Like many of the Toon Army, I have extremely strong opinions regarding the dictatorsh….I mean ownership of our beloved club. One minute I am cursing Mike Ashley’s name and the next I am thinking that he really does have a plan and it could be a lot worse.
After the recent sale of home grown talent Andy Carroll, the opinion was completely divided amongst fans as to whether it was the Board or the player to blame for Carroll’s rapid departure.
I have decided to look at it from both sides of the coin once and for all to try and give myself some peace of mind.
Almost four years ago, the intensely private sports retail tycoon shocked the world of football by buying the shares of Sir John Hall and moving on to take total ownership of Newcastle United for a sum of over £130 million. At the time, I felt like Christmas had come early. The club were heading for financial ruin due to failed attempts at securing consistent Champions League football (mainly due to poor managerial appointments) and now we had our own British sugar daddy to come in and clear the debt whilst pumping ridiculous amounts of money into the superstars we were so used to being linked with.
This British sugar daddy also took to wearing our colours like one of us and started drinking in the local pubs like a regular bloke from Blaydon. At the time, we must have been the envy of every club in the league. This man built an empire selling Adidas trainers on the cheap but what did he know about running a football club? Well it’s a business and he is a businessman so it shouldn’t be too much bother. He travelled with the fans to the Mackemland, he necked some pints at The Emirates, he was just one of the lads out for the ride.
Cockney Mafia Out
It didn’t take long for things to start to turn a little bit sour.
Installing Chris Mort and Dennis Wise is still the biggest mistake Ashley has made to date and showed his total lack of any knowledge on how to run a professional football club although his appointed of King Keegan showed the fans that he had their interests at heart so he was temporarily forgiven for the appointment of some little dwarfish [email protected] that everyone outside of Stamford Bridge can’t stand.
After huge interference in team matters by aforementioned dwarf, Keegan was subsequently sacked by Ashley and Llambias and the pair, along with Dennis Wise, were dubbed ‘The Cockney Mafia’ by supporters. Ashley then caused turmoil behind the scenes at the club by putting us up for sale creating an all time low morale amongst fans and players which consequently sent us into freefall and ultimately relegation. During this time, fans were bemused with the appointment of Joe Kinnear who was unable to boost the overpaid stars to fire fight against the dreaded drop.
After failing to find a buyer and local businessman Barry Moat getting all our hopes up then pulling out at the last minute, Ashley accepted that selling the club whilst in the Championship would be financially impossible and released a low amount of funds (whilst reaping some tasty transfer fees) to give new manager Chris Hughton the almost impossible task of promotion back to the top tier of English football at the first time of asking. We all know what spirit and performances Chris Hughton went on to achieve, although that article is for another day.
Calm had seemingly been restored on Tyneside in 2010 and things were looking rosy until the abysmal sacking of Chris Hughton with the team battling in the top half of the league. Chris had instilled a new found belief into the players and his treatment by the board was nothing short of scandalous and completely out of the blue. The fans once again cursed Ashley’s name and the general consensus was that he truly did want to destroy the club. He then appointed serial relegation specialist Alan Pardew to lead our troops into battle, much to the general amusement of everyone but the Geordie faithful.
His latest scandal – as far as his haters are concerned – has been the sale of home grown gypsy, Andy ‘Rocky’ Carroll. Carroll was reportedly forced out of the club by Llambias as Multi Millionaire Ashley ”needed the money.”
On the flip side….
Many fans have grown to accept that Ashley actually does want the club to be successful, whether it be for personal pleasure or profit. There is an argument for every one of his decisions which I can empathise with but I just don’t know whether to trust the integrity of it all.
Ashley started off as one of the lads in the stands and seemed to have a great time. He held his hands up and admitted his naivety and mistakes in the appointment of Wise and Mort, after sacking them both. During the turmoil with Keegan, Ashley reportedly tried to smooth things over after a row Kev had with chief protagonist Derek Llamaface. He then faced a hate campaign from the fans and put us up for sale, citing that he had ‘listened to the fans’ and was doing it as he appreciated our disdain. He appointed the fans choice Alan Shearer after the interim manager was taken ill and after relegation, held his hands up and praised all the staff for their efforts.
In the Championship, he secured some of the best talent in the division at the time with the signings of Wayne Routledge, Leon Best and James Perch. They were all at the top of their game within their respective clubs. He let Hoots get on with things and we were promoted with flying colours….no drama. He then invested in signings of Hatem Ben Arfa and Cheik Tiote on our return to the Premier League and didn’t sell any of our star performers with his sights set on Premier League survival. This was all the fans had asked for and he was probably advised that with the squad and wages, it should be possible.
Some say that in hindsight, the sacking of Chris Hughton was the right decision. Chris did well but would he ever have taken us to the next level? My thoughts are that he deserved the chance and it was a shame he wasn’t given it, but he was never given the full backing and a five year deal so we were never given any false pretences (some would argue that CH was promised a contract at the end of the season….I saw this as the ‘vote of confidence’ managers get before being sacked). The loss against West Brom actually made me call for Hoots’ head for the first time and after that dire performance, I wasn’t massively surprised when it happened the next day.
There is an argument that Ashley has NEVER sold our prized assets unless they have showed a desire to jump ship and I personally think this isn’t too far from the truth. I personally blame Andy Carroll for leaving rather than the board. £35 million is a ridiculous amount of money for an injured player who breaks team mates jaw and has only six months experience in the top flight to his name, plus a few recent court appearances. A lot of fans have said he is sucking the club dry but in reality, he has never taken any money out the club. If anything he has been completely ripped off with the amount of debt and ‘unobvious’ repayments his flash lawyers didn’t flag up at the time of purchase.
It’s also amazing that the appointment of Alan Partridge actually seems to be working. He has got us playing some good football although the jury is still out with most fans.
I will make my decision come the summer when I see how much he invests back into the team but I think the main problem at NUFC isn’t Mike Ashley….it’s Derek Llambias. As I have mentioned, Llambias has been party to all the major negative stories at NUFC and it’s time this was highlighted and something was done about it.
A highly emotive subject I know and I am bound to take a few hits on the chin for sitting on the fence but I think many will agree that their opinion of Ashley will all come down to the transfer kitty in the summer. I can live with people making mistakes, holding their hands up and learning from it.
Is this the case with our chairman? Or is it just one thing too many? Have you completely made up your mind on whether ‘In Ashley we Trust’ or ‘Fat Cockney out’???