This week brought the news that Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has injected a further £50m into the club. Two interest free loans, as well as sanctioning the transfers and wages for a quintet of summer signings, have been pumped in to boost the finances, and so it is time to forgive Ashley for the mistakes he has made since buying the club?
Despite saying that the club could not afford to bring in any players over the summer, Chris Hughton has brought in Sol Campbell, Dan Gosling, Hatem Ben Arfa, James Perch and Cheick Tiote. They have kept costs as low as possible, dealing in free transfers when possible, but the signing-on fees and outlay of wages, have been accounted for out of Ashley’s very own pockets.
While it may be good of Ashley to be putting his financial muscle behind the club, and writing off overdrafts and debts, it is hard to sympathise with the man. A lot of the debts that the club have had, have been emphasised by the club’s relegation, and Ashley has a lot to answer for in that regard. Certainly if they hadn’t been relegated, they’re debts would not have been as significant. And any owner of a football club should be acutely aware that they will have to invest large sums of unreturned money into their club. Very few people buy football clubs to make a profit, and if they do, then they can be in for a startling awakening.
Part of me believes that Mike Ashley really did, and still does, want the best for Newcastle, but simply went the wrong way about it. Certainly the appointment of Dennis Wise massively backfired. I get the impression that he was caught up in the hype of appointing Kevin Keegan, and then when the cracks began to appear, realised that he was severely out of his depth. He had to spend much more money than he first intended, as the clubs debts unravelled, and as the Newcastle fans vented their anger, decided to get out and sell up. Problem was, the club was not an attractive purchase.
As it stands, thanks to a successful season in The Championship and a swift return to the top flight (frankly, they proved pretty quickly that they were too good for that division), Ashley has won back some (minor) affections of a section of the Newcastle support. If the club stay up, which looks very probable, then they should be financially sound, especially if they stay close to their current transfer policy and wage structure – where any player on £19k per week or more has a relegation drop-in-pay clause. Ashley wants the best for the club, but the question is whether it is simply to make a return on his investment, or because he genuinely wants to take the club onto great things.
Ashley may be doing better than this time two years ago, but let’s not pretend he is God’s gift to the Geordies. While he can be commended for not leaving the club in the lurch when they were at rock bottom, part of it is down to not being able to shift the club off his hands. At the moment, he isn’t doing anything that other millionaire owners aren’t doing with theire respective clubs. With no buyers on the horizon, Newcastle fans should hope that Ashley continues to try and rebuild both the club and his own reputation, but Ashley is still a very long way off earning the respect of the club’s fans, and I’m very doubtful that he deserves it as yet.
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