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Opinion

This small piece of evidence might be important – Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce worth a look

4 weeks ago
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Another milestone for Mike Ashley coming up on Sunday with Newcastle United.

Exactly 14 years since he bought Sir John Hall’s shares and effectively bought Newcastle United, with the buying up of the rest of the shareholding a formality.

Sir John Hall revealed later exactly why Mike Ashley had bought our football club, Ashley’s people telling the outgoing owner that the Sports Direct supremo was going to use the football club to promote his retail empire around the world.

Not one of us at the time in any way comprehended what that would in reality, entail.

This was simply an English self-made Billionaire taking over a football club where it would be win-win for fans and new owner, Mike Ashley would be driven to bring success on the football pitch because that is how he would extract his benefits from ownership. A club / business / asset that could increase significantly in value, the use of NUFC to promote his other businesses, the thrill of seeing ‘his’ team win lots of football matches and surely a trophy or two as well as regular European football, as surely these latter things essential to the success of the rest.

Looking back almost 14 years, it is quite incredible just how badly we got this one wrong.

None of us could have predicted that the Mike Ashley business model for getting his ideal return out of owning Newcastle United, was simply survival in the Premier League with the lowest possible spend. That so long as the club had access to the worldwide TV deals that came with being any Premier League club, that was it. Attempting to be anything more than that was simply not part of the plan, trying to win trophies (an official club policy for most of Ashley’s ownership of not even trying in the cup competitions) and / or get into Europe was seen as not worth the hassle / time / expense. The thinking being, what more value would it give Mike Ashley beyond the worldwide TV deals provided by Premier League participation? Not a lot clearly in his eyes, particularly European football where UEFA take over the advertising at your matches, so no SD adverts at SJP on European nights.

Mike Ashley wasn’t averse of course to trying to extract even more value out of his ownership of Newcastle United, especially if it was free…so as well as St James Park completely swamped by Ashley tat empire adverts, we saw SJP become renamed the Sports Direct Arena, with not a single penny paid by his shops for the privilege.

Newcastle fans now understand what Mike Ashley ownership is, it equates to zero ambition, regular relegations and even more regular close shaves with relegation. For Mike Ashley the plan / takeover has been a complete success, he and his retail empire are worth far more than was the case back in May 2007 and despite not spending one more penny than he has been forced to on its upkeep, his asset / club is worth far more than he paid for it. With a huge profit to come if he can sell to the Saudis, a not quite so huge profit if he still goes ahead and sells NUFC at market value to another interested buyer.

Anyway, last night, a came across an interesting small piece of evidence that might be important.

Certainly important enough for Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce to be worth having a look.

It is something called the Premier League table.

Things have got so much more bizarre in the coverage of Newcastle United these last couple of years, thanks largely to the popularity of Steve Bruce with football people and journalists, NUFC fans have found themselves having to go to ever increasing and strange lengths to defend their position. That position of course being that they can see the football has been absolutely terrible, the club clearly in very real danger of a third Mike Ashley relegation, due to the way he runs the club and especially the employment of Steve Bruce.

We see and hear so many lunatic level comments from the likes of Simon Jordan, Robbie Savage, Chris Sutton, Danny Murphy, so many ex-football nobodies who when you google / wiki them, almost every time turn out to have had some past connection with Bruce (played with him, played for him, family…!).

Dion Dublin taking it to a new level of pathetic, when at the weekend on live TV, publicly shamed himself by actually clapping Steve Bruce for the brilliant job he has done.

So, when you clear everything else out of your head, all the daft things that Bruce’s mates have argued, very rarely based on any facts. We have that Premier League table above, with only four days until the season ends.

If you look carefully, looking towards the bottom…Newcastle United are in 17th place, with only fresh air below them and then eventually three very detached poor teams.

Just imagine, if by some miraculous / disastrous scenario, one of those three had managed to get 40 points by now.

Newcastle United would be relegated unless something positive happened in these final two games and handful of days of the season.

That is how close NUFC, with Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce, have come to disaster this season. Just look, only two clubs have conceded more goals than Newcastle, it isn’t by accident that we are right down there, NUFC haven’t even reached 40 points yet.

This club is an absolute joke under this ownership and the media coverage has matched that, especially these last two seasons.

Nothing will ever properly change whilst Mike Ashley owns it.

If there is no takeover this summer, we face the prospect of Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce continuing on their merry way, with widespread media reports stating that there will be minimal, if any, transfer kitty made available this summer by Ashley.

Have a look at that Premier League table above once again because that will be the plan yet again, pinning all hopes on another three terrible teams / clubs next season. The only problem though is, Newcastle United could very likely be one of those three next time.

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