Sports Direct tycoon has opened up on his ten-year reign on Tyneside and admitted he has made some errors that have wrecked relationship with fans.
MIKE ASHLEY has apologised for renaming Newcastle’s St James’ Park home and sacking Sam Allardyce too soon.
The Toon owner has dropped his media-shy guard to give an interview to Sky Sports with a section being shown before their game against Tottenham.
The clip showed the Sports Direct tycoon making the obvious admission his club cannot compete financially with the Premier League’s powerhouses.
But, more interestingly, Ashley also admitted to a number of errors during his ten years on Tyneside, starting with the rapid sacking of Sam Allardyce after just six months.
Ashley said: “I probably rushed in too early. The first thing, letting Sam Allardyce go, I was probably too keen to get going and make a difference, and I was a bit naïve about how football worked.
“The first thing you feel is stupidity, because as soon as you know the hindsight of something, you know what you were doing wrong.
“For example, I thought it was the right thing to do was to generate as much money as possible for Newcastle, so when people say to me: ‘Whatever you do on an interview do not talk about changing the name of St James’ Park!’
“Well I’m me, and I’m going to talk about making an error, and I should not have changed the name of St James’ Park. I should not have done that.”
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In November 2011 – in a bid to show potential sponsors the value in paying for the naming rights – Newcastle’s iconic home was relabelled the Sports Direct Arena.
Fans were furious and were only appeased 11 months later when Wonga became their main commercial sponsor and restored the original name as a goodwill gesture.
For hasty decisions like the brief rebranding – among others – Ashley has endured a tough relationship with the Geordie army.
But he has taken ownership of mistakes and acknowledged his efforts to raise funds – at all costs – were misguided and he now understands the demands of the supporters better after a testing decade.
Ashley said: “Football is not all about making money and reinvesting it into football clubs, it has a very strange balance to it. I wanted to get naming rights, get money in and invest it into the club.
“The reality is, the vast majority of the Geordie fans would rather have the name of St James’ Park and finish maybe one or two places lower in the table, because they want to keep it special.
“You begin to learn that the special side of Newcastle means a little bit more than the ultimate end performance on the pitch.
“I actually understand how cross the fans were. If I was a fan, would I have been as upset as they were? I would probably have been worst!
“It wasn’t acceptable what happened at Newcastle United football club, but of course I never did it on purpose. There was no gain for me at all to get certain things wrong.”