7 lessons Newcastle United can learn from Manchester City’s owners

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The Magpies need only look to the Etihad for the best example of how to create a winning culture, following this week’s takeover.

Newcastle United may now have the richest owners in the Premier League (and the world, for that matter) but the history of football shows that doesn’t necessarily result in on-field success.

Leeds United, Portsmouth and Queens Park Rangers supporters know all too well of the perils that come with foolish spending in the top flight, so investing money wisely is key to any hope of success.

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Perhaps Manchester City are the best example of how to sensibly build a winning culture, and Newcastle’s owners could be advised to follow these principles which have guided the Blues to repeated success over the last decade.

Newcastle United fans outside St James's Park.Newcastle United fans outside St James's Park.
Newcastle United fans outside St James's Park.

Signing smartly

Obviously, success on the pitch only happens if you have talented players, but simply going for the flashy international star isn’t necessarily the right option.

City supporters may have been more excited about the signing of Robinho in the summer of 2008, but the lesser-known additions of Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta that window proved much better recruits in the fullness of time.

The Blues then targeted experienced Premier League professionals: Shay Given, Wayne Bridge, Craig Bellamy, Gareth Barry, Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott, which formed the basis of the first City side that really challenged near the top of the table.

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Then came the big-money moves: Yaya Toure, David Silva and Edin Dzeko in 2010, followed a year later by Sergio Aguero.

The signings of Kompany, Silva and Aguero provided the bedrock of City’s success in the 2010s, players who were on the fringes of becoming the world’s top talents. A similar approach from the Magpies, albeit with the added checks imposed today by Financial Fair Play, could be the most fruitful approach.

The foundation of City’s title-winning teams. Credit: GettyThe foundation of City’s title-winning teams. Credit: Getty
The foundation of City’s title-winning teams. Credit: Getty | AFP via Getty Images

Expanding the club’s infrastructure

City’s owners haven’t just invested in players, they’ve poured money into the state-of-the-art Etihad campus which comprises training facilities, stadiums for youth and women’s sides, educational campuses, non-football sports facilities, transport routes and more.

In addition, City have worked to create a fantastic women’s team, develop youth players and build a brand which stretches far beyond the 11 players on the pitch.

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Investing in local area

Following on somewhat from the last point, foreign owners can often feel very much like that: foreign.

But with City’s investing so heavily in the local community, they’ve helped to ingratiate themselves to the club’s supporters, and even those who don’t follow the team.

Giving a sense that Newcastle’s owners actually care about the city and people who live there could provide immeasurable benefits.

The Etihad campus. Credit: Getty.The Etihad campus. Credit: Getty.
The Etihad campus. Credit: Getty. | AFP via Getty Images

Creating a clear philosophy

When the Abu Dhabi United Group bought City in 2008, overarching club plans, directors of football and transfer committees were still in their infancy in English football.

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Now however, it seems like every club up and down the country have long-term plans in place, regardless if a manager abruptly leaves his post.

City’s pursuit of Pep Guardiola took years of groundwork before he made the move to Manchester and there’s a clear transfer strategy from the owners where, excluding Jack Grealish, they rarely try and attract the most expensive asset on the market.

Arsenal are the best current example of a club who have lost their way through a lack of joint-up thinking, while teams like Liverpool, Leicester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers have thrived in recent years due to a clear club structure.

Pep Guardiola. Credit: Getty.Pep Guardiola. Credit: Getty.
Pep Guardiola. Credit: Getty. | Getty Images

Appointing the right people

Following on from the last point, City have excelled due to the intelligent thinking of those behind the scenes.

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Ferran Soriano, Brian Marwood and Txiki Begiristain are among the numerous off-the-field employees whose intelligence, planning and expertise has laid the foundations for the excellent team we see on the pitch.

Then there’s the manager. In 13 years at the Etihad, the Abu Dhabi owners have hired and fired just three managers and all of those appointments - Roberto Mancini, Manuel Pelligrini and Guardiola - have won titles and domestic cup competitions.

Taking pride in history

While opposition fans may mock City’s apparent lack of history, in truth, the Premier League champions have a rich and illustrious background.

The club won two top-tier league titles, four FA Cups and two League Cups before the 2008 takeover, while they’ve collected silverware on a more regular basis in recent years.

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City’s owners are aware of the club’s history. Credit: Getty.City’s owners are aware of the club’s history. Credit: Getty.
City’s owners are aware of the club’s history. Credit: Getty. | Getty Images

But City also still celebrate the triumphs in their lean years. This week alone, the club put up articles relating to Ali Benarbia, Shaun Goater, Bert Trautmann and Willie Donachie on their official website, while commemorations to ex-players such as Colin Bell, Mike Summerbee and Joe Mercer are dotted around the Etihad stadium, along with the celebrations of their numerous triumphs in the last decade.

Like City, Newcastle might not have a rich history of trophy success, but there’s plenty of nostalgia the club can be proud of. The changing of the guard shouldn’t result in a loss of identity.

Connecting with supporters

City only have to look to nearby Old Trafford for an example of how key it is to keep fans happy.

Stadium invasions, green & gold scarves, hired planes and disgruntled supporters’ groups have been used in the backlash from Manchester United fans against the Glazers, which have certainly affected the spirit of the club, as well as results.

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The Toon Army also know how bleak it can be when supporters and owners are at loggerheads, so it’s advisable for the incumbent owners to try and keep match-goers onside, as the Magpies’ begin a new era.

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