What has Mike Ashley ever done for us?

Posted on September 23rd, 2009 | 55 Comments |

Both good and bad?
Both good and bad?
When Mike Ashley rode into toon he took the Freddy Shepherd Gang by surprise. Shepherd claims he was ambushed while he lay incapacitated on a hospital bed and before we knew it rumour quickly became fact and Ashley had bought Newcastle United, not exactly with a suitcase full of money but without any of the this due diligence nonsense that troubles most businessmen.

Thus began a new era in the club’s history and it’s one that has managed to divide fans almost throughout. The partisan divisions – often drawn along the lines of Ashley v Keegan – are, in my opinion, unnecessary. I believe it’s perfectly possible for a person to do some good things and some bad things and I don’t believe Mike Ashley is any different in that respect. With rumours once more circulating about the sale saga nearing a close I wanted to try and take a balanced view of Ashley’s time at Newcastle.

One of the main things I thank Mike Ashley for is prising the club away from Freddy Shepherd. I’ve heard arguments suggesting that we wouldn’t have been relegated if Shepherd had remained in charge and maybe that’s true, but I believe the club would have been in dire straits financially.

Ashley had this to say about the debts he inherited when he bought the club:

I paid £134 million out of my own pocket for the club. I then poured another £110 million into the club not to pay off the debt but just to reduce it.

“The club is still in debt. Even worse than that, the club still owes millions of pounds in transfer fees. I shall be paying out many more millions over the coming year to pay for players bought by the club before I arrived. But there was a double whammy. Commercial deals such as sponsorships and advertising had been front loaded. The money had been paid upfront and spent. I was left with a club that owed millions and part of whose future had been mortgaged.

I have every reason to believe that’s true. Since Sir Bobby Robson’s time at the club we had appointed Souness, Roeder and Allardyce as managers, splashed out considerably on the transfer market – signing expensive players like Owen, Viduka, Boumsong, Barton and Luque – and yet seen little success on the pitch. That sort of approach would have led to financial ruin had it gone on. Shepherd may claim it was all under control but I don’t believe him.

What was Ashley going to do about changing the way the club was run? Well he didn’t really tell us until after the Keegangate incident when he said:

The truth is that Newcastle could not sustain buying the Shevchenkos, Robinhos or the Berbatovs. These are recognised European footballers. They have played in the European leagues and everyone knows about them. They can be brilliant signings. But everybody knows that they are brilliant and so they, and players like them, cost more than £30 million to buy before you even take into account agent commissions and the multi-million pound wage deals.

“My plan and my strategy for Newcastle is different. It has to be. Arsenal is the shining example in England of a sustainable business model. It takes time. It can’t be done overnight. Newcastle has therefore set up an extensive scouting system. We look for young players, for players in foreign leagues who everyone does not know about. We try and stay ahead of the competition. We search high and low looking for value, for potential that we can bring on and for players who will allow Newcastle to compete at the very highest level but who don’t cost the earth.

“I am prepared to back large signings for millions of pounds but for a player who is young and has their career in front of them and not for established players at the other end of their careers. There is no other workable way forward for Newcastle.”

Can anyone really deny the sense of that? Unless a club is owned by someone who is ludicrously rich – like Abramovich or Al-Fahim – it simply cannot afford to try and buy success in that way. Ashley quotes Arsenal as a his preferred model but it could equally be applied to Aston Villa or Everton – sure, they spend money on players but nothing like the outlay of the big-spenders, yet they’ve managed to secure European places and even mount the occasional challenge on the top 4. I simply can’t see any option other than the one Ashley proposes unless we put an advert in the paper for a multi-billionaire owner with money to burn. The trouble with the Shepherd regime is that it was spending as if we had multi-billionaire owners when in fact we didn’t. Essentially we were trying to punch above our weight and busting the club in the process.

So what we have so far in Ashley is a man with some decent plans for the club. The problems, in my opinion, came about when he tried to implement them.

The telling time was during the Keegangate incident. I don’t want to get into the incident itself here – the Tribunal will decide who was at fault for that – but it was after that incident that Ashley really disappointed me. The club was in turmoil, the manager Ashley appointed was gone, the fans were up in arms and we really needed a strong leader; someone who would exert control, take the heat and pull things back on track. But we were left wanting. Ashley said:

I have really loved taking my kids to the games, being next to them and all the fans. But I am now a dad who can’t take his kids to a football game on a Saturday because I am advised that we would be assaulted. Therefore, I am no longer prepared to subsidise Newcastle United.

