Mike Ashley bitter ownership of Newcastle United!

mike ashley bitter ownership of Newcastle United

Mike Ashley ownership of Newcastle United has seen its ups and mainly downs. Ashley was once considered as the savior of the club, but has since become the club’s ‘enemy’. Benitez leaving is another sad moment of ownership covered in bitterness.

Mike Ashley bitter ownership of Newcastle United is one of the strangest stories in recent Premier League history.

On 7th of June 2007, Ashley bought Freddy Shepherd’s final shares of Newcastle United. This date was, basically, the start of Ashley’s reign at Newcastle. Eventually, he became the sole owner of Newcastle United and moved the club off the stock exchange.

Just before he made a complete takeover, Mike Ashley said this about the whole situation.

“Newcastle United has a wonderful heritage and the passion of its fans is legendary. I am sure that, like me, they are already excited about the prospects for next season under the new manager’s stewardship.”

The Guardian

The club had a huge debt because the cost of their stadium and was in a downward trajectory. Newcastle United needed an owner with funds. An owner that would make the club financially safe and able to compete in the Premier League.

Ashley seemed like a perfect fit. He was the owner of Sports Direct, which is one of the biggest sports-goods retailers in the world; He was a billionaire, which is always a ‘useful’ characteristic of a new owner; Ashley was also English, and he seemed intent on making Newcastle strong again.

With rather smallish height, heavy built; with a face that’s a bit similar to David Cameron, albeit a bit fatter; an ordinary short haircut and relaxed eyes, Ashley doesn’t give an impression of a billionaire. Frankly, he looks like a local bartender, who is out for some small talk and is on a mission to serve drinkers at the bar.

Ashley seemed like the ‘right’ owner for Newcastle United.

If appearance alone makes him a bit eccentric than his personality makes him quite an oddball.

Self-described as a power drinker (someone whose main intention is to get drunk as hard as possible), he supposedly conducts his senior management meetings in a pub and is prone to sleeping in his most important board meetings.

Given that Newcastle seems like it was run by someone who is out of his mind, then Ashley’s revelation, about him being a hard drinker, makes every sense.

Ashley, who once almost lost £15 million for making a drunk induced wager, left the school at 16, to follow a dream of becoming a squash player. Luckily for Ashley (but not Newcastle), an injury stopped his ‘squash’ dream, and the man decided to start a sporting goods shop.

Honestly, it’s hard to describe his meteoric rise. Still, the fact is that he made one of the most successful companies in the world.

His achievement as a businessman made him as something of a savior in the eyes of the Newcastle fans. You know, a man who would put Newcastle United ‘back on top’.

The start seemed promising.

First Allardyce…

Sam Allardyce was appointed just months before Ashley’s takeover of Newcastle. Ashley decided to keep Allardyce and gave him some serious founds.

Newcastle’s new manager decided to bring in nine new players in what looked like a rebuilding of Newcastle’s team.

Expectations were big at the start of the season as Newcastle was projected to ‘fight’ in the upper half of Premier League.

Ashley, at the time, started appearing with a Newcastle’s jerseys at the home stadium. He wanted to be a part of Newcastle’s followers and ‘Toons’ liked that.

It seemed that Ashley would be ‘the right’ owner for Newcastle. A club that had a proud history and was in need of some new silverware.

Ashley’s first season at Newcastle was officially on its way. Was it successful? No, it wasn’t, not by a long shot.

Newcastle was inconsistent, to say the least, and after a poor half a season, Allardyce was sacked. Ashley was criticized for this overly quick sacking of Allardyce, but he did appoint popular Kevin Keegan as his replacement.

… and then Keegan.

Keegan did manage to stabilize the club as Newcastle United finished 12th in that Premier League season.

A difficult first season for Ashley, but fans were still optimistic about the future of the club. “It’s going to be a lot better next season with Keegan,” they probably thought to themselves.

That optimism quickly dissipated in the summer when James Milner was sold to Aston Villa. This, in turn, prompted Kevin Keagan to step down as Newcastle manager.

Keegan was fuming how Newcastle was run and later explained in his book.

“It wasn’t Mike’s beer-guzzling that upset me that day. It was the fact that Tony Jimenez, the executive who had been put in charge of Newcastle’s transfer business, had informed me we were spending £5.7 million on a Spanish player called Xisco whom nobody from the club had ever seen play.

“On the same day the Xisco bombshell was dropped, I had also found out a Uruguayan by the name of Ignacio González was joining us as a “favour” for two South American agents.

“Newcastle are a real one-off. I don’t know of a club that has been run as badly or with such disregard for people.”

The honeymoon was over after a year.

At the time, Keagan cited his lack of involvement in transfers to be the main reason for his resignation and Newcastle fans took his side. A massive protest was created against Ashley, who decided to put the club on sale.

Ashley’s honeymoon with Newcastle ended abruptly after only one season. Ashley stopped wearing Newcastle’s jersey, and he was rarely seen in the home stadium while Newcastle fans found a new enemy among their midst.

It’s strange that the main discord between Ashley and Newcastle fans happened in 2008, yet 11 years later, Ashley is still the owner of Newcastle United.

A chaotic few weeks was followed by a turbulent season that saw Newcastle, if you believe, being managed by five different managers.

  • Kevin Keegan (until 4 September 2008)
  • Chris Hughton (6 September 2008 – 26 September 2008)
  • Joe Kinnear (26 September 2008 – 16 February 2009)
  • Colin Calderwood (16 February 2009 – 31 March 2009)
  • Alan Shearer (31 March 2009 – 24 May 2009)

Obviously, the club couldn’t ‘survive’ that and got relegated at the end of the season.

