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Newcastle United existed simply to make Mike Ashley’s retail empire more profitable

Mark Jenson is the co-founder of The Mag, now the leading independent website on all things Newcastle United.  

The two stand out moments from Mike Ashley’s ownership of Newcastle United, have been the moments when he bought the football club and now that he is about to sell the football club.

Arriving in 2007, Newcastle fans couldn’t believe their luck, a self-made English billionaire had seen the potential of the club and was coming to take it to another level. 

The previous 14 seasons at St James’ Park had included eight top seven Premier League finishes, with five of those top four, there had been two FA Cup finals and Champions League adventures, not to mention a UEFA Cup semi-final. 

Mike Ashley is finally close to sealing the £300million sale of Newcastle United

Newcastle fans couldn't believe their luck when Mike Ashley took over the club in 2007

Newcastle fans couldn’t believe their luck when Mike Ashley took over the club in 2007

Instead of being the nearly men, Mike Ashley would be the one to break through that glass ceiling and turn Newcastle United into a club that wins trophies.

The reality has proved very different, more relegations (two) than top nine finishes (one) in the Premier League during these 13 years of Mike Ashley rule. 

Incredibly, instead of going all out to be the one to bring trophies to Tyneside after five barren decades, Mike Ashley actually had in place for most of his spell as Newcastle owner, a club policy of not trying in cup competitions as Premier League survival was the only aim each season.

The departure of Mike Ashley will allow the fans of Newcastle United to dream again, that is all that we want. 

Some want to stereotype those on Tyneside as thinking they are entitled to see their team win trophies, when the reality is that supporters simply feel they are entitled to follow a club that tries to succeed on the pitch.

Newcastle fans have suffered more relegations than top nine finishes under Ashley

Newcastle fans have suffered more relegations than top nine finishes under Ashley

A consortium backed by Saudi Arabia crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is behind bid

A consortium backed by Saudi Arabia crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is behind bid

Maybe the most depressing thought, is that we now have an entire generation of Newcastle supporters who have known nothing else but life under the Sports Direct supremo. 

Following a club where the owner has been talked about more than the players on the pitch. Before Ashley arrived you would see 90 per cent of kids at football practice and on the streets with the latest club shirt on. 

As he departs it is now a case of as few as 10 per cent, with more wearing retro designs from pre-Ashley days rather than the most up to date design.

Newcastle United had become a club that was all about the politics, fans refusing to buy club merchandise and as for going to matches… we saw the incredible sight of Ashley having to hand out 10,000 free half season tickets to fill the seats of the many who had called time on his ownership.

Your typical Premier League owner sees a club as the glittering jewel in the crown of their business empire, using every other strand to try and support and finance success on the pitch.

Fans voted with their feet by going to matches, including the season opener against Arsenal

Fans voted with their feet by going to matches, including the season opener against Arsenal

There is an entire generation of Newcastle fan that has only known life in the Sports Direct era

There is an entire generation of Newcastle fan that has only known life in the Sports Direct era

Newcastle United though were the Cinderella club as Mike Ashley did the reverse, the role of the club being only to exist and help make his retail empire more profitable. 

Not a penny has been spent on the football club that he didn’t have to, not just on players, St James’ Park and the training ground benefiting from a lick of paint and no more during these 13 years of refusing to allow investment and progress.

Judge a man by the company he keeps. Mike Ashley made club legends Alan Shearer and Kevin Keegan pariahs, as he favoured the likes of Joe Kinnear and Dennis Wise.

Nobody expects it to be easy when you support Newcastle United and already fans are being asked to justify the Saudi PIF financed new ownership model, as though supporters have any say in who owns their club. These past 13 years tell you that is not the case, certainly at St James’ Park.

It is exciting to think what could now be possible for Newcastle United and indeed the city overall, with ambitious new owners who have the levels of financial muscle to potentially make things happen. 

Newcastle and their supporters now have reason for optimism with Ashley on his way out

Newcastle and their supporters now have reason for optimism with Ashley on his way out

None of us are blind to the fact that the identity of the new owners comes with real baggage but with this set to be a long-term partnership, you hope that in some small way at least, our Geordie qualities can prove to be a positive influence on them in a wider sense.

Newcastle United is once again a club with hope, just as it was 13 years ago when we were first introduced to Mike Ashley.

Fans are keen to play their part in making this a successful long-term marriage of ideas and ambitions, rather than a case of crash and burn as happened during the honeymoon period with our soon-to-be last owner.

 

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