Can all be forgiven where Mike Ashley is concerned?
I’ve said many times this season that I would be willing to forgive Mike Ashley for the ‘damage’ he has done to our club and honestly believe that the majority of fans would be willing to wipe the slate clean, particularly after such a great season, and perhaps the lack of anti-Ashley and Cockney Mafia related songs back up this claim.
The problem I have with Ashley is that whilst he is undoubtedly a clever businessman, much of the criticism that he has heaped on to himself and more importantly our great club, could have been avoided if he actually addressed the fans once in a while and most importantly, gave us some consideration before going ahead with some of his more idiotic ideas.
Splitting up the Leazes singing (and standing) section in Level 7 was a terrible idea and it has definitely affected the atmosphere at home games (this has admittedly improved as the team has continued to win games) and it is embarrassing when away fans sing, “Where’s your famous atmosphere?”. I can see some logic behind it though and expanding the family seating area can only be a positive step in helping to acquire young Mags who will hopefully ensure our fantastic 52k+ stadium (ST JAMES PARK!) continues to sell out for many decades to come in a time when it is easy for young fans to glory hunt at bigger teams. You only have to look at kids playing football in the street to see copious amounts of Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester shirts and we all have a mate or two who claims to support Liverpool! Had Ashley came out and spoke to the fans about the shake up and been a bit more accommodating with fans plans to move level 7 to level 4 then the animosity at the start of the season might not have been as high.
The same can be said for other decisions he has made. Rebranding the stadium may have seemed like a good idea to bring in extra funds but as of yet this hasn’t happened and if nobody comes in next season (with European football pretty much a certainty) it may be time to admit that this was an idea that has failed and could gain himself some serious brownie points by changing our name back and removing those horrendous Sports Direct logos from the Gallowgate roof! Let’s not forget that Ashley is a man who can admit when he is wrong and getting rid of Dennis Wise proved this.. Even though my gran spotted this was a monumental mistake about six months before Ashley did!
It is crazy how things have changed though in less than a year. The pre-season trip to Leeds in July saw the fans, myself included, spend more time hammering ‘Fat Cockney Bastard’ Ashley rather than get behind the side, when we should have been cheering on a young team including Tavernier, Gosling, Vuckic and Sammy Ameobi and showing new arrival Cabaye just how great our fans are. We went on to lose the game 3-2 conceding in the 85th minute and the negativity continued when the new season began, as the £35million for Carroll wasn’t invested and we lost Enrique, Nolan and Barton. This led to many fans expecting us to become a selling club and I think we all expected Colo and Tiote to be sold off at some point.
The abuse toward Ashley continued and although we remained unbeaten, including a fantastic Ryan Taylor effort over the wall at the mackems, it wasn’t until a Demba Ba hat-trick at home to Blackburn which kick-started our season and a wave of positivity began.
Things seem a lot more optimistic now, particularly with Tiote, Colo, Krul, Ben Arfa and Cisse all tied down on long-term contracts and playing some beautiful football and we should all be looking onward and upwards.
I have also argued for the last few years that we MUST change our approach to signing players for huge wages. Look what good that did for us with Martins, Owen etc who looked pitiful in our relegation season and Ashley too seems to be aware of this need to stabilise the club’s financial position. This seems to be working and finally we have a stable team we can be proud of and if Ashley can get through the summer without selling our best players, changing our shirt colour to red & white and hopefully bring in a few reinforcements, I think most fans (not all) may be able to forgive, if not forget, and move on as one.
Keep the faith.