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Mike Ashley Needs The Money

8 years ago

Now that Rangers, in the third tier of Scottish football, are running away with their league (they have almost double the number of points as the team in second position) my thoughts are turning to the enduring if questionable influence of history on football teams.

What exactly is it that ensures the Bristol teams, for example, are forever in the lower reaches of the football league?

Bristol City were top of the first division a few decades ago when the first division was still the top tier, and have since played in the second, third and fourth tiers. Plainly their centre of gravity is in the second and third tiers. Likewise Bristol Rovers, currently labouring in the fourth tier.

Yet Bristol is a large city. There was no guarantee that Rangers were going to survive their near death experience and return to the Premier League. There’s still no guarantee they will do so. But Mike Ashley has taken a punt that they will. And of course, as so often, he is being proved right.

Rangers are just too special to avoid the attentions of investors like Ashley, who will ensure they get a return on their money.

Bristol City don’t have that edge of specialness.

Neither, frankly, do Newcastle. We’re unhappily a comedy club, unchallenged in our own backyard, and incapable of winning anything despite a loyal, almost hysterical, degree of support that until recently has been unquestioning in its attachment.

What is interesting me is the timescale for Rangers to take up its traditional position at the top of the Scottish Premiership, and the effect that will have on Ashley’s thinking.

Rangers will be in the Championship next year, and there is nothing in that league for them to be scared of. Ashley will be thinking that this time next year Rangers will be as near as dammit in the top tier. And that will be decision time for him.

There is only one reason for him to be a five-per-cent shareholder in Rangers. And that is so that he can ease his way to a preponderant shareholding with as few ripples as possible.

A small interest in Debenhams gives him leverage for his brands, and gives him better supplies of upmarket brands that don’t like his methods but who have traditionally sold to Debenhams and not Ashley. That explains a small stake in Debenhams.

Nothing explains a small interest in Rangers other than a giant advertising platform for Sports Direct. And on a much bigger stage –  Europe.

He has almost shamelessly used his relationship with France – step forward Graham Carr for a special bonus – to secure the services and attention of much of the sporting types of that nation. And on top of that he has built the largest dot com of the whole Sports Direct empire – France is Sports Direct crazy. Noticed the French ads at SJP?

This is where Rangers comes in. And boy will Rangers require investment! They will need some top players to compete in Europe, and Ashley knows that the step up from Scottish Premiership to Champions League is vast.

Of course he might not think Rangers need to compete, provided they manage to participate in the league stage. But his experiences with Newcastle have shown him the effects on league status not competing produces.

More and more it looks to me as though Pardew’s non-sacking, Ashley’s complacent attitude to investment in Newcastle, and an asset-stripping that will shortly be concluded with the sale of Ben Arfa, Krul, and Coloccini, all point to an imminent disposal of Newcastle.

Ashley needs the money.


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