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What Is Mike Ashley Up To?

6 years ago

The NUFC headlines build around Pardew’s future. Shouldn’t he have gone by now? What is Mike Ashley up to?

There has been speculation about Ashley’s intentions for Newcastle United for years, pretty much since he took over. He did make 50,000 new friends by trawling the bars of Newcastle city centre, sitting with the fans, buying drinks all round.

At first he invested, then swapped Allardyce for Keegan, he seemed to listen to supporters. The Keegan debacle changed everything. The crowd erupted, against Hull City, seemingly a key fixture for us time and time again. Keegan had walked after goings on behind the scenes, ultimately the tribunal found that Ashley and his lackeys had been ‘misleading’.

A statement was then issued about how Ashley had previously intended to invest £10m per year. Under Llambias, this changed to ‘no capital outlay’. The style and motives of Ashley had either changed, or become less latent.

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Taking a few steps back in time, the PR machine put out that Ashley had not done due diligence when taking over the club. Allegedly, the requirement to pay off the loan (mortgage for ground development secured on future season ticket sales) was not even noticed. That is something many of us find hard to chew, that such an eminent corporate lawyer as Chris Mort would not notice note 14 in every financial report that highlighted the liability.

Some of us see it more likely that Ashley’s corporate advisers had identified the potential for tax write-offs for years to come. With a growing fortune, a football club – against a background of exponential growth in TV deals, could be a prize asset for the future.

The relegation was a cock up. The Keegan tribunal exposed what had gone on behind the scenes. Kinnear was a joke and nothing could be salvaged.

With the benefit of hindsight, Ashley was lucky to have on hand a coach who had experience working with some of the great managers of the game in England. For the first time in NUFC history, we were promoted at the first attempt.

Perhaps unwittingly, Hughton’s managerial career gave Ashley ideas as he cashed in on talent, Bassong, Duff, Martins, Beye, while saving wages on the likes of Owen and Viduka. Had Ashley stumbled across a formula?

Unfortunately, this was a good manager with modern democratic methods, who brought the best out of characters. Hughton got off to a good start but was loyal to his players. The team was full of leaders, not just on the pitch with Nolan and Barton, but with back up players too, such as Alan Smith.

Hughton was not supported with a new coach when Calderwood departed, his contract was up for renegotiation. A deal was done, allegedly, according to Alan Brazil, in Soho, ironic in view of the reports last week from an Independent journalist. Out went Hughton, in came a player who Hughton had briefly coached at Spurs.

The scene was set with a young player who Hughton had coached up to international level. Andy Carroll went despite the protestations from Pardew that he would be going nowhere, not at any price, not in this transfer window. The first of the characters departed, only to be followed by more.

So what did Pardew bring to the party? At Reading he gained an automatic promotion from the 3rd tier with arguably the best resourced club in the division. The momentum fizzled out as he was replaced with a manager who took them to the top flight. He walked out and joined West Ham, arguably the best resourced club in their league, scraping a play off place and promotion before fizzling out and taking them to the danger zone where his replacement won 5 in 7 to secure a place in the Premier League. He took Charlton down and nearly down again, before being sacked.

His next challenge was Southampton, arguably the best resourced club in their league, winning a cup, the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, for the first time in his career before being sacked. His successor took them up 2 flights.

Here was a man who could isolate characters, forcing them out of the club, or in the case of Tevez and Mascherano, leaving them on the bench. This modus operandi was to be repeated here, forcing out Barton, Nolan, Smith, Jonas, Ben Arfa. Here was a manager with no loyalty to players, someone who would do Ashley’s bidding.

Where has it gone wrong? Pardew says he has not known this before. 3 wins in his last 14 at the Hammers, 2 in his last 14 at Charlton, 1 in his last 14 here. For those who remember Ted Rodgers, it is 3-2-1 and Dusty Bin time.

The 5th place is in keeping with his flash in the pan status at Reading, West Ham and Southampton. The methodical isolating of talent is in keeping with his performance elsewhere. In keeping with his past, he has been unable to come back from setbacks.

From the outside, some things strike the uneducated football observer. Shola was a sort of legend, perhaps the best 4th choice striker in Premier League history with a goal every 3 starts and deprived of a place in Nigeria’s African Cup of Nations squad. It will not be forgotten that is he our 2nd top scorer in Europe, 2nd top scorer in the League Cup, 2nd top scorer against Sunderland.

Before the World Cup in Brazil, players like Coloccini, Jonas, Ben Arfa, Santon and perhaps a few more could have dreamt of going, In the end, the mantle was left to Debuchy (now departed), Krul (to save a couple of penalties), Sissoko and Tiote.

With shattered dreams, it is those left behind who are not performing when bizarre tactics had deprived them of their place in national football history. It is hardly surprising that we have a team that does not fight too hard for the manager.

Pardew is not going forward. He has the worst start in recent times by any Newcastle manager after 6 games. He has more defeats by 3 or more goals than any previous manager. He has more consecutive defeats against Sunderland than any previous manager. He has 1 FA Cup tie win in 4 years. He makes Ashley a loser.

So where does Ashley go from here? He has a proven failure who for the 5th time of asking is flirting with relegation. At stake is a place in the richest league in the world, a guaranteed £25m plus operating profit plus transfer profits from churning talent, adding tens of millions to Ashley’s casino slush fund.

That Ashley will move at some stage is beyond doubt. He has messed with better managers than Pardew. We have an international window coming up when over a sixth of the season will have gone.

If Ashley wants his profits maintained, he will go behind Pardew’s back and secure an equally unethical replacement.

If he wants to repay the Geordie public for the humiliation he suffered over Keegan’s principled departure, he may choose to gamble.

All will be revealed soon, one way or the other.

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