I am putting the club up for sale. I hope that the fans get what they want and that the next owner is someone who can lavish the amount of money on the club that the fans want.

I was quite appalled by this. I understand the pressure he was under from the fans and if it turns out that Keegan walked it wasn’t even Ashley’s fault, but I still expected him to be stronger. It is disappointing too that he only chose to start communicating with the fans following Keegangate. Llambias has previously admitted that they got the communication side of things wrong, stating that they initially wanted to keep a ‘low profile’, yet they’ve hardly gone out of their way to correct that since.

We can also question Ashley’s idea of having a Director of Football and his choice of who that would be. It seems particularly naive of Ashley to appoint a DoF and then go out and employ Keegan as manager. Virtually anyone who’s heard of Kevin Keegan would see the folly of that idea and I’m surprised that Chris Mort – who was Chairman at the time – didn’t. Dennis Wise recently said of the DoF role:

The system didn’t work and it’s as simple as that. It could work. It works abroad, it could here.”

I think that pretty much sums it up. Yes it works abroad and yes it could (and does) work here, but it needs to be carefully considered, the responsibilities need to be well-defined and the right personnel need to be appointed to the appropriate positions.

So anyway we were up for sale. Ashley, Llambias and Wise jetted off to the Middle-East to try and sell the club. The press reported that Ashley was asking ludicrous money for the club and breaching negotiating protocol with the Arabs – maybe that’s true and maybe it isn’t, but either way the club wasn’t sold and we continued to drift. Hughton, Kinnear, Hughton again and then Shearer all had relatively disappointing spells as manager and thus we were relegated. Despite the disappointment of that it looked like relegation might give us an opportunity to rebuild, but then Ashley put the club up for sale again, saying of his tenure:

Of course I regret it.

“I never said I was an expert in football clubs. I was just a fan – although a very wealthy fan. But I’m not so wealthy now. I put my money into it and I tried my best. But I accept my best was woefully short. I am genuinely sorry for everybody about what has happened.”

“It has been catastrophic for everybody. I’ve lost my money and I’ve made terrible decisions. Now I want to sell it as soon as I can.”

And here we are, after a somewhat fractious summer, possibly on the verge of being sold again. So is the club in better shape than it was before Ashley took over? Well clearly our relegation is one fact that flies in the face of that, yet we do have a lower wage bill and less in the way of debt. I also believe we couldn’t have carried on in the Shepherd way, so in some respects I think the club is in better shape now. Put it this way: relegation aside I think Barry Moat would rather have the club in the shape it’s in now than in the shape it was in when Ashley took over (or worse, in the shape it would have been in if Shepherd was still owner now).

So my overall assessment of Ashley is that he was a man with the right ideas who suffered from incompetent implementation of those ideas. If he had employed a football-savvy, good-communicating Chairman to carry out his plans I think it could all have been so different.

Now though I believe he has to go, not specifically for his past errors but because he simply doesn’t want to be there. The club needs stability and we’ll never get that while we have an owner who wants to sell the club, so I’m hoping the latest rumours of an imminent sale are true. I must admit though I’m slightly nervous about the sale, mainly because of the suggestion that Moat might be struggling to finance his bid, which wouldn’t bode too well for the future. I would rather Ashley stayed than sold to someone who can’t afford to run the club, but then again those worries could be unfounded and I have no reason beyond press speculation to think Moat doesn’t have a sound, workable business plan for the club.

This is of course just my assessment. Some people, for whatever reason, want to see everything Ashley did as evil and others want to see everything he did as good as if it’s some religious ‘God v Satan’ battle. But I don’t buy into that point of view. Yes, as owner, I believe Ashley is ultimately responsible for whatever happens at Newcastle during his tenure – and I believe he would accept that even if his apologists don’t – but that in itself doesn’t tell the whole story. Everybody gets some things wrong and some things right and I don’t think Ashley’s any different in that respect.

