Mike Ashley has sown seeds of Newcastle United takeover failure – and if it really is over, he gets what he deserves

Mike Ashley bought a Newcastle United who'd run the coffers dry, but had done so with a want to improve.

Wednesday, 5th August 2020, 4:45 pm

He walked into a club whose balance sheets were a nightmare but fresh off the back of years of European football, a Champions League campaign just four years earlier. The club had high profile players, the fans had high hopes of their new, British billionaire owner. It wasn't perfect back then, but it was better than this.

So much and so little has changed in his 13 years at St James's Park. Gone are the hopes and dreams, the continental trips, the flirts with the upper echelons. But what remains, among the fans at least, is that want for change, the desire to dream, to achieve what has not been possible in the lifetime of many. Some, whose heyday was the 1960s, the 1970s, even 1980s, feel this takeover is their last chance.

Ashley's Newcastle do not and have never shared that belief. They've never dared to dream, never reached for the stars, never allowed us to love.

Had Ashley been able to walk this summer, as he so desperately hoped to do, he'd have left a club without the financial ills, the balance sheets pristine – the COVID crisis will not cripple on Tyneside like it will at other, less prudent football clubs.

But where does the blame lie? Does Ashley have to carry the can for this latest, most hurtful, jarring and emotionally draining takeover failure? Just to qualify, this is not over yet. The deal, however, is on life support.

Yes, is my answer. Ashley's running of Newcastle United, and his lack of long-term planning, his balance sheet approach in a Premier League period of exponential growth has put the Magpies outside the lines of power.

Once Newcastle United, along with a select band of others – Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool – was the Premier League. It hasn't always been so, but for periods of the 90s and 00s, Newcastle was up there. It's hard to think that Newcastle United would have been looked down upon by the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, or Chelsea or Man City, bullied into a corner. For what it's worth the top brass at the Etihad were more than happy for this deal to pass, as were their near, more successful neighbours.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: Mike Ashley, owner of Newcastle United looks on during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Leicester City at St. James Park on September 29, 2018 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

You don't have to go too far back into history when Newcastle was plastered all over your TV – remember the Sugar Puffs advert - all over your magazines, your paper front and back pages – Kevin Keegan, Alan Shearer, David Ginola, Les Ferdinand, others.

United out-sold virtually every single club in the world when it came to shirts in the mid-90s, it was a movement, something to feel a part of. It dragged along celebrity fans, filled England squads, broke world records. Less than two decades ago this football club, the shell that it is now, was in the last 16 of the premier club competition on the planet. Newcastle have Faustino Asprilla’d Barcelona, beaten Juventus, THAT Craig Bellaaaaaaamy goal, Bobby Robson's group stage phoenix rising from the flames, Alan Shearer arms aloft in the San Siro, Andy Griffin even slipped one under Gigi Buffon, while hitting Marco Di Vaio into next week.

It feels like a different club now. It is a different club.

We all know the Magpies can return to those days – and that's the key difference. Ashley has given up on Newcastle United, we have not... yet.

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (R), flanked by his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L), puts on his spectacles as he prepares to read a document while chairing a session of the 40th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit held at the Saudi capital Riyadh on December 10, 2019. (Photo by Fayez Nureldine / AFP) (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)

The movement, the push for change, driven from within the fans at Newcastle United Supporters Trust proves that. The political angle is a masterstroke, with its origins from within the consortium (credit the Reubens' statement and Newcastle City Council).

This takes the battlefield from within the confines of a footballing argument, with its lavish riches and expense, into the realms of societal deprivation, governmental failings and on to the doorstep of every single household in the north east. We would all have seen the benefits of this investment in some way, shape or form. The cash would have flowed through the arteries of north east infrastructure, breathing life into things left to rot by people who should care more than they do. This cash still might prove the shot in the arm this forgotten economy needs. Truthfully that is a statement I should never even have to consider.

After all is said and done, though, who'd have thought Ashley – after the Sports Direct Arena, the hoardings, the disrespect of history, of tradition, of club legends, the hope vacuum, the passion drain, Joe 'f*cking' Kinnear, Dennis Wise, two relegations, one season in Europe, the two-finger salute, the Rafa wars, the Keegan one, the sales, the sackings, the eight-year contracts – yes, that Ashley, would be the path of least resistance?

It is important not to forget, though, Ashley caused this mess. And just because he now wants out and is '100% committed to this deal' he should not be given a free pass. He won't, I’m sure.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: Newcastle United fans protest against chairman Mike Ashley prior to the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Leicester City at St. James Park on September 29, 2018 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Ashley has it within his power to demand a decision from the Premier League, to take legal angles if needed. It's the least we deserve, after suffering the insufferable for almost a decade and a half.

And if the fan movement proves futile, the buyer tactics fall flat, even if Ashley's own desperation for cash yields no return, the self-made billionaire, with a love of rolling the dice, will have no one else to blame but himself for allowing Newcastle United to drift aimlessly in the opposite direction from the now 'power six' under his watch. It could prove the worst bet he's placed. He backed the wrong horse. The £300 million stake. A dealer's delight.

In the end, you get what you deserve, reap what you sow. We don’t deserve that, or him. Our day will come.

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