Follow the Toon
Graeme Bailey feels Newcastle are continuing to show Premier League rivals how to run a successful club in the modern era.
By Graeme Bailey - Tweet me: @skygraemebailey. Last Updated: 01/10/12 7:49am
Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias: Pointing the way forward for Newcastle
Many have already cast aspersions at Newcastle United's decision to hand Alan Pardew an eight-year contract - strange given how he was recognised last season as the best English manager in the league.
But there is more to the new deal than just a lengthening of contract - Newcastle are showing their Premier League rivals how to build a successful club.
This is, though, some turnaround - the words success and Newcastle could not have been further from the truth when Mike Ashley took charge in late 2007, let alone a happy fan-base. But now just five years on the terms happy fans, success and Newcastle are very content bedfellows.
Of course it has not always been sweetness and light on Tyneside for Ashley - anything but. Upon buying Newcastle, Ashley appointed Chris Mort as chairman, although a year later he was replaced with Derek Llambias and Dennis Wise was appointed as director of sport.
After joining Ashley soon dismissed Sam Allardyce, who was appointed by the former regime, and re-appointed club legend Kevin Keegan - but behind the scenes Ashley was already putting in place the somewhat continental plan that the owners and directors took the lead on transfers. This did not sit well with 'King Kev' and he quit - dubbing the hierarchy 'the Cockney Mafia'.
The Toon Army, beloved followers of Keegan, followed the same path to the extent that later in 2008 Ashley put the club up for sale due to the supporter back-lash and appointed Joe Kinnear as interim boss until he could sell. Then, in a remarkable twist, and with the Magpies teetering on relegation, the club turned to another legend Alan Shearer to save them. He couldn't and the club went down.
Fearing the worst Newcastle fans anticipated the break-up of their squad and again demanded Ashley left. Whilst this was ongoing Ashley instead turned to Chris Hughton as caretaker and most of the playing staff remained. Hughton started well and Ashley appointed him on a permanent basis, whilst also revealing the club was no longer for sale.
Back in the Premier League and seemingly winning back the fans - Hughton was fired - again Ashley was condemned and the appointment of Pardew in December 2010 only seemed to exasperate the situation.
The following month, Ashley made the decision to sell the club's prized asset, as homegrown striker Andy Carroll was sold to Liverpool for £35million and no replacement was signed - the fans were convinced that the club was again on a downward spiral.
But now two years on, Newcastle are attracting admirers from around the world for how the club is being run - and for good reason.
Newcastle fans are now coming round to the Ashley-Llambias model. The club are financially stable, have a management team entrenched by their new deals - but most importantly for the fans, a squad capable of challenging for honours.
The model that Ashley and Llambias first envisaged back 2007 was one of a financially stable club that could live within its means - but stability is the 'key' word - underlined by Llambias announcing Alan Pardew's new eight-year deal this week.
Stability not just in terms of finance, but in terms of staff and management throughout the club.
The club's recruitment policy has been praised to the hilt, and rightly so, with that being driven by Graham Carr, brought in during the summer of 2007 by the club just when it seemed all was lost.
Carr has since seen the club pick up some remarkable signings at bargain prices from around Europe - Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse are all worth so much more than what the club paid for them, whilst also emerging as top-class players.
But intriguingly perhaps the two mainstays of the side, two of the most loyal players and two of the best in the last four years for the club - Jonas Gutierrez and Fabricio Coloccini - weren't Carr signings, they were in fact brought in by Wise, Llambias and Ashley, something many Newcastle fans might not remember.
So whilst you see people within the game begging for loyalty to managers and asking for trust, perhaps the Newcastle tale is one of trust in owners. Whilst some decisions can seem outlandish at the time, perhaps they are better placed to see the long-term vision - especially when emotion of the club is taken away. That is not say they don't care - far from it, as with most cases it is their money at stake.
Yes, hard decisions will still be made and will not be popular, but for the club to live within its means tough decisions need to made and you could highlight the controversial renaming of St James' Park as the Sports Direct Arena as one of those. An unpopular and tough decision - but one which benefits the club's future.
I don't for one minute imagine any of the thousands of Newcastle fans who demonstrated for Ashley's removal in the summer of 2009, would be asking for him to step down now, and again for good reason.
That is why handing Pardew an eight-year deal, whilst somewhat 'off-the-wall' is merely another piece in the long-term strategy of Ashley and Llambias, a model you can expect many teams to follow in the coming years.