Newcastle Fans Hold The Whip Hand – Not Mike Ashley
Back in the early nineties, in those dark and desperate times, one day the Toon went 3-0 up at home to Charlton Athletic and then went on to lose 4-3.
I was so pi**ed off at this that I wrote a letter to the newest member of the board, Sir John Hall. He wrote me a nice letter by return of post, explaining his long-term view of where the club would like to be and the methods for doing this.
He was as good as his word and quickly assembled the best team that we’ve had for the near 60 years I have been following them. I know that he was no philanthropist at the end and made a profit on his dealings with the club, but at least he made you feel as if you belonged and furthermore, the Shearer signing proved the ambition.
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Contrast this to the situation that is here today. We have a self-made billionaire, who bought the club cheaply with the change from his back pocket when Freddie Shepherd was ill. It obviously made sense to him and the price was right. He put money in, as a loan, to clear the outstanding debts and, with the 52,000 home gates guaranteed, made the club an attractive acquisition for himself.
He quickly fell out with the fans and rather than putting thing right, in a fit of pique, he put the club up for sale, there were no takers. I won’t waste anyone’s time by elaborating on the days that followed, and the fiascos that have been endured by the personnel that have been brought in to manage this great club, by somebody who is still in a massive strop.
In the last few months Ashley has bought a stake in Debenhams department store. Most recently, he bought a stake in House of Fraser just as it was being bought out by a Chinese firm. Apparently, he is holding out for a top dollar price from the Chinese.
A week or so ago, the shareholders of his company were asked to authorise a payment of £72m in share options to Ashley to reflect how well he has done for the company, considering he does not draw a salary. When it was apparent that this motion would fail, the vote was cancelled. In a huff now, Ashley then sold £200m of shares in the company, causing the value to fall. This deal, made on a whim, is worth more than the value of NUFC. This shows where his true interest lies.
Last Saturday, in common with a lot of others on twitter, I actually willed Swansea to score that last minute penalty in the hope that it could be a catalyst for change. Ashley’s strength, with regard to his dealings with NUFC, is the strong bonds of loyalty that exist in the fan base.
The Premiership (broadcasting) money is a significant factor, but the real attraction is the 52,000 home gates. The lack of respect and obstinacy that Ashley shows towards the fans is totally in character if you think of his past dealings. Pardew had an interview after the near relegation last season. He blamed himself and also Ashley for the failings. Ashley, in a huff (again), brought in Joe Kinnear to be above Pardew in the pecking order and therefore let him know that he had to toe the Ashley line.
Ashley will try to divide the fans to maintain the upper hand. He will try to get the fans to commit to buy season tickets for five years by offering discounts. Fans who buy, will not know which division they will be in for the term of their commitment. This is the world that Ashley knows, piling it high and selling it cheap. Ashley has let everyone know that it HIS club and not ours. It follows that the whole shebang is HIS product that he is marketing. No interest in cup competitions, which would be the main chance of trophies for the club. The only ambition, to maintain premiership status. The fans are his customers, so…ask yourself one question, punk…Is what he is offering value for money?
The make-up of football these days, as any fool knows, is that loyalty counts for nothing. Teams will freeze out the players that are not wanted. There will be attempts at humiliation, by being made to train with the youth team etc. to try and make the player request a transfer. On the other hand, as we know, players can have their heads turned by: other teams, their own agents, and also fellow international players. Loyalty is a valuable asset. Contracts are not worth the paper on which they are written.
The only loyalty that is shown in the game today is sealed by that unwritten contract in the heart of the regular supporter. Over the last few years, the Newcastle United supporters have been treated by the club with barely concealed lack of respect. My whole point of this short piece is to remind the fans that the club and Mike Ashley do not hold the whip hand. You do!
I can guarantee that to bring Ashley to his senses (or sell) he has GOT to be shown how important the fan base is to the club. If he is not shown this, it will just carry on like it is: no investment in decent players, just the occasional loan player and also, not replacing the valuable players which have reaped the wheeler-dealer a handsome profit. Make no mistake, he does not love this club, only you do…It’s up to you.
You can follow Trevor on Twitter @gittarman
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