As the saying goes: fool me once – shame on you, fool me twice – shame on me, so just how many times has Mike Ashley attempted to fool the supporters of Newcastle United, or as he sees us – mug punters?
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Well there was the Keegan tribunal where his administration was proven to have lied, there was the Andy Carroll ‘not for sale at any price’, there was the ‘club for sale at £100m’ (unless someone actually offers it), the Cabaye sale (anyone who believes that was Joe Kinnear’s fault needs a good shake) and countless other atrocities.
Timing is key in business and Ashley has time and again demonstrated, that he is a man who knows the value of impeccable timing. He has bought and sold stakes in various major companies and the way he has aggressively pursued competitors when smelling blood in the water, all points to a man who times his actions well. Which brings us neatly back to the public interview.
After weeks of protests, boycotts, the media turning against him, former players and managers having their say and an organised campaign against him, maybe he had a little wobble. After seeing the share price of Sp**ts Direct drop significantly after the documentary about his business interests thrust him firmly into the public eye, plus his people being unceremoniously ousted from Rangers, just maybe he is feeling a little more vulnerable.
So he reacts, in a typical Mike Ashley way, with a bullish statement of intent. Heavy on emphasising his power, light on details and abdicating all future responsibility for decisions actually affecting the football club onto others. The statement meant absolutely nothing, let us be clear on that, it said precisely nothing.
Season ticket sales have dropped, the relegation predicament of the club and the organised protests were finally showing him that enough of the fans could unite to damage him, harm his business and ultimately do what Ashley hates above all other things, prove him wrong.
That the statement seems to have fooled some people is worrying, that once again we read people stating ‘let’s see if he makes good on his word’ is frustrating to say the least. How many times in the last 8 years has the summer been purported to be ‘the most important in the club’s history’, or ‘the true mark of the owner’s ambition’? Have we ever seen evidence of this ambition? Has he ever done what is required? Has he ever actively pushed the club forward when required? Eight years of evidence will tell you not.
Sunday’s statement was just the latest part of a PR exercise put together by Keith Bishop to placate just enough of the fans for Mike to stop giving a sh*t again, to quell the protests back down to the level of a minority of what he hopes can be portrayed as rabble rousers, to give the media and general public a banner under which they can say ‘well Ashley did come across well’. No he didn’t, he came across like a nervous schoolboy being caught out by the headmaster.
Newcastle United supporters need to understand one thing and one thing only.
Nothing at all will change whilst that man owns this football club, we might do enough business this summer to survive slightly more comfortably next season than this, but is that really progress?
Is that the lengths of ambition he has for the club?
I think the answer to those questions is obvious, and if you saw anything in the interview yesterday that proves otherwise, I would be interested to hear about it.