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Opinion

Why Getting Rid Of Mike Ashley Has A Unique Meaning For Me

7 months ago
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Everyone has their trigger point and at the start of the 2018/19 season, I added my weight behind the If Rafa Goes We Go movement in relation to the situation with Mike Ashley at Newcastle United.

Last summer was the final straw for me.

We had reached a point where sensible investment could have seen us finally become a half decent club. Rafa had the designs, ability and belief to transform our club.

Mike Ashley should have sold up that season and let an ambitious owner take over and invest in the Rafa project. We know what happened instead and therefore, with a heavy heart, I decided enough was enough.

I had already been boycotting all of Ashley’s brands for a while but decided I would attend no more games or buy any Newcastle merchandise this season.

I live in the South West, so it is much easier for me to start boycotting the club than those on the frontline at the other side/end of the country. However, I do try and get to St James’ a couple of times a year and attend a few away games. I’ve been to fourteen games over the last two seasons and I buy the home and away shirt (sometimes the third) every year without fail. Last year I bought the shirts from JD Sports rather than the club shop but this year I won’t even do that. I don’t want a penny of my money going to that man.

I was at the West Ham game last season and was part of the 11th minute walk in but I was surprised how little support that got and how much abuse those of us that were there received from other fans.

I love the city of Newcastle and the night out it provides, so I decided this season I would come up for New Year’s Eve. We would be playing Leicester at home on New Year’s Day so I could come up, have a great night out and then feel like I was more part of the boycott by sitting in a pub watching the game rather than the stadium.

I convinced a pal to come with me, although he was adamant we should go to the game. Big mistake. After sitting in a café hearing me rant for two hours on the history of Ashley’s ownership, he soon regretted that suggestion. As fans, we are aware of every flurry of deceit, backwards step and cataclysmic error that we’ve experienced under this ownership but it’s crazy how few of the rest of the footballing world are wise to his ways.

We got into Newcastle late on the 30th and had a couple of pints in the Dog and Parrot, although we kind of felt like chaperones, such was the age difference between us and the majority of the clientele.

The next day, I took him all around the city and he agreed with me that it is a special place. We ate at Pizza Punks before skirting round a few bars and then watching the fireworks down by the Quayside. After that we boogied at Greys Club until 4am.

New Year’s Day we headed up to the stadium and I led my friend around the perimeter showing him the statues and revisiting the stories I’d already bored him with about Shearer’s statue having to be paid for by Freddy Shepherd and placed on council land, Shearer’s Bar being renamed to Nine and, of course, the most recent travesty; the sale of the land at Strawberry Place. When the fans started flooding into the stadium, I was amazed at how flat everyone was. There was no singing or chanting from the fans I saw.

I came up to watch us play Sunderland in Rafa’s only Tyne/Wear derby, the year we got relegated. My friend and I were having a pint in The Gate and could hear fans singing right through the streets, let alone outside the stadium.

We headed into The Strawberry to watch the game and expected a bit of atmosphere in there before it cleared out but there was nothing.
I don’t need to say much about the game. It went pretty much as expected apart from the injury onslaught. Others have done plenty of talking about this issue so I won’t go into it.

What I do want to talk about is getting rid of Mike Ashley.

This club has become such an embarrassment it’s infuriating for a fan the other side of the country, so I can only imagine how you locals feel.

The game day buzz is gone. The belief, ambition, passion has all been drained by one selfish, arrogant and foolish man.

Now is the time that those of you that can make a difference, should do precisely that. Whether you stay away from games, join in the protests and actions organised by the boycott groups or visibly show your discontent with banners and chants at the games themselves, we need to be United more than ever.

I have my own selfish stake in all of this. I want to move to Newcastle. It has been a dream of mine since I was at school to live in Newcastle and be a season ticket holder for at least one year. My visits up there and the amazing times I’ve had have only furthered that ambition. This latest trip reminded me yet again of how much I love the city and I’m forever perusing Rightmove, eyeing up potential places to live.

But I won’t do it whilst Mike is still lingering. He’s been here 13 years now and is 55 years old. At some point he HAS to get bored of this project and sell us off. He’s nearly stripped us of all our worth, so I pray that it’s only a matter of time now.

I took a job six years ago for a company that has an office in Newcastle, with the intention of moving up after a year or so with my girlfriend and young son. Unfortunately, my girlfriend and I broke up and moving to the Toon seemed like it would be extremely difficult verging on impossible.

However, with my son’s mum showing all the maternal instincts of a harp seal, I think there’s a good chance I could come up with my boy now. I still work at the same company and the possibility of an office switch is there.

It would be amazing to bring him up with me and have us both be season ticket holders under a forward-thinking new owner. I could tell him all about my childhood watching the likes of Shearer, Lee, Solano, Robert and Given whilst he falls in love with his own generation of heroes.

Who knows, it could become my full-time home. I could find myself a Geordie wife and settle up there.

In a way it’s been the easiest time to be a football fan. I don’t even care if Newcastle win anymore. When I watch a game, I still punch the air with joy if we score or win. However, losing doesn’t disappoint me. It just seems like a potential necessity towards getting rid of Mike. I would take relegation and no instant rebound if it meant pouring salt on the slug. It amazes me that I feel this way as the last two relegations crushed me…but this is what he’s driven me to.

Mike Ashley is a cancer to this club. We need chemotherapy.

Yes, at first it could be painful, and we may suffer greatly for some time but, if it kills the cancer, we’ll benefit from it in the long run.

It’s time to stand up and be counted.

You can follow the author on Twitter @billymerlin

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