I think you need to look at what Mike Ashley is doing at Newcastle United on two levels, to really understand why the club has almost zero chance of even relative success under this owner.

At the headline level, Ashley appears to want to make bigger operating profits than any other club,. In other words, as well as all of his other benefits such as free advertising for the rest of his empire, the United owner also wants to spend as little, if any, of the TV riches as possible on the squad. This simple strategy, if that is indeed what he intends to continue going forward, will alone ensure that Premier League survival is an achievement in coming seasons – as pretty much all rival clubs will be willing to spend a bigger proportion of the TV windfall than Mike Ashley.

However, beneath those major decisions made by Ashley that ensure United are an ambition-free club, there is also a rigid system in place as to what happens day by day, week by week, month by month and indeed season by season at the club.

At various levels I believe Ashley does allow his NUFC staff to operate of their own free will but within very narrow parameters, which when you put them all together, is unlike any other Premier League club.

  • Newcastle have a Head Coach now, not a manager.
  • The club say the Head Coach has an input into transfers in and out, but most fans believe that any say the Head Coach (Carver or whoever) has will be minimal, and the arrangement counter-productive to the head coach (just as it was with Alan Pardew) assembling the squad he needs.
  • The manager/head coach not being the key person in transfer targets,then leads to situations such as we found with Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and others. Alan Pardew handed players that he didn’t want and then the club having assets standing idly by as they are not chosen for the team. Pardew repeatedly said he wanted a dominant centre-back who could also add goals, instead he was given a player in Mapou who was more of a footballing central defender, somebody who Pardew felt he couldn’t play alongside Fabricio Coloccini.
  • Past reporting has suggested that Mike Ashley has set rules on spending in transfer windows. With money to spend dependent on what is generated from outgoing transfers. This allows no flexibility unless there is a fear of relegation as was the case in January 2013, the club admitting they spent money in that window that they hadn’t intended to.
  • This lack of flexibility or wriggle room then means that rather than seizing the moment as could/should have happened after the fifth place finish of 2011/12, or when fifth on Boxing Day 2013, instead the moment and the momentum is lost, paving the way for the best players to want to leave.
  • Rigid rules are also applied to wages, with Ashley said to have a set amount that can’t be surpassed, something which could trigger a wave of other players wanting parity. Going into transfer negotiations, this is a massive disadvantage when rival clubs are prepared to go that bit further for the right player.

We also of course have a Managing Director/Chief Executive in Lee Charnley, whose role is totally at odds with those at other Premier League clubs.

Elsewhere, the person in day to day charge has a large team working under him driving commercial income and all the other various departments, while at Newcastle it appears that Charnley is more of a stadium/office manager. Keeping an eye on the club and reporting back up the food chain but without the expansive remit that Chief Executives/MDs have elsewhere. It appears to me obvious that we have unseen people, at Sports Direct or wherever, who help Mike Ashley make (or simply carry out) the major decisions or do the key deals, that would at other clubs be overseen by the CEO/MD. Such as the dealings with Wonga, Puma and the more numerous deals that rival clubs chase etc.

Kevin Keegan has once again made headlines by saying Newcastle United are going nowhere, after watching the meek surrender at Manchester City.

However, it is even more interesting to go back to December 2010 when Chris Hughton was sacked and Kevin Keegan had the to say about the running of the club:

“The club can never go anywhere under Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias.

“When a man buys a club like Mike Ashley did, and knows as little about football as he does, he is likely to make these sort of mistakes and these judgments and still think he is doing OK.”

The TV riches have no doubt helped Mike Ashley to feel that he is doing very much better than just ‘OK’. However, everything is short-term and failing to invest will only lead to eventual disaster, especially with all of the strange factors in place outlined above, unlike any other competing club.

mike ashleyIt is like a shop selling off all of its best stock and spending the bare minimum on replacing it, the short-term benefits can be huge but it is simply creating massive problems for the future.

In Premier League terms, disaster equals ending up relegated, something which Ashley achieved in 2009 and came close to repeating in 2013. Since that January spending spree which only just helped stave off relegation in 2012/13, there has been nothing to suggest that the owner has learnt his lesson.

Buying not a single player last season meant that far too much had to be done last summer to try and sort the squad into some kind of decent shape. In the event Ashley gambled again by spending some money, but nowhere near enough to put the squad in a stable position where it could again move forward.

Bargains such as Perez, Colback and Janmaat have helped to just about ensure at least one more season of Premier League football, though without Papiss Cisse’s remarkable minutes per goal ratio I do wonder where we would be. More money was spent on Cabella and Riviere but that could well have proved too little too late, with their limited returns so far, when you consider how every other club is throwing everything at top league survival as well.

