorous football league. A host of other revenue streams will also be hit and even off-loading unwanted players could be an expensive exercise as the club attempts to slash a wage bill of over £70m.

Operations director David Williamson is one of the most high-profile redundancies. Williamson only joined after owner Mike Ashley bought the club in 2008, recruited after a successful spell as executive director of Newcastle Racecourse. During his time the racecourse’s turnover trebled and its attendances

greatly increased. Most of those concerned had been told in advance their departure was the likely result of the club’s relegation, confirmed on Sunday when United failed to get the point which would have kept them in the top flight as they lost meekly at Aston Villa. The majority of staff were told of their fate on Thursday, with the paperwork completed yesterday.

The scale dwarfs the cull at the Stadium of Light six years ago, illustrating the greater size of Newcastle’s operation and its apparent unpreparedness for demotion.

When Sunderland dropped out of the top flight in 2003, 83 largely office-based staff were made redundant. The Black Cats were somewhat naïve to the financial chasm opening between the Premier League and what is now the Championship. They were far better prepared in 2006 and job losses were far less severe.

Nowadays, clauses in playing contracts which cut wages on relegation are commonplace – Sunderland’s players would have suffered reductions of at least 40% had the Wearsiders gone down with their local rivals – but not at St James’s Park.

The Black Cats had to lose 15 players in the summer of 2003, which is why the queue of highly-paid players professing a desire to stay on Tyneside is a mixed blessing. Left-back José Enrique is the latest, though there was a somewhat ambivalent tone to his comments yesterday.

“No one likes to play in the Championship but I’m only thinking about fulfilling my contract,” he told Spanish newspaper Marca. “Now, I see myself playing next season at Newcastle.

“The team has a great budget and I am sure that if they do things well from the beginning, we can create a team of the level of Aston Villa.

“I like the city and am very happy in England, but that doesn’t rule out that I will study an offer that could arrive. Today, I see myself playing next season at Newcastle.”

The defender signed a five-year contract on his £6.3m arrival from Villarreal. The subtext of his comments appeared to be that Enrique would rather play Championship football than take a pay cut. If any players take that attitude, Newcastle may find themselves having to make up the difference to off-load them.

Such considerations are crucial to the discussions with Shearer, who wants guarantees as to the transfer fund available irrespective of outgoings.

Whatever United’s future, Calderwood seems unlikely to play a part in it. His departure has been on the cards since Joe Kinnear, who brought him to Tyneside, fell ill just weeks after appointing the Scot.

Chesterfield chairman Barry Hubbard has confirmed the 44-year-old is one of three candidates.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer