Ten years of Mike Ashley.

It was a milestone that slipped by almost unnoticed, perhaps testament to a club striving once more to get its house in order. About bloody time.

As things currently stand, we’d all agree that it could be so much worse under the controversial Sports Direct billionaire.

That’s a starting point that may raise a few hackles, but it just goes to show that good PR, level headed investment and the employment of a manager in step with the club’s stature goes a long way to keeping the fans feeling contented. That was all that was ever needed, right from day one, in that May of 2007 when he finally snapped up Freddy Shepherd’s stake.

It has been a transformative 12 months. Whether Mr Ashley signs off every single boardroom decision remains to be seen, but from somewhere, Newcastle Utd has gone from on its knees to being on the brink of something that many supporters feel could be quite exciting.

The change of course came about when Lee Charnley bagged the services of Benitez. Everything has flowed from that appointment in March last year. Not even relegation seemed to dent a sense that with the Spaniard in charge things were on the up.

Ashley’s approval rating, usually quite usefully measured by polls in the Chronicle, actually started to rise in the summer of 2015. There was finally a bit more investment but the flawed managerial appointments carried on unabated. Whether they were his decisions or not, it happened on his watch. Being an absent landlord is no excuse.

He is an owner who will never be able to escape the fact he’s overseen two relegations from the Premier League. Trust is a massive issue. I don’t trust Mike Ashley, but maybe, just maybe, he’s latched on to an approach that is working.

The fact that it’s not rocket science how you oversee a successful football club will annoy many Newcastle fans. We didn’t ask for spending sprees like Chelsea or Man City (would have been nice of course!), just a credible approach that was in step with other, dare I say, smaller clubs who have managed to firmly establish themselves in the English top flight.

The litany of disaster on Ashley’s watch is quite breathtaking.

From the Keegan walkout, Joe Kinnear being brought in not once but twice, changing the name of our iconic stadium, W*nga, the issues around the land at Gallowgate, an over reliance on Graham Carr, Pardew, John Carver, not taking the cups seriously, and a shed load of penny pinching. And all the while this is a man whose sports retail empire has faced massive criticism from politicians and countless others  over zero hours contracts, alleged workhouse practices and substandard corporate governance.

His football club has mirrored it. A sorry tale interspersed with only fleeting moments of joy – two promotions, finishing fifth in 2012 with a pretty decent side, then a European campaign that took us all the way to a quarter-final against Benfica.

It’s a decade which has had far more bad bits than good bits. My preferred option would be him selling the club-  but that currently looks very unlikely. Will there ever be a buyer?

So there we are, uneasy bedfellows, for now. Newcastle is a club never far from the next implosion under this owner, but if Ashley can keep his head down and let Rafa crack on, then he could yet see an ever bigger turnaround in his approval rating among the fan base.

The clubs currently isn’t broken, and doesn’t need fixing, it’s a project now.

Ashley has met with Benitez and agreement has been reached. The manager can have every single penny of revenue to build a team. A model of sustainability is the positive spin to take. The assumption is that Rafa has autonomy over who we sign and that the age limitations are less draconian.

We now await what will hopefully be a summer of busy recruitment. There must be a decent budget there, even if some will be earmarked for wages as well as the actual capital outlay on transfer fees.

The chance is there for the owner to tread a redemptive path. The challenge for him now is to stick with it and not betray his customers again.

You can follow the author on Twitter @DavePunton

(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])



  • Geordiegiants

    He is a scum bag, always has been always will be!

  • hetonmag

    Apart from the last year the previous years under Ashley have been nothing short of disgraceful, is he a business man or has he just got lucky because his baby SD is currently in decline owing to his draconian methods. Trying to run a premiership club like his tatty business is recipe for disaster and if Rafa hadn’t have joined our cause god knows where we would have ended up.

    • Oooh bobbi fleckman

      Well, SD is doing well again with expansion. Perhaps he’s found the right formula across the board?

  • Billy Ellwood

    At this present moment, Rafa has got some promises. Keegan had promises that were broken.

    Sadly, under Ashley, it could be back to square one before the end of September.

  • Pelican

    Can you imagine the Tottenham fans portraying their owner group and Levy in the above way, if they had been through what we have, during the past 10 years.

    Newcastle was ahead of Tottenham on every front before Ashley came in.

    Tottenham get promoted after their 2nd relegation, and it would be like – “The clubs currently isn’t broken, and doesn’t need fixing, it’s a project now.”

