Mike Ashley accepts he can’t fool all of the people all of the time.
However, he does believe that if you put out occasional lame statements and pull off the odd stunt, it creates at a minimum enough smokescreen and distraction to occupy the media.
On Wednesday evening hundreds of Newcastle fans met in the city centre to discuss the abysmal state of the club and how best to help persuade the absent neglectful landlord to sell up.
Only minutes after that open public meeting kicked off, the first images started to appear in the media of a restaurant in Ponteland, to the north of Newcastle.
A restaurant where Rafa Benitez and his players were meeting Mike Ashley and his minions.
What a coincidence, if you were a real cynic (one of the 50,000 who go to the match), you would almost think it was planned. Especially when any number of media were there filming it, taking photos, reporting on it.
This was the much heralded Mike Ashley meeting manager and players to….who knows?
Obviously the PR intention is to try and convince us all that this meal equals the owner of Newcastle United genuinely trying to re-engage with the manager and other staff/players, to start building bridges towards a better future.
It is really excruciating but in all the media coverage I have seen so far, none of them are laughing at the shambles that it clearly is. They are reporting it almost from a script, a script which reads ‘Mike Ashley met Rafa Benitez and the players for a heart to heart as the Newcastle United owner shows he is blah blah blah…’
The players and especially Rafa Benitez aren’t turning up for their pizza tonight thinking this is a great u-turn, it is simply a club event where they are expected to com along and bottom line is they are just going along for a meal and a laugh with their mates.
Mike Ashley and his sycophants are obviously there just to be seen to be doing so and of course nothing changes because of this painful PR exercise.
It is laughable that after an entire tortuous summer of disbelief and painful lack of investment, yet again, we have this publicity stunt where so much of the media are happy to carry the PR line that this is all about building bridges and taking the club forward.
If anyone, anywhere, ever thinks Ashley is good for our club then just look at this.
The question – where’s the money gone?
— If Rafa Goes We Go (@IfRafaGoesWeGo) October 3, 2018
To do that, all that needs to happen is for Mike Ashley to agree to there being proper investment in the playing squad, training complex, Academy and St James Park.
None of these has happened, despite only one of the four being constrained by windows.
What is to stop Mike Ashley announcing after his potato skins that the new essential state of the art training complex that was first announced in 2013, is finally going to happen?
Or after his jellied eels pizza, the owner announcing that Rafa Benitez is to be backed with a properly funded and revamped Academy?
Then maybe after his tenth lager top of the night, agreeing to a belated January investment in the squad, to give Rafa Benitez at least a chance of avoiding relegation?
If Mike Ashley was in any way genuine about improving the club, he would be having private conversations with Rafa Benitez, either in the flesh or on the phone.
He would be meeting behind closed doors and try to convince the manager that things would change, not create a media circus/photo opportunity that achieves nothing.
Mike Ashley was at the match on Saturday and could easily have met and spoken to Rafa Benitez then without anybody knowing, rather than this farce.
It doesn’t prove anything positive, apart from the fact that fan protests are clearly working, so that he feels it necessary to come up to Tyneside and have this pointless PR exercise, just to distract from the supporter protest meeting in the city centre.
He would have been better off heading to St James Park and writing up the minutes from the Newcastle United Fans Forum that happened nine days ago, and which the club are so reluctant to publish, as they attach their spin to the proceedings.
Quite amazing how positive some fans and the local media in particular are trying to be, attempting to attach positive connotations to this meal.
At tonight’s @TheMagpieGroup_ open meeting, @ChiOnwurah MP for Newcastle Central, talks about her support for the club, the petition she presented to parliament & Mike Ashley. “My priority now is to follow the money.” pic.twitter.com/q14O07IHNU
— George Caulkin (@CaulkinTheTimes) October 3, 2018
Suggestions that Mike Ashley could be announcing to manager and players that he is selling up, right down to it being a genuine attempt to open lines of communication and improve the whole mood of the club.
Why don’t people get that he just doesn’t care?
Look at how he acts in his business life elsewhere, ending up in countless grubby legal cases including the current Tony Jimenez one. Playing real life Monopoly with so many companies and thousands of people’s lives. Just look at the cavalier and disingenuous way he is dealing with the issues at House of Fraser.
If Mike Ashley is suddenly taking an interest in Newcastle United, after 13 months without even going to a game, you can rest assured that it won’t be because of any concern about the overall health of the club on or off the pitch, it will simply be for his own selfish reasons.
Tonight’s meal isn’t about any scrap of goodwill to Rafa Benitez, the players, or the fans, it is simply all about Mike Ashley and his ongoing manipulation of and disrespect for our great football club.
Mike Ashley actually puts two fingers up (see video above) to Newcastle fans confronting him after PR meal stunt with Rafa and players tonight,
The PR mask quickly slips….