With Newcastle United bouncing back so easily after the last relegation, there appears to be a serious case of collective amnesia when it comes to just how Mike Ashley acted when Newcastle made the drop last time.
The (fantasy) story goes that cutbacks were made in summer 2009 and some shirkers encouraged to leave – but that Mike Ashley ensured enough quality remained to ensure Newcastle bounced straight back to the Premier League.
Chris Hughton had taken over team duties in February 2009 after Joe Kinnear fell ill – but after a poor run of results and relegation looming, Mike Ashley made the very late move in early April to drop Hughton back to the backroom staff and Alan Shearer came in to try and save the club from relegation.
Once United made the drop, Mike Ashley asked Alan Shearer to prepare a plan for Newcastle to win promotion and then establish themselves back in the Premier League.
Shearer duly presented his plan with costings but never heard anything from Mike Ashley, not even the courtesy of ‘thanks but no thanks’.
With Newcastle United supposedly up for sale, the chaotic state of the club was added to when Mike Ashley decided not to appoint a new manager. Instead he belatedly turned to Chris Hughton who was given a caretaker role.
It is quite clear there was no plan whatsoever in terms of believing an instant promotion would happen, with Hughton appointed despite having failed to motivate the team in the relegation season – the things in his favour as far as Ashley was concerned – he was cheap, available and would do as he was told (something they found out wasn’t the case when push came to shove).
Not surprisingly, Chris Hughton wasn’t going to knock back this first ‘proper’ managerial role, no matter how unsatisfactory the circumstances.
Everybody who was out of contract was allowed to leave, a number of younger players plus Cacapa, Michael Owen, David Edgar and Peter Lovenkrands were all released at the end of their contracts in June 2009.
Then Mike Ashley sold anybody who he received a decent offer for:
£9m Obafemi Martins
£8m Sebastien Bassong
£3m Habib Beye
£4m Damien Duff
Also, Xisco went out on loan.
Chris Hughton was given no (ZERO) money to rebuild the squad, despite around £25m coming in from player sales, plus a massive decrease in the wage bill as first team players Owen, Duff, Beye, Martins, Bassong, Lovenkrands and Cacapa left.
Shortly after the season kicked off, Danny Simpson was in brought in on loan as Newcastle didn’t have a right-back.
There was then a handful of further loans and free agents who arrived in the next three months: Zurab Khizanishvili on loan (from Blackburn (Sept – Dec 2009), Marlon Harewood (Sept – Dec 2009), free agent Peter Lovenkrands signed on again in September 2009, free agent Fabrice Pancrate signed in Nov 2009.
It was only once it became clear that promotion was Newcastle’s to throw away, that Mike Ashley then allowed a minimal spend to occur in January, to safeguard against injuries.
Newcastle made a trio of signings: Danny Simpson became a permanent deal from Manchester United, Wayne Routledge was bought from QPR and Mike Williamson arrived from Portsmouth. Geremi was allowed to leave and his saved mega-wages helped finance the deals.
January also saw another couple of loans: Patrick van Aanholt from Chelsea Jan-Feb 2010 and Fitz Hall from QPR Jan-May 2010.
The rest as they say, is history.
However, going back to that 2009 post-relegation summer – there was no plan to try and get back up, Mike Ashley’s only intention was to slash costs as much as possible. With Chris Hughton given obviously what they considered as the temporary job of looking after the team, only to then confound them by doing a remarkable job.
In summer 2009, I don’t recall Newcastle turning down a single bid for a player.
The reason that Newcastle ended up bouncing straight back was despite Mike Ashley, not because of him.
Ironically, the overwhelming factor in providing the platform for promotion was ironically, because Mike Ashley had allowed so much money to be wasted by Sam Allardyce and Dennis Wise.
Ridiculous over the top wages and long-term contracts had been given to the likes of Coloccini (allegedly £90,000 a week), Barton (£60,000 a week), Smith (£60,000 a week), Jonas, Enrique, Nolan.
Nobody was going to take those players – remember this was seven years and two or three TV contracts ago.
United were also lucky to have an emerging Andy Carroll, plus a number of lower level players who were more than good enough for that level though not automatic Premier League players…Harper, Ryan Taylor, Steven Taylor, Shola, Guthrie, Butt, Best, Lovenkrands etc.
Clear your head, if Newcastle go down, Mike Ashley won’t be riding to the rescue…he will be the one on the lifeboat stamping on the hands of women and children as they try to climb onboard.
If you don’t believe me, listen to the man himself.
This is what Ashley had to say only the other week, when asked about what would happen if Newcastle are relegated:
“All I say is, there is a bank account, when you have emptied it, it’s empty, don’t come crying to me for more money.”
It might look like we need a miracle but Newcastle United need to somehow stay up – whatever it takes.
If relegation happens then Mike Ashley will undoubtedly be taking it out on all of us, probably blaming the fans for the drop rather than his own stupidity.
He will sell anything that moves and god knows who will end up as manager/head coach when Rafa Benitez leaves. Even if he wanted to stay then there’s no way Mike Ashley won’t exercise his relegation clause and not get rid of him.
Give it an extra shout tomorrow against Swansea because I’m afraid the above is the reality – Mike Ashley is going nowhere until he has had his pound of flesh.