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Opinion

Arthur Daley and Ocean Going Yachts

5 months ago
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The annual mind games have begun again to no one’s great surprise.

Is it for real this time? Will Mike Ashley at long last take the money and run?

Is there money on the table, is it enough? Who exactly will be running the club if it does go through?

Once again the fanbase is teased and tormented, wanting to believe that Ashley’s tenure is almost at an end, but fearing that sense of disappointment as yet another supposed bid comes to nothing.

Staveley, Kenyon, BZG were all false dawns that didn’t break because of, well, because of reasons that we don’t know and can only guess at, a reluctant vendor, lack of funds, who knows?!

My take on it, as a know nothing punter, is that there is hard interest out there in buying the club. According to the Press Association there are three interested parties looking to buy. That level of interest might explain the leaking to the Wall Street Journal of Saudi interest at the weekend. It’s also certainly in the interest of Mike Ashley to create a bidding war.

The question for fans is, who would we like to see owning our club?

Given, of course, that we have no say whatsoever. And at the back of many minds is that nagging doubt, will it be out of the frying pan and into the fire?

There are many reasons why individuals and, increasingly, groups own football clubs. For some it’s purely financial, an attempt to make money. For others it’s because they have a passion for the game. There are those who have done well for themselves and want to put something back into the club and the town that they grew up in. Some owners, ours included, appear to do it as part of a wider corporate strategy.

Supporters cannot choose who will own their club. If there are three bidders at the moment for Newcastle United, there’s not going to be a ballot sent to season ticket holders and members asking for their preference – although that’s a nice idea!! But there is no reason why we shouldn’t express our opinions.

Many years ago as a child I went to a pre-season open day at Darlington FC, my local professional football club at the time. I couldn’t help notice that among the cars parked in the Directors’ Car Park were several second hand Jags, Arthur Daley’s preferred mode of transport.

Football has always attracted its fair proportion of chancers and wide boys. In the Premier League those wide boys may have pockets the size of ocean going yachts but they are wide boys nevertheless.

At the moment we have an owner whose plan for the club is in conflict with supporters’ hopes and expectations. We have been told of an interested buyer with pockets so deep they could easily buy the success we crave. But what do we want?

I think we want an owner with integrity, an owner we can be proud of. It may be that Saudi interest is principally about ‘sportswashing’ a deeply unsavoury track record of human rights abuses. If so, are we happy to take the millions that will potentially transform the club and even the city? And how will we feel when we are the club that is suddenly awash with money, buying its way to the top?

We have bemoaned the way in which Ashley has ripped out the soul of the club. Will money alone restore that?

Rather, this club need an owner who ‘gets it’! We need an owner who understands what Newcastle United is all about, an owner who understands the area, the history, the passion, the ‘radgieness’, the all consuming love that people have for their club. An owner who understands football in the 21st Century, how it works and what it can mean to a community.

Whatever the critics say, Newcastle United is a club with some status and even greater potential. We don’t have a right to always be in the Premier League but properly owned and managed, the Premier League is where we should always be.

Given the level of support and the reality of being the only club in the city we should generally be in the top half of the Premier League as well.

So, we need an owner who can match that status, fulfil the potential, restore the pride and give us hope. What that will look like who knows, but if it looks like a silver trophy, well, that would do for a start.

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