Ashley is either a figure of ridicule, a figure of hate or a guardian angel protecting Newcastle football club, depending on which camp you’re in. I believe the latter camp contains just Ashley himself and his right hand man, Managing Director, Derek Llambias.
The financial news was not good whichever way you look at it. The club reported a loss for the year ending June 2010 of £17.1 million. Even more worrying for the club and the fans is the news that Ashley put in another £42 million in interest free loans. That takes the amount of money owed to Ashley to a huge £139.8 million.
Llambias was predictably gushing in his praise for Ashley.
“Mike Ashley’s money has kept this club buoyant. Quite honestly, Newcastle United would not be here without him, it is as simple as that. He has never taken a penny out of the football club, but he knows what he has to put in every year and he is keen to grow it.”
There may be some truth in that and I suppose the fans should in some ways be grateful, but if Ashley hadn’t made a string of poor decisions, hired the wrong people and alienated just about everyone, they probably wouldn’t have needed his money to bail them out. Of course, Llambias also forgot to mention that the reason he hasn’t made a penny out of the club is because he couldn’t find anyone daft enough to pay the inflated amount he was trying to sell the club for which would have doubled his money.
The other news story from Newcastle yesterday was that Ashley says he believes that Newcastle should be challenging for Europe every year. I’m not sure where he might have got that belief from really. There is no doubt that they have the fan base that could put them in that position, but the team they have is a million miles away from it. In fact, survival in the Premier League is the first obstacle that has to be overcome. It does sound a bit like the delusional Steve Keane saying that Blackburn should be in the top five. You have to wonder what planet these people live on.
Of course, Llambias was quick to rally alongside the owner.
“Mike knows where we should be in four or five years. We want to be challenging for Europe every season.”
The club is losing money and only surviving, apparently, on the interest free loans from Ashley. The team have a very real fight to stay in the division and Ashley says they should be challenging for Europe every year in four or five years time. I wish I had that sort of optimism!
Of course, the only way that could come true is if someone came in with an even bigger fortune than Ashley and bought the club from him. That couldn’t be what he still wants to happen could it?