Why we should all buy Mike Ashley a Pint
We should all buy Mike Ashley a pint because he loves us, or at least he did.
He loved being part of the Geordie Nation, and if we let him back in, he just might love us again.
Let’s face it, a divorced man in his fifties who defines himself as a power drinker, is in need of some meaning in his life. Newcastle United can help provide that meaning.
And he’s reaching out, albeit in his clumsy, surly, defensive way.
Mike Ashley went on Sky last week and admitted to making mistakes. You could say a lot of things about that interview but the key element has been largely overlooked. Mike revealed how much he loved being part of the Toon Army. How travelling with the fans was a dream, a thousand times more fun that being in the boardroom, (before his gargantuan Denis Wise / Kevin Keegan folly). After that, he was told by the police that if he travelled with the supporters he was likely to be assaulted. Mike was off the bus and off the team, and he’s never been back.
So isn’t it obvious? Mike’s upset. He’s a human being. His feelings have been hurt. But of course he’s not the type of man to say, ‘you’ve hurt my feelings’. He’s the type of man to want to hurt back. So in a very primal way, he wants to hurt us, even if it means hurting himself and ‘his’ football club to do it.
That’s why the club’s been in some kind of cold war limbo for the past decade. It’s the reason we’re sitting here with a genius of a manager, a shrewd man who can be relied on to make money in the market, as well as achieve results, but who Mike sees as an enemy to be fought and defeated.
Surely, Mike Ashley must see that having a manager like Rafa at Newcastle United is a once in a generation opportunity. From a business point of view it is, as Mike would say, a no brainer to back him. And Mike claims that he’s all business. But that just doesn’t add up. His undermining of Rafa Benitez is the action of a man who’s upset and conflicted. A man so desperate to hurt the fans and ‘beat’ Rafa Benitez, that he’s prepared to risk losing ‘his’ club’s greatest asset. A man who has lost sight of the fact that we’re all on the same team.
But then it’s hardly surprising that Mike resents Rafa, because right now what happens is that Rafa gets the credit for everything good, and Mike gets the blame for everything bad. Rafa gets the love, while Mike pays the bills. Doesn’t that seem familiar to anyone? It sounds like my house. So of course, Mike’s tetchy. He needs some love.
Then there’s Rafa Benitez. Rafa the Uniter. Rafa who reaches out to players and fans and the wider community, Rafa who brings us all together has conspicuously left one of us out.
Even in summer 2016 when he was getting the support he needed, Rafa offered no thanks to Mike. He didn’t thank him in May 2017 either. Okay, he acknowledged Mike Ashley as a man he could work with but he failed to see that Mike needs more than that. Rafa, who understands players and fans and community, failed to understand Mike the billionaire dictator with an ego the size of the Titanic. Mighty Mike, the desperately hurt little boy.
Mike Ashley needs love, and just as part of Rafa’s job is to soothe and manage Jonjo Shelvey, so part of his role is to soothe and manage Mike Ashley (though to be fair to Rafa, Mike Ashley does at least to put in an appearance and give him a chance).
But it’s not just Mike and Rafa who have lost sight of what’s important. We have too. Like it or not, Mike Ashley is the owner. We need him. We need to forgive his honest mistakes, where he backed his gut rather than people who really know, because that’s all part of the package that somehow made him a billionaire.
Anyone remember that wave of optimism when he first came in? A man with the Midas touch and great ambitions for Newcastle United. A self-made billionaire who still liked a pint with the lads. It doesn’t take much to ignite hope at St James Park and he set fires raging. So when he did screw up, our hopes collapsed with an almighty crash.
Since then, it’s been a decade of resentment, of each side blaming the other. But didn’t we make mistakes too? Did we judge him too harshly on his first season’s performance? Have we failed to appreciate the efforts he has made, and the money he’s spent, and to understand that when you’re making big decisions you’re bound to make big mistakes too? Sure, it isn’t easy to forgive, but what are our options?
We can keep pointing fingers, fighting it out in the press, lose Rafa, and perhaps after another relegation, finally get a new owner from who knows where, with who knows what agenda. A Chinese conglomerate or a Saudi sheikh? Maybe a man like Karl Oyston?
But just imagine if we could bring Mike Ashley back into the fold. Have a chairman like Dean Hoyle at Huddersfield, but better. One who has a pint with the lads, listens to the fans and takes Newcastle United back into his heart.
So what do we need: A Mike Ashley flag? A song? Perhaps not just yet.
For now, let’s just accept Mike’s apologies, but on the understanding that there needs to be real movement from both sides.
Let’s put aside our resentment, and ask him to put aside his, and remember that the Mike Ashley who listened to Dennis Wise before Kevin Keegan is also the Mike Ashley who brought us Rafa Benitez, Jonjo Shelvey and Matt Ritchie.
And as the man who paid for that magic hat, doesn’t he deserve a sprinkling of star dust?
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