Ashley tried to sell the club, but going into the second league (Championship) meant that club lost its value and it didn’t make sense for Ashley to make the sale.

That’s how Ashley stayed, rather unwillingly, at Newcastle while fans’ dissatisfaction with their owner was growing every day.

Relegation and promotion.

Chris Hughton became a manager in a new season (2009/2010), and he brought immediate success to Newcastle. They finished the season first in Championship and got promoted back to the Premier League.

Fans were happy about promotion, but they still despised Ashley.

Hughton got some solid results with Newcastle, back in the Premier League, but he was sacked halfway through a season. Fans and pundits were shocked by this decision as Ashley lost all credibility as an owner.

Pardew was appointed in what ended, unexpectedly, as the most successful managerial appointment in Ashley’s ownership of Newcastle United.

Obviously, no one was optimistic when Pardew was appointed, but things changed after that season ended.

After finishing only 12th in the previous season, you could sense low expectations from Newcastle fans and everyone else as well. Pardew wasn’t some managerial wonder that could guarantee you a top finish. He was seen more as a relegation-fight master that was good at keeping clubs in the league.

It was expected that the club would be locked in a relegation battle. Yet, Newcastle made two key signings that summer. Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye. This two players ended up being decisive as Newcastle became a formidable team in the Premier League.

Short-term glory under Pardew.

Signing Papiss Cisse in January proved to be another masterstroke as Newcastle United shocked everyone, including themselves. They finished that season (2011/2012) in 5th place. They were inches away from the Champions League place, but it wasn’t to be.

This was a pinnacle moment in Mike Ashley’s ownership of Newcastle. Despite making so many errors and bad decisions that made him one of the most hated owners in the league, it seemed that he finally succeeded. It seemed that he brought Newcastle back into the front of the Premier League and you could felt optimism growing in the club and around it.

This was the first time that Newcastle fans were pleased with Ashley, despite not fully accepting him.

After that season ended, Ashley needed to do two things.

  • Keep the best players in the club.
  • Strengthen the club further with new ‘expensive’ signings.

Ashley did keep the core of his players (at least for 6 months), but he failed to add quality players. The only notable player Newcastle signed was Vurnon Anita, and even his price was only a little more than £6 million.

It was a lack of vision and avoidance of ‘splashing the cash’ as Ashley blew Newcastle’s best chance of becoming a Premier League contender.

The club’s performances dropped next season as the club barely evaded relegation and finished in 16th place.

Pardew couldn’t get Newcastle to become a consistent club in the Premier League and had to, eventually, step down in 2014/2015 season.

Rafa arrives.

After managers John Carver and Steve McClaren, Newcastle got relegated again. Funny enough, but in that relegation season (2015/2016) Ashley probably made the best managerial choice of his ownership at Newcastle.

He managed to convince Rafa Benitez to take over as Newcastle’s manager despite limited funds and a big chance that the club would play in the second English league the following season.

Newcastle was relegated, but Benitez stayed. Rafa, like Hughton before him, immediately brought the club back to the Premier League. He has been able to keep Newcastle in the Premier League, for the past two seasons, despite a serious lack of funds.

There was talk in May about possible new ownership, but nothing concrete has happened yet. Mike Ashley is still the owner, but Benitez is no longer the manager.

Benitez has decided to quit Newcastle after becoming disillusioned with the way the club was ‘improving’. He had this to say about why he quit the club.

“Obviously, I had the feeling they were really pleased for me to stay at the beginning, but later on, when we had different views in terms of how to move forward, I couldn’t see this support.

“I couldn’t see this clear desire I could feel at the beginning.

“When I came to Newcastle, they gave me the plans for the new training ground, I was talking to the architect about changing a few things. And after three years they painted the walls.”


This seems like another mistake in a long line of mistakes from Ashley, who just doesn’t learn.

Mike Ashley bitter ownership of Newcastle United.

In his 12 years at the club, Newcastle’s best achievement was finishing 5th in the Premier League. That’s not much of an achievement for a club like Newcastle.

Comparison of 12 years prior to Ashley and 12 years of his tenure clearly shows that Newcastle has gone backward.

In all of those mistakes, mismanagement, and plainly not knowing how to run a football club, Mike Ashley’s biggest problem has been his indecision on staying as a football club owner or not.

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He tried to sell the club three times and always changed his mind. If he wanted to sell the club, then he would do it already. And if he wanted to keep it, then he would have invested a lot more than he has.

This indecision has gotten Newcastle in a worse position than it was before Ashley arrived as there is no clear plan going forward.

If Ashley does somehow end up selling Newcastle this summer, then this will likely be the best news in a decade for Newcastle’s faithful, who, after many protests, just want Ashley to leave the club.

Mike Ashley bitter ownership of Newcastle United has created agony on all sides, and you can feel that there is only one solution.

All in all, Ashley has gone from a savior to an enemy. He is a living proof that a ‘good’ company owner doesn’t necessarily mean a ‘good’ owner of a football club.

Will this summer be Mike Ashley’s final chapter at Newcastle? No one knows for certain, just don’t bet on Ashley making a decision any time soon.

Štefan Japelj

About Štefan Japelj

Experienced content writer and marketing specialist. Football (soccer) expert that likes to watch Premier League (especially Arsenal). Knows a lot about other football leagues, too!