Mike Ashley is approaching ten years as owner of Newcastle United and his tenure can be described as eventful but unsuccessful. There has been plenty going on at St James’ Park off the pitch, but the football hasn’t been great, with the Magpies suffering two relegations during that time. Supporters will never take to the English businessman, as he lacks ambition and has done a lot to antagonise them. However, there has been a cooling of tensions over the last twelve months, due to Rafa Benitez who has brought the club back together from a perilous position.
On Monday, Sky Sports reported that Newcastle United are attracting interest from international investors, including one party from China. It is thought that Ashley is considering his options, with the Chronicle suggesting that he may even choose to sell part of his stake in order to bring in foreign investment. There are several possibilities for the club, but there will be a significant section of the fan-base that will be cautious about the possible takeover.
It is true that a takeover could propel Newcastle back to the top of the English game. They have everything in place to become a force in the Premier League and with ambition being shown from the boardroom, it could be difficult to stop them. The talk of Chinese investment will lead some to think that the prospective owners would be willing to invest huge amounts into the squad. It is easy to get carried away when it comes to a potential takeover as we have seen what is possible at Chelsea and Manchester City.
However, the outcome isn’t always pretty and there have been some disastrous foreign owners in recent times. The Venkys bought Blackburn Rovers while they were in the Premier League and now they find themselves in League One after many disastrous decisions. Meanwhile, Aston Villa have had Chinese investment in the form of Dr Tony Xia and his social media presence has been a constant distraction for the players. The point I’m trying to make is that as much as its possible to rise to the top of the league like Chelsea and Manchester City did, it is equally as possible to struggle and that will be a concern for Newcastle supporters.
The timing is awful as the Magpies need new players to be signed in order for Benitez to build the team that he needs to challenge in the Premier League. The Spaniard will know what he needs for pre-season and he won’t accept his plans being delayed due to a possible takeover. Ashley may choose to withhold funds until the future becomes clearer and this would be a disaster for Newcastle. Since the appointment of Benitez, there has been a positivity around the club and this could potentially jeopardise that.
It would have been crazy to write these words a few years ago, but it might be bad for the football club if Mike Ashley does sell the club. The last 12 months have been great and there is real belief that the club is headed back in the right direction under the stewardship of Benitez. If Ashley is going to be criticised for renaming the stadium, falling out with Kevin Keegan and getting into bed with Wonga, then he deserves credit for appointing the current Magpies’ boss. In football especially, it is sometimes better the devil you know and these takeover rumours need to be approached with caution.