NUFCBlog Author: Hugh de Payen I'm a baby-boomer of the punk rock persuasion, currently exiled in Somerset for crimes committed in a previous life where locals keep trying to poison me with something called 'scrumpy'. Hates sprouts, coat-hangers, Cilla Black, ornaments, Steven Seagull movies and 50 Cent (he's not worth 10). Hugh de Payen has written 634 articles on this blog.

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55 Responses

  1. About sums it up really, for once a well balanced article. Looking to the future I hope we get an owner that runs it like a business and not a toy, who runs it for the love of the club and not to line the pockets of himself, his immediate family and friends. And finally a set of fans who back the club through thick and thin and dont jump ship when the going gets tough.
    Its time for realism to sink for all. Heres to the future whatever it brings.

  2. You may have had a point IF Ashley had followed trough on any of his “i’ve learned my lesson” press releases .. but as with his “i will spend money on young tallent” speach .. they have all been pie in the sky .. the man has lied , spun and squirmed through every transfer window , made shocking decision after shocking decision , appointec fools and drinking buddies to positions the had no experiance or qualification to hold at our club .. tried to sell the club for over the top ammounts when serious biddrs offered fair prices ..£250 mill on the table from those who bought man city yet Ashley wanted £400 million !! … he is beyond contempt and his lies will haunt us for years…a total disaster for this club full stop.

  3. An absolutely superb, balanced piece, Hugh. So much better than the trite, polarised, dishonest garbage that is the norm. You should write longer pieces like this more often.

  4. Nice change to read a balanced view of this usually polarising issue. Let’s just hope the recent rumours of a sale are true, because I’m sick of it all right now.

  5. Looks like he’s nicking my spot, and I’ll have to do the morning news round-up! Sneaky and outrageous. ;)

    Great article. You know already that I pretty much agree with everything you’ve said.

  6. Great article, well constructed and very balanced, we are almost certainly in a better financial position than we were with the Shepherd mob. What we need to happen is that we the fans get off our high horses and give the team what they need our undivided and noisy support home and away. At the end of the day the whole thing is about us and our football team and that is something owners cannot take away. Toon Toon Black & White Army!!!!

  7. I agree with all the compliments above, it’s an excellent, balaced article. This is the kind of thing that makes me read this blog. Keep it up!

  8. We’ve been saving the best until last.

    Hugh is like our Wayne Rooney being unleashed at 17/18 on an unsuspecting Premiership.

  9. Hugh, good article, well though out and well written.
    Ashley is not solely to blame for where this club is at, the decline started way before he came on board as you state in your article. I believe he was the wrong man at the wrong time. The club needed someone who knew football and how to be successful in football to help to turn us around. Instead we got a man who made his money selling cheap tat and a lawyer running the club, before leaving and a casino owner taking over.
    When Sir John Hall took over, he was lucky, football was on the way up, the PL was starting to take in huge revenues and the league was open to everyone. It just so happened that we were one of the richest clubs at the time. We rode our luck all through the Keegan years, there was nothing insightful or any tactical genius going on, we just bought the best players that were available, threw them on the pitch and it worked.
    Fast forward through time and look at the second time KK came. We were in bad shape, we had people who didn’t know anything about football running the club, just like with the Halls, but unfortunately football moved on and left us behind. We were no longer top earners, we were like the gambler who keeps losing more and more money, chasing his losses. Football on the pitch had changed too. The teams that are currently at the top have very shrewd, tacticians leading them. We are still just throwing on the best we have and hoping it will work. We can’t buy our way out as we are effectively skint.
    Being relegated was a wake up call to all the people that thought we were still the same club as we were in 1998. Our current situation means we are very suited to the Championship. We have a team of cloggers and an inexperienced manager. We have no money, so we have to lend or go for unproven players from lower divisions. We have to get back to what being a football club is all about. We have to get back to building a team around a group of players that can gel and not just buy the latests version of Messi, Ronaldo, etc.. and hope that because we’ve paid over the odds for them, that they will single handedly pull us out of the mire, I call this Michael Owen syndrome.
    Anyway, I’ve gone on enough and my dinner is getting cold.

  10. bowburnmag says:
    September 23, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    “Hugh is like our Wayne Rooney being unleashed at 17/18 on an unsuspecting Premiership.”

