Rumours surrounding an alleged takeover of Newcastle United continue to grow, with reports suggesting up to three groups showing interest.
They suggest that one other group has even reached the ‘data room’ stage, which permits them to look over the club’s accounts.
While a statement from the Bin Zayed Group states that terms have been agreed and signed off by both parties.
With so much talk and speculation, the current climate around club ownership feels somewhat different to previous rumblings.
So if new owners are on their way sooner rather than later, what are the most urgent issues they need to address at St James’ Park?
Tying down Rafa Benitez for the foreseeable future
Above all else, priority number one must be securing Rafa Benitez’s future as Newcastle United manager.
The likelihood of any new ownership being in place before the Spaniard’s current deal expires in June is slim. As such, when a sale is clearly happening, the prospective new owner must give assurances that Rafa will stay.
One way of doing so is to put their proposal forward prior to any ownership deeds being signed. Lee Charnley and Mike Ashley could offer the new owner’s terms in lieu of them assuming control.
To all intents and purposes, it is the new owner fronting the funds and salary included.
Certainly, as in demand as Rafa is, no one at the club can afford to let him become a free agent, as even Bentiez’s patience can only last so long.
Invest significantly in the playing squad
It has been clear for a number of seasons that the overall squad at Newcastle is simply not strong enough.
Any new owner must provide funds to improve the depth of the senior squad, and give the manager – hopefully Rafa – the tools to do the job.
Lack of depth and competition is something Benitez has been lamenting for months now. Increasing and improving personnel is also believed to be one of the main demands of his current extension negotiations.
Significant investment does not mean lashing out on £100 million players. It means building a squad capable of avoiding a perennial relegation scrap, and upgrading in most positions of the team.
A year of consolidation would be beneficial to everyone, least of all the fans.
It would also let other players and agents know that Newcastle is finally on a steady platform, and ready to move up to the next level.
Build bridges with fans who have been ostracised under Ashley’s tenure
Newcastle fans have lost faith in those running their club.
A regime that has been reluctant to communicate with media or fans’ groups has resulted in distrust in everything they do.
Lee Charnley is seen as nothing more than a mouthpiece for Ashley, and as long as that is the case, he will never be taken seriously by supporters.
Any new regime needs to understand fans’ needs. That does not necessarily mean a fan group having a seat at the directors’ table.
But what it does mean is liaising regularly, seeking advice of what they want and need, and generally involving them in the Newcastle United conversation.
Building up a rapport with the fan-base will bring the trust back. It will also bring harmony between the club and its customers.
Having the board, management and fans in harmony can only benefit Newcastle United.
Improve infrastructure throughout Newcastle United Football Club
It is evident that improvements are needed at St James’ Park.
The stadium needs updating, with many areas looking tired and run down.
Away from the stadium, of course, the training facilities have been another area that Benitez wants to see investment.
After years in the game, Rafa knows what it takes to succeed. Quite why the current owner does not realise or understand that is baffling.
But if Benitez says better, state of the art training facilities will improve Newcastle’s fortunes, his advice should be heeded.
Add to that, the fact that during transfer deals, players and agents generally see the training ground before the stadium. Therefore, providing a first impression of a second-to-none training facility could be the difference between signing a player, or missing out.
The academy also needs to be revamped. Moves are afoot to alter the coaching structure, but an infrastructure overhaul is also desperately needed.
Cement the building blocks for the future by investing in youth
Another of Rafa’s key demands is to improve the youth structure at the club.
An elite academy set-up is vital at top clubs nowadays. With FIFA Financial Fair Play rules in full effect, most top sides are spending more on developing young talent.
Newcastle are currently in danger of falling behind others with their fairly out-dated academy.
The new facilities mentioned above, needs top quality young prospects to fill it.
A better scouting system to unearth hidden talent could see Newcastle develop a youth system the envy of British football.
While Sir John Hall’s dream of seeing 11 Geordies playing for Newcastle in the Premier League is unlikely, having a side full of home-grown players is conceivable.