Letter to Mike Ashley
Mr Mike Ashley
St James Park
Newcastle Upon Tyne
It’s not going well is it? (Although that was a decent point at Wolves!)
It’s not going well for you and it’s certainly not going well for us.
I’m quite sure that when you parted ways with Rafa you weren’t expecting having to give away (GIVE AWAY!) 10,000 free tickets for half the season in order to fill the ground. But here we are.
It appears that all those people who were saying, ‘If Rafa goes, we go’ weren’t bluffing, at least 10,000 of them weren’t. 10,000 is a lot! That’s 20% of the paying public! If I was you, I’d be a bit worried about next season as well, it could get worse. Who knows, it might even start affecting how many NUFC matches are televised. Ouch!
Anyway, I just thought I would drop you a line and see if I can help out with a word of advice. But before I do, can we just nail this myth that you are actively trying to sell the club?
I think if that was true you would have done it already; whatever else is said about you, no one can deny that you are a man who can make decisions and stick to them. Buying and selling is what you do. So, let’s assume, in your own words, that you ‘…could own this club forever.’ That, by definition, is a long time, so, if things are going to improve you need all the help you can get!
So, in a spirit of helpfulness can I point out that this thing, that what you might possibly own forever, is a football club.
It’s not an investment, it’s not a plaything and it is certainly not a PR vehicle. At least if it is going to be any of those things it has to be, primarily, a fully functioning and, dare I say it, a moderately successful football club. What I want to say is this, the most important thing to get right at a football club is the football! The one thing that will be most effective in making you happy and making all of us happy, is for Newcastle United to win football matches. Whisper it ever so gently, but if we could join a few victories together and win a trophy or two, we might all start getting on much better.
This is the reason you shot yourself in the foot (or as you memorably put it, ‘blew my own leg off’). You employed a manager who got the football thing, who was a bit of a football obsessive, and rather a successful one at that. He had managed teams that won real trophies. He’s what, in the game, is called a winner. And you employed him for three seasons as the manager of your football club. Well done! That is undoubtedly your greatest achievement in more than 12 years of ownership. But, sadly, you didn’t appreciate what you had.
You only met him on three occasions. Are you mad? You should have been sitting down with him as often as possible, picking his brains, making the greatest possible use of his knowledge and networks. You should have been resourcing him, leveraging his ability. But you chose not to. Instead you deliberately kept him on a tight rein. You have lavished other managers with relative riches but not the man who would have spent it most wisely.
I’m also a bit worried about your man Lee. He’s being asked to do way too much. He’s appointing Head Coaches, signing off transfers, negotiating contracts, giving away tickets and organising the decorating. Come on Mike, is this fair? He doesn’t know much about football. Remember this is the guy who was so keen on McClaren and look what happened there!
So, if you’re going to continue with this Head Coach malarkey you really do need to get someone else in who knows about football to do the important football stuff so that Mr Charnley can spend more of his time getting a better price for the paint. And don’t ask Bishop and Barnes, they wouldn’t know the difference between playing in the hole and a flat back four!
Do you remember those halcyon days when you first bought the club, wearing the shirt, sitting with the fans, paying everyone’s bar tab in Blu Bambu. You said that you, ‘wanted to enjoy yourself’, and back then you did, we all did. But that seems like a lifetime away. What if it was possible to get some of that enjoyment back? What would it take?
One thing only, a successful football team, a team that competed at the top of the Premier League, rather than the bottom, a team that had a good cup run most seasons, a team that qualified for Europe now and then, a team that was good to watch and a team of heroes for a new generation to get excited about.
You have said repeatedly that you have made mistakes, now is the time to start learning from them. If you aren’t going to sell, the best thing you can do is change your thinking. Get the football right and everything else falls into place.
In the summer you said, ‘Joelinton was the test.’ You got all excited about Joelinton, you couldn’t wait to tell Rafa. You must have been gutted when he wasn’t impressed and, looking back, you have to agree he had a point. It wasn’t the money that was the real problem with Rafa, was it? It was the control.
So, you’re back in control now, what are you going to do with it? Whatever you do, remember this one thing, the most important stuff that happens in the life of a football club is what happens on that green turf. Get that right (I’m going to get some serious flak here but I’ll say it) and one day you might just hear, ‘Ashley, Ashley give us a wave!’ And we’ll look forward to you paying the bar tab again!
A long suffering Mag.
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