I know what you probably thought when you read that headline. Another moan about Mike Ashley and and a lack of investment, right?
Well, sort of, but it’s kind of a case for the defence of the Sports Direct tycoon also.
I suppose I’d better start by clarifying my stance on the current ownership. If I do that now it may avoid some idiotic comments later on such as “Ashley lover” or any other amount of boring and idle stuff like that. Put simply I don’t have much time for him. However just because I don’t bleat on about him in every post it doesn’t mean that I am overly enamoured by him. Far from it in fact.
There seems to be a misconception about people who like/dislike Mike Ashley. One camp claims that the other hates everything that he does whilst the other camp claims that those who don’t mind Mike Ashley simply love everything that he does. That is false, in both cases. I’m sure there are “haters” who recognise that he has done some good stuff whilst I’m also pretty sure that most “apologists” recognise that he has dropped some clangers.
Like me for example. I like the careful approach to signings and the research that goes into them. It should mean that we don’t end up with more Michael Owen’s at the club. I don’t like his unwillingness to spend, the Sports Direct advertising vehicle that St James’ Park has become, the contempt that we get shown at times.
Anyway, I’m waffling.
I was watching Match of the Day earlier. I recorded it last night as I knew I’d be up stupidly early for work as I have to make sure that this place has enough articles to get through the day with. Sometimes it’s a drag, especially when you have a 13 hour shift lined up, feel like crap, and have very little to work with in terms of news. Thankfully the other writers step up to the plate on a regular basis.
Anyway, I’m waffling again.
Back to Match of the Day. Having just seen the highlights of Manchester United smashing five past Bolton, Manchester City slipping three (although it could have been more) goals past Wigan and Chelsea doing what we do best and dominating Sunderland on their own turf, my gaze flickered to the Premier League table. It’s already got a familiar look to it hasn’t it?
The two Manchester clubs look frighteningly good whilst Chelsea are chugging away in the background without being spectacular. Even more frightening is the fact that we play all three of those teams in a run of fixtures that starts in late November.
Beyond the top three there are oddities at the moment. Stoke are in 4th and could be replaced by us should we manage at least a score draw on Monday night, but it won’t last. The usual suspects will return, and by that I mean teams like Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool. That leaves the top six pretty much sewn up with only the order in which they are placed needing to be sorted out. Remember Tottenham only sneaked into the top four thanks to a dire season from Liverpool.
It’s a sad state of affairs when all the rest of the league can aspire to is a maximum of 7th place. The Premier League claims to be one of the most competitive leagues in the world but it isn’t. People take the piss out of the SPL and La Liga because it is the same old faces winning things, but the Premier League is no different.
What would it take to break that dominance? Well a lot of time and money for a start. Personally I feel that teams like Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool can be got at, but above that there isn’t a chance in hell of us breaking what is already the top three.
It took Manchester City more than what Mike Ashley is worth and about three years to go from an also ran to finally looking like they can mount a title challenge. It will take us longer, and it will take more money than they spent just to catch up with them.
There seems to be this feeling that by having a change of owner we will suddenly be able to compete. An owner willing to invest a bit of cash would do the world of good, but it wouldn’t be the answer to getting us challenging for honours or even for a spot in the Champions League. We’d need Manchester City type owners. Multi-billionaires who don’t mind losing money. Ashley is not in the same ball park as the guys that we need.
Now I know that people will say that Ashley had the chance to sell to the Arabs. He probably did, but I’ve never been one to hang on to what might have been. To me it’s a pointless, self-pitying exercise that does nobody any good.
The fact is that we are stuck with Ashley. We know that if somebody wants the club then they need to show some commitment by buying a box to show that they are serious. In fairness that move has attracted criticism although it’s worth pointing out that the cost of the box would be peanuts compared to the cost of buying the club. Obviously there is nobody out there that is serious enough to put their money where their mouth is.
So with the lack of an Arab tycoon on the cards, and with Mike Ashley being the richest businessman in the North-East there appears to be little chance of anyone with the love for the club, or money, or both, to be able to take us into that top-four shake up.
We are an also ran, but we aren’t the only ones. We are no different to about three-quarters of the Premier League if truth be told. Sad but true.
I had high hopes for this Financial Fair Play initiative and whilst it’s early days I, unfortunately, can’t see it making one bit of difference. I’ve said all along that it depends how hard FIFA and UEFA enforce it, but they bottled it when it come to Manchester City’s stadium sponsorship deal so I’d say that at the moment it looks as though there will be no change coming from those new financial rules.
Unfortunately we are stuck in a rut. Mike Ashley is rich,, although it’s worth pointing out that just because the guy is worth over a billion it doesn’t mean that he has that amount sitting in cash somewhere. He is richer than I could ever hope to be. He isn’t rich enough to bankroll us into Champions League contention however which leaves us as trying to be the best of the rest with only a Europa League spot to play for. Whilst I do agree that he could invest more I realise that he could never invest enough to get us anywhere near the top of the league.
Those days are long gone I’m afraid and it’s not really Ashley’s fault. We missed our chance to be one of the genuine big boys when our title challenging days of the mid-90’s faded away. Even in our brief dabble with the Champions League in the early 00’s we never really looked like maintaining our new found status.
It’s just one of them things and now the best that we can hope for is to be the best of the rest. For the moment anyway.
It’s not a slight on Ashley. Unfortunately it’s just the way it is.