    Nearly there folks, the corner has been turned. Things sure are looking bright. The owner is on the redemptive path now. Honestly.

    • Oooh bobbi fleckman

      in what way were we ahead of Tottenham? They finished 5th we finished 13th. They made a profit, we made a £30m loss. They had a youngish squad, we had an aging group of permacrocks with one the main one retired. We had a £130m debt far higher than them.

      • Pelican

        Newcastle football club did not start operating in the 2006/7 season.

        • Oooh bobbi fleckman

          can you explain? That does not make any sense unless you mean it ceased to be a PLC when MA took over? I’m afraid that doe not make us finish any higher, make the losses any lower nor make our players any better.

          • Pelican

            “We had a £130m debt far higher than them.” A false attribution. Both £130m, or, if you were indicating £130m higher than Tottenham. Also, I have to question why you believe Tottenham having lower wage percentage of income has any bearing. There are sides in the lower divisions with higher/lower percentage of incomes against wages… would that differentiate between the size of clubs between the divisions?

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            Our debt was far higher (as in we owed a lot more money than Tottenham) , our balance sheet was negetive, theirs was positive. I’m suggesting we were a long way from being ahead of Spurs by any football or financial measure.

            The turnover / wage ratio is an indicator of financial pressure. It’s significant as it indicates a business that has overstretched themselves and a direction of travel as wages are not easily gotten rid of.

    • Oooh bobbi fleckman

      It’s a myth to say we were ahead of Tottenham before Ashley came in. At the time of the Takeover, we’d finished 13th, they’d finished 5th, We were in a financial mess, they were very solid. We had an old fading side with players on salaries beyond our means, they had a youngish balanced side.

  • Toon Army AZ

    Back in January 2015 I traveled 5,000 miles from AZ to Newcastle to see my first game at St James Park. Pardew quit after the game, Carver was the new coach and we were all rightly pessimistic about the dark days ahead. 2.5 years later, I marvel at the changes – a true manager with a sparkling CV overseeing a credible exorcism of past demons. I’m truly, but cautiously optimistic about the future. Surely Ashley sees that the club is on the right path for the first time in 10 years. Surely he’s smart enough to not screw things up again?

  • Geordiegiants

    Once a scum bag always a scum bag.

  • Oooh bobbi fleckman

    Why has Pelican’s comments been removed? This was a decent debate and everyone was being pleasant:

    Pelican • 6 hours ago
    Can you imagine the Tottenham fans portraying their owner group and Levy in the above way, if they had been through what we have, during the past 10 years.

    Newcastle was ahead of Tottenham on every front before Ashley came in.

    Tottenham get promoted after their 2nd relegation, and it would be like – “The clubs currently isn’t broken, and doesn’t need fixing, it’s a project now.”

    Nearly there folks, the corner has been turned. Things sure are looking bright. The owner is on the redemptive path now. Honestly.
    • Reply•Share ›
    Avatar
    Oooh bobbi fleckman Pelican • 3 hours ago
    in what way were we ahead of Tottenham? They finished 5th we finished 13th. They made a profit, we made a £30m loss. They had a youngish squad, we had an aging group of permacrocks with one the main one retired. We had a £130m debt far higher than them. They had net assets, we had net liabilities. They had a wage bill that was under control, our wage bill exceeded 75% of our income.
    • Edit• Reply•Share ›
    Avatar
    Pelican Oooh bobbi fleckman • 2 hours ago
    Newcastle football club did not start operating in the 2006/7 season.
    • Reply•Share ›
    Avatar
    Oooh bobbi fleckman Pelican • 2 hours ago
    can you explain? That does not make any sense unless you mean it ceased to be a PLC when MA took over? I’m afraid that doe not make us finish any higher, make the losses any lower nor make our players any better.
    • Edit• Reply•Share ›
    Avatar
    Pelican Oooh bobbi fleckman • 2 hours ago
    “We had a £130m debt far higher than them.” A false attribution. Both £130m, or, if you were indicating £130m higher than Tottenham. Also, I have to question why you believe Tottenham having lower wage percentage of income has any bearing. There are sides in the lower divisions with higher/lower percentage of incomes against wages… would that differentiate between the size of clubs between the divisions?
    • Reply•Share ›
    Avatar
    Oooh bobbi fleckman Pelican • 2 hours ago
    Our debt was far higher (as in we owed a lot more money than Tottenham) , our balance sheet was negetive, theirs was positive. I’m suggesting we were a long way from being ahead of Spurs by any football or financial measure.

