If saying Sir John Hall no better than Mike Ashley you should take head out of Walter Mitty land
Sir John Hall has had his fair share to say about Newcastle United recently. In fact, if you consider his public support in the media for the Conservative Party in the local elections, it almost seems like John Hall is making an extra effort to put himself back in the spotlight.
Of course anything he says seems to be met with scepticism from Newcastle fans, with many of the comments I read placing him in the same bracket as Mike Ashley when speaking about previous Newcastle owners.
Now I haven’t grown up with blinkers on, and from my parents, their friends, as well as other Newcastle fans, I am all too aware of some of the mistakes John Hall made in his role as custodian of Newcastle United. However, I just can’t get my ahead around anyone that says he is anything like Mike Ashley.
You might not like to hear it but it is my opinion that John Hall, the man who brought Kevin Keegan back to Newcastle United (with the aid of Freddie Fletcher), is one of the most important figures in our entire history.
John Hall literally did save Newcastle United from the brink. Not only that, but he took Newcastle United (again with the help of Kevin Keegan) from the bottom of the second division to the top of the Premier League. From gates of 15-20,000 to 52,000 every week.
From a team whose most recent exploits of playing in Europe since the fairs cup was the Texaco cup, to one that was playing in the later stages of the European Cup against the likes of Barcelona and Juventus. From a team that sold its best local talent to one that signed the best footballer in the world for a world record transfer.
Yes, he took his fair share out of the club, but fair play to him for that. Maybe twenty years ago that business/profit mindset was hard to grasp for football fans, but in this day and age when all clubs are run in a business like fashion, you can’t begrudge an owner taking his bit from his own success. That is the key here in this example. John Hall wanted Newcastle United to be the best club it could possibly be.
Now even though he may claim to be a lifelong Newcastle fan who stood on the terraces as a child, John Hall has never really struck me as a football man – and quite frankly I don’t really care. You don’t have to be a football man to understand what is good for a football club. I don’t think you can really debate that John Hall did not want what was best for Newcastle United.
At the end of the day what was best for Newcastle United was best for John Hall because it allowed him to make more money. It was a great example of how to speculate to accumulate.
John Hall built a new training ground, he tried to build a new stadium and when he failed he extended on SJP to create what is in my opinion one of the best and most unique football stadia in the world. He was a Geordie, and he understood that for Newcastle United to be a success, you have to get the fans onside.
Sometimes his ambitions were too high. Can you believe that?
An owner with ambitions so high for Newcastle United that they couldn’t keep up.
Sporting Club Newcastle best encapsulates how John Hall at times let his imagination run too wild. He wanted Newcastle to be like Barcelona. Yet even to this day, can you imagine if he had pulled it off? The city’s sports teams leading in their respective sports. It is a far cry from the shallow pittance of the club that exists today.
Even under John Hall and then Freddie Shepherd, the downfall of Newcastle United from top four/six and consistent European football to a mid-table side didn’t come on because of a lack ambition or investment but because of a terrible managerial choice (Souness) and bad signings (too many to name).
Of course the one terrible and immoral thing that Sir John Hall did was to sell the club to Mike Ashley. Not because of who Mike Ashley has turned out to be though.
Did he know it would mean the disgraceful treatment of Shearer/Keegan, free advertising for 10 years or the general mess the way Ashley has ran the club? No, I certainly don’t think so. However, the decision to do it behind Freddie Shepherd’s back while he was in hospital is something that does not sit well with anyone. It showed him to be a guy that at the end of the day, only really cared about the money.
I even read recently a few comments blaming John Hall for Sir Bobby’s sacking. In reality, I think this is another case of fans having short memories. There was obviously a combination of a lot of things that eventually led to Bobby getting the sack… and the nufc fanbase are by no means guilt free in that. I am sure that the fact 75% of the ground left after the final home game of the season to Wolves, after Newcastle secured a brilliant 5th place finish, played a big role in the board thinking they could get away with sacking Bobby after three or four games the following season.
John Hall was no saint. He wasn’t a fan, and he wasn’t like you and me but by god, he was the antithesis of Mike Ashley. Yes they had one thing in common – they both ultimately wanted to make money out of Newcastle United. Yet John Hall went about it through time, effort, passion, investment, pride and ambition. Words that cannot be used to describe Mike Ashley (especially the last two). I think that anyone who says John Hall is no better than Mike Ashley should take their head out of walter mitty land.
He was responsible for the greatest period in the past 50 years of the club’s history.
If you try to make the club the best it can be, invest in the stadia, the team, the city, the fans then I have no qualms with you writing yourself a little bonus at the end of the year.
You can follow the author on Twitter @_jonathandc
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