    Does this mean we’re going to sell him to Man U for tens of millions then, Bowburn? :-)

  11. Micky Toon says:
    September 23, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    “we were like the gambler who keeps losing more and more money, chasing his losses.”

    That’s a very good way of putting it, Micky.

  12. Nah, we’ll keep him.

    I just hope he doesn’t start diving like Rooney or there’ll be an almighty clatter. He’s a big fella is Hugh with all that benchpressing buildings ‘n that. You could say he’s Hugh-e……

    I’ll get me coat.

  13. bowburnmag says:
    September 23, 2009 at 1:57 pm (Edit)

    “He’s a big fella is Hugh with all that benchpressing buildings ‘n that.”

    You calling me fat? ;)

    I haven’t bench-pressed ‘buildings’ since I was in my 20’s BBM. Back then I was 16 stone of muscle – these days I’m 14 and a half stone of roast dinners, steak & chips and chocolate tiffin.

  14. Fantastic article, Hugh. Reasoned, balanced and articulate.

    Maybe the gap between Ashley’s expectations and his abilities was just too big for him to bridge? While I take on board everything you have written…I would add one or two things to it.

    1. His business model has always been “Identify ailing brands, buy them, tart them up and flog them for more than they are worth”. The week he took over I heard rumours from my own sources (no more reliable than anyone else’s) that his intention was to “tart up NUFC and flog it for twice what he paid”. Which leads me to…

    2. Had he been serious about the “Arsenal-on-a-Budget” strategy he would, surely, have appointed a manager able to work within a continental style system; and a DOF of proven experience with his own extensive network of scouts…and not Tony Jimenez, Jeff Ventre and Dennis Wise! In short, hire serious people to implement a serious vision.

    3. The reason why the club was peopled with cronies, idiots and yes men is, Ashley did not want his “Non-Spend” policy questioned by anyone. In point of fact this club has been subject to entropic decay for the last two years. The fans hostility was merely a convenient mask for him to hide behind.

    4. To see the sort of man he is look to the financial pages rather than the back pages. His “solid business empire” is nothing of the sort. It’s a tissue of crooked deals and flim-flam. By the time the Serious Fraud Office has finished with him he won’t be able to afford a Table Football team let alone a real one.

    Yes, peoples good intentions can become lost in a mire of bad decisions….I just don’t buy the idea had any good intentions at all…besides lining his own pockets; which has backfired spectacularly.

    Brilliant article non-the-less.

  15. Mike said “I paid £134 million out of my own pocket for the club. I then poured another £110 million into the club not to pay off the debt but just to reduce it.”

    There lies the problem, if Ashley had done due diligence before buying the club he would have found out about the clause he triggered to pay for the rest of the stadium.

    The club was £60 million in debt before the clause was triggered, a lot yes, but it was manageable, the debt only escalated because Mr Dozy Arse was in such a hurry to buy the club because he thought he was going to sell it quickly for a £50 – £100 million profit.

    I have no time or sympathy for him. His sole reason for buying the club was greed and his need to make a quick buck.
    He has f____d our club up and taken the p___ out of 2 of our biggest ever heroes.
    Unforgiveable!

  16. I’m still at a loss as to how people can say that the debt we had at the club was manageable. If the sum quoted by peter H of £60m in debt is correct and I don’t know as I can’t be bothered to trawl through google, then I fail to see how we could have sustained such a large amount of debt when we were haemorrhaging money left right and centre. If we can be grateful to Ashley for anything, it’s this. Just think how much worse relegation would have been if he hadn’t ploughed all that money into us.

  17. I suppose we could also debate:

    > He exposed Keegan as a fraud money grabbing dummy spitting and quitting baby who perceived himself bigger than the club.

    > He gave you Alan Shearer as manager disproving the thesis that great players always go on to be great managers.

    > He gave us an important dose of reality that fans do not know how to run a club and when they call for the owners to do A, B or C, he should remind them to be reticent.

    > Perhaps most importantly albeit unintentional, his relegation may just have provided the clean slate upon which we can pursue the proposed model.

