An open letter to Sir John Hall, Freddy Shepherd and anyone else with a bit of wealth and influence who cares about the future of Newcastle United.
A strange thing happened in May 2007. I was sat at my desk. I was at work. It was a pretty ordinary late Spring type of day. Then all of a sudden I got this text message off a fellow Newcastle fan, it read: “Some billionnaire’s buying the Toon, this could be a massive moment.”
I hurriedly clicked on various news websites, fan forums and blogs and was confronted by a retail magnate from Berkshire called Mike Ashley, worth about £3.5 billion, who had made an offer to buy Newcastle Utd. On first view this looked like just what the club needed. It feels like five minutes ago, but it’s actually been eight years now.
What followed were a few weeks of uncertainty about the takeover. Sir John Hall had agreed to sell his shares and had done a round of TV interviews declaring Mike Ashley a self- made man and absolutely the right person to take the us forward. Freddy Shepherd was allegedly taken by surprise that Hall had decided to sell up. He was eventually put into a position where he also decided to cede control of his stake to Ashley. Newcastle United had been sold for £135m.
Since Ashley has got his claws into Nufc it has been run in a truly terrible way. Financial stability yes, but it’s been consistently punching well below its weight for the best part of a decade – one season aside when they finished fifth, but even then they failed to build on it.
There has been a shocking lack of investment in players, despite enormous TV deals with the broadcasters, rubbish managers and sponsors, the ignominy of relegation,and generally a hopeless lack of anything resembling basic competence at the top.
We are on the back of five derby defeats against Sunderland, something that was once unheard of. Five defeats and counting in the Premier League and a caretaker manager in John Carver who looks totally out of his depth. At the same time we are told the club has made an £18m profit and has £34m in its coffers, just sitting there going unspent on football players, despite the fact it’s a football club.
For many fans, enough is enough. Boycotts are back on the agenda, season tickets are being packed in as the club approaches one of the most important and uncertain summers in its recent history. It truly is a horrendous mess.
This purpose of this missive is not to naively suggest that you both, Sir John and Mr Shepherd, attempt to buy the club back. That is probably not realistic or desired.
What you could do, and I ask you to consider this seriously, is to join with the fans now and use your positions of influence to scour this planet and find the investors who can make a success of Newcastle Utd. Could you go out there and promote our club and find someone out there who is willing to come in and make a bid.
Someone who wants to invest and who wants to do things properly, with credibility and a blend of footballing and business acumen. Or am I being unrealistic? I appreciate that you are both now either retired or semi-retired.
I’d certainly like to see you both speak out about what is happening at our great club. Why did you sell to Mike Ashley and why did you feel he was a good option. At this moment in time, it looks to have been a catastrophic moment in the history of Newcastle Utd.
I also call on anyone else out with wealth and influence to consider helping the club to find a buyer who can oust Mr Ashley and put Newcastle back where it really should be, before it’s too late.
You can follow the author on Twitter @DavePunton