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Tyne Talk

Mike Ashley NUFC takeover day interview has now been fact checked

3 weeks ago
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Mike Ashley has gone.

Thursday’s dramatic events seeing the end of over 14 years of his ownership of Newcastle United.

At a point where countless Newcastle fans had given up any remaining hope of ever seeing the back of Mike Ashley, in the space of little more than 24 hours we went from initial reports of a peace deal between Saudi Arabia and beIN Sports, to official confirmation of the sale of Newcastle United.

Mike Ashley hasn’t gone quietly though.

The outgoing owner keen to get across his side of the story about his ownership of our great club.

Mike Ashley giving an ‘interview’ to The Sun on the day the Newcastle United takeover was completed.

I say ‘interview’ because in my opinion (and no doubt most of you out there) this won’t of course have been Mike Ashley sitting down with a journalist and being asked questions.

Instead, just the same as the embarrassing attempted hatchet job (‘Joelinton was the test’) on Rafa Benitez back in July 2019, when Mike Ashley did his ‘interview’ with The Mail. We are obviously talking about Mike Ashley’s PR people handing a set of ‘quotes’ from Ashley for the newspaper(s) to publish.

A no-brainer for the newspaper(s) of course, an exclusive handed to them that people, not just Newcastle fans, will want to read.

Which is for me, where you have to understand where Mike Ashley and his PR spin people are coming from, with this ‘interview’ after selling Newcastle United.

He isn’t trying to convince / change minds of Newcastle fans, he / they know that’s a hopeless cause. Instead it is Mike Ashley and his people wanting to get the message out to media and non-Newcastle fans, with the belief that he can sell them his version of what has gone on at St James Park – as opposed to what Newcastle United supporters and journalists with integrity are saying…

These are extracts (and fact checking) from the Mike Ashley interview with The Sun – 7 October 2021:

“I would like it to be known that I received a higher offer for the club than the one that I accepted. It was from another reputable bidder, who made a credible case. But I felt the bid that we accepted from the current new owners would deliver the best for Newcastle United.”

(Hmmm. Only a week ago (Wednesday 29 September 2021) at the Competition Appeal Tribunal hearing, Daniel Jowell QC was representing Mike Ashley (through his holding company St James’ Holdings’ Ltd (SJHL)).

The (then!) NUFC owner’s QC said that Mike Ashley was claiming damages because Ashley’s losses had been “substantial and exceed £10m” in relation to what he (Ashley) would have banked from the sale to the Saudis, compared to what he might otherwise get from other credible buyers who had came forward.)

“Money wasn’t my only consideration. There were times when I stepped in financially to keep Newcastle United afloat. We ensured the wage bills were paid when we went down in order that we could bounce straight back up.”

(The two times in 12 Premier League seasons that Mike Ashley relegated Newcastle United, the owner did indeed put money into the club to help ensure it came straight back into the Premier League. However, to present this as though he was doing it for any other reason than his own personal interests / wealth is laughable.

If he hadn’t kept Newcastle United ‘afloat’ (after Ashley had relegated it due to gross mismanagement), he wouldn’t have now had an asset that he just pocketed over £300m for! Quite incredible that he is trying to sell this line, his whole model of running Newcastle United was to have it ‘ticking along’ in the Premier League so that his retail empire got the massive worldwide exposure mainly via the Premier League TV deals and St James Park branding, whilst also banking the PL level revenues that would keep it hopefully crawling from season to season.

Both times when Mike Ashley put money in after relegation, he then took it back out ASAP after promotion. No decent intelligent owner would have done this, as in particular when he did it after Rafa got Newcastle back up, it was massively risking yet another relegation as it meant so little money to strengthen the squad. Mike Ashley made his comment about Rafa Benitez getting ‘every penny’ the club made to spend on players BUT saying this when knowing he would be taking his loan back out of the cash flow / profits, meaning there were no ‘pennies’ to spend, or very few at best.)

“I’ve known for some time now that many Newcastle fans were frustrated by the situation and were in favour of a change. I therefore felt that I owed it to the fans to fight tooth and nail over the last 18 months or so to make this happen.”

(Once again, the idea that Mike Ashley’s motivation was because ‘I therefore felt that I owed it to the fans’ is just beyond belief, it is out of step with how he has ran the club all these years, treating Newcastle fans with absolute contempt. Mike Ashley was desperate to do this deal only for himself.)

“Despite what some people may think, I have always had nothing but the greatest respect for the Newcastle United fans.”

(You have to laugh. Mike Ashley has had a very funny way of showing this year after year. I won’t list all of his indiscretions as we would be here all day, I will leave you to make you own lists. However, it would have been nice to see Mike Ashley / his PR spin people give us just a few examples of how he showed his ‘greatest respect for the Newcastle United fans’…he even put the block on what had become farcical NUFC fan forums some years ago (long before covid) because the odd awkward question was asked of Lee Charnley and Ashley’s running of the club. Ashley breaking Premier League rules that say clubs must have meaningful regular interaction / meetings with supporters.)

“My greatest regret was that we so narrowly missed out on a Champions League place in 2011-12 when we finished fifth. We were a whisker away. I hoped that we could go on to build from there but it was not to be.”

(This is a cracker. Out of nowhere the signings of Ba and Cabaye helped propel Newcastle into fifth place in 2011/12, with those two and Cisse and Ben Arfa, scoring incredible goals match after match, so many games won by individual brilliance as opposed to what the actual team performance had deserved in so many instances. It was a massive gift and opportunity for Newcastle to build on, to become established top six regulars. In early summer 2012, Alan Pardew spoke openly about signings that were being targeted to keep that momentum going, one interview on Radio Newcastle in particular he was name checking targets and hinting clearly at the identity of others. Clearly Pardew was of the belief that there was going to be significant investment to increase the quality and depth of the squad, particularly with having a European campaign to look forward to as well as league demands.

In the event though Mike Ashley allowed not a penny of net spend in summer 2012. Instead, squad utility player Vurnon Anita was signed for £6.7m and paid for by the departure of the likes of squad players Leon Best and Fraser Forster. Mike Ashley did the very opposite of building on that potential breakthrough fifth place. Instead, things were allowed to totally fall apart and clearly this was massively down to the team seeing no ambition shown that summer. Newcastle ended up going from fifth in 2011/12 to only safe from relegation when winning the final away game of 2012/13 at QPR. Yet again Mike Ashley had shown that only trying to survive in the Premier League mattered, because whilst he refused to allow a penny of net spend in summer 2012, he then allowed five panic signings to be made in January 2013 as Newcastle were deep in relegation trouble.)

“Owning a football club gets into your blood and I would love nothing more than to see Newcastle winning trophies.”

(So this is why for years Mike Ashley actually had an official club policy of not trying to compete in the cup competitions!)

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