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A surprise to find skeletons in the closet at Sports Direct with Mike Ashley? No, not at all

11 months ago

Mike Ashley is now in the 13th season of his NUFC reign.

Whilst Steve Bruce has been Newcastle United Head Coach these past four months.

So what is the state of play for Newcastle fans at St James Park?

With the (third of the season already!) international break giving us all time to reflect, we have asked some of our regular/irregular contributors a few questions…

Next up is Travis Bickle:

What were your expectations and what have you judged to be the reality of each of the summer signings? Were they the positions Newcastle needed to strengthen and were they the right individuals?

I’m not sure I’m in much of a position to pass judgement on the summer signings.

The problem I have is – chronic lack of enthusiasm.

I have been obsessed with NUFC since about 1977. Over those years I’ve devoted vast amounts of time, mental energy and money to following the club. But in the summer I just thought “what’s the point??”. It feels to me like we’re all being played for fools – and nobody likes being played for a fool.

So I’ve lost a bit of interest – temporarily I’m sure. I live away and have done for a number of years. It takes a lot of effort and money for me to get to the match – and at the moment I simply can’t be bothered.

I’m not boycotting – not as such. I’m just not making the effort.

Would I be going if I lived closer? Probably, I suppose. I’ve seen a lot worse than this over the years – but I don’t think I’ve seen anything as dull and dis-heartening.

There were years in the 70s and 80s and 90s when things were much worse than they are now – except that there was always hope then, and a sort of us-against-the-world rage. Now it just seems – dull, and a bit pointless.

Anyway, to get back to the question – I’ve always thought that you can only really judge a player properly if you’re seeing him in the flesh, and I haven’t bothered to go this season, so I’ll reserve judgement.

Newcastle United have 15 points after 12 games, have Steve Bruce and his team deserved that number of points based on performances or have they deserved more or less?

Like I say, I haven’t been going to the games. I’ve seen some shocking stuff on the telly. But then again it seems to me like most of the teams in the league (outside the top four or five) are much of a muchness. Mid-table mediocrity – that seems to me to be about right.

With everybody fit what would be your first choice central midfield pair and do you think they are good enough, or does a better option need to be signed to replace one or both?

I like seeing the local lads playing – so probably Sean Longstaff. And since the whole business this season seems so boring and pointless, I’d nearly always play Shelvey – because he tends to generate a bit more colour and excitement.

Did Mike Ashley make any serious attempt to keep Rafa Benitez and was Steve Bruce his first choice replacement?

No – I don’t think Ashley wanted Rafa at the club any more.

I think he found Rafa too much hassle, too much of a challenge.

Was Bruce his first choice? To be honest I’d be surprised if Ashley gave a stuff. I think we probably spend a lot more time thinking about NUFC than he does. My guess is his instructions to Charnley will have been something along the lines of: “Find me someone not too dear, who’s going to cause less hassle and generate fewer headlines – not bothered who. Tell me when it’s done!”

What are your feelings about Ashley selling off the land opposite the Gallowgate for a personal profit after buying it from the club, realistically ending any chance of ever expanding St James Park in the future?

What can you say – it’s a terrible, terrible shame. It means he’ll continue to hobble the club even after he’s gone – and he will be gone one day.

Is there more chance of Mike Ashley selling if Newcastle are doing well or badly on the pitch?

I’ve always thought that there are two scenarios in which I can see Ashley selling.

One is if someone with more money than sense comes along and pays over the odds – we’ve been waiting for that for a long time now.

The other is if his non-football businesses go down the plughole. Most of his other assets are high-street based – which isn’t the easiest sector to be in nowadays. There are plenty of other examples of business moguls who one minute looked all-powerful and the next minute had everything fall about their ears.

I’m old enough to remember Robert Maxwell. One day he was one of the most powerful men in the country; the next he was gone altogether and his empire had crumbled into nothing. Or take Phillip Green as another example.

Would it surprise me to find that there were skeletons in the closet at Sports Direct? No, not at all.

So I don’t think it’s what happens on the football field that will, eventually, lead Ashley to sell up and leave.

I think he’ll sell, one day, because his other businesses are struggling and he needs to free up the money he has tied up in the club.


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