From game-to-game, Newcastle United are one of the most unpredictable and inconsistent sides in the Premier League. They have the fan-base, the stadium and the history in place to truly restore their ‘big club’ status, but a series of in-house problems have so far held them back in their deserved rise back up the top.
You just never know what you are going to get from the Magpies, and with Alan Pardew recently sealing a switch away from St. James’ to the Crystal Palace dug-out, it seems Newcastle United’s nature of uncertainty looks set to continue.
With fans pointing the finger of blame firmly at their not-so-loved chairman, the man behind ‘SportsDirect.com’, Mike Ashley, it seems that something is inherently wrong behind the scenes in Tyneside. With that in mind, does Mr. Ashley deserve the widespread hatred he receives at Newcastle, and is he perhaps the most disliked chairman in the Premier League?
One problem the Newcastle fans have had with Ashley has been his attempts at rebranding their club and the iconography inside St. James’ Park. Long gone are the days when Newcastle Brown Ale used to take centrepiece on the beloved black & white strip, only now to be replaced by Wonga.com.
St. James’ Park has also been renamed the ‘SportsDirect Arena’ under Mike Ashley, and whilst that decision has since been reversed after widespread fan anguish, it is a move that shows where his loyalties really lie.
Ashley’s fixation with profit above anything else football-related has also manifested itself within Newcastle’s recent transfer policy. Although Alan Pardew saw the Magpies reach 5th place in the 2011/12 Premier League season, Mike Ashley rewarded his manager by subsequently selling both Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye at crippling points in the next campaign, without sourcing adequate replacement. The chairman at St. James clearly operates on the cheap, leaving Newcastle’s league form to suffer as a result.
Another problem surrounding how the Northumberland club is run, lies with Ashley’s involvement on the managerial front. The English billionaire has simply been all over the place when installing his bosses at Newcastle United; he has overseen five different managers take charge of league matches during the ill-fated 2008/09 relegation season, sacked Chris Houghton in 2010 to the widespread dismay of the fans, and gave Alan Pardew a eight-year contract when very few initially wanted him at the club.
Mike Ashley has also appointed the likes of Dennis Wise and Joe Kinnear, two men who have no solid association with Newcastle United at all, and given them seemingly meaningless roles behind the scenes at St. James’. Understandably, this kind of activity never goes down well with the manager, and both men have since departed the club in unceremonious fashion.
All in all then, Mike Ashley may have a great deal on his plate with running a big-time Premier League club, but through silly actions and lack of real investment, he has done very little to endear himself to the St. James’ faithful. He seems nothing more than a man interested in advertising his other ventures through Newcastle United, and whilst many chairman in the Premier League could take the title of ‘most disliked’ for similar reasons, Mike Ashley is certainly up there.