Is it time for the unpredictable Mr Ashley to speak to us?

Posted on July 19th, 2011 | 48 Comments |

Is it time for Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley to speak to the fans?
C'mon Mike - what's the deal?
What is Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley up to and is it time for him to let us in on his plans?

Mike Ashley still divides opinion at Newcastle. Some people like him and think he’s good for the club and others hate him and would have him hogtied, marched to the Bigg Market and placed in the stocks to be pelted with projectiles of choice. Then there are plenty of shades of grey in the middle of that – people who either think some of his ideas are bad and some are okay, or folk that are deferring opinion for now.

One thing Ashley rarely is, though, is predictable. Who, at the beginning of Ashley’s term of office, would have predicted he’d usher in the return of Keegan, precipitate Keegan’s unfair dismissal, put the club up for sale twice, receive accusations of being both cockney and Mafioso, appoint Chris Hughton as manager, sack Chris Hughton for no obvious reason, appoint Alan Shearer as manager, dig up Alan Pardew and make him manager, replace Chris Mort with a man of the owlish persuasion, oversee the team’s relegation, oversee the team’s subsequent promotion, rename St James’ Park to an email address and the plethora of other things he does that keep us guessing?

He’s certainly caused a fair bit of unrest in his time and I understand the sales of bedsheets in Tyneside shops have never been better.

It’s hard to know where to begin assessing the man but today I want to kind of follow on from Worky’s recent article about Newcastle’s transfer spending and then go off at a bit of a tangent and talk about communication.

You can dispute the players on Worky’s list if you want, you can include wage fees in the figures if you choose (but then you’d also have to include wages saved on players sold) and you can include costs associated with relegation, under-soil heating and whatever you like, but the upshot is that the club is on a trend to spend less money whichever way you look at it.

This, you might argue, is a good thing. I think it is – in principle – because the club was being strangled by debt and simply couldn’t go on that way. But things are slightly more complex than that from a fan’s point of view. I think we have to ask why Ashley is keen to reduce the debt and where the balance sits between reduced operating costs and investment for the future.

If Ashley’s sole objective is to make the club financially viable to sell, then we could be faced with many seasons of mediocrity such as Doug Ellis oversaw at Aston Villa. You could argue that it was for the best in the long run as his financial prudence would have gone some way to persuading Randy Lerner to buy the club, whereupon Villa’s fortunes on the pitch improved. But who wants to sit through many seasons of mediocrity? And if such is actually the situation at Newcastle, you could argue that the only reason Ashley’s tightening the purse strings at Newcastle is to help him sell the club on for his own personal benefit.

If however you believe Mike Ashley is committed to the club on a long-term basis then making it financially sound is for our benefit too. If there really is a five-year plan to compete for European football then restraint on things like player purchases – buying enough to improve a bit without going bananas – could set us on the straight and narrow for improvements in future seasons too. This summer’s spending can be seen as just one step in a long-term plan to make Newcastle United a successful club both on the pitch and in the accounting ledgers.

So which is it?

I don’t know, but there is a way Ashley could easily help us understand. He could come out and unequivocally state that he is committed to Newcastle for the next 5 years and he could clearly state his aims for the club over that time, both in terms of finances and on-pitch achievements. A formal ‘club announcement’ would be the best way to do this in my opinion. Obviously he couldn’t go deep in details because they may change over time by necessity but something along the lines of:

Mr Ashley confirms that he will not sell Newcastle United and is committed to building a successful club over the next 5 years by adhering to the following broad plan:

  • Alan Pardew will remain as manager for the duration.
  • Two or three seasons of gradual improvement alongside financial prudence are necessary for the next few years, but our aim will still be to maintain top-half finishes and challenge as hard as we can.
  • Seasons four and five will see us benefit from that financially secure base and money will be invested in the squad such that anything less than a top 6 finish will be considered a disappointment.

Unrealistic? Maybe, but that’s just an example of the sort of clarity (rather than actual content) I’d like to see. (I know some people would vomit at the idea of Alan Pardew remaining manager for 5 years!)

For sure, it would still be up to us to decide whether or not we believe him but that’s a different cauldron of chordata. It would demonstrate commitment on his behalf to those who may sit in that grey area of opinion about him at the moment.

I can remember when Ashley and Llambias decided they didn’t communicate enough with us and thought they would try to do so. They made a bit of a dog’s dinner of things and fairly soon we were wishing they would just shut up again, so it’s probably understandable that they’re reluctant to say too much now. But I’d urge Ashley to break the silence and come out with a clear statement of intent. It would certainly be a big step in helping me decide whether I ‘support’ the man’s policies or not. I’d then only have to decide whether I believe him or not and that’s something that could change over time if I saw the promised plan being implemented.

Note that I’m talking about ‘intent’ here. There’s always going to be room to argue the various ins and outs about the ‘methods’ used to make a club successful, but I’d like to see the intent first.

What do you think?

NUFCBlog Author: Hugh de Payen I'm a baby-boomer of the punk rock persuasion, currently exiled in Somerset for crimes committed in a previous life where locals keep trying to poison me with something called 'scrumpy'. Hates sprouts, coat-hangers, Cilla Black, ornaments, Steven Seagull movies and 50 Cent (he's not worth 10). Hugh de Payen has written 634 articles on this blog.

Related Posts:

48 Responses

  1. Couldn’t give a toss if he speaks to us or not personally.

    It’ll all be lies and bollox anyway!

  2. In a list of the unpredictable how can you leave out appointing Wise and Kinnear and signing players the managers has not approved? Not Ashley’s brightest decisions.

  3. The problem with the club releasing a statement is they did that last year, and so many lies and false truths have come out of the club in recent times that any statement wouldn’t be believed, or at best taken with a bucket full of salt.

  4. Don’t care were the c**t find from he,s not a geordie !! He,s got no football ambitions. Wen we got relegated it was,nt him who got us bk it was Chris houghton, & all this crap bout paying wages of contract out ov the ac money is bullsh*t, wat about sjp money, match days, shirts, food & drink, the truth is he,s taking his money bk (that’s his right its his money) but cum out & tell us that’s wat ur doing & stop filling us with shit, 4 once in ur life do sumik right & f**koff

  5. Think its fair to say thats not gonna happen anytime soon, wouldnt mind a word with the girl in the picture though.

  6. What can he say? His views and decisions change from week to week not only does he change the goalposts but he changes the field you are playing on eg Carroll`s 35m. Still that`s his perogative he owns the club and we only support it! He has the power and he enjoys us squirming after all he is not a Newcastle supporter. Business is his forte and I`m afraid rightly or wrongly the majority of Newcastle supporters want a sugar daddy who will buy the best like Manchester City. Until that happens it will always be daggers drawn.

  7. what’s wrong with just supporting your team, huh? bunch of glory hunters…go and support Man U if that’s all you care about…..

  8. Didnt Ashley release a statement around after keegan leaving & around the time he put the club up for sale?

    His plans are all in that statement as well as some waffle his childhood or something.

  9. @7 Thats Ashleys daughter. I’d give her a go but only to have a chat to the fat man and say whassup

  10. I think Dan @ 2 has hit the nail on the head, whatever his past or future statements said / say it would be dismissed as spin / propaganda / lies

  11. HUGH
    A well written and interesting perspective, though i believe you are playing the devils advocate
    And like most (above posts)I am of the opinion that Ashley is all about the money and cares little about either the club or fans.
    As for what sounds like a reasonable five year plan, It’s IMO a smokescreen to enable him to take as much as possible from the club,therefore avoiding any negative fan reaction and eventually selling, (the only part that appeals to me)
    The fact is under his stewardship he has earned more from transfer fees than spent, cut operating costs, by reducing the work force and in general reduced spending by hiring managers for next to nowt and having one of the smallest and weakest squads in the league.
    If any of this is unfamiliar to anyone, you obviously havent been paying attention.
    The ultimate fan putdown is to insult our intelligence by stating the £35m. has been spent on underground heating, player wages (even mentioning Tiote, signed long before Carrolls sale) plus agents fees, (which seems to arouse most fans ire)etc. etc.
    Fact is to have spent a chunk of the Carroll monies on rebuilding and at the same time having a general clearout of deadwood would have gien us a competitive side NOW !
    Not five years down the road and we would have to only add one or two players each season.
    But having a competitive side is obviously not part of the plan,but making a profit obviously is.
    And i suppose we got all the free agents in this years market, gonna have to await next years crop of Bosmans i suppose.
    But then what do i know ?

  12. Are we really bothered if Ashley doesnt communicate or tell us his plans.

    Would we believe him anyway?

    We dont need to hear his intension, theyre blatantly obvious what his plans are.

    *spend less / save more.
    *recoup as much money as poss before selling
    *keep yesman/buddy AP on board to shit-shift


  13. *If* Ashley told me his plans in the manner I suggest, I would not necessarily assume it was either all lies or all true.

    I tend to take Ashley’s statements on a per-statement basis (some I might think are true and others I might think are misleading).

    I may not be convinced outright but it would be a first step in gaining some of my trust. His actions to follow that plan over coming seasons could then build on that trust.

    Beyond Ashley’s post-Keegan statement when he threw his toys out of the pram, all I’ve really seen are ‘soundbites’ here and there, mostly from Llambias and sometimes contradictory and confusing.

    That in itself engenders a lack of trust in me.

  14. @13 – I’d be having a go of the daughter for completely different reasons, I wouldnt piss on her father if he was on fire – let alone want to speak to the bloke…

  15. heres a stat for all the wallys that think Sturridge is the answer to our prays played over 40 games for chelsea with 9 goals thats 1 goal every 4 and a bit games.

  16. @20, how many of those were sub appearances or starts?
    You conveniently left out is 12 appearences and 8 goals for Bolton I see. That’s better than on goal every other game.

    Stats are brilliant and useless all at the same time as you can use them to win any argument. 50% of all people surveyed know that*

    *Survey of 2 people in my office 1 of those knew this, it was me.

  17. At the risk of sounding pro-Ashley, looking at all of the comments for and against him. Plus all of the financial statistics being hoyed around I get the feeling that he is actually trying to improve the club on an all round basis.
    This may well be, as people think it’s to make the club a more sellable package or he may genuinely be trying to establish a financially sound club more able to compete at a higher level. Either way in the longer term it should be a better deal for us grass root supporters unless any new owner turns out to be even worse.

    All of the angst and bitter insults being hurled at him aren’t going to change things, he has already shown he will do it his way whether we like it or not. So why get worked up, hate only hurts yourself both physically and emotionally. It won’t make Ashley suddenly love the club or the supporters.

    Now if we were collectively to shove some love his way, all together now lots of pink fluffy thoughts, Ommmmm.

  18. when ashley goes can all the shitheads like – pea brain @ 11 f@ck off with him.

    there’s nowt worse than a – pretendy geordie – with a bit of an edge.

  19. I get down that we aren’t spending but for crying out loud – we have brought in quality and there is still time to go. We have been much more active than other clubs and we should be applauding that.

    the people who moan about Ashley not spending money are the same people who would have run onto the pitch at Darlington.

    Lets try and enjoy football and our team..

    The more we act like this, the quieter St James becomes and the less attractive Newcastle United is.


    Arsenal never spent that much and look at them. We don’t want to be pissing money away like Liverpool!

    Don’t worry it doesn’t mean i like bastards Ashley or Llambias

  20. “You can dispute the players on Worky’s list if you want”

    It ’cause me computa’s fecked Hugh! I missed out three players with a total value of £3 million because I didn’t have time to check it before I was kicked off the machine I was using. All done now.

  21. I wasn’t being critical Worky. Merely pointing out that no matter how anyone choses to dispute the figures you presented, there is an obvious trend towards a reduction in spending and profit in the transfer market.

  22. Hugh de Payen says:
    July 19, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    “I wasn’t being critical Worky.”

    Aye, I know Hugh.

    Getting back more on topic, Ashley hates being in the public eye, and he won’t change now, he’ll leave it to his minions most of the time. Going slightly off topic again, here’s an interesting little anecdote about Ashley (well I thought so anyway).

