Written by Tom MacGregor for FootballFancast.com: You will have to look far and wide to find a Newcastle fan who has something good to say about the club’s owner Mike Ashley. The Toon Army have encountered a variety of lows since Ashley acquired the club from Sir John Hall and Freddy Shepherd back in 2007. Be it the fans’ displeasure surrounding the hiring of Dennis Wise as a club executive or their relegation to the Championship. Ashley is not alone in his current plight though. The Glazers at Manchester United and the now departed consortium of Tom Hicks and George Gillett at Liverpool suffered much the same as Ashley in their attempts to win over the fans. I want to determine if the torrent of criticism Ashley has come in for is justified?
When Ashley first arrived in the North East he would often sit among the fans in his shirt and watch Newcastle games, these days this is just a distant memory. Ashley’s relationship with the Geordie public deteriorated after the resignation of Newcastle idol Kevin Keegan. Seemingly Ashley adhered to the fans’ calls for Keegan’s predecessor Sam Allardyce to be sacked, and when Keegan was instated as manager there was euphoria on Tyneside. King Kev’s second coming as manager was a brief one though and the circumstances resulted in Ashley’s name being loathed by the majority ever since. Keegan declared his role had become untenable due to Dennis Wise negotiating transfer dealings above his head and interfering with team affairs.
Regardless of the mistakes Ashley has made with his running of the club, hasn’t he tried his best to listen and comply with the supporters needs? I’m sure most Newcastle fans will disagree with the above, but taking what I am about to say into consideration I wonder if some fans’ opinions will waver slightly?
Ashley sacked Allardyce when the fans called for his head and replaced him with Keegan. Understandably, Keegan’s resignation caused disenchantment among the fans. Ten days after Keegan left the club Ashley again bowed to the fans demands and put the club on the market – he is quoted as saying “I have listened to you. You want me out. That is what I am now trying to do.”
Furthermore, after failing to sell the club Ashley has now ploughed into it a total of 139.8 million pounds of his own money. He again tried to appease the fans by installing Toon legend Alan Shearer as manager in April 2009. Shearer failed to keep the club in the league and they were relegated in May 2009, after which Shearer left his temporary role.
After considering these points I wonder if any Newcastle fans will have a change of heart? I doubt it. However, for all Ashley’s shortcomings as the clubs owner I think he has genuinely attempted to listen to and follow through on the fans’ consensus. His decision to change the name of St James’ Park to SportsDirect.com@St James’ Park was another attempt to raise money for the club and, while understandably it received a great deal of criticism, it was only a temporary name change until the end of the season. Ashley has felt the wrath of the fans more recently on two occasions – the sacking of popular manager Chris Hughton and the sale of star striker Andy Carroll. It seems the man can do no right, but wasn’t £35 million for Carroll a great piece of business? That’s dependent on whether Newcastle survive relegation and spend big in the summer.
My overwhelming view is that Ashley bought Newcastle with the best of intentions for the club and while he has made mistakes along the way, he has always attempted to do what’s best for the fans. Derek Llambias has revealed this week Ashley has never taken a penny out of the club and that without Ashley’s financial backing the club wouldn’t be here now. If Ashley continues to invest and keep the club afloat it begs the question what more can he do to please the fans?
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