Premier League Relegation Betting: Bonus rows a symptom of Toon troubles

Jamaal Lascelles
Defender turned striker . . . captain Jamaal Lascelles led Newcastle's players in a dispute over bonuses
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Ralph Ellis says the internal strife at Newcastle could make them surprise candidates to return to the Championship.

"Nothing unusual in the bonus argument itself, but in the wider context it says a lot about the state of things behind the scenes that Lascelles was willing to go into the open rather than follow the old fashioned route of a private briefing."

It was back in 1983, when I had first joined the staff of the Birmingham Mail, that I got pulled quietly to one side by Aston Villa's captain Allan Evans and briefed about how the players were in a row over their bonuses.

This was a team that was a year or so out from being European Champions, but were haggling with chairman Doug Ellis on the eve of a new campaign over what they would get for each win or draw.

It was a great exclusive for me so soon after starting a new job, but over the years I came to learn it wasn't an unusual situation at all. Bonus agreements had to be settled before the season kicked off, and up and down the country there was brinkmanship going on at every club.

So all these years later to learn that the same row has been happening at Newcastle shouldn't come as a surprise.

The only difference is that captain Jamaal Lascelles chose to go public on the fall-out with owner Mike Ashley and the decision of the players to go "on strike" by refusing to do media duties, and has now confirmed on the record that the dispute has been put to bed.

Benitez says "everything" is wrong

So nothing unusual in the argument itself, but in the wider context it says a lot about the state of things behind the scenes that Lascelles was willing to go into the open rather than follow the old fashioned route of a private briefing.

It's one of the reasons why I think that the [5.6] on offer for the Toon to return to the Championship this season is the stand-out value in Betfair's relegation market.

Newcastle always seems to have been a club driven by internal strife, particularly since Ashley took over, but this summer has been worse than ever.

Manager Rafa Benitez, asked following a 4-0 friendly defeat to Braga to clarify comments about what was wrong behind the scenes, answered "everything". Ashley has felt compelled to make public a long letter to a Parliamentary committee justifying his running of the club.

Benitez was unhappy at the start of the summer when he was promised no more than he could generate in sales to spend on players to strengthen his squad. He hasn't even had that.

The £22m collected for Aleksander Mitrovic's move to Fulham was the star deal in sales that have raised around £45m this summer. So far just £14m has been paid for players coming in.

Pre-season results have been poor

Unless there's some spectacular last minute business going to happen today, it's hard to see how the likes of Ki on a free transfer from Swansea or Salomon Rondon in a loan from West Brom are going to make a significant difference.

Better than even money for Spurs to win at St James' Park looks one of the best bets for the opening weekend of the new Premier League campaign.

Newcastle's pre-season results have been poor. A 2-2 draw with Hull was followed by 0-0 in Porto, the 0-4 against Braga, and then a 0-1 defeat to Bundesliga side Augsburg. A side who struggled to score goals last season are still struggling.

They have lost Florian Lejeune for most of the new campaign with a cruciate ligament injury, giving Benitez even fewer options.

"When things are not going well off the pitch, you can see the results on the pitch," said the Toon boss. He's not wrong.

It took that Villa team five years to go from being European champions to relegation. Newcastle could easily drop from 10th to the bottom three in one.

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