Newcastle United: 5 Reasons Mike Ashley Has Ruined the Club
Unfortunately, while there have always been areas of his plan that have made sense to supporters, he has done too much damage to the club for trust to ever be re-established.
The Mike Ashley era has been a painful one for the fans. In many ways Mike Ashley has ruined the club and much of the damage is irreparable while he remains in charge.
St James' Park
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St James' Park is one of the best stadiums in Europe. It has been Newcastle United's home throughout their existence.
The major redevelopments under the Sir John Hall regime saw it become a beautiful, spacious and modern stadium. Unlike many of the new build stadiums of the modern era, St James Park is nestled in the heart of the city.
Arsene Wenger summed up St James' Park perfectly when talking about the England 2018 World Cup bid:
When the FIFA delegation arrive in Newcastle this week, I hope they are stunned by the sight of St James' Park. By the way it dominates the skyline, a sporting citadel and the heartbeat of the city. In a city that breathes football.
Mike Ashley fails to understand the heritage of this great stadium. He has "renamed" it sportsdirect.com@stjamespark, although nobody ever calls it that.
With each passing season he finds more and more places to display the SportsDirect.com logo, most recently covering the front of the east stand as seen in the photo above. For Mike Ashley this great stadium is nothing more than a giant billboard!
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Mike Ashley has done a lot of damage to the Newcastle fanbase. While numbers are still reasonably good at home games, this masks underlying problems.
A large number of long time supporters, people who have held tickets for decades, have stopped attending matches. These fans have suffered through terrible times in the past, so it is not the lack of success on the pitch that has driven them away.
The constant bad decisions that have characterised the Mike Ashley years, from the sackings of Keegan and Hughton to the sale of Carroll and Barton, have caused many to take a stand. These fans seem unlikely to return while Ashley is still in charge.
The other issue is that the fanbase is now very divided. Several attempts to put together a fan group to speak to the supporters have been plagued by division and politics. Optimists and realist are often at each other's throats on Internet chat rooms and forums.
This season another split has development due to the club's decision to dissolve the level seven "singing section". This pocket of vocal, and mainly young, fans were housed in the top corner of the stadium near the away fans.
The club decided this summer to expand the family enclosure at the expense of the singing section. Large numbers of these fans decided to relocate to the Gallowgate corner.
This area had been the home to the most vocal and rowdy members of the crowd in the eighties and early nighties, when the Gallowgate end was still terracing.
Unfortunately, having recently been a relatively sedate part of the stadium, the influx of a large number of very vocal supporters who barely sit down during the match has caused friction. This has led to sizable numbers of fans being ejected from the stadium, and a huge amount of unhappiness amongst both original and new members of the Gallowgate corner.
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For the older generation of fans, the recent tendency for Newcastle to sell star players to "bigger clubs", is a terrible reminder of the 1980's. The Andy Carroll sale was so reminiscent of when heroes like Beardsley, Gazza and Waddle were sold off to balance the books.
Under the current regime all players are for sale at the right price. The sale of Carroll was painful, the loss of Nolan, Enrique and Barton compounded the suffering.
The fans are faced with a situation in which every new hero they grow to love and get attached to will be sold. It is all part of Mike Ashley's business plan. while it is great for the clubs finances, it shows a lack of footballing ambition and is demoralising for supporters.
Lack of Trust
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A lack of trust is one of the worst symptoms of the Mike Ashley regime. Fans simply do not trust statements from the club, and question the motives of even seemingly positive moves.
Lies during "Keegangate", lies over Chris Hughton's contract and lies over Andy Carroll, fans have plenty of reasons not to trust the current hierarchy.
Unfortunately this lack of trust has spread to Alan Pardew by association, in reality I suspect he is as frustrated with the board as anyone else. He was clearly given assurances about Carroll, contracts for Barton and Nolan and the £35 million. It would appear the regime lie to him as well.
The lack of trust is particularly apparent at the moment. While Newcastle fans should be enjoying their great start to the season, most are worried that the next kick in the teeth will be imminent.
Whenever things look like they are going well, Mike Ashley finds a new way to reduce the club to chaos.
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While probably viewed as a positive by Mike Ashley, the low level of expectation now on Tyneside is a sad inditement of his ownership.
Mid-table mediocrity seems to have become the aim. Avoid relegation, collect the TV money and pray for a Carling Cup win.
While this is a respectable goal for a team in it's second season back in the Premier League, the feeling is that this is the long-term future for Newcastle United.