    “On the floor of one shop, which had gone bust and been bought by Mr Ashley, John Foster found a price tag for £5.95.

    He was asked why the shop had gone bust. Mr Foster said: “I said that they should have charged £5.99.”

    Ashley then said: “Exactly. They were missing out on 4p.”

  23. Yes he (Ashley) has brought in some decent players, at least we have to assume that’s the case, how they perform during the season will tell.
    But we have to remember, PL membership requires a quality side.
    We have to note also that those who got us back into the PL and played a major role in our survival this last season, are all for sale.
    Joey has it right, ownership wants, younger, better and cheaper.
    It’s obvious there’s no loyalty, from either side, which those who advocate only bringing in players who want to play for the side, should note.
    Owners are in it for the money and so are the players.
    For the super rich it’s a hobby, for guys like Ashley it’s a moneymaking business first and probably a hobby second, but unlike others he is not about to lose money in this enterprise.
    The fact that our owner has attempted to sell on more than one occasion, gives one the impression that he wants out, but probably doesnt want to go before he recoups his investment in the club.
    If that takes a five year period,so be it, he has probably got it worked out.
    He has a certain number of long time season tickets sold, but needs bums in seats in order to get full houses and maximise profits.
    So what can we expect, more of the same, mid league mediocrity.
    What does he fear, empty seats and relegation, which keeps a medium degree of investment.
    Hell the guys a killer retailer, applying the same tactics to a football club, buy cheap sell at a profit, anyone who has’nt got that figured, should pay attention.
    Of course there are those who continue to repeat the statement, just stop moaning and support the side ! Which actually is what most of us do, having no alternative, the same thing we have done for the past sixty years and more of lousy ownership.

  24. there aint half some tosh written on this site!

    cant believe i even spared the time to post… must be some vain attempt at letting the powers that be know they’ve got to do something about it!

  25. Hugh/worky,
    aye, but more especially, in this case, us Toon fans.

    We’ve instantly forgotten the humbling experience of yesteryear & are falling headlong into fantasyland.

  26. CLiNT FLiCK says:
    July 19, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    “We’ve instantly forgotten the humbling experience of yesteryear & are falling headlong into fantasyland.”

    What is “fantasyland” to you Clint?

  27. I personally think the owner is doing the right thing bye the club, but is actually getting criticised for it, damned if you do and so on. Everyone enjoyed the risks he took at first, the billionaire who came out if nowhere and bought the club on a whim, then he brought back legends to the club such as keegan and shearer and while we applauded his risks at the time, everyone backfired on him and he got slated then and still does now (rightly so in certain situations). He now adopts a more methodical approach, improving the quality of the team bit by bit, the training facilities little by little and chipping away at the interest free loan with affordable chunks. And guess what, yes your right, he is slated for it! He tried running the club like his hobbie, in the style of a night at the casino and it went tits up so mike has gone back to doing what he does best, running it as a business. As fans we are all short sighted in the clamor for success because we bring such emotion to it every day. I just wonder in 5 years time when we return to an extremely healthy financial footing with a state of the art stadium and an exciting team on the pitch will people have the balls to say, you know what, I can see now what the big guy was doing, I hope so. And can we please stop with the missing millions and Sagitta profit every transfer window etc. We have to remember that we made huge profits on the likes of zoggy, Carroll, given yes but you need to balance that with the fact that ALL of those players wanted out of the club, be it due to relations with the manager, the money or the complete lack of backbone in facing up to the fear of a relegation fight at Xmas for fox sake! To so easily palm these cretins off onto other hapless clubs for such huge returns, coupled with getting vast millions for duff, martins, beye and the clearly head turned bassong, well you really have to accept that thi guy is a business genius, no wonder his tacky boutiques make such vast profits in recession times, the guy is incredible. Add the fact that one of our latest and quite fruitful methods if finding out what’s in quality players contracts and having a go at that price, well I think we are in good hands.

  28. Mikesbestmate says:
    July 19, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    “Everyone enjoyed the risks he took at first, the billionaire who came out if nowhere and bought the club on a whim, then he brought back legends to the club such as keegan and shearer and while we applauded his risks at the time, everyone backfired on him”

    I certainly didn’t Mike. I thought he was insane to bring Keegan back to the club. As for the rest, his approach hasn’t changed a great deal as we are still following the same model that he has always used.

