Since his takeover of Newcastle United in 2007, Mike Ashley has had a turbulent tenure as owner of the Toon Army. Ever since I left the North East to attend university in Leeds, I get asked quite a lot what I think about Mike Ashley and why the fans have such a strong dislike towards him. I hope I can answer a few questions that I (and I imagine other Newcastle fans) get asked frequently and explain a few reasons why we’re so keen to see him leave.
1. The Kevin Keegan saga
When Kevin Keegan was awarded £2m this month just about all of my housemates, classmates, work mates and even 2 of my lecturers asked ‘you must hate “King Kev” now eh?’. Well, no. The wonderful George Caulkin can explain it in no better way. But to echo that statement (or if you can’t be bothered to read it) Kevin Keegan has done so much for the club and in my opinion has every right to have that money. He stood up for what he believed in, which is the same reason Alan Curbishley left West Ham weeks before Keegan left his post at Newcastle. He was brought into that club and signed into a contract under false promises; I’m pretty sure if all responsibility was taken away from your current job you wouldn’t best be pleased. There is no way Ashley, Llambas, Wise or anybody can defend signing a player to appease two agents and directing the manager to ‘go watch him on Youtube’. When I first started supporting Newcastle KK was in charge, so I can personally never thank him enough for getting a whole city excited and making me as enthusiastic about supporting the team as I am today.
2. Hiring Dennis Wise
This does relate somewhat to the first point, but it has it’s whole own story. What infuriates me most is Dennis Wise all of a sudden coming out on sky sports trying to seem like his was right all along and how innocent he feels. I don’t care if he ‘did what he was told’; he made a lot of bad decisions. Xisco and Ignachio Gonzalez being two names that spring to mind, Gonzalez being signed for what I feel is the equivalent of what is known as a bung in football; which is illegal. The way Gonzalez came to the club alone shows his lack of commitment and Wise’s neglect while in the director of football position.
3. “Hiring Alan Shearer is the best decision i’ve made since I bought the club”. Ok…and then…?
That was a rare quote from Ashley after Newcastle were relegated from the Premiership. I’m pretty sure the bookies weren’t taking bets on the next permanent Newcastle manager at that point, so it begs the question, why does Shearer not manage the club now? I take nothing away from Chris Hughton, I’ll admit that Hughton has done a great job at Newcastle and I respect him for the job he has done; I hope he keeps his job no matter what happens with the ownership of the club. A lot of people I know have said he should have the full time job, but I don’t think so. He’s made a good start, but what about when things take a turn for the worse and we start to lose a bit of form, is Hughton the sort of man who can fire up the players? I think Chris would be the first to admit he works best as an assistant manager and it is my belief that Alan Shearer would make a great manager and should of learnt his trade in the same manner as Kevin Keegan did. People also comment on the fact that Shearer didn’t manage to save us in the end. But he tried, he is a true professional that loves the club and the region; if Newcastle were 2-0 at half time this season I can guarantee you Shearer could get a message across to the players a lot better than Hughton could because he has the passion. Alan Shearer in charge of the team would inspire the city once more and get home attendances back up (even though the club still gets a higher average crowd than a lot of premier league clubs…Sunderland). Also just to note Joe F’in Kinnear’s comments at the start of the season, claiming he was offered the job on a full time basis. So when were you going to install Shearer exactly?
4. Not speaking to the fans
Freddie Sheppard and Sir John Hall were some what shady in their dealings, but at least they made some effort to speak to fans, you can barely get a word out of Ashley. Even when Newcastle fans do hear from Ashley they have to hear it from some outside source, mainly national newspapers rather than a local source or even the clubs own website. And then there’s the club’s bizarre relationship with sky sports who are shall we say slightly selective of what they claim and the fans they broadcast. Even after KK got sacked the club made no comment, proving how very wrong they were. The fans are in the dark about everything at the moment, which is a shame because they still show their faith week in, week out.
5. No structure
A football club is not a business in a normal economic sense. Mike Ashley brought in a number of old associates to help make up the hierarchy of Newcastle United and help run the club to make us have a structure a lot like the top 4 English teams. What he didn’t understand however is that Peter Kenyon was hired by Chelsea because he knows how a football club should work. It would have been fair of Ashley to stay out of matters and merely watch games if he had put in the right structure and hired people who know how a football club should be run. Instead he hired Chris Mort, who although had built a slight rapport with the fans in some respects, quit and returned to his expert field of business. He was replaced with Derek Llambas – who still lives in Essex. This is also a man who was apparently dared by Mike Ashley to streak across the St. James’ pitch and obliged. Oh an that was only in August when the club is supposed to being the process of getting sold (allegedly) and being described as ‘in turmoil’ from every news source on the face of the planet. Great job guys!
6. Lack of bodies
Newcastle played all of last season with one recognised left back at the club. That is a Premiership team with one left back. In the January transfer window all our dealings came in the last 3 or 4 days. At one point in this season we had about 13 players in our squad that had actually made a senior start in a league competition. I’m pretty sure that Chris Hughton has had a word in Ashley’s ear this season and told him that he needed the bodies and thankfully we’ve managed to get in three loan signings (Danny Simpson, Marlon Harewood and Zurab Kish…you know the one). We have managed to keep hold of quality players and Peter Lovenkrands has returned after he found out the hard way that nobody in the Premiership wants him. Oh and he got a 3 year contract, quite a lot for a championship club who are struggling with debts most would agree. And not forgetting our two Argentina internationals…
7. The sale of Newcastle United
You could say anything you wanted about the sale of Newcastle United Football Club and you’d probably have as much evidence as any other news outlet. I am sick of hearing phrases coined like ‘South African businessmen shown around St. James’ Park’. I know selling a club or major organisation can be a long process, but something tells me that Ashley is merely holding out for his ridiculous valuation of the club. I think it was several weeks ago the club issued a statement on their website that a bid had been received, yet they’ve said nothing since. All I have heard is rumours, and it makes me wonder why state that bid has been received to the public if you are not going to then say anything else within a month. The price tag of £100m is ridiculous and it doesn’t surprise me that all of these businesses most likely came in with lower offers. I always hope every day that I’ll be able to wake up to the headline ‘Newcastle sold to [insert name/multibillionaire sultan here]’ but I just give up. It is a strange feeling when I return to Newcastle; when I grew up the people from the area actually knew what was really happening at the club.