It is quite amazing that with Newcastle United kicking off the season in only a few hours, Mike Ashley is happy to have his own agenda put ahead of focus on the team.
To counter Rafa Benitez’ (and Newcastle fans’) accusations of being let down this summer, with promises clearly not kept (so far…), the club’s owner has done a big interview with Sky Sports, with now more quotes released on Sunday morning ahead of it being screened in full tonight.
With Sky Sports’ David Craig being so close to Mike Ashley and his people, this is obviously not an ‘interview’, simply a PR exercise for Ashley and his minions.
So Mike Ashley simply reads from a pre-prepared script, rather than answering difficult questions.
The tone of the quotes released this morning (see below), is along the lines of admitting he has made mistakes in the past but he has learnt from them.
We have heard this all before, several times. It is simply an exercise in trying to deflect the public and media away from what are the real issues.
Mike Ashley is making possibly the biggest ‘mistake’ of his entire 10+ years at Newcastle at this very moment in time. However, instead of properly backing Rafa Benitez, in quotes already released from this new interview, Ashley has instead chosen to make out that Rafa is simply being unreasonable, talking of not being able to finance £200m Neymar level deals or just hand Benitez £150m to spend this summer – when the reality is Rafa has been blocked from even bringing in free agents and loan signings he had set up.
Ashley claims he made a mistake sacking Sam Allardyce…it was one of the few things he got right!
The implication clearly is that it was then supposedly a bad thing for the club that Keegan arrived. It was of course the exact opposite, Keegan got far better results and performances from a team that had been sinking fast under Fat Sam. Ashley of course failing to mention that the big ‘mistake’ was him misleading Kevin Keegan, as was proved in court, and undermining him with Dennis Wise – basically forcing Keegan out of the club because he wanted to do things properly.
Ashley also talks of how when in 2013 he and the club announced a priority that was a brand new training complex that was key to Newcastle being able to compete in the future. Mike Ashley doesn’t then explain exactly why four years later this essential new training complex hasn’t even had a brick laid, just that ‘within 18 months the wheels had come off’.
He owns the club, he runs it and employs the people inside it – it is his choice that the new training ground hasn’t happened yet, just as it is his decision that his own private development on land opposite the Gallowgate is currently going ahead with offices, shops and student accommodation which will prevent St James Park ever being expanded in the future – plus the lease on the land was part of the football club when he bought it, yet this development won’t help the club in any way.
Ashley also blames the fans for not being able to raise money through naming rights for St James Park. Well the fact that he renamed as Sports Direct Arena with not a penny going into NUFC may have something to do with that.
He talks of making a mistake thinking ‘the right thing to do was to generate as much money as possible for Newcastle’.
How does that square with handing over the massive promotion of Sports Direct and the rest of his retail empire via Newcastle United for nothing???
What SD gets is far beyond just the advertising hoardings on match days, the value is huge as SD is included in every photo shoot, press conference, video footage, new player signing, stadium tours, and even Rafa and the team were sent to do an appearance at the SD store in Dublin last month.
Last year Newcastle United stated that Sports Direct were going to start and pay a market rate for all of this, yet it still hasn’t happened, why wasn’t Mike Ashley asked that…?
Mike Ashley talking to Sky Sports:
“Very naïve in the beginning. In the middle I thought I was just about beginning to get my arms around it a little bit, we had a manager on an eight year contract (Alan Pardew).
“We had the finance right, talked about investing in the training ground and the academy, we had a strategy, buying young talent and developing.
“That was around 2013, 2014, going along quite well, and then within 18 months the wheels had come off, going back to really having to start at the beginning again.
“I probably rushed in too early. The first thing, letting Sam Allardyce go, I was probably too keen to get going and make a difference, and I was a bit naïve about how football worked.
“The first thing you feel is stupidity, because as soon as you know the hindsight of something, you know what you were doing wrong.
“For example, I thought it was the right thing to do was to generate as much money as possible for Newcastle, so when people say to me: ‘Whatever you do on an interview do not talk about changing the name of St James’ Park!’ Well I’m me, and I’m going to talk about making an error, and I should not have changed the name of St James’ Park. I should not have done that.
“Football is not all about making money and reinvesting it into football clubs, it has a very strange balance to it. I wanted to get naming rights, get money in and invest it into the club.
“The reality is, the vast majority of the Geordie fans would rather have the name of St James’ Park and finish maybe one or two places lower in the table, because they want to keep it special.
“You begin to learn that the special side of Newcastle means a little bit more than the ultimate end performance on the pitch.”
“I actually understand how cross the fans were. If I was a fan, would I have been as upset as they were? I would probably have been worst!
“It wasn’t acceptable what happened at Newcastle United Football Club, but of course I never did it on purpose. There was no gain for me at all to get certain things wrong.”