When Four Four Two Magazine listed Mike Ashley in its “50 most hated people in football”, this came as no surprise to fans of Newcastle United. The Toon Army have accused the Sports Direct tycoon of having his own interests in mind and of ruining the spirit around St. James’s Park. But is Ashley really holding Newcastle back? Read on for our take on the situation…
What has Ashley achieved as owner?
Mike Ashley deserves credit for rescuing Newcastle from financial ruin. Under the leadership of Chairman Freddy Shepherd and the club’s largest shareholder John Hall, Newcastle’s place among the elite of English football was under threat by 2007. Ashley stepped in to save the club at a time when administration was a real possibility.
Since then, Ashley has given the club £127.3 million in interest-free loans to help stabilise it. In fact, he transformed Newcastle United into one of the most stable clubs in the Premier League.
Ashley’s 10-year reign hasn’t all been a tale of hardship. Back in the 2011-12 season, the club signed great players like Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa and Newcastle achieved fifth-place finish in the Premier League. This was their highest finish since 2003-04 (when they also finished fifth).
Yes, Newcastle have been relegated only six times in their history. And yes, two of those relegations happened under Ashley (2009-10, 2015-16). But each time, the Toon have stormed back in to the Premier League after just one season. By contrast, every other relegation has resulted in at least four – and at most six – seasons outside the top flight.
Reasons why Ashley is holding Newcastle back
‘For sale’ for the third time
Newcastle fans reacted with joy at the news that Ashley was selling the club. But after putting the club up for sale for a third time in November 2017, it now seems a deal with Amanda Staveley has fallen through.
Newcastle United are currently enjoying their 125th birthday – but the uncertainty surrounding the club’s future threatens to dampen fans’ celebrations. Ashley believes the club to be worth more than the £250 million Staveley put on the table – is there never an end to his penny-pinching?
Financial stability comes at a price
As an article on the BBC website states, Newcastle are the third-best supported club in England and the 12th-most-popular in Europe. Despite this, they haven’t won a major trophy since the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1969. Of course, Ashley isn’t responsible for what happened (or didn’t happen) before buying the club.
But Ashley promised to bring trophies to St James’s Park and has failed to do so in 10 long years. Admittedly, luring a world-class manager like Rafa Benitez to the club was quite a coup. But after seeming to shirk on his promise to provide the Spaniard with the money to buy players in the 2018 January transfer window, Rafa may consider his position untenable.
Ashley famously hit the news for his exploits on the roulette wheel. Fans are right to be frustrated that he won’t be as generous to the football club he owns. After all, Ashley has the money to build success on the pitch, but his refusal to do so is holding Newcastle back.