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Sky Sports description of how Mike Ashley ran Newcastle United – Astonishing

2 months ago
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After over 14 years of owning Newcastle United, Mike Ashley is suddenly gone.

For many Newcastle fans it still feels a little surreal, feeling like…has this really happened.

Indeed, an entire generation of fans know nothing other than a Newcastle United ran by Mike Ashley.

There will be Newcastle fans who hadn’t even started secondary school when Mike Ashley took over in May 2007 and who in the meantime have gone all the way through school, then completed university / apprenticeships, got married, are well into their working careers and have kids of their own. These supporters celebrating new ambitious owners for the first time in their football supporting days AND their kids’ lifetime.

It is inevitable that in the weeks, months and years to come, we will not only have the obvious intensive coverage of how Newcastle United get on under these new owners, as well as that we will get people referencing back to the Mike Ashley days and what exactly did / didn’t happen during those fifteen seasons under the SD owner.

I was interested to see / hear this from Keith Downie, he covers Newcastle United and as we prepare for this first match under the new Saudi ownership, he looks at the challenges / potential ahead, whilst at the same time looking back at what has happened under Mike Ashley this past decade and a half.

The Sky Sports Newcastle United reporter Keith Downie speaking on the Essential Football Podcast:

“In terms of FFP, the club is in a good position because they haven’t spent much money in recent years, which increased the amount the new owners can spend, because Mike Ashley has been so prudent.

“But what isn’t so attractive is the condition of the club: the stadium certainly needs work done to it and a lick of paint, and the consortium are well aware of that.

“Amanda Staveley described the training ground as ‘awful’ last week, so that’s something she’ll want to either completely start again, or refurbish, but I’d imagine they’d want to rip it up and start again.

“They don’t own the land the training ground is on, so I’d imagine they might build an entirely new training ground elsewhere, similar to what we saw at Leicester, where they built theirs at a local golf course.

“And they obviously want to invest in the city. Newcastle’s stadium sits right in the heart of the city centre, amongst the bars and restaurants and nightlife, unlike many stadiums these days.

“So they want to improve the surrounding area, like we’ve seen at Manchester City, to bring it up to that standard.

“They want to invest in the infrastructure of the club behind the scenes, the commercial side of the club, and they also want to improve the academy, which isn’t the best, and they want to invest in the women’s team.

“So they basically want to invest at every level of the club to make Newcastle a superpower, like we see from Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea, and others.”

“It’s not just a case of coming in and throwing money at the playing squad, they know this is a huge project and they want to bring Newcastle up to that level.

“They are also aware that if they have more money to play with for signings, they know they have to increase the revenue into the club. That will allow them to spend more in the next few transfer windows.

“I think that can be easily achieved here, because the club has been run so prudently for the last 14 years by Mike Ashley.

“Their aim is to be up there, challenging, and hopefully winning the Premier League within five or 10 years.

“It took Man City three years to win their first trophy, and four to win their first title. I know that Newcastle fans might not want to hear this, but I think they’d be quite content with three years between now and winning their first trophy.

“There’s a lot of work to be done – this is a squad with a relegation battle on their hands, in the bottom three, have two-and-a-half months to get through without signing any players. I think they’d look at Man City as a good model.

“I know Newcastle fans will be desperate for instant success but I don’t think it’s as simple as that.

“The owners want to do it gradually, do it properly, and want to make sure they make the right decisions for the club and city.

“But at least fans know they’ll be competitive, because under Mike Ashley, they’ve never been competitive, they’ve just existed in the Premier League.”

A couple of bits I would like to pick out in particular…

“In terms of FFP, the club is in a good position because they haven’t spent much money in recent years, which increased the amount the new owners can spend, because Mike Ashley has been so prudent.”

and

“They are also aware that if they have more money to play with for signings, they know they have to increase the revenue into the club. That will allow them to spend more in the next few transfer windows. I think that can be easily achieved here, because the club has been run so prudently for the last 14 years by Mike Ashley.”

Definition of ‘Prudently’ – ‘In a way that shows care and thought for the future.’

Definition of ‘Prudent’ – ‘Showing good judgment in avoiding risks and uncertainties.’

Hmmm, Mike Ashley having been ‘prudent ‘ at NUFC and ‘prudently’ running Newcastle United since 2007…really???

So Mike Ashley shown ‘care and thought for the future’ by refusing to properly invest in both the playing squad and the infrastructure of the football club.

A table on how much this past decade (2011-2020) each Premier League club have spent on their infrastructure (stadium, training ground, academy etc), table courtesy of the Price of Football:

Premier League Clubs Infrastructure Spending 2011 to 2020It is just plain embarrassing what Mike Ashley did (didn’t!) do at Newcastle United, he inherited a stadium that had seen a massive redevelopment and upgrade completed only seven years before he did the takeover, then in these next 15 years hasn’t spent a penny that he hasn’t been forced to, on that or the training ground, or the academy.

This failure to invest in the future just means that whoever comes along next, has so much more work to do and spending needed, just to catch up on these last 15 years where Newcastle have been left behind / overtaken by so many other clubs, never mind to get ahead of them!

When it comes to ‘care and thought for the future’, you have Mike Ashley who has bought land from the club and then sold it at a personal profit to developers, land that the previous owners invested club money in opposite the Gallowgate end, land that was bought and which had plans drawn up, so that in the future a stadium bang right in the city centre could still be able to be enlarged to at least 60,000 capacity. Ashley still did this despite only five seasons ago Newcastle United filled St James Park with a 51,106 home average across 23 games in the Championship!

The thing is as well, it has been anything but prudent what Mike Ashley has allowed to happen with the playing squad, I’m sure the new owners would have infinitely preferred to be taking over a squad largely made up of players who are good enough for at least the next few years ahead, instead of one where instead of buying much needed better qualities, the now departed owner gave almost the entire squad extended new contracts. Meaning very very few players you can see as the starting point for this new era.

The fact that this refusal to properly invest over so many years then means that due to the quirks of FFP rules in football, the new owners have more freedom to spend cash over and above their revenues in the short-term, is just pure coincidence / luck. It wasn’t Mike Ashley having been ‘prudent’ or doing this as some kind of careful planning to help the next owner who would offer him enough riches to sell and run away.

As for ‘Showing good judgment in avoiding risks and uncertainties’ over these near 15 years, well two relegations in twelve Premier League seasons and any number of close things / relegation battles…that is anything but ‘prudent’ in my opinion. As the biggest risk / disaster for any Premier League club is getting relegated, which Mike Ashley has unnecessarily gambled with time after time.

A ‘prudent’ club is one that continually properly invests on and off the pitch, looks to build stronger year after year, with an intelligent long-term plan. Not one that looks to crawl from season to season with no longer-term plan whatsoever, spending as little cash as possible no matter what common sense says, inviting disaster on a repeating basis.

Thankfully we can now hope for better times ahead at Newcastle United but don’t forgive or forget what (not!) ‘prudent’ Mike Ashley did to the club we all love.

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