    The turnover / wage ratio is an indicator of financial pressure. It’s significant as it indicates a business that has overstretched themselves and a direction of travel as wages are not easily gotten rid of.

  • GToon

    In what way were we every ahead of Tottenham? Is that fleckman person having a laugh? Bobbi, ask grown up to tell you the recent scores between the two clubs in the premiership years. Then ask the grown up to tell you how during Ashley’s stewardship a club like Spurs who we would hammer on a regular basis are now light years ahead of us with projects of their own that Ashley wouldn’t even dream of because none of them generate a short term profit. Do you actually take any notice of what happens on the pitch mate or do you just look at money?

    • Oooh bobbi fleckman

      I’ll say the same as I did to Pelican, The 2006/7 season before MA took over, Spurs finished 5th we finished 13th. They made a £27m profit, we made a £30m loss. They had a youngish squad, we had an aging group of permacrocks with the main one retired the season before. We had a £130m debt far higher than them. They had net assets, we had net liabilities. They had a wage bill that was under control, our wage bill exceeded 75% of our income.

      To be honest, apart from a few recent Pardew results, I’ve only seen us win away at Spurs in the year Shaka & Ginola made debuts in a pre-season testimonial for Gary Mabutt and the first showing of the Dennis the Menace kit. I’ve seen us beaten in the cup, Kenny Sansom ripped apart in that yellow and green kit, seen Sir Les stretchered off for them and come back to score the winner for them. Even at home I’ve seen Ozzie’s Tottingham beat us, Gazza and Waddle pull us back from a 2-0 lead.

      So, in May 2007, In what way were we every ahead of Tottenham?

      • GToon

        Up to the arrival of Ashley we had finished ahead of Spurs in the EPL nine times and them ahead of us four times. Since Ashley’s arrival they have finished above us on every occasion. They are now light years ahead of us in terms of ground, ambition, squad and basically everything. That is all down to Ashley, his way of running the club, his useless appointments, failure to see the bigger picture and short term greed based decisions. From 1992 up to May 2007 we were way ahead of Spurs as my comments prove in terms of final league position, number of times we had played in the champions league, ground size, fan base etc etc etc etc. it is only since your mate has arrived and “saved us” that we have been relegated twice, sold everything that wasn’t bolted to the floor and have gone backwards at a rate of knots to the extent that most of us would see survival in the EPL next season as some kind of success. Now unlike any other person I’ve ever spoken to on this site I’m not going to bother with you any more. Anybody who conveniently forgets the 7-1 under KK or the 6-1 cup game or even the 4-1 away win clearly isn’t a fan of this club. Your lack of knowledge is astounding.

        • Oooh bobbi fleckman

          Selective memories, we hadn’t finished above Spurs since 2004 & when Bobby was sacked.

          I’m not forgetting 7-1 wins but it It wasn’t the KK years when things were going wrong at NUFC.

          You need to look at where NUFC were when MA took over and frankly, we were in a mess both on the pitch and off. You say “From 1992 up to May 2007 we were way ahead of Spurs” this is a myth / lie. We were ahead of Spurs from 1994 – 1998 and again 2001 – 2004 but for the 3 years ahead of Mike Ashley coming in, we were in the clarts. I may be perceived in seeing things in a financial manner rather than in football terms, that’s not exactly what makes me tick but it happens to be my job so I do see how important finances are. When Bobby was sacked, things went wrong, the summer before had caused problems Bowyer was bought in on mega wages without Bobby knowing he was signed, similarly Kluivert. It makes me laugh when we talk of our manager not having a say yet FFS had been buying trophy signings for years without his manager’s say so.

          • GToon

            Like I said above I don’t really want a discussion with you. Anybody who views Ashley’s tenure as anything other than a disaster is either too young to remember the time before he arrived or simply not paying attention to football that we played before and since. There will not be a single person inside or outside of our club who could possibly say he has done well for us, apart from you that is. Please don’t reply to this because I get an email and I keep thinking it might be something important.

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            There is no point in perpetuating a myth / lie, the facts are pretty clear. MA has not been the perfect owner but as a club we have a future which is something that was looking very unlikely back in 2007

        • HarryHype59

          All true mate! Spurs used to be a team we were confident of beating pre Ashley. Don’t take heed of anything Bob Fleckman says. The Man is a reality denying fantasist. We have gone backwards in relation to Spurs since his hero took over.

