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It has been missed as to just what an opportunity Mike Ashley has let slip through his hands…again

3 years ago

Mike Ashley the gambler.

Everywhere that is apart from Newcastle United, even when he holds all the aces.

The rest of his business/personal life littered with examples of that willing to have a punt ethos, from betting £1m on a single spin of the roulette wheel, to losing £150m on his recent Debenhams gamble.

It is also never mentioned now about his most disastrous gamble ever, which originated in 2007.

No, not buying Newcastle United, that was/is one of his greatest and most successful gambles, one which has paid out year after year, season after season, and continues to do so.

Back in February 2007 Mike Ashley floated Sports Direct and the share of the company he gave up, suddenly gave him access to around a billion quid.

Newcastle United was swiftly purchased and has been a cornerstone of Sports Direct’s growth, with free worldwide promotion for over a decade.

However, the cash rich Mike Ashley in 2007 also went down the very costly route of betting on the future price of HBoS shares.

In only a year, Ashley was reported to have lost more than £200m betting that the bank’s shares would recover, City spread betting firms making fortunes as the Sports Direct supremo gambled that the bank’s shares would rise.

Bringing us back to football…it is still ever so baffling when you look back at Mike Ashley’s reaction to the fifth place finish of 2011/12.

To refuse any net spend on the squad and only bring in Vurnon Anita financed by sales of a number of squad players, is beyond comprehension.

It was a gift-wrapped opportunity to cement a place in the top six, only a few quality additions could have taken us there, the team that Pardew had inherited from Chris Hughton had massively benefited from the Cabaye and Ba signings, another two or three of those and wh knows?

Instead, any investment was blocked and the next season was a year long relegation fight, only reaching safety when beating QPR in the final away match of the 2012/13 season.

Not far off this stupidity was the 2013/14 debacle, Ashley had fluked it again.

Despite banning any buys in Summer 2013, when Newcastle beat Stoke City 5-1 (Remy(2), Cabaye, Cisse, Gouffran) on Boxing Day 2013, after 18 games NUFC were sixth in the table, ahead of Man Utd and Spurs, only three points off the top four and six points off the top spot.

Cabaye was at the heart of everything and the leader, whilst Loic Remy (14 goals in only 24 NUFC Premier League starts) was a massive hit on loan.

If at that point Mike Ashley had invested on that promise and bought a couple of players in January 2014 then who knows what could have happened, instead nobody was bought, Cabaye was sold for £20m+ and Loic Remy and the rest of the team folded as they knew they were wasting their time, Newcastle fading to mid-table and losing 14 of the final 20 PL matches. There then followed a final day last gap aving from relegation in May 2015, before Ashley succeeded in taking Newcastle down once more a year later.

Fast forward then three years and it isn’t just that Mike Ashley has invited disaster to visit yet again by forcing out Rafa Benitez.

It is far worse than that.

Somehow, despite a zero net spend, Rafa Benitez had managed to put together real foundations of something that was looking very promising.

The solid defence of 2017/18 had been further enhanced with a combined £7m bargain buy of Schar and Dubravka.

Hayden and Longstaff suddenly looking like a partnership that could have real star quality in the future, on the brief couple of months evidence we saw.

Whilst best of all, from nowhere Newcastle looked a real attacking force as Almiron was added to Perez and Rondon.

We weren’t looking at just another season of hanging grimly on to the Premier League.

Realistic investment to bring in players and convince Rafa Benitez to stay, could/would have seen Newcastle as a growing force in the top half, with the right signings who knows where it could have led.

In this scenario of decent signings and Rafa extending, season tickets would have quickly sold out even if Mike Ashley was still in control, after all, an average of over 51,000 in the second tier happened despite Ashley’s malevolent presence.

Who knows what will happen with the takeover, we all hope it exists but hopes are fading.

What is yet again proved is that so long as Mike Ashley is in charge, Newcastle United will never be a proper football club.

Interesting in years to come whether anybody writes the book via insight by people close to Mike Ashley, that can explain to us why he gambled in every other aspect of his life apart from where his football club was concerned?


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