Sympathy, scepticism, Shearer

Mike Ashley pus Newcastle up for sale

Ashley, who also owns retailer Sports Direct, has endured a fractious relationship with the club’s supporters since taking over in 2007

Former Newcastle United winger Chris Waddle says he “feels some sympathy” for Mike Ashley, who has put the Premier League club up for sale.

Ashley has been a divisive figure since taking over in 2007, with some fans protesting against the businessman for much of the past decade.

The Magpies have twice been relegated from the Premier League under Ashley.

“He has been there for 10 years and the fans have never taken to him,” said former England international Waddle.

“He has not communicated enough with them or the media to actually explain in what direction the club was going.”

Newcastle, who have twice played in the Champions League, have finished in the top half of the Premier League in only two seasons since Ashley bought the club for £134.4m in July 2007.

They finished fifth under Alan Pardew in 2011-12 – their highest finish since 2003-04 – and qualified for the following season’s Europa League.

But they dropped into the Championship in 2008-09 and 2015-16, securing promotion at the first attempt on both occasions.

“The fans had a bit of success in the Champions League and they want to be