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            All true? In the sense that you ignore the bits that aren’t. We may have got a result or two against Spurs but they finished ahead of us for at least three consecutive seasons before Mike arrived and resolved the finances. In 2007 we finished 13th to Spurs’ 5th, 2006, we were 7th to Spurs’ 5th, 2005 we finished 14th behind Spurs’ in 9th.

            All true or all a myth?

          • HarryHype59

            As you say Spurs “solved” their finances. Newcastle are in the top four debt list with 129m owed to the owner. How can you argue Ashley has not gone backwards both on and off the field?

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            I’m saying Mike Ashley solved NUFC’s finances, Spurs had not got themselves into the same mess as NUFC.

            Our debt has not increased from the £129m that was restructured when MA took over. He lent the £129m to pay off the creditors and provide the finance to cover the losses we were running as the previous regime had over-extended the club financially. Yes, he had to put more in to get us promoted, this was paid back, he also indicated money was made available to get us up this term and he’s also indicated that this would not need to be paid back.

            On the pitch, I think I’m a little more optimistic than I was with BFS and his ageing crocks. Of it (you mean financially), we’re in a far better position than the last months of the old regime.

          • HarryHype59

            Sorry Boobi the facts prove you wrong again. In 2014/15 the debt to Ashley was 81m. That put us at no 5 in the debt list behind L/Pool, Sunderland, Man U and Chelsea.

            He restructured the debt in 2015/16 to £129m as the result of yet another relegation. This was clearly shown in the 2016 financial reports. That could put us third in the debt table as the Mackems have reduced theirs by 20m.

            You keep mentioning the old regime but they didn’t have the benefit of the huge increase in TV money. That debt should have been reduced if the club was run effectively. There is no way a club that doesn’t try to compete for trophies should up with Chelsea and Man U for debt.

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            I think you are misinformed. That’s not what the accounts for 2015 say, If you read note 12, creditors due in one year shows a loan of £18m due to MA (this is because £18m is callable within a year) and Note 13 shows Creditors due after more than one year with £111m due to MA. This is the £129m.

            The loan was not restructured in 2016, if you see note 19, you will note that creditors due in one year still shows a loan of £18m due to MA. Note 20 shows the Creditors due after more than one year with £111m due to MA – still being £129m.

            The league tables of debt are pretty meaningless. We had debt of £129m in 2015 but had £50m in cash / bank and you have to look at the bigger picture. In 2007, the balance sheet showed the business as having a net deficit of £16m whereas by 2016 we have a surplus of £31m.

          • HarryHype59

            The debt on the balance sheet is 129m. It is in black and white.

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            Yes it is, I told you that. As I explained, it was £129m in 2008, 2009, it went up in 2010, back to £129m in 2012 and remain the same since, right up to the 2016 accounts.

            Black and white.

          • HarryHype59

            If Ashley was running the club effectively there would no need to borrow off the owner.

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            Sorry for the delayed response, I thought you’d given up!!

            In answer to your point, no, the debt has not increased to £129m it’s remained at £129 since the takeover. Yes there was an advance which was repaid for the 2010 championship campaign and another is likely to show in 2017 but we’ll have to see how much was taken as a loan when the accounts come out.

            Ashley could run it “effectively” as you put it but we’re already one of the few clubs that made a regular profit and he had to turn it around from making mega losses as the previous regime liked a blue chip signing and a blue chip salary.

            The TV income has gone up but if you look across the board at transfers and wages, they have gone up too. Our ability to unearth hidden gems has been found out and clubs, players and agents are not allowing us to pick up at bargain prices. NUFC has been run efficiently and effectively (or as close to that description gets in football) now that is not sexy in football, it’s more fun if it’s run like Chelsea or Man City but MA is not willing to throw that money at the club even if he had it.

          • HarryHype59

            Bobbi lad your deluded denial of reality is almost comical. The club has been relegated twice in seven years costing us around 120m. We don’t compete for trophies just survival with other weak teams in the EPL. It is an objective fact that the 129m debt is in the top five of English football. BTW there is no way the debt was 129m when Ashley bought the club.

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            The relegation in 2010 cost £12m in actual debt. It could be argued that it cost less as we managed to get rid of a lot of high earners / non performers in fact we lost £17m in the championship season of 2010 and lost £15m in 2009 so it cost £2m. Being relegated in 2016 was costly, the timing could not have been worse cutting income by £60m but that’s not profit, we’ll have to see how much it actually cost.

