In response to a brilliantly thought provoking argument by Notts Toon, as featured here in The Mag, I wonder whether relegation to the Championship is the best way.
I confess to enjoying our Championship season.
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We had a decent coach (Chris Hughton – pictured above) at that level, employing modern management techniques that were light years ahead of Ashley retail outlet and subsequent coaches. After being effectively banished during the Keegan years through not being able to afford a season ticket, it was a chance to introduce my children to NUFC in anything other than a cup match.
The football was honest, the divers were the young loan players from the Premier League. Away supporters enjoyed visiting our ground and I experienced the positivity of supporters at places like Barnsley, Doncaster and Scunthorpe. Our players committed to the cause.
Financially, Ashley would have been hit had he not sold or released about £40m worth of talent with a resultant wage saving.
Ashley has toyed with supporters since protests surrounding Keegan’s resignation on a point of principle, the subsequent tribunal finding that representatives of the club under Ashley had lied.
Ashley’s minions have helped turn a loss making club into one that makes profits. It doesn’t say much for Ashley himself that profits at an operating level, i.e. before transfer activity, amount to a paltry 3.6% of revenue after 8 years of trying.
The real profit has come in designating Newcastle United as a feeder club, selling the likes of Cabaye, Ba and Carroll to clubs that have some sort of ambition. In the meantime, those who dared to have principles have suffered through a lack of aspiration to domestic cups and mediocrity in the Premier League, with a dull brand of football to match.
The only reason I can find to disagree with the article is in the question, who would buy us at a price Ashley is prepared to accept? Any promoted team has to invest significantly, as Southampton, Stoke Swansea and others have done in order to stay up.
Newcastle United is more attractive to a potential buyer as a business with turnover in excess of £130m than it is as a business with £25m gate revenue, £16m parachute payments for a couple of years and a commercial stream that would yield a further £10m or so.
Where a buyer may come from is anyone’s guess. Most likely would be an oil rich magnate. It could be someone who already owns one of the lucrative American sports franchises and has proven how to turn an established brand into a viable asset.
Who knows? Ashley himself could rehabilitate, after all, Joey Barton conducted himself with humility and dignity on Question Time after all his previous. Yes, this is as unlikely as any of his cheapened brands of walking boot making it up a shallow Lake District climb, let alone Everest. No professional golfer would expect to survive a round at the Masters with a Donnay driver.
Just as Ashley preys on labour with zero hours contracts, just as he has destroyed quality brands, he has exploited the loyalty of Newcastle supporters to push his brands globally in the Premier League, he could also ruin the future image and prospects of the club that is central to the life of one of Britain’s greatest historic cities.
To exact his revenge for public humiliation over Keegan, relegation would be a price, albeit small in the context of his obscene personal wealth. The bigger price would be to his cherished retail outlet. It is just about conceivable that he comes to appreciate the benefit of stewarding a successful club.
The long-term prospects for Newcastle United are therefore best served in the Premier League. A Championship Newcastle United would be ground under the considerable weight above his heel. His selling price would be a barrier to withdrawing without inflicting further punishment.
Relegation would be a small price to pay for our traditions of industrious, sometimes attractive football, to be preserved. There is no guarantee this will happen. Our best hope for ridding ourselves of the anarchist’s answer to ISIS is preservation of our Premier League status, leaving him with a capital gain that he can smile over.
It is said that the love of money is the root of all evil. Ashley has money in abundance and seems to crave more. Much as Notts Toon’s argument resonates, perhaps the best answer for those of us with pride in our city is for the beast to feed and move on.