Newcastle are officially up for sale, after St James’ Holdings released a statement regarding the matter. Supporters are excited, but even though the man himself expects a sale to go through before Christmas, there is reason to be skeptical.
If rumours are to be believed, the price began at £450 million, but later dropped to £380 million, presumably because interest was few and far between.
To put things into context, Southampton, a solid, top-half Premier League team, with a marvellous academy and loyal fanbase…were recently the subject of heavy investment from China. Businessman Jisheng Gao purchased an 80% stake in the club for a reported £210 million.
West Brom were another club of similar stature to be bought over. In 2016, Yunyi Guokai Sports paid out a figure somewhere between £150 - £200 million.
The figures spoken about in with regards to Newcastle United totally dwarf those. So, why?
Ashley will argue first and foremost that his payment of £134 million to buy the club, added to the fact that he lent a further £129 million in interest-free loans, makes him within his rights to ask for a sum that would at least see him break-even. Where does the rest come from then? The fanbase, the stadium, the playing squad and the much-cherished Television money – the next batch of funds are due to be paid out relatively close to the new year – are all important factors, but to completely ignore the level of success (or lack of) is idiotic.
Yes, Newcastle United is a club with huge potential, but how long have we heard that? Potential seems to be the buzzword with what you could associate with the Ashley era. You just have to look at their activity in the transfer market. For too long have the fans been utterly powerless as they forced themselves to watch on, knowing too well that their club was heading in no direction whatsoever.
That is, until Rafa Benitez. The man that changed everything, little by little. He is still in the process actually. The man of the people you could call him. The use of the word potential is much more powerful now. A world-class manager, followed by a passionate and most importantly, united, fanbase, in a massive stadium and represented by a squad of humble and purposeful men on the pitch. All is there for somebody to knock Ashley off his perch and create something special.
So, in one sense, yes, the Sports Direct autocrat has a point. A businessman will always do all they can to receive a return on their investment, so to expect anything different from “the devil we know” is asinine.
Two relegations in nine years, for a club with such “potential” speaks volumes about how far away they have been from realising it. Even the years spent in the top-flight have been miserable. Two top-half finishes – one of which ended with four wins from the final fifteen games - in the midst of horrible relegation battles is nothing to be proud of.
Let’s be real, the current crop of players, as much as they should be admired for their fight, desire and hunger, are not the most talented in the division. Far from it in fact. That is not an insult, that is just the way it is. Any new owner should not come into the hot-seat with the expectation that success should be instantaneous.
The only way they will get there is through investment, and not just by means of throwing money around. The manager has to be trusted and backed 100%, those brought in have to be ready to dig down deep for the badge, the stadium has to be extended, the training ground has to be redeveloped, everything has to be overhauled. The poison has been halted for now, but it runs deep, it has to be cured.
All of this, will be on top of any price paid for the club itself. All of this, is what should have already been done. Mike Ashley is making others pay for his own mistakes. At least, he is trying to. I think he will really find out now just how badly this little business venture of his has worked out. Nobody should go close to £400 million. If they do, Mr Ashley can count himself very fortunate. The luckiest man on earth, maybe.
I cannot be the only one that really hopes he doesn’t get anything back. After all, we haven’t, have we?