MIKE ASHLEY does deserve some credit for his time as Newcastle United owner.
There, I said it!
Cast back to 2007; the club was being ran financially into the ground by Shepherd and Hall.
No one could doubt the passion and ambition of the owners at the time, but money was being taken out left, right and centre, and Newcastle’s place amongst the elite was diminishing by the day.
Mike Ashley stepped in at a time where administration for the biggest club in the north east was a real possibility and he used his own money to stabilise the club, all free of interest.
He also managed to attract and maintain the services of one of the best managers in world football today.
For both of these events, Mike Ashley deserves credit.
But if we’re talking about the bread either side of Ashley’s 10-year NUFC sandwich, the filling has been nothing short of a selfish, naïve mess!
Embarrassing, short-sighted appointments, penny-pinching transfer blueprints, 8 year contracts, self-advertising and changing stadium names are just a few of the ridiculous decisions made by a man who has himself admitted he didn’t know enough about what he was getting himself in for when taking over a football club and that he even regrets the decision to do so.
Ashley has transformed Newcastle United into the most economically proficient club in the Premier League.
The problem is, being ‘balance sheet champions’ doesn’t bring success on the pitch and two relegations in 10 seasons under his tenure are the proof in the pudding of that.
The writing (along with the wallpaper!) was quite clearly on the wall during Ashley’s shamefully and infamously staged TV appearance back in August, so it came as little surprise when the club officially announced that it was on the market earlier this week.
The sad reality is that the club has been ‘up for sale’ for some time now and it has been on the market before. Mike Ashley paid just over £134m for Newcastle United back in May 2007.
The black-and-whites’ previous 5 top flight finishes were 12th, 13th, 7th, 14th and 5th, a proverbial mile away from the yo-yo shambles we have become today.
Despite our steady decline, Ashley is asking for around £300-£400m! It’s no surprise, really, that the club remains in his possession.
There is however a different feel to the news this time around.
The presence of business mogul Amanda Staveley at NUFC’s home fixture to Liverpool got tongues well and truly wagging. There was of course confusion around which club Staveley was there to see, if any, but the recent news is that she is heading up the Dubai-based firm PCP Capital Partners and has signed a non-disclosure agreement.
And she isn’t the only one.
Reports suggest that Staveley is the fifth to sign such an agreement and therefore one of a number of potential investors now going through the process of due diligence.
There are reports also that Staveley is willing to purchase the club for around £300m and invest £300m in transfers; pure euphoria for Newcastle United fans round the world!
And although Ashley seems to be pushing for a price closer to £400m, his willingness to want a quick deal done, and through possible ‘staggered payments’, would suggest an agreement can be easily reached.
It remains to be seen what the outcome of all of this will be. As aforementioned, we have been here before with potential investors – a rise in excitement for Toon fans everywhere, only to be left asking one-another, “What happened with all that takeover talk?!”
And there is of course the danger that NUFC end up in the hands of a Randy Learner or a Venky’s.
But, the majority of Newcastle fans are well passed the stage of being concerned as to whether it is a case of ‘better the devil you know’.
Mike Ashley has been an unwanted part of NUFC for a long time now – the feeling is now mutual.
You only have to look at the response of fans on social media regarding a takeover, and club legends like Rob Lee and Alan Shearer, to see that we are all hopeful for positive news in the coming weeks/months and that it is definitely worth the risk, in terms of ownership, to get this man out and away from our great club.
Do we want the investment of ‘middle-eastern billionaires’? Of course we do; all clubs do. But that’s pipe dream at the moment.
A new owner who can empathise with us fans, show care and passion for our great club and help us compete financially in England’s top flight would put a smile on the faces of all those that don black and white blood.
Many a time Newcastle United has been referred t as a sleeping giant – well, it’s time to wake up!