I really think that Mike Ashley does believe he has reinvented the wheel, designing a Premier League football club model which is a golden goose that will produce results year after year with the minimum of feeding. Unless he sells up or starts to listen to people with expertise in running a top football club, the United owner will continue to walk a tightrope where NUFC are concerned.

The TV money that will be spent by the other clubs will be like ever more powerful winds blowing him as he balances on his tightrope, until eventually Mike Ashley and Newcastle United are sent spiralling into freefall.

What he would then do is a whole different ball game but one we are likely to see very shortly if something major doesn’t change.

  • Philippines

    Good article but, as I have said on another post, the “neutering” of the Manager/Coach is not new. Gary Speed sold without reference to Bobby Robson, Milner sold without reference to Keegan. I guess there may be more.

  • mrkgw

    We need this sad excuse for an owner out of our club before its too late. He has done his utmost to stifle any enthusiasm from supporters and his appointments continue to defy all logic. Certainly, as things currently stand, neither Charnley nor Charver are siutable candidates for their respective positions meaning we need radical changes if the club is ever, to fulfil reasonable ambitions. Players lack the quality or desire to get results and of the few perceived to be good enough, they are angling for their next pay cheque. Awful times to be a Newcastle supporter.

  • Blue Star Club

    Milner was sold by Ashley for profit and triggered Keegans resignation so not sure what your point is. GarySpeed was 35 and near the end of his playing career he was sold for a nominal fee this was at a time when we were progressive under Robson.

  • Brownale69

    The weird thing I cant get my head around is the so called “Loan” why if theres that much money sloshing around is it not bein paid off? I thought if you had money spare you would normally pay off your debts?

  • Demented_Man

    Luckily for Ashley, there is little chance of Newcastle being relegated this season, with it being such a poor league.  However, I fear they will soon fall behind those teams now below them in the league, due to Ashley’s reluctance to spend the tv money or appoint a competent manager/coach.
    And when they do go down, there will be no immediate return like the last time.  They simply do not have the strength in depth, nor are they likely to have under the current owner.

  • Mal44

    A very good article Mark. If ever a club has completely lost its way it’s ours. We have an owner and MD who know nothing about football and a head coach and assistants who are just not up to the task. We need a completely new coaching set up with the Head Coach having a significant input into all incoming and outgoing transfers. A system of recruiting players that the Head Coach doesn’t rate is just plain stupid. Also the scouting side of things need changing. We are recruiting too many players from foreign leagues who are either not good enough or who take too long to settle down.
    It’s unlikely of course that any of this will happen for all the reasons you give. I do think, however, that a very large number of fans have reached the limits of their patience and hopefully this will be reflected shortly in attendances which might make MA have at least a partial rethink of his policy.
    Michael O’Leary, the Ryanair chief, used to treat his customers like s..t but eventually had to make massive changes to arrest the decline in business. Perhaps MA will be forced do the same but I’m not holding my breath. The new TV deal is the worst thing that could have happened as far as we are concerned as it just puts more money into his pocket and reduces his reliance on money through the turnstiles.What a sorry tale.

  • jimblag

    Demented_Man Plus we don’t have any Bartons, Nolans, Jonas’s or Carrolls that can boss the Championship. We’re doomed to boredom if we survive, and a long stay in lower league football if we’re relegated. We just have to pray he sells up soon.

  • Rollyp

    We keep hearing from Carver that he will be professional in his approach. I know little about Charnley but assume he also has a wish to act as professionally as he can, albeit in a role well above his previous. It’s a pity neither is prepared to act as ethically as they should, and make strong representations to Ashley that something needs to be done, particularly on the player pool, and particularly Carver if, as he suggests, he is passionate about the club. If they have, but unsuccessfully, then they need to consider their position as they must know by now that it reflects on them personally. If you were taking over the club would you keep either based on their performance and acceptance of the regime? I certainly wouldn’t! Both selling their souls to the devil and waiting for the compo?

  • ArtyH

    Sadly all very true! What most people do not realise in monetary terms is this, the owner has an estimated fortune of £2B+. For some of us that is difficult to comprehend, scaled down its the equivalent of someone having £2000 in his pocket and refusing to buy a £1 item. The £1 item is the equivalent of £100 in scaled down value. That gives you some idea of how money is being deprived from the club and for the benefit of the fans. Now do you want to be part of the bleeding dry process currently happening at the club? Or will you do something about it and stay away from some home games to make a point? The club is only going to get worse with the current owner, and in my judgement he will not change policy but go for more cash saving at the expense of the team. At this rate we will be relegated this year or next unless a massive investment is made, and I mean something in the region of £60/70m+ and that would be just for survival in the EPL next season if we are lucky enough to survive. 
    However greed will be the guide for this regimen and we will have to take what is given unless we show we will not take this treatment any longer. Ultimately it is up to the true fans to make it impossible for this kind of treatment to be tolerated, unfortunately 50k sudo fans keep telling the regimen ” its all O.K ” we like what you serve up.  Shame I thought we were tougher in the Newcastle area, seems time has softened the younger generation to the point of just accepting anything!

