Newcastle United for sale: Chris Waddle ‘feels sympathy’ for Mike Ashley

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Ashley, who also owns retailer Sports Direct, has endured a fractious relationship with the club’s supporters since taking over in 2007

Former Newcastle United winger Chris Waddle says he “feels some sympathy” for Mike Ashley, who has put the Premier League club up for sale.

Ashley has been a divisive figure since taking over in 2007, with some fans protesting against the businessman for much of the past decade.

The Magpies have twice been relegated from the Premier League under Ashley.

“He has been there for 10 years and the fans have never taken to him,” said former England international Waddle.

“He has not communicated enough with them or the media to actually explain in what direction the club was going.”

Newcastle, who have twice played in the Champions League, have finished in the top half of the Premier League in only two seasons since Ashley bought the club for £134.4m in July 2007.

They finished fifth under Alan Pardew in 2011-12 – their highest finish since 2003-04 – and qualified for the following season’s Europa League.

But they dropped into the Championship in 2008-09 and 2015-16, securing promotion at the first attempt on both occasions.

“The fans had a bit of success in the Champions League and they want to be there,” added Waddle, who made 170 league appearances for Newcastle between 1980 and 1985.

“Because of the size of the club, they think that is where they should be. But it is all about money in modern-day football.

“Mike Ashley learned very early in the job that he can’t compete with Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City – he knows he will never have enough money.

“He probably thought he could keep them in the Premier League and then sell it. For Newcastle now it is all about someone coming in and providing really heavy investment.”

Newcastle’s league record under Mike Ashley
Season Final position
2007-08 12th (Premier League)
2008-09 18th – relegated (Premier League)
2009-10 1st – promoted (Championship)
2010-11 12th (Premier League)
2011-12 5th (Premier League)
2012-13 16th (Premier League)
2013-14 10th (Premier League)
2014-15 15th (Premier League)
2015-16 18th – relegated (Premier League)
2016-17 1st – promoted (Championship)

‘Fans will believe it when they see it’

Ashley first put the club up for sale in September 2008 following a series of protests by supporters angered by Kevin Keegan’s departure as manager.

The Londoner took the club off the market in December that year, but announced he wanted to sell again after relegation in May 2009, before again ending his attempts to sell the club five months later.

On Monday, a statement said the club was up for sale again, with Ashley hoping to conclude a deal by Christmas.

The news will be greeted with scepticism by many fans, according to Newcastle United Supporters’ Trust chairman Norman Watson.

“My reaction is the same as many others: I will believe it when I see it,” he said.

“We have been down this road a few times before where we have been up for sale and then he’s decided that the club is not up for sale.

“Business deals are usually kept under wraps until a deal is done so I find this move very curious.

“As the statement says, we certainly need investment and it is clear he is not going to give us that.”

The AshleyOut.com campaign – which has long been calling for his departure – said it would “eagerly await positive developments”.

‘Newcastle has been great advertising for Ashley’

Newcastle fans carried a ‘St James’ Park’ coffin around the ground – in protest at the renaming of the stadium – before a Premier League match against Wolves in February 2012

One of the most controversial moments of Ashley’s reign came in November 2009, when Newcastle announced they had renamed St James’ Park to advertise the owner’s Sports Direct retail company.

The stadium, which has been the club’s home since 1892, reverted to its traditional name in October 2012.

“The most important thing Mike Ashley has had is advertising for his business for a decade,” Times journalist Henry Winter told BBC Radio 5 live’s Monday Night Club.

“In terms of his business, it has been great publicity.”

‘A price of £200m is maybe realistic’

Richard Conway, BBC Radio 5 live’s sports news correspondent

I understand there has been an informal attempt to sell the club over the past three or four months at a price of £350m to £400m – there has been no taker at that price.

Talking to industry insiders, they think a price tag of £200m is maybe more realistic. That would represent a small profit for what Mike Ashley bought the club for but I think he will be wanting more for the money he has invested.

There is clear desire to sell by Christmas and that hints he may be aware there are buyers out there.

Ten years, ten managers

St James’ Park during the Ashley reign – not a safe place to be a manager.

Rafael Benitez has taken charge of just 64 league games but is already one match away from becoming the second longest-serving manager of the owner’s tenure.

And the less said about Joe Kinnear’s ill-fated time in charge – both as manager and director of football – the better.

Only Alan Pardew, Premier League Manager of the Season and League Managers’ Association Manager of the Year in 2012, has been afforded more than 65 matches since Ashley took charge of the Magpies.

Seven of the 10 men appointed during Ashley’s reign have been in position for 28 games or fewer.

Games Points per game
Sam Allardyce 21 1.24
Nigel Pearson 1 0
Kevin Keegan 19 1.11
Joe Kinnear 24 1.04
Alan Shearer 8 0.63
Chris Hughton 65 1.86
Alan Pardew 155 1.34
John Carver 19 0.68
Steve McClaren 28 0.86
Rafael Benitez 64 1.84

Ten years, four FA Cup wins (games, not trophies)

It was reported last month that Ashley had offered his squad a £20m bonus to win the FA Cup.