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Mike Ashley and the £100m Newcastle United question

6 years ago

“What we’ve got here is… failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it… well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men….”

That’s a quote from the classic Paul Newman film, Cool Hand Luke, 1967, released back in the days of Joe Harvey. It was used in the opening lines of a classic Guns N Roses track almost a quarter of a century later, appearing in the Use Your Illusion II album in 1991, back in the days of Jim Smith and Ossie Ardiles. The song it preluded was “Civil War”. The words, I’m sure you will agree, are rather befitting.

Once again at SJP we have protests and we have a split. Newcastle Divided is a far more appropriate name for our club right now than United. Sadly, it’s nothing new for a club all too familiar with football civil war.

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In my line of work I deal with something called “purpose”. In simple terms it’s defining what the business is there to do. For example, the purpose of the police is to catch bad guys, the purpose of your barber is to cut your hair and the purpose of a barmaid is to sell you alcohol.

It might sound too simple but you’d be surprised how many companies aren’t clear on what their purpose is.

Let’s kick that debate into football. The purpose of Man City is to win trophies. The purpose of Chelsea is to win trophies. The purpose of Arsenal is to make the top 4 and be frugal hence there’s a similar, although much posher, argument at The Emirates as there is on Tyneside.

Indeed the purpose of most football clubs is to do as well as they can in their sport, measured by how far they progress in the cups and where they finish in the league. And that is where NUFC are torn in two.

The fans expect the club to do what it is intrinsically there to do: compete at football; try to win things, finish high up the league. This should be the DNA of any sports club including Newcastle. However, it is not the purpose of the owner. Make no mistake; Mike Ashley isn’t a failure. On the contrary he has achieved with merit what he sets out to achieve. He has achieved his purpose. The quarrel is that his purpose is to use NUFC to increase his personal wealth.

In short he sacrifices the football ambition to line his already bulging pockets and we think he should sacrifice a hundred million or so to have a bash at trying to compete.

So who’s right? Well, surely the fair response is that we do not expect him to plough his own money in to get NUFC punching above their weight but likewise we expect the money the club generates to be reinvested so it does punch its weight and doesn’t become impotent like it has now. You don’t have to subsidise us but don’t fleece us either, Mike.

So the club and the fans are split but the fans then split again as to how to tackle Ashley.

Personally I think each person’s decision needs respecting.

But there’s a plastic storage unit in my spare room with a load of Moordale boarding cards, a travel club membership from 1989 and countless tickets and programmes and souvenirs dating from the mid-80’s, including those for venues as far apart geographically as they are in the football world.

Cup tickets for Hull, Peterborough and Tranmere reside alongside cup tickets for Juventus, Feyenoord and Milan.

There’s a Champions League ticket with Barcelona’s name on, side by side with an Anglo-Italian cup game at Grimsby. It’s funny looking back that we drew with The Shrimpers and beat Barcelona…

But those souvenirs haven’t been added to since my 2009 season ticket, a programme from an away game at Middlesbrough and a ticket stub for Anfield were filed away.

I haven’t set foot in the place I used to love for 6 years now.

Let me take you full circle. Spoiler alert!

Cool Hand Luke is about a man who refuses to conform to life in prison. He goes toe to toe with the Prison-bosses. He doesn’t win; indeed it’s the death of him. But he refuses to accept what the boss tries to force upon him.

Maybe that’s something you all have to consider when your season ticket renewal lands on your doormat.


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