  • The Mag

    ArtyH It is very difficult for most fans to stay away, people want a bit of escapism from their daily return. A bit of a laugh and release of stress on a match day, sadly laughs are few and far between and fans come out more stressed than when they went in.

  • The Mag

    Rollyp At normal clubs, the Chief Exec and manager are the key people who also have the key relationship at a club. Bit of good luck that we found our two already working behind the scenes at the club…and Charnley has never ever done the role he’s claimed to do now anywhere else and Carver had a short spell as a coach at Toronto.

  • The Mag

    Mal44 You need an Arsene Wenger type to be given a long contract and financial backing to sort the club from top to bottom. That is not going to happen under Ashley so every season while he’s here is going to be a spin of the roulette wheel.

  • The Mag

    Demented_Man Six points less and we would all be thinking the worst. Probably too many teams gathered at the bottom for the trapdoor to open. However, defeat to second bottom Villa would put them only 7 points behind and it could make our following half dozen fixtures very uncomfortable.

  • The Mag

    mrkgw I think the most depressing thing is that the current situation is so unnecessary, Ashley could still be making reasonable profits but also ensuring a competitive squad. Ironic that the massive TV riches are potentially the worst thing to happen to football and especially NUFC.

  • dont believe the hype

    I was reading on another forum earlier someone criticising Hall and Shepherd for wasting money on Xisco, unfortunately a lot of people who are still supportive of Ashley don’t know what they are talking about and readily believe the “we would have done a Leeds” theory.


    In 50 years of supporting the Toon Ashley has taken away the only things I have ever as supporter – hopes and dreams. Like the rest of us I awaited the start of the seasons dreaming of a cup the league title only to be
    disappointed (with the exception of 69) but I kept on dreaming. Now my hopes and dreams have changed. I now hope for relegation and to stay out of the Premier league until the parachute payments have ran out and the club will be worthless to Ashley. If that means going into administration, so be it, at least we could get our hopes and dreams back.

  • Bills frollocks

    Yes. Let him be sure he gets a massive return on his investment as long as all the long life supporters, they’re kids and grand kids don’t get any return on there’s. He’s robbing them dry the bar steward.

  • Sickandtiredstill

    Back when Mark Douglas was producing worthwhile articles, he wrote the article in The Chron, below.

    It’s all about brand and retail, boys and girls. SD’s, not NUFC’s. Nothing is going to change so why do so many still believe otherwise and look for any reason other than the real ones?


  • Sickandtiredstill

    ArtyH That 1 quid you mention bought him the naming rights to Ibrox! If anyone doesn’t believe there was nothing crooked with that deal alone, let alone whatever else Ashley got off Charles Greene then they may as well believe the Tooth Fairy will replace Ashley here.
    Just to clarify also, it’s estimated he’s worth 3.75 Billion, not 2.
    When you look at his stable of other clubs then it’s hard to imagine or believe he has any aspirations for NUFC other than what he can get from us. Not the other way around.
    I fully agree with your ending. Time everyone grew some and stood up to this parasite again instead of just taking it.

  • ArtyH

    The Mag ArtyH 

    I see it a bit like a kid giving his dinner money to the school bully and thinking life will get better. All bullied school kids find out too late that it only gets better when you give the bully a punch in the face.

  • ArtyH

    Sickandtiredstill ArtyH 

    Thanks for the correction, but as we all can see, this extra worth just makes the whole thing even more intolerable or unacceptable. When will those who go to games ever learn? To be honest ( where have I heard that phrase before ), I am beyond care if the team win or loose now, I’m that sick of it all. Its humiliating to the point of pain now and I just couldn’t care less.

  • ArtyH


    Sadly I am of the same opinion as you  NUFCLX, I hate to admit it but its true I think the only way out of this mess is relegation and all of its risks, with the hope of someone who genuinely cares about football to come in and help the club city and supporters. Its going this route anyway and it will be a rough ride until we bottom out, but hey look at the Borough they are hopefully getting it together with a great MANAGER and a great chairman, I wish they good luck as they can show us the way!


    Boro is a good example – think of where they would be if they had our support.
    All I am looking for is “SOME HOPE” rather than “NO HOPE”

  • LeazesEnder

    Bills frollocks He’s already had a massive return…free advertising and the benefits that advertising brought!

  • LeazesEnder

    NUFCLX I don’t hope for relegation….. just an assassination!


    I will settle for either