    I don’t actually disagree with it in general, however it is punctuated with moments of rank idiocy which have been diasastrous such as bringing Keegan back, then bringing in Dennis Wise to supervise him, sacking someone who looked to have potential only to replace him with someone who has none whatsoever. Getting a reputation that is so bad that no top manager would ever want to work for him unless it was for an absurd contract etc etc. One can have a good plan that is executed awfully Mike.

  29. CLiNT FLiCK says: “It’s when people forget mate.
    then slide back into impatience.”

    Personally, I think a lot of that impatience is tied into being unsure of Ashley. As I said in my article, I’m happy with a 5-year plan of gradual improvement or whatever, but I’m just not sure about Ashley’s intent and wish he would at least try to get that over to thr fans.

    I don’t think fans are being unreasonable in suspecting him of making the club financially viable to simply sell either. He has after all already put it on the market twice.

  30. As has been said in this thread, Mike ashley does not care if the fans hate him, it isn’t going to move him, no matter how much people bitch. But what I’d like to know is what people want him to do, cos as mikesbestmate said, its a case of you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

    If he runs the club like a Loon, chucking money all over the place, people moan he’s wreckless. If he runs it sensibly, like now, and is prudent with the money, trying to get the club onto a sound financial base, (whilst improving the squad I might add!) then its cos he’s trying to make it more attractive to potential buyers. You can’t have it both ways!

    I’m sure you’ve all heard the old saying about pleasing all the people all the time…

  31. Hugh,
    aye mate.

    I think the point i’m trying to make is that if there’s a ‘whatever year plan’ then we won’t really know the outcome ’til it’s run it’s course.
    But we could have a 5 minute plan & after 2 minutes we’d have people moaning that it wasn’t working.
    Not sure where i’m going with this, other than it’s an observation, not a criticism.

    Maybe i’m just a very patient Toon fan.

    Then there’s the ‘close season blues’, where everyone gets radgy & starts picking their spots in public, worrying & the like.
    Saying that, i think it’s the same all teams over. I was checking blog sites for villa, everton fans etc. Not a pretty site (geddit?) & not that different really.

    Oh well, stroll on the football season.

  32. Hugh,
    it’s a long time to ‘get into perspective’ no football & transfer & financial dealings.

  33. christ you know your getting old when you take a good 5 mins to read and digest geordie55 post @ number 8!

    i think its fair to say that ashley has divided massive wedges between the fans and we can only wait and see if the ashley lovers/haters or realists turn out to be right when the dust finally settles on his real aims at the club

    off subject a little what does everyone think about chelsea wanting 15-20 million which im hearing for sturridge? is that genuine? thats seems very steep for a guy whos only done well on loan at bolton towards the end of last season?

    i would take any sort of strikers at the min as we are woefully short but dont think hes worth more than 10 at a push and we certainly wouldn’t spend 20 million on him

  34. geodiedug,

    i’m of the same view mate, £10/12m for sturridge, & that’s pushing it.
    Not worth £20m at this point. But ‘you know who’ wasn’t & still isn’t worth £35m, was/is he?
    It’s pathetic the amounts paid for english players.

    Sturridge looks great for bolton, but he’s their main threat, dosen’t look anywhere near as good for chelsea though.
    £10m & that’s cos he’s young.

  35. @ clint flick

    i suppose it does put the carroll deal into perspective a little but bent went for 24 and he is a proven out and out premier league goalscorer and his goals saved villa in the end last season. surely we can negotiate a reasonable fee?

    at 20 million id pass its not that we dont need him its just 20 is taking the p#@s for a guy who has roughly the same record as ba last season!!! it will be interesting to see where sturridge goes as the likes of bolton wont pay 20 mil either

    ive herd alot of fans kicking off saying its the final straw with ashley that we cant even afford sturridge! it might not be we cant afford him it just might be that we wont pay that much for a guy who would have been available for less than 5 million before his brief spell at bolton