Everyone loves to be loved, especially Geordies. Who, generally, are.
But, as I have pointed out before, men who get very rich don’t care quite so much. They can’t afford to.
Mike Ashley has certainly made enemies in his business career. For a long time he was a hate figure for Toon fans. Indeed, as you will know, a campaign to force Ashley out of Newcastle was started after a similar campaign against Alan Pardew had succeeded.
But the last activity on the Ashley Out Facebook page was over a month ago, and recent Tweets by the same campaign have been about Durham County Cricket.
Indeed, I myself have written fairly frequent articles calling for Ashley to sell up for the last six years, and have often predicted that he would. But not recently.
Of course, results are everything in professional sport, and victories on the pitch are a wonderful anaesthetic when your club is owned by an ignoramus.
Not minding who owns your club when it is successful is one thing. Trusting him is quite another. And I have to tell you I am far from trusting Mike Ashley.
The other thing I need to tell you is that Mike Ashley doesn’t care if fans trust him or not. And he no more expects or wants fans to love him than at any previous time in his largely disastrous history as Bonehead-In-Chief at St James Park.
I read a comment by a Toon fan the other day that set me thinking. It said that, for the first time, he was hopeful Ashley would not sell up. This was when there were those rumours, probably baseless, that a Chinese consortium might be about to make a bid for the club.
It is a feature of human beings in pain that, once the pain stops, memories of the pain are short-lived. For that reason it is easy to like your dentist. My best friend kicked my front tooth out rather painfully when I was tackling him almost fifty years ago. He is still my best friend.
But breaches of trust are more troublesome. Ashley has broken the bonds of trust with supporters so many times it is impossible to forgive or forget. At least, that’s how I feel. He will never win my trust.
Of course, it would be churlish not to recognise that the man has changed. He certainly has.
He is signing strikers in their thirties, he is no longer conducting transfer negotiations personally, he has shifted his placemen into the back seat, and the front seat driver is Rafa Benitez, whom God preserve.
Mike Ashley has authorised the acquisition of decent and numerous players this year. We mustn’t forget that he has still made a profit of about thirty million quid. It may well be that this is the basis of a Premiership fighting fund next year. It may well be that we shall never hear about it again.
Who can, or will, forget the similar sum we received in one go for Andy Carroll?
Ashley learns quickly. I really do think he has learned what he needs to do, and what he needs not to do, as a football club owner.
The thing is, though, that this year the football and the finance coincide – Ashley and the fans can agree that only promotion will do.
If we go up, though, Ashley will be making a gimlet-eyed calculation of the kind we are used to – how much does he really want to get into the Champions League? And does he want to do that more than just avoid relegation? Which offers the best, and likeliest, financial return?
What may be different this time, I admit, is the presence of Rafa, and, crucially, the full detail of what might be written in indelible ink on our manager’s contract. Because I’m certain Rafa would not have taken charge of Newcastle in the Championship if he didn’t have the prospect of proper, grown-up, international success in Europe, aided and assisted by money invested in new players, once we got back into the Premier League.
I’m totally certain of that.
The question is whether Ashley values Rafa at our club as much as we do. There may still be part of him that thinks that he can keep us in the Premier League by appointing the likes of Nigel Worthington as supremo, if and when a thwarted and angry Rafa walks.
I’m an optimist though. And, more than anything else, I know Ashley to be a gambler.
I think, believe, hope and pray that Mike Ashley has come to see that flirting with relegation as a Premier League strategy is a dicey bet. And one that he won’t be taking again.