The relationship between Newcastle’s owner and the fans has long been a fraught one.
It claims that Newcastle will start to look for a new manager after they have accepted that Rafa Benitez will not stay beyond June 30, when his current deal runs out.
That will see 18 months of negotiations over an extension come to nothing, with Benitez being feted by a big-money offer from the Chinese Super League.
Newcastle aren’t prepared to meet the Benitez demands but have yet to come up with a Plan B, with pre-season set to start on July 4. Newcastle have yet to sign anyone in this window either.
Ashley is a businessman and is treating the club like a business. That’s his right.
The trouble is, a football club is a very different type of business. Most people would agree that a Newcastle with Benitez is a more valuable one. He’s got the club into the Premier League and kept them there without major investment.
The Newcastle fans also play a major part too. They pour huge amounts of money into the club, through ticket and merchandise sales and their patience, already worn thin by Ashley, will now be close to breaking point.
Boycotts were planned last season and that was with Benitez in charge. The threat of more could become very real at the start of this season if Benitez goes and Newcastle don’t replace him with the sort of manager who the fans think can take the club forward.
We’re obviously not privy to all the behind-the-scenes machinations at Newcastle but it seems that a key Benitez demand was that he wanted more freedom over transfers. By not giving in to him, after what the manager has achieved at the club, Ashley is playing a very dangerous game that could backfire very quickly.