Mike Ashley – Enough is enough.
A plea on behalf of the city of Newcastle, its football club and football as a whole……GO! And GO NOW!
After eleven long years of Mike Ashley’s ownership of Newcastle United, I thought I’d just about seen it all. Joe Kinnear, the Keegan affair, Wonga, Sports Direct Arena, boycotts, oh and of course, two relegations. But just when I thought Ashley couldn’t get any lower, he proves me wrong again, pulling the rug out from under Rafa Benitez. How could I be so naive?!
Make no mistake, what Mike Ashley has allowed one of the great clubs in English football to become, is a footballing tragedy. Surely now, as he continues to pillage the Premier League for all its worth, the football world must finally realise that this man has no place running a club like Newcastle United.
When you approach Newcastle city centre, either by car or train, St. James Park is immediately recognisable. Proudly standing tall on the Newcastle horizon, the stadium is the burning epicentre of the city. The throbbing heartbeat. The iconic footballing cathedral on top of the hill that draws 52,000 worshippers every other week.
Newcastle, unlike London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham or Glasgow, a one club city. One stadium. One team. The be all and end all.
Under Ashley’s shameful stewardship however, Newcastle United’s soul has been torn out. The famous Newcastle United that the footballing world once knew, died the moment Mike Ashley bought the club. In the decade that followed, Mike gradually morphed it into something that has no place in modern football – a cheap, nasty, hideous version of a football club modelled around Mike Ashley’s business plan – Sports Direct United.
His sole interest has always been to spend the bare minimum in order to maintain a place on the super-rich Premier League gravy train, and to pocket all the financial rewards that came with it. Nothing more, nothing less. The club has been run by ‘yes men’, lackeys and henchman, who’s only motivations are financial reward and keeping themselves in a job.
When it comes to those currently running the show at St James Park, the only man who shares the hopes and desires of those who travel the length and breadth of the country in the name of Newcastle United, is Rafa Benitez. And this summer, he has been royally shafted.
After years of anger and frustration, Benitez brought a new-found sense of optimism to the club. It seemed that the penny had eventually dropped and that Mike had finally found a manager with the stature required to be entrusted with the keys to the kingdom.
It’s pretty basic stuff, give one of the elite managers in world football the resources he needs, he will then build a club that is more than capable of holding its own, and everyone from fans, to manager, to owner, is happy. Simple.
As this is Newcastle United however, the next self-inflicted crisis is never more than a stone’s throw away. It seems like every so often, Mike actually gets a kick from sabotaging his own club, just so he can show everyone who’s boss. This summer was one of those moments.
In classic Newcastle United style, despite the huge profits made from selling players like Mitrovic, Merino and Mbemba, Newcastle have shamefully failed to build on last season’s impressive tenth place finish by giving Benitez nothing but crumbs to spend in the transfer market.
Once again, in order to save a few quid, Ashley has gambled on what we already have being enough to survive. Clearly for a man of the calibre and professionalism of Rafael Benitez however, this is not an approach that he can tolerate long-term.
Tragically, it now seems incomprehensible that Benitez will remain at Newcastle once his contract expires in May. But who could blame him for walking away? Benitez is a man who’s achievements in the game entitle him to far better than this, and after all, Newcastle need him more than he needs them.
If Mike Ashley cannot trust one of the greatest managers in the world to run the club, then it’s quite clear that he can’t trust anyone. So just what is the point in Newcastle going forward?
Why should fans bother to continue paying their money in order to help fund Mike’s Sports Direct football franchise anymore?!? Year after year, the club go nowhere and achieves nothing – but incredibly, that’s the club’s target! If Rafa can’t change that, no one can.
Once Rafa walks away at the end of the season, I fear the club may well implode. After all the years of benign emptiness that Ashley has given Newcastle, Rafael Benitez represents the last hope for most Newcastle United fans. Once that last flicker of hope is extinguished, then it could well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for many.
The repugnant, rotting disease that Mike Ashley has infected the club with over the past decade will spread like wildfire into the stands and terraces too. Without Benitez, the club will officially become pointless and defunct in terms of competitiveness and ambition.
Until the day comes when Mike Ashley finally departs, Newcastle United will go on festering in football purgatory. Only when that day does arrive, can the city reclaim its soul and the glorious cathedral in the heart of Newcastle’s city centre once again roar – restoring hope and pride to all those whose football club has been stolen.
So please Mike, do us all a favour and go. In the name of the city of Newcastle, in the name of Rafael Benitez and in the name of football, go and GO NOW!
You can follow the author on Twitter @TheAndernator