    I do sympathise with Ashley and supported him, but I now recognise and accept that he should leave for the good of the club.

    for me and any practical thinker out there my disappointment came not as a result of Keegan’s departure, not as a result in appointing Wise or Kinnear (under the circumstances no one else would manage the club) and not because he listened to the fans but rather because he acted upon what he had heard from the fans and tried to implement what they suggested. That is what is disappointing.

    Notably:

    -Sacking Allardyce (at the fans’ behest)
    -Sacking Wise (at the fans’ behest)
    -Putting the club up for sale (at the fans behest following Keegan’s departure)
    -Courting then hiring Shearer (at the fans’ behest despite common sense saying it was a bad decision)

    These are the four pillars upon which I rest my disappointment.

  18. Excelsior says:
    September 23, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    “…1. His business model has always been “Identify ailing brands, buy them, tart them up and flog them for more than they are worth”. The week he took over I heard rumours from my own sources (no more reliable than anyone else’s) that his intention was to “tart up NUFC and flog it for twice what he paid”. Which leads me to…”

    No it isn’t, Excelsior. It’s to idendify ailing brands with a reputation (eg Dunlop, Slazenger, Lonsdale etc), cheapen them by farming out production to cheaper manufacturers overseas, use his extensive retail empire to sell what used to be a quality brand at a cheaper price, making consumers think they have a bargain.

    “2. Had he been serious about the “Arsenal-on-a-Budget” strategy he would, surely, have appointed a manager able to work within a continental style system; and a DOF of proven experience with his own extensive network of scouts…and not Tony Jimenez, Jeff Ventre and Dennis Wise! In short, hire serious people to implement a serious vision.”

    Just because you and many other people on Tyneside hate them, it doesn’t mean they aren’t regarded as “serious” within the football world. Dennis Wise may not make a great Secretary General of the United Nations, but he had acheived quite alot in football management in a relatively short career before joining the club. Jimenez and Vettere were well known figures in the football world too. I do agree with you that it was a stupid and disastrous decision to appoint Kevin Keegan though.

    “3. The reason why the club was peopled with cronies, idiots and yes men is, Ashley did not want his “Non-Spend” policy questioned by anyone. In point of fact this club has been subject to entropic decay for the last two years. The fans hostility was merely a convenient mask for him to hide behind.

    “4. To see the sort of man he is look to the financial pages rather than the back pages. His “solid business empire” is nothing of the sort. It’s a tissue of crooked deals and flim-flam. By the time the Serious Fraud Office has finished with him he won’t be able to afford a Table Football team let alone a real one.”

    Do you actually have any evidence for these accusations of cronyism and crooked dealings? Or is it just the usual, boring, slander through personal spite?

    Finally, when you refer to Ashley’s “non-spend” policy, what do you mean exactly? He has put over a hundred million pounds into the club since buying it, and over a quarter of a billion in total.

  19. Well said Michael12 and worky ticket. I was going to write something similar myself, though it probably would have been far less eloquent!

  20. Michael12 says:
    September 23, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    “-Sacking Allardyce (at the fans’ behest)
    -Sacking Wise (at the fans’ behest)
    -Putting the club up for sale (at the fans behest following Keegan’s departure)
    -Courting then hiring Shearer (at the fans’ behest despite common sense saying it was a bad decision)

    These are the four pillars upon which I rest my disappointment.”

    Hear, hear Michael12.

    It was the second one that was the biggest by far for me though, along with appointing Keegan in the first place. I could see how it was going to unravel as soon as he made that blunder. It wasn’t ‘psychic’ or anything like that, it was just blindingly bloody obvious what was going to happen!

  21. All in all – the best single thread Ive read on the whole affair.

    Brilliant Hugh – I dont want to regurgitate anything that has been said the only two other main considerations to take into account are:

    1 – From the point in time that Ashley bought the club he almost instantly lost 1.2 Billion or more from his personal wealth. That simply has to affect his thinking and being a realist I accept that he had to make choices about the level of support he would be willing to extend to NUFC. Its a reality that must be factored into his decision making – in the weeks he took over several player came into the club – he didnt look like a skinflint then – so something changed – that was his wealth.

    Ironically as the markets recover and Sports Direct recovers his wealth should rocket again – but we will have chased out a well intentioned (but flawed) man out of the club.

