Newcastle United: Is Joey Barton's Free Transfer Mike Ashley's Worst Decision?

Adam BallContributor IAugust 1, 2011

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 31:  Joey Barton of Newcastle gestures during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Sunderland at St James' Park on October 31, 2010 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

If you ask any Newcastle fan for their opinion regarding owner Mike Ashley, you are likely to get a stream of foul language in return. Having taken the team down into the Championship by replacing a fed up Keegan with the useless Joe Kinnear, Ashley had regained some credibility among the Toon faithful by keeping hold of some of the better players at the club, and hiring Chris Hughton as manager. However, an endless stream of ridiculous decisions in the past year has culminated in the club's announcement today that Joey Barton can leave the club on a free transfer—which just goes to show that Ashley has learned nothing from his past mistakes.

Newcastle exceeded expectations last season, no doubt about that, and would be looking to consolidate their mid-table position this season. However, all three of last season's best performers have since been sold. Admittedly, the club gained a very good price for Andy Carroll, but seven months later we are still waiting his replacement. Club captain Kevin Nolan was sold for a ridiculously low price considering his success of last season, and now the club is letting its best midfielder leave for nothing.

Now, it is still unknown if this is the decision of Mike Ashley or of manager Alan Pardew, but you can be sure that if this was Pardew's idea, it could only have happened with Ashley's blessing. With the club apparently willing to spend all of Carroll's £35 million on transfers, only £5 million has been spent so far, with the majority of that covered by Nolan's transfer fee. So with so much extra to spend, why are we dismantling the team instead of building? What makes this decision even more difficult to understand is that it leaves the midfield incredibly thin, especially with Ben Arfa's injury.

Don't get me wrong—I didn't like Barton as a person, and if Newcastle had gotten a good fee for him, it would have been good business to sell him. But to let one of the best performers leave for nothing sends a horrible signal to the rest of the team. How are Newcastle expecting to convince Enrique to stay if they are apparently so willing to let their players go on the cheap? If the decision was an attempt to get him off the wage bill, then surely it would make more sense to sell him, as the club could easily have gotten £5 million for him.

Unless the fans see £15-20 million more spent in this transfer window, not only will Newcastle struggle to compete next season, but the relationship between the fans and Mike Ashley could get even worse. Unfortunately for the fans, there is nothing they can do to get rid of him, and it doesn't look like he is going anywhere soon... and I wouldn't be surprised if we see yet more sales before the transfer window closes with no significant additions, and still, no replacement for Andy Caroll.