Controversial Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has conceded naivety proved costly in the early stages of his reign at St James’ Park.
The billionaire businessmen purchased Newcastle in 2007 and has frequently been criticised for his handling of the club, a theme that has continued with manager Rafael Benitez frustrated by their inability to land certain transfer targets.
Ashley has overseen two relegations from the Premier League during his tenure and confessed removing Sam Allardyce as manager in 2008 showed a degree of ignorance.
When asked his thoughts on his 10 years as owner, Ashley told Sky Sports: “Very naive in the beginning. In the middle I thought I was just about beginning to get my arms around it a little bit, we had a manager on an eight-year contract [Alan Pardew].
“We had the finance right, talked about investing in the training ground and the academy, we had a strategy, buying young talent and developing.
“That was around 2013, 2014, going along quite well, and then within 18 months the wheels had come off, going back to really having to start at the beginning again.
“I probably rushed in too early. The first thing, letting Sam Allardyce go, I was probably too keen to get going and make a difference, and I was a bit naive about how football worked.”
Ashley pointed to his decision to change the name of St James’ Park to the Sports Direct Arena in 2011 as another error of judgement, putting business interests before sentimentality.
“The first thing you feel is stupidity, because as soon as you know the hindsight of something, you know what you were doing wrong,” he said.
“For example, I thought it was the right thing to do was to generate as much money as possible for Newcastle, so when people say to me: ‘Whatever you do on an interview do not talk about changing the name of St James’ Park!’ Well I’m me, and I’m going to talk about making an error, and I should not have changed the name of St James’ Park. I should not have done that.
“Football is not all about making money and reinvesting it into football clubs, it has a very strange balance to it. I wanted to get naming rights, get money in and invest it into the club.
“The reality is, the vast majority of the Geordie fans would rather have the name of St James’ Park and finish maybe one or two places lower in the table, because they want to keep it special.
“You begin to learn that the special side of Newcastle means a little bit more than the ultimate end performance on the pitch.”
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