    2 – I am always surprised that the majority of fans have the ability to block out their own contributions to the whole calamity. In life we are responsible for ourselves and our actions – I have always stated our fans are our biggest strength and biggest weakness – rampaging without fact and rioting without evidence (even now) doesn’t achieve anything but chaos and failure…

  22. Is it not fair to say you cannot control everything but there are very important independent-thinking parameters in the equation of controlling. The books, shareholders, sponsors, manager, fans and results.

    Unfortunately controlling the books provokes the fans the sponsors and the manager (unless he is a yes man) and hampers performance (although debatable) but balances the books and pleases the shareholders.

    Splashing the money, unbalances the books, displeases the shareholders but pleases the fans and the manager and (potentially) elevates performance and in that case pleases the sponsors.

    Both ways there are stakeholders happy and others disappointed.

    Here is where the game of control becomes complex. To implement his long term plan meant there were going to be some mediocre seasons ahead displeasing the fans the manager and sponsors.

    To buy the time he needed, he needed someone to manage the fans and there was only one man in the world who could do this and that man is Keegan. This plan required that Keegan recognise that there was a bigger picture and accept he was appointed not to win the league in the next 3-5 years but to manage the fans during that time.

    The sponsors and fans would be happy, the board would be happy and the books would balance but the results mediocre for the next five years.

    All but one of the parameters are positive. We as fans should recognise that there is no 1 silver bullet in which all parameters are positive so a good owner must choose in light of his plan which are to be sacrificed.

    This plan was fragile and rested entirely on Keegan but he did not want to tarnish his reputation but simply wanted to enhance it as if he was not already venerated enough in Newcastle dubbed the messiah I think he began to take the name literally.

    Keegan was calling to resign Owen on his mammoth wages, placing pressure on the board by making promises to fans to spend hoping that the board would not make him the fool and bend the books.

    While a great plan, it was always fragile.

  23. Michael12,

    Like the article itself, that’s an excellent appraisal of the situation. I don’t think that Keegan was ever going to see the “bigger picture” though. The constant idolotary was like a drug to him, and he needed big money fast to keep his habit going. Patience isn’t his forte. I don’t know if the fans would have been so happy as you seem to think at Ashley’s pragmatism either, too many of them are too impatient as well.

  24. bowburnmag says:
    September 23, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    “If Stardust and Michael12 are liking the article, I might have to re-read and reconsider my verdict”

    Welcome to the dark side, Bowburn! When Stardust takes his cape off, he’ll show you the place where we sacrifice infants. :-)

  25. Very true Workyticket.

    I have always argued there is no one man or even group of people who are bigger than the club.

    All great movements require sacrifices and to sacrifice his (Keegan’s) reputation would have to me and I am sure posterity would agree, have been the greatest contribution Keegan would have ever made for the club.

    Turning to the Ashley article. I still think this is a turning point. Everything happens for a reason and this may just be what propels us and historians in generations from now may identify the Ashley period of the club was that turning point from which we grew to succeed.

  26. Hmmm! since it`s inception this certainly is the most interesting of blogs.
    Nice article Hugh, must say I agree in general.
    I do believe there`s truth in regard to an attempt to replicate the business plan presently in effect at Arsenal.
    It`s also true Mike Ashley has spent heavily, unfortunately for him the cost of not doing due diligence.
    Also his ignorance of the business(football)and appointing others equally ignorant (Mort & Llambias) were key factors in the clubs demise.
    Had he like the Chelsea and Arsenal owners chosen a money man with a track record in the game, perhaps things could have worked out differently.
    I could be wrong but his earlier pandering to the fans
    (drinking with them, joining with them at games) which resulted in the firing of SA. was a mistake.
    Also the “off the top of his head” appointment of KK and the whole resulting ball of worms,( cockney mafia, southern press, white sheet brigades) were the beginning of the chaos to follow, with ill feelings now built on what had become of a promising start.
    Some subsequent decisions, no demotion clauses in contracts, gambling on PL survival, selling our best players for often less than their worth, appointing Shearer, etc.
    It appeared to be the blind leading the blind, Ashley and Llambias, which continues to this day.
    It`s time MA realized the appointment of a managing director, who knows his way around the business and who has the vision to reconstruct this club from top to bottom is paramount to this clubs future.
    There is still one thing that puzzles me however about the whole saga, why did Ashley or for that matter the clubs PR department fail to attempt to communicate to the fans, in order to perhaps bring about some sort of rapprochement, something I believe which has added to the confusion and discontent.

