Mike Ashley is living the Newcastle United dream.
It is now 11 years and counting since he bought the club back in 2007 and things just couldn’t be any better for the NUFC owner.
Sadly, what is great for Mike Ashley isn’t necessarily great for fans of the club.
Instant promotion back to the Premier League was a massive relief for Ashley but to accomplish it with Rafa Benitez also delivering a £40m profit on transfers in and out, was a real dream scenario.
Last season saw not a single player bought in January 2018 and a minimal net spend of less than £20m in the summer 2017 window, yet the team managed to survive in the Premier League.
In fact, it ended up a lot better than just surviving, with some significant extra cash generated by finishing 10th, as well as only a handful of clubs getting more additional cash from appearing live on TV in the UK.
As for the man responsible for delivering all of this, Mike Ashley even has Rafa Benitez signed up to a contract whereby he would need to pay £6m to the Newcastle United owner if he wanted to leave before it ended.
You might point to the fact that there is only a single year left on Rafa’s contract but that is of little concern to somebody like Ashley, who just looks at Newcastle United surviving the upcoming season, rather than the kind of longer-term planning that your average club bothers with.
He will just think that this can be looked at again in 12 months time and if Benitez leaves then so what. He will just get somebody else on far lower wages and revert back to his usual model of employing somebody who knows their place and doesn’t expect to have any say on transfers or anything else important. Conveniently ignoring the fact that employing people such as Kinnear, Pardew, Carver and McClaren, is exactly why there has already been two relegations at NUFC in nine Premier League seasons under this owner, as well as other near misses.
Everything is just live for today for Mike Ashley where Newcastle United are concerned, completely different to how he runs the rest of his business empire. Always looking ahead with Sports Direct and rated businesses/brands, putting in major investment where necessary.
With the impending departure of both Mikel Merino and Chancel Mbemba, Mike Ashley will also shortly be sitting on a transfer profit of £10m+ this summer, with only £4m going out so far on Dubravka and Ki Sung-Yueng. The likes of Haidara and Gamez also now off the wage bill as well as a host of younger players who were released.
As well as last season’s Premier League revenues banked, Mike Ashley is also now guaranteed at least another year’s worth, and even if this next season did prove a failure, the parachute payments as from the end of next season are set to go even higher.
On top of all that, 50,000+ averages at St James Park are all but guaranteed as well, the ongoing presence of Rafa Benitez and the sheer scale of numbers who want to see their team play, no matter what failures to invest in the squad, guarantees this.
You might say what about ambition on the pitch but that has never been a driving force for Mike Ashley, apart from the ‘ambition’ of staying in the top tier.
Ashley has even won the PR war where much of the media is concerned.
He claimed to be serious about selling the club in October and nine months on he is sitting back and saying ‘well I tried, but what can you do…?’, hardly anybody in the media bothered as to what the truth was of this absolute charade.
Whatever you think of the supposed Amanda Staveley bid for Newcastle United, Ashley’s people stated that a number of other parties were seriously interested in buying NUFC and had been given access to the books. If that were true and interested potential buyers had seen the books AND Mike Ashley had the club up for sale at a fair price, why there has been absolutely nothing happening.
I smell a rat and it is very large one, who appeared in our lives 11 years ago. Does anybody honestly think now that Ashley was serious about trying to sell Newcastle United.
When he bought the club, Ashley’s people told John Hall that the main reason was so he could use NUFC to make his retail empire be more profitable by promoting it around the world.
Eleven years after snapping up Newcastle, the free promotion given to SD and the rest has never been more valuable. So why on earth would he be rushing to sell the club on?
Maybe some signings will be made this summer beyond the bargain buys of last season but I think there is every chance we will actually see no change at all on that front.
Mike Ashley looks at how Rafa Benitez performed a minor miracle last season and will be thinking well why can’t he repeat that, especially now this set of players have this 12 months of PL experience behind them as a group.
Thee future is most definitely bright for Mr Ashley but I am yet to be convinced an of us will be needing sunglasses.
As always it appears to be heads Mike Ashley wins, tails the rest of us lose.