NEWCASTLE United fans are willing to forgive Mike Ashley for his costly mistakes at St James’s Park as they look to bring an end to the unrest and disenchantment which has soured this season – but only if he is willing to admit them.
With Ashley struggling to find a buyer prepared to match his asking price and with the global economic crisis threatening to jeopardise any takeover for the foreseeable future, some supporters have realised a truce could be needed to ensure the club’s problems off the pitch do not lead to a disaster on it.
Having ensured there is some semblance of stability in the dressing room last week by extending Joe Kinnear’s contract as manager until the end of the season, the newly-formed Newcastle United Supporters Club (NUSC) has urged Ashley to bring an end to the detrimental state of limbo which set in after Kevin Keegan’s controversial departure and to start taking responsibility again for United’s long-term health. Although Kinnear has collected 10 points from a possible 24 since he became the club’s temporary manager in September and has guided the Magpies out of the bottom three, United are still in considerable danger of relegation, a threat which would be just as dire for Ashley, as it would wipe millions of the club’s valuation.
As a result, with the January transfer window approaching and with no prospect of new owners before the end of the year, Malcolm Shiels, chairman of NUSC, has admitted a compromise should be reached to benefit everyone associated with the black and white stripes.
“I think a large number of Newcastle fans would be willing to accept Ashley back if he is willing to try and take the club forward again,” said Shiels, who believes a collective voice for Newcastle fans is long overdue, even though their attempts to communicate with Ashley have been frustratingly ignored so far.
“What we want, more than anything, is to see an end to the state of limbo which has been so damaging over the last few months. If he was to come out and say he can’t sell the club, but he is willing to come back and try again to get things right, he would be given a chance to do just that. He
has made mistakes and he probably knows it. If he was to actually come out and admit those mistakes and express a desire to look forward rather than back, I think most fans would be okay with that.
“The most important thing at the moment is that Joe Kinnear is allowed to manage the side as he wants to. If Joe’s the manager he needs to be given money to spend in January – that’s imperative if the club is going to move forward positively.
“If Ashley (pictured right) is willing to provide that money and allows Kinnear to control how he spends it, I think it will turn around for him very quickly. If Kinnear is allowed to offer new contracts to the likes of Michael Owen and Nicky Butt that will also be a big step in the right direction.
“But Ashley has to come out and say this, he has to have some sort of dialogue with the supporters to bring an end to this negative atmosphere.”
There is no doubt, in an ideal world, the vast majority of supporters would prefer to see the back of Ashley and his main allies, managing director Derek Llambias and executive director (football) Dennis Wise. But there is also a realisation it is expedient to ensure the club does not suffer any major damage while the search for new owners takes place. Shiels explained: “The main aims of the NUSC are to work positively with the owners and management of Newcastle United who have its best interests at heart, whoever that may be.
“There is no doubt the situation and executive management actions before and after the Hull game led to the formation of the NUSC, and the NUSC led calls for Mike Ashley to leave.
“However, the overriding long-term aim and ambition is to establish a positive regular dialogue with the board and eventually a representative place on the board giving a true Newcastle fans’ voice.” An online survey by The Journal last week indicated 44% of Newcastle fans would be willing to take Ashley back and, while there is still considerable opposition to him because of the way he allowed Keegan to be treated, Shiels hopes he has learnt some valuable lessons.
He added: “The biggest problem Ashley has is suspicion about his intentions has been allowed to fester because of the lack of communication from him. Since Chris Mort left we’ve had no dialogue from any senior figure at the club.”
Anyone interested in joining NUSC should visit the website at www.newcastle-united-supporters-club.co.uk