Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has never been the most popular man with the club’s fans.
Since his takeover in 2007, there have been all manner of supporter protests and demonstrations with the ultimate aim of forcing Ashley to sell the club.
Not that he’s done much to help himself either. A succession of monumentally stupid managerial appointments (including twice hiring Joe Kinnear), notorious frugality while the team was crying out for investment, and even a 2009 relegation to the Championship have all come under the Sports Direct owner’s watch.
Unfortunately for Magpies fans, however, he still insists that he is at St. James’s Park for the long haul.
Speaking to Sky News in a rare public interview on Monday, Ashley reveals that is not going to leave Newcastle even if they are relegated for the second time in seven years.
“I’ve got no choice [about staying] – I’m wedded to Newcastle, like Sports Direct. They have got me and I have got them, that’s just the way it is.”
Which sounds more than a bit ominous.
As if to compound the misery, Ashley later told the Mirror that the club’s £80million transfer splurge should be considered a once-off, and that the money well has dried up:
“All I say is, there is a bank account, when you have emptied it, it’s empty, don’t come crying to me for more money…..
“Virtually, nothing [in the bank] now. They have emptied it.”
Newcastle are in serious trouble at the bottom of the Premier League table – three points behind 17th-placed Norwich with eight games to play this season.
Manager Steve McClaren – another failed deeply misguided Ashley appointment – was replaced by former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss Rafa Benítez last week as a final throw of the dice to save the club’s season. The performances of the side in the Spaniard’s first two games have been better, but the results have yet to follow suit.
Ashley is confident that Newcastle can survive in the final weeks of the season, and believes that Benítez is the right man to keep them up:
“I think we’ve got the right man in the job,
“If there’s any chance of us staying up – let’s hope Rafa can do the business and keep us up.”
(At this point, it is worth remembering that Benítez has a clause in his contract that allows him to walk away if Newcastle are relegated.)
They travel to Norwich in two weeks time knowing that defeat in that game would be a massive hammer blow to their hopes of survival – six points behind the Canaries with seven to play would be a huge obstacle.
Relegation would leave them with a squad of players who will either look to leave or remain on contracts that are far too extravagant for the league they would be residing in. They would also immediately have to begin the managerial search process all over again, for the third time in less than a year.
Basically, everything that came to pass in 2009 would happen all over again.
Still, at least Mike Ashley will be going nowhere…