Much has been written and many questions have been asked about when Mike Ashley will finally fold up his wardrobe full of Slazenger leisure suits, pair up all his Donnay trainers, and place them all into his Lonsdale holdall before finally waving a sausage fingered goodbye to Newcastle for the last time.
My personal opinion has always been that summer 2017 seems the most likely, as it will allow him to take full advantage of that hefty TV contract, relegation may escalate that date, but I digress….
This piece isn’t about when the Dark Lord of Tat slings his (meaty) hook, it’s about how he will do it and what devastation he will leave behind. Strap in lads, it’s crystal ball time!
Mike Ashley is a stubborn and spiteful man, I don’t think anyone of reasonable mind could argue that isn’t the case, he disbanded the singing section for singing (about him), he employed Jo(k)e Kinnear, twice, and took us into the lower league by installing an ejector seat in the home manager’s dugout, so when he goes I would not expect it to be pretty.
History tells us that he will want to leave under his terms and carrying the biggest bag of cash he can possibly find – the best way he can do this is by selling off anything of any value shortly before making his exit, technically known as asset stripping.
Some would argue that he has been doing this for years anyway with the sales of Andy Carroll, Yohan Cabaye and Matthew Debuchy, but this summer brought about a change in investment strategy by investing real money (though not Mike’s money) in some players who have a fair chance of being decent, aside from another overpriced French winger.
This was not done with the intention of improving the team to success, as Mike Ashley claimed on live TV. It was done to boost the profile and (hopefully) on pitch success/safety of the club enough to make it a more attractive sale opportunity, whilst simultaneously bringing in assets whose value could potentially rise and give the owner even more cash. Win/win for Mike.
Despite what certain people in the media and fan sites would have you believe, the club is not more financially healthy than it once was. The debt has not decreased, it has increased, and is now solely owed to guess who?
The major issue with that is that he can foreclose on it when it no longer suits him to own a football club, plunging Newcastle United into financial meltdown and (if we’re lucky) bankruptcy, but what reason could he give for doing this? That is where we, the fans, come in.
You see, our vociferous protests and written words (like this) provide a man whose skin is thicker than an elephant’s scrotum, with an ideal and even plausible excuse, to those not close to the situation.
He could claim that (as he has done before) the fans are making life uncomfortable for him and his family, that they feel threatened, that we are unreasonable thugs who wish him harm for simply trying to do his best to give us what we want.
Clearly it would be complete rubbish, but if whatever friends he has remaining in the Southern press could spin it right, he’d probably get away with it. What a fantastic excuse this would give him to dismantle the club, nosedive it down the leagues, leave it limping along, or even completely destroy it, he could literally do whatever he wanted.
Let’s assume that he would take it to the edge of oblivion before walking away laughing at the stupid “jawdees”, what insurance would he have that an equally rich and infinitely more compassionate and ambitious owner wouldn’t arrive and resurrect the club?
Well, this is where he has cleverly split the club up into various sub-divisions, with for example the ownership of image rights. He could actually sell the club and maintain ownership of certain parts of the ‘business’, making the club much less attractive for a new owner.
My crystal ball tells me that the worst is yet to come, that the empty words and empty seats are only the beginning of the end.
I have maintained all along that Ashley will turn out to be the worst owner in the club’s history, but he has the potential to become the worst owner in the history of modern football, and I think he will possibly take that opportunity.
Relegation this season might hasten the end, as I believe that his exit is planned for the end of next season, but it is certain that whatever happens will not be pretty and will be done for the benefit of one man.
All we can do is drink champagne in the streets when he leaves and then start putting the pieces back together, no matter where the club finds itself.
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