            The real point being is someone had to take it on in 2007, nobody else was prepared to take it on. Ashley’s mistake, I retain, is paying Hall & Shep for their shares. He could have waited a matter of months and there would have been winding up petitions and he could have come in and picked the club up for next to nothing and instead of giving £130m to the shareholders, simply cleared the debts and ploughed that money into building a new team. The risk would have been the club would have been relegated in 2007/8 and the playing assets could have walked.

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            “The club was in the top five debt list for English clubs in 2015 owing 81m to Ashley. That has now increased to around £129 million according to media sources.”

            I’m afraid that’s not true or the media source you have read is financially illiterate. As mentioned before, if you refer to the accounts (all accessible for free) you will see the debt has remained the same.

          • HarryHype59

            Give it up lad! Numerous sources show the debt has increased again.

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            Harry man, you can’t argue black is white, take a look at the accounts from 2006 and you will see exactly what happened to the debt. It was £129m as introduced in 2007 to sort out the financial mess created by FFS and Hall jr. It’s been that level since, went up in 2010 and back to £129m thereafter.

            If you have read sources, you either read the wrong papers or you’ve misunderstood them because that comment is wrong. I’ve showed you it to be wrong.

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            No, the £129m has nothing to do with the relegation, the relegation will be reflected in the 2016/17 accounts which will not be published until Feb / Mar next year.

          • HarryHype59

            So the “debt” will probably increase!

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            Yes, it will increase and will show in the 2017 accounts (we will see these in Feb / Mar so don’t wait up)

            It was noted at the release of the 2016 accounts that the club had been relegated and this would have an adverse effect on income. To allow the club to continue, MA had provided a facility to draw up to £30m (this was of course to ensure promotion). In effect, the increase will be no more than £12m as the technicalities mean that he effectively takes £18m back that was repayable on demand and provides £30m, the extra funds being the difference £30m-£18m.

            Given the comment from MA to keep Rafa at the club, it’s almost certain that this £12m extra (£30m-£18m) will remain as debt for a while as taking it back will starve Rafa of spends.

          • HarryHype59

            If your beloved Ashley was running the club correctly i.e. not getting relegated, the club wouldn’t need loans to continue. In an era of huge TV income, the need for what is basically a crisis loan highlights the incompetence of this regime.

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            It depends on your definition of properly. We weren’t being run properly pre-Ashley as finances came to a head.

            Ashley could have run things better, sure. If he kept BSA, we’d not have been relegated but I think most fans wanted him out. He should have been more careful with KK and I think we’d have survived if KK stayed. We needed to get rid of a lot of players at that time and if the club was doing that, KK wasn’t the right appointment. Unlucky with JFK, had he not been ill, we’d have not been relegated. I’m not sure if CH would have kept us up, bringing AS in was a fan-appeasing mistake.

          • HarryHype59

            So the debt to Fatman just gets higher…oh the joy!

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            It does but do you want the club to pay him back? If so, the club can’t spend the money on players if it’s paying back lenders. You simply can;t have it all ways

          • HarryHype59

            Under Ashley two relegations has cost us over 100m. There club wouldn’t need crisis loans if it was run correctly.

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            No, that’s not true, the relegation in 2010 appears to have cost us £2m , we’ll have to see what happens in 2017 but I’d bet it doesn’t cost £98m

          • HarryHype59

            Bobbi lad the last relegation cost us way more than 2m. The latest one will cost us 70m in lost TV money. Swansea got 110m last season we got 41m. You may think Ashley is a decent owner and the regime is competent but the reality is different.

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            I’m going on the losses from that period. 2010 accounts show an increased loss of £2m on the 2009 figures. The 2009 relegation gave the chance for a clean sweep and the like of Geremi, Duff, Martins etc left which reduced the wage bill and we came back stronger.

            I grant you, 2016 was not a good year to go down but it only costs at the bottom line, lost income has to be taken into account with reduced costs. I’d estimate it’s cost us around £15m when all is done and dusted so you are right, not exactly a pittance. With the benefit of hindsight, turning around from struggling in the premiership to winning the championship was great as a fan and I think it sets us up nicely once promoted. Rafa’s standing is higher, the club’s image is better and commercially we’re better off.

            Yes, we may have another £12m debt on the books but until the club is sild, that means very little unless MA has a cashflow crisis and wants his money back.