It is an unhappy marriage and it has been now for a decade.

There was hope this summer that there might be a fresh spark there, but sadly it looks like we’re going to limp along as before – that is the reality for Newcastle United, even in the warm afterglow of the first Premier League win.

We are wedded to an owner in Mike Ashley, who is a thoroughly contemptible man with little or no desire to make a proper success of the club. The best we’re looking at right now is treading water and hoping Rafa can turn that water into wine.

I briefly allowed myself to wonder if Mike Ashley really had changed his approach in the wake of promotion and the new feel good factor that was sweeping around the place. What followed has seen that slowly ebb away, bit by bit.

Money has been made available but not nearly enough. The owner appears to have done a u-turn on some of the promises made to the manager, or he’s inserted a string of robust caveats into the claim that Rafa can have ‘every single penny’.

Then came what seemed to be a war of words, conducted through the media. Rafa v Ashley. One doing his best not to resign, while the other won’t sack him, but he does want him to work like his predecessors have, with one arm tied behind his back.

The Mike Ashley interview on Sky was pure poison. He went into bat with a smirk on his face and told us all he’s a poor billionaire and that we’re ‘only Newcastle United’. What an absolute berk. He wants the club to be in the Premier League but it’s got to be done on the cheap. No speculating to accumulate, no fast-paced approach to sorting out the squad.

The owner’s PR strategy has only succeeded in fuelling the media to drive a constant ‘will he, won’t he’ debate around the future of the manager – a manager who is quite possibly one of the only truly good things to happen to the club under Mike Ashley’s ownership.

The win against West Ham has eased some of those tensions but we now await the conclusion to the summer transfer window later this week.

There are some positives too. We saw them in abundance on Saturday. That team can play when they put their mind to it and press the ball properly.

But what of the unhappy marriage? Can we really be sat here in five or ten years with this same useless owner at the helm? It’s possible, sadly.

The best thing Mike Ashley can do is look at what has gone on at Southampton this summer. That club has taken on board a Chinese investor.

Surely, if a new owner can’t be found then Ashley’s people need to look at selling a stake and sharing out the load. Get a new face on the board with some fresh ideas, and money, because the current model of doing it on the cheap is likely to come unstuck at some point.

There is a huge untapped potential at Newcastle United, will someone out there come in and take advantage of  that?

For now, we soldier on, but it’s precarious. All the goodwill flows from Benitez staying in his post.

Newcastle United, forever fragile under the Sports Direct regime.

The season will, of course, plough on. I think we can get 40 points, but we have to watch, as smaller clubs around us put in the kind of investment that we really need in order to see proper success.

You can follow the author on Twitter @DavePunton

(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])



  • Alex

    Ashley wouldn’t take a majority stake, like Southampton. He’d want out completely, or let the other have a minority so he could keep control himself.

    • Oooh bobbi fleckman

      The best arrangement would be for there to be a 50% (or more likely a 49%) investor who matches Ashley’s debt. That would mean new money coming in.

      • Jezza

        New money coming in…..to Ashley’s pocket as usual.

        • East Durham Mag

          Cut Fatty some slack mate don’t you know he’s a bit short at the moment?

        • Oooh bobbi fleckman

          No, that’s not how it would work.

          A new investor would not want to by half the shares with MA being owed £129m or what is likely, £111m to MA & £33m to SJHoldings. There will always be a chance of MA converting his debt into equity and holding more power. The new owner would need parity, if they introduce £111m, they may insist £33m is used to repay SJ Holdings or they me want to introduce £144m.

    • Guest 2

      So, a majority stake then!

      • Alex

        Vague response – majority for whom?

        Ashley wouldn’t cede control, and become a minority partner. And, frankly, no partner would want to be in the minority to Ashley, and trust him with their investment.

        It’s either a full sale, or nowt.

        • Guest 2

          You are confusing yersel, man.

          You said he wouldn’t take a majority stake – “He’d want out completely, or let the other have a minority so he could keep control himself.”

          If no complete sale then he would therefore indeed hold a majority stake if inviting other investors in.

          • Alex

            I’m not confused. You’re merely restating the same as I am, using different words, but then making the mistake of interpreting them differently.

            “No complete sale” could be EITHER a minority or a majority stake.

          • Guest 2

            Well, you didn’t say ‘either’ and you argued he wouldn’t take a minority.

            Absolutely 100% certain he wouldn’t give up majority control if another investor came in and we should all fear anyone prepared to partner that bloke.

  • Toonarden

    Afraid so Alex. The Controller isn’t going to give up all his lovely free advertising for his beloved Sports Direct in a hurry. Depressing isn’t the word for it.

  • Guest 2

    A new investor wouldn’t and couldn’t change anything. Just like with SD, fatty would retain majority control and continue to do as he wishes.
    SD’ Chairman (ex copper, Hallawell) has been rejected twice by the shareholders and yet fatty keeps reappointing him.
    Can’t see anyone remotely worthy wanting to be in partnership with this bloke.

  • Leicester Mag

    Unhappy marriage? more like effing domestic abuse!

  • Steve Pearce

    Nobody but nobody – not even Mike Ashley does not have their price. With him making statements to the effect that he can’t afford a decent transfer budget and to invest more into the team in general he has put the For Sale sign outside SJP. I firmly believe will be rid of him by the January transfer window when the new owners will spend more on two players than he spent on transfers for three years running. The pubs will be drunk dry, there will be dancing in the streets and lakes of vomit will drown every Sports Direct store!

  • Mike

    No one seems interested in buying the town. even before cashley turned up we didnt seem to attract any interest. all the rumours were just waffle recall was it Malcolm Dix trying to take control ended up total blx no Ruskies or rich arabs i reccon if its not London/Manc based its not worth lookin at. unless theres a miracle i cant see it changing.

  • Sean Lynch

    Would love a Geordie conglomerate buyout. Brian Johnson, Sting, Mark Knopfler, Hank Marvin, Jimmy Nail, Ant & Dec should be able to manage a fair wedge between them. Geordie pride and a love for the club!