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Mike Ashley Speaks Yet Nothing Is Said

In this time of upheaval surrounding the club, Mike Ashley's statement does very little to alleviate fan's concerns.

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley joined his Managing Director in issuing a statement to club supporters and staff earlier this morning.  In many ways, what is said here almost entirely echoes the platitudes issued by Charnely earlier in the week.  But, if you're a glutton for punishment the full statement is as follows:

I am writing to you in the immediate aftermath of the relegation of our Club - a bitterly disappointing outcome for all of us.

Newcastle United rightly has a proud and long tradition of competing at the highest level and I therefore understand and share the pain that supporters will be feeling at this difficult time.

Many of you have expressed strong views about what we could have done differently. I respect those views but I would like to reiterate that it has always been my intention to try to achieve the very best for Newcastle United.

We invested heavily in the squad over last summer and again in January, but we have been unable to secure Premier League status despite the recent efforts of the team under the formidable stewardship of Rafa Benitez.

I've said in the past that when I take on a challenge I am prepared to go through both good times and bad. There can be no doubt that relegation is a terrible blow but I want to assure you that the Club will now be doing everything it can at all levels to try to ensure a swift return to its rightful place in the Premier League.

We have done it before - we can do it again.

In the meantime, I thank the fans for their passionate support, in particular for Rafa and the team at recent fixtures, both home and away.

Clearly it is now time for a period of careful consideration whilst we reflect upon the lessons that need to be learned from the last 12 months to restore this great Club to the very top flight of English football.

Two things immediately come to mind after combing through a statement which reeks of corporate PR.

To the surprise of few, Mike Ashley has no intention of selling the least not to the point he will say so publicly.  While he might entertain offers privately, Ashley's financial ties to the club are too strong at the moment and his asking price will undoubtedly be too high for any potential suitors.  These factors combined with the club's 12 month minimum sentence in the Championship mean Ashley and Sports Direct will continue to hang over the club for the foreseeable future.

The second, and more depressing, realization is that the club continues to operate under a policy of reaction. The shared comments of Ashley and Charnley concerning now being the time for consideration and reflection demonstrate that there is no plan in place for relegation.  Strong words detailing the mistakes that were made to bring the club to this position or outlining the steps that will be taken to rectify the situation were noticeably absent.

For being such an astute business owner, it never ceases to amaze how Ashley can let an investment such as Newcastle operate in such a rudderless manner with a complete disregard for what dangers lurk downriver. It defies belief that a management structure which only six years ago faced a similar situation appears to have been more surprised than anyone about the results on the field this season.  While more details about relegation clauses (or the ultimate lack thereof) will emerge in the coming days and weeks, it's clear to me that the club is completely off of whatever shred of a script there were previously operating on.  Rather than hope for the best and plan for the worst, the club appears to have brought Rafa in and simply sat with their fingers crossed.

Ironically, the club's best hope for the future is to continue that policy: sign Rafa to a long term deal, give him a sizable transfer account, and get out of the way while he does his thing.  Should they fail in that endeavor...well...that's for another day.