  27. Nee chance.

    Admittedly I’ve probably been less publicly supportive of/or at least sympathetic toward Ashley since we started on here than I was previously but still ultimately I believed much of what Hugh says and I could never get behind Excelsiors’s notion of him just being here to make a fast buck. He’s in the wrong game for that.

    I guess also admittedly, I’ve worn my heart on my sleeve re Keegan more than I intended and will just await the verdict now, considering we should hopefully know more by the end of the week.

    Mind you, for those that know me, this is nothing new.

    And I still maintain that the venom some are accused of holding for Ashley is mirrored by those who criticise Keegan and Shearer. And still feel that those guys have done enough (in our colours and under our mast) to warrant the benefit of the doubt (both in terms of their behaviours off the pitch during this and the inescapable mixed/lack of results on the pitch). That is the only thing which really irks me.

  28. Point of order: All this thread has shown thus far is various individual’s inherent predujices in relation to their perceived protagonist involved in this sorry NUFC saga part 564524364517; conjecture masquerading as insight, no less.

    As usual, if somebody makes a point that suits them – great article. If it offends their sensibilities – absolute dross.

    I get the feeling that certain folks will carry forth their ingrained feelings towards their ‘man’ (Ashley/Keegan) irrespective of the outcome of the case.

    Perspective please, gentlemen.

  29. Michael 12
    Art.25#
    Bit conspiratorial for me, the plan to hire KK in order to keep the fans happy until the plan came to fruition in 4 or 5 years (Developing young talent-no heavy spending)
    But do recall KK stating there would probably be no trophies for a few years.
    I believe you give too much credit to a rookie owner who was fumbling his way around, was not too happy with Alardyce (large backroom staff-had his own ideas on how to run a club)and used fan discontent to fire him.
    KK`s hiring was according to MA something he jumped at when hearing of Kev`s. interest in a return to the club.
    Yeah, lots of mistakes all around, it would be unjust to blame them all on Ashley.
    And as a matter of interest even clubs like Arsenal, although still buying young and fairly cheap, still have to spend heavily once in a while as have teams with great youth systems like Man. U. & Liverpool.
    Had Michael Ashley instituted a similar youth System (which he did to a degree)and spent the 20 mill. a year as earlier projected on improving the team, we would be in pretty good shape.
    However not factored into the equation was the recession and the debts discovered due to lack of examining the books properly.
    Freddy blames the Halls (yeah right) would love to have heard what the Halls said to one another following the sale ?
    Must have laughed all the way to the bank.

  30. Stardust says:
    September 23, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    ‘Its a reality that must be factored into his decision making – in the weeks he took over several player came into the club – he didnt look like a skinflint then – so something changed – that was his wealth.’

    Do you mean by several players Geremi, Barton, Cacapa, Beye and Faye?

    Two of them were free transfers, Barton, Faye and Beye transfer fees came to approx £10m.

    Alladyce had to fund them purchases by selling the likes of Parker and Dyer.

    Alladyce himself has said since that he thought he was going to get alot of money to spend but the reality was he had to raise his own funds by selling.

    So yes I do think he looked like a skinflint – From day one.

  31. ShiverMeTimbre says:
    September 23, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Shiver,

    Sorry that your comment was held up for a while there. It might be something to do with the cookie settings in your browser.

  32. I think this may well be about the best thread I have ever read on the subject.

    While it is still apparent in some of the contributors that battle lines have been drawn, there does seem now to be some kind of realisation that not everything was quite as one sided as everyone (myself included) thought.

    It has been easy to look at the events of the last 12 months, Keegangate, Wise, selling/keeping the club and forget that everything was not rosey in the Newcastle United garden before the whole thing exploded with Keegans departure. It has been even easier to apportion blame based on half-truths, media gossip and personal loyalties.

    I have no doubt that we will never now know the truth about Ashleys time at Newcastle.

    It is easy to imagine that whatever plans he had upon takeover were effectively redrawn when his personal wealth took the monumental knock we all know they did. To expect otherwise is wrong on our part.

