Looking back over his time at Newcastle United, sports-retail business tycoon Mike Ashley has had an eventful few years on Tyneside as owner of the club. First impressions of Ashley lead us to believe that he was a genuine supporter by donning the Black and White striped shirt and sitting with the fans at away games instead of sticking to the corporate seats. However, from the business side of it, you have to give Ashley credit for steadying a sinking ship at St James’ Park given the large amount of debt that was paid off during his takeover. Now with more details on the Andy Carroll transfer coming out, it looks likely that Mike Ashley simply couldn’t refuse a good business deal when he sees one, regardless of what the fans or player think.
The whole debate about Mike Ashley and Newcastle United is as intriguing as it is puzzling. As a neutral looking in on this conundrum, it’s easier to look at both sides of the scale in order to assess what is really going on. In the past, I’ve spoke in favour of Mike Ashley due to the fact that despite his controversial decisions, he has tried to do the right thing in terms of running a successful football club – but by (metaphorically) slapping fans in the face on the way. The statement by the club in spring last year detailed a 5-year-plan that would see the club break even by 2016, which would leave them in a very healthy position with the new financial rules that will be coming into play and also in comparison to other clubs. That is why the transfer bid by Liverpool for Andy Carroll was one that Ashley simply couldn’t reject.
Former chairman Freddie Shepherd has said: “When I was chairman Liverpool tried to buy Alan Shearer and I refused point blank. It can’t be done…” But despite the emotional attachments to keeping Carroll, Ashley saw too much business logic in accepting the deal. With £30 million paid up front it was like Newcastle have been given a healthy bonus to improve the squad as whole. Also with a 25-per-cent sell on fee on the deal too, Ashley certainly got his worth although many Newcastle fans would say that Carroll was priceless. It remains to be seen whether manager Alan Pardew will have the £30 million to spend on the squad come the summer.
Perhaps selling Carroll on deadline day was a bad business decision given the gamble on the team being able to stay up without him thus putting pressure on Pardew and the squad. Despite looking from a distance on the positives Ashley has made at the club it is clear why the loyal Toon Army have a problem with the running of their club. When Alan Pardew took over in December he made clear that keeping Carroll at the club was his main aim and that he’ll do everything in his power to make it happen, but despite any reassurances that he got from Mike Ashley and Director Derek Llambias – it proved a failure. It’s not just Pardew’s comments that have been contradicting, Llambias’ statements since 2009 have been highly contradictive; no wonder the fans have a lack of trust.
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