After almost a year without a managing director following Derek Llambias’ departure, the announcement was made that (former) club secretary Lee Charnley would take up the role on 7 April 2014.
In his inaugural statement on the club website Charnley outlined his plans for the club, in what appears to be merely a continuation of Ashley’s focus on the club’s financial performance (7 April 2014):
“It is a real honour to be confirmed as Managing Director. I have been with the Club for almost 15 years and have seen a great many changes in my time here.
“The Club has never been in such a stable and healthy financial position, which gives us the best possible platform from which to grow.
“Looking ahead to future seasons, our primary focus will remain the Premier League.
“We will continue to operate in a financially responsible manner and live within our means. This Club is financially strong and there is money to spend if the deal is right and we are confident a player can add quality to the squad.
“That said, we will not pay over the odds or make knee-jerk decisions. Every player we sign represents a major investment and mistakes are costly which is why we will continue to be prudent in our transfer dealings. This is the reality of a well-run football club like ours.
“We can be proud that we already meet, and in fact exceed, the requirements of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations and in our latest set of published accounts we recorded a profit for our third consecutive year.
“We will continue to manage our finances in this sustainable manner and will not accrue debt in order to achieve short-term gains.
“It is also important that we don’t over-promise and under-deliver for our supporters, players and staff. False expectations lead to disappointment and frustration, hence why we will keep our transfer business confidential and will not be drawn into commenting on the media speculation and rumour that exists in this digital world.
“As a board we will continue to make the final decisions on all player transfers. Clearly, however, the manager and his team have a very significant involvement in such decisions and will be instrumental in making recommendations in relation to the squad.
“Our transfer policy and strategy is very clear and will remain unchanged. We will focus on identifying and recruiting young players whose best years are ahead of them, which in nearly all cases means players in their early to mid-20s and not beyond.
“We don’t look at transfer windows in isolation, but rather as a full trading year, and our intention for the first team is to sign one or two players per year to strengthen the squad.
“In addition, we aim to strengthen the squad underneath the first team in order to make sure we have a strong group of players pushing our regular first team for a starting place each week. This is essential to bring out the best in everyone and provide an important element of continuity to the squad for the longer term.
“To achieve that it is crucial that we have a youth development strategy that is producing home grown talent who can develop and feed into the system, thereby contributing to the depth within our squad.
“Our Academy’s Category One status gives us an excellent platform for maximising the potential of the region’s young footballing talent and providing the best possible opportunities for local youngsters.
“We have invested heavily in our Academy to achieve Category One status and have made significant improvements in terms of staffing, infrastructure and facilities. Our aim is to be the best Academy in the region by a considerable distance, ensuring that the most talented local players end up at Newcastle United, not elsewhere.
“We are also committed to our current strategy in relation to communication between the Club and its supporters. At the beginning of the season we launched a new Fans Forum, with members representing our diverse fanbase. It has been an open, honest and productive forum and it will continue to be our primary means of direct supporter communication and engagement.
“The commercial side of our business will also be an important priority for us moving forward. While at the moment we can’t compete with the commercial strength of the top six, whose income from sponsorship and advertising deals dwarfs other clubs in the Premier League, we will work hard to drive up our commercial income to give ourselves the best possible chance of competing on the field with those wealthier clubs.
“Of our three core income streams – broadcast, matchday and commercial – it is only our commercial income that we are able to affect to any great degree, especially given our commitment to keeping ticket prices affordable for our fans.
“We have made great strides in this respect recently, having secured the most lucrative sponsorship deal in the Club’s history, with Wonga.
“We are delighted to have them as a partner from a commercial perspective but also because of their desire to work closely with our supporters and in our local community.
“The extra revenue we are able to generate from commercial deals translates ultimately to the amount of money we have available to invest in the Club.
“We will look, where possible, to use this revenue to invest not just in the squad, but into improving other areas of the business, including the stadium and its facilities, the Academy, the first team Training Centre and more.
“Supporters will be aware that we have recently announced plans to build a new multi-million-pound state-of-the-art training complex which we hope will be completed in early 2016.
“This is our vision and strategy for the years ahead. The purpose of this statement is to communicate with our supporters in an open and transparent manner and we hope that it provides a clear outline of our intentions.
“We all want to see Newcastle United improve, but we are convinced that the best route to achieving this is to do so sustainably, building each season without risking the financial health and stability of the Club.
“I can assure supporters that the board and everyone associated with the Club aim to make Newcastle United the best it can be, pound for pound.”
In the wake of Alan Pardew’s departure and during the resulting search for a new “head coach” Lee Charnley was interviewed about the club’s pressing matters. Lee Charnley’s thoughts on the ‘progress’ under Pardew and the process of finding a new “head coach” (20 January 2015):
“People may well say that the position we now find ourselves in isn’t ideal and I accept that to a point, but as I have stated Alan’s departure came as a surprise. I must stress and repeat that we parted with Alan on very good terms and I would re-iterate the quote I issued at the time of his departure in that we moved on significantly as a club during his four years, on and off the field, and Alan played a big part in that and I thank him.
“We’ve had about 80 applications of people interested in the role. That’s people within football.
“Clearly a number of those can be easily discounted but what has been left is a good number of individuals who have different qualities, experience and strengths – some of those are willing and available to come now, others not until the summer.
“It’s not a case of someone getting the job because he’s a friend of a friend or he knows someone. It is a proper structured process which I believe will in the end give us the best individual for the job.
“I know that the individual who comes in will be credible and best suited for this role.
“First and foremost, they have to be a good coach and with a track record of developing players and giving young players a chance is important.
“For me, style of play is important. How they conduct themselves is also important as the head coach will play a key part in how the club is perceived through his conduct on and off the field.”
Source: The Chronicle
Lee Charnley’s thoughts on what the new “head coach” job entails in terms of having a say in transfers (20 January 2015):
“He’s the head coach, not a traditional manager. He doesn’t have the final say on transfers and doesn’t get involved in every aspect of the business. His job is coach the players and implement and oversee a philosophy that goes through the first team, the reserves and down through the Academy to improve the players and to ensure we get the best out of them.
“The new head coach will have to set out to us what his playing style is, what his philosophy is and what he looks for in his team because that then impacts on what we look for in terms of recruitment. It all works together.
“We want someone who sees the bigger picture because my thinking will always be medium to long-term. When people talk about what we’re going to do in this transfer window, I am looking at the next transfer window and the window after and what impact it will have on that. Are there better opportunities if we wait three or four months rather than committing now?
“It’s trying to find that balance but also an individual in a head coach that trusts us. If we say ‘You aren’t going to get that now but you will in the summer’, it’s someone who is prepared to say ‘OK’ and trusts us to do that.
“It’s also someone that for example, if we were to get an offer for a player that is at a value that we want to take, isn’t nervous about getting a replacement. There has to be a trust.
“We want to make things better and improve things but sometimes our timelines might not meet. His requirements might be short-term but our view on some occasions may well be we’d rather wait because we can get better options and better value. Between me and the head coach and Graham, it’s a relationship that will have to develop. He will have to trust and believe in what we do.”
Source: The Chronicle
Lee Charnley on how far along the search for the new “head coach” is, more than three weeks in. No surprise than that shortly after it was confirmed that John Carver would remain in place until the end of the season, and possibly beyond (20 January 2015):
“I hope that by the end of this week I will have a better indication of where we sit.
“I’ll know the really, really credible individuals who would be of real interest to us and from there, whether a decision can be made now or whether that decision can wait until the summer.”
Source: The Chronicle
Lee Charnley in response to being asked if the new “head coach” will be (another) ‘yes man’ (20 January 2015):
“I’m confident at the end of this process the individual will be best suited for what we’re looking for and can work within the structure we have. I don’t think anything works and you’re never going to move forward if you have ‘yes’ people in key positions.
“I know people label me as someone who says yes all the time but believe me, if I said yes to everything suggested I wouldn’t last very long. It doesn’t work that way. They have to challenge me, I have to challenge Mike over things – that is how management works. That’s what I expect from all of my heads of department.
“But do I want someone in who will continually try to change our strategy or put obstacles in our way? Clearly not. They will have to aligned with what we are doing.”
Source: The Chronicle
We wait with bated breath the fantastic (financial) results Lee Charnley can deliver for Mike Ashley while the club continues to be a shadow of its former self, ‘pound for pound’.