In 2007, Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley took over Newcastle United for a £134m sum. The club had been run by Sir John Hall, and then Freddy Shepherd, for over fifteen years, but results had gone a little stale, with league title run-ins and Champions League nights a fading memory.
Could Ashley be the man to restore the Toon to their former glories?
Ten years later, most fans would answer that question with a resounding ‘no’. There have been some notable highs of course. A fine fifth place finish in the 2011-2012 Premier League season springs to mind, as do two emphatic Championship wins in 2010 and 2017.
However, for the most part, there has been lots of disconnect between Ashley and the fans. He pushed Magpies legend Kevin Keegan into resigning in September 2008, after being accused of meddling in the club’s transfer dealings, which did not go down well. The fact that Ashley has also been reluctant to spend big money on transfers, and been content to merely avoid relegation during his tenure, has infuriated United’s ambitious supporters.
After years of fans calling for his head, Ashley has finally bowed to the pressure, and he put the club up for sale this October. Although several potential suitors were mentioned, it is Amanda Staveley’s financial advisory firm PCP Capital Partners who have always been in pole position to take over. They put in a formal £300m bid for the club earlier this week.
Ashley was hoping to sell up for nearer £400m and The Evening Chronicle has reported that he is holding out for at least £350m. However, he has openly expressed his desire to leave the club before Christmas. Will he reluctantly accept the original £300m bid? Or will he further anger Newcastle fans by holding out for an extra £50m that may never arrive?
Staveley was a key figure in brokering the sale of Manchester City in 2008 to Sheikh Mansour’s Abu Dhabi United Group. If this deal goes ahead, and Newcastle achieve even half of the success that City have had over the past decade, Ashley could soon be forgotten.