    Like us all, I don’t really know if Keegan was pushed or jumped. My suspicion is that he genuinely believes he was backed in to a corner, perhaps even lied to, but whether that constitues constructive dismissal would depend upon the exact terms of his contract and the conversations he had around the issues which resulted in his leaving.

    The sale of the club was always going to be protracted, no matter what the supporters would have liked. Ashley wants as much of his money back as he can get. There is nothing fundamentally wrong in that. It’s a business with potential, he’s a business man. There is nothing the supporters can do about that (unless you are Barry Moat) other than be patient.

    I have said for quite some time now that many years in the future we will be saying ‘Remember Mike Ashley, he was a right so-and-so, but his money saved us’. Despite all I have read and heard I still believe that, although I’m certain that he didn’t intend it to work out that way.

    Ashley bought the club in haste making sensible sounding promises, discovered his error, made savage changes to try to recover his position but did too much too soon. Made even worse decisions attempting to regain control and backed himself into a corner. Effectively he alienated the club from everyone who could help it, the supporters, the players and manager, prospective managers and players and finally decent prospective owners.

    My only hope is that we do not repeat this scenario with our new owners whenever they turn up.

  33. I hope this works, I’m posting from my phone, so I can’t log in. Anyway I hope my recent article hasn’t painted me as some sort of keegan hater. Far from it. Perhaps it’s just guilty consience, but everytime someone mentions a keegan detractor I feel as though it’s directed at me.

  34. Stuart

    With your business degree (oh I forgot you lied about it) I would have thought you would have factored the wages of

    Geremi, Barton, Cacapa, Beye and Faye plus the 10m transfer fees into account.

    Apparently in your world they dont matter as there is no cost – please tell me who was going to pick the tab up for those huge contracts if it wasnt Ashley?

  35. Chuck I agree entirely it is simply not fact but we probably will never know.

    The reason I came to that conclusion was Keegan’s appointment when he was obviously not the best choice at the time.

    > He had been out of the game for 3 years with no hint of returning. There is no doubt that there were a replete of more suitable candidates available but all of whom could not buy Mike Ashley time with the fans. The one thing they could not do for Ashley was buy time only Keegan could. I remember in a debate on the .com counterpart, one fan said “a 16th place finish would be better under Keegan than a 7th place finish under Allardyce” That statement says a lot.

    The fans are fast to anger and less than half the season gone we called for Allardyce’s head, that is extraordinary by any standards.

    With Souness we had protests outside st. James park for Souness to go. Roeder, we demanded he be sacked. Gullit likewise.

    There is a history of fans demanding manager’s heads and threatening to stay away from games to outright aggression. This needed to be controlled if we were to go anywhere. You ask yourself the question as to the possible motives for appointing Keegan.

    Obviously I cannot prove my thesis but I stress it is one. Ashley will never let us know that he appoints a manager to control fans because even if we knew we were being controlled even for the good we would not like the idea.

  36. Michael

    I have it on good authority that Ashley hated Allardyce – he referred to him as a pig headed man – and totally arrogant.

    His cards were marked.

  37. She is settling down now Batts – had two full nights sleep in a row now at 6 weeks – but tonight might be a different story lol – you know how it is.

  38. my daughter is up the farm every night and weekends muckin oot feeding them and helping oot like she loves her horses

  39. a wouldnt put that past you y cruel sod joking aside i wanted to call me daughter shearer but me wife wouldnt let me but i was drinking at the time lol

  40. Micky Toon says:
    September 23, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    “I hope this works, I’m posting from my phone, so I can’t log in.”

    Thanks for bringing that to my attention Micky!

    The new login should be on the mobile site now.

  41. Stardust says:
    September 23, 2009 at 10:44 pm
    Got to get my monitor fixed – KK keeps turning yellow – anyone know an engineer.

    Nothing wrong with your monitor Stardust – gold is often the colour reserved for Gods….

  42. Stardust says:
    September 23, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    Don’t forget in factoring the wages of these guys that Alladyce had to sell to raise funds to buy players.

    I’m not too sure if you’re aware Stardust but generally when you sell a player they then normally get paid by their new club.

    So by selling players Alladyce was letting other wage earners go.

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