Our fans will not like this but unfortunately it’s true, Mike Ashley has everyone from the press to the supporters, exactly where he wants them.
Even Rafa is powerless to change his direction, despite using the one year left on his contract as a bargaining tool.
Before I go into the reasons for Ashley’s contentment, I will provide my view of his strategy.
Like many, I believe he wants maximum return for minimum input, stability the main aim with financial results before success on the pitch. I also feel that he has it in for the fans to some extent, his friendship severed long ago.
Just to show what a grip he has on the club, here are the things that confirm his stranglehold:
He currently has a Premiership club with guaranteed income. This may not last but at least he has the power to decide our destiny. For now he is where he wants to be.
He has the press exactly where he wants them. The local journalists can smell a rat but won’t dare risk being cut off as the Evening Chronicle were, a couple of years ago. The nationals and Sky see him as some sort of saviour who saved our club and now acts in a responsible manner. What we see as penny pinching, they see as a suitable strategy, ignoring unreasonable expectations from the demanding fans. Sky give a platform to their partner, to enable his reasoning.
Ashley has successfully lowered expectations, just look at social media or talk to fans to confirm this. As he did after we finished 5th, he has failed to capitalise on a golden opportunity but not by accident. To be honest, mid-table will do me again.
He still commands interest and will achieve full houses every week. Even during the World Cup, fans are wowed by a free transfer. Even the critics must admit to a genuine buzz when we sign a player. He has a team in a football mad area. People are powerless and Liverpool style protests won’t work here as fan power is our only real asset (ED: Reality was that Liverpool fan protests got nowhere either, it was only when Hicks and Gillett ran out of money that they were forced to sell, shame Mike Ashley isn’t running out of cash…)..
Mike gets free advertising week in week out. Even his notorious interviews put him and his first concern in the spotlight. Furthermore, as journalists will point out, there is no such thing as bad publicity when it comes to marketing a product.
He can sell the club anytime he wants by lowering the price. Personally, I think a Mike Ashley free NUFC is worth £400m but no one else seems to think so. It is in his hands and he knows it but as Shay Given once said, he enjoys winding the fans up. I don’t think he wants to sell, just using it as an excuse to be non-committal in the market.
If all goes pear-shaped for him, unlike previous years, he could really asset strip the club and with a squad to the value of £200m. He could also keep all the £125m prize money, accept relegation and then sell for a reduced amount (comes to nearly £400m). To those keyboard warriors who think he has already done this, I would say in the words of BTO, ‘you ain’t seen nothin’ yet’.
So what hope can I offer?
Well, Wonga shirts can be bought for next to nowt and you get used to missing the match eventually.
My real lifeline is knowing that in football, what comes around goes around, look at that lot down the road! I just hope that our great fans are rewarded rather than Ashley’s club nosedives. Sell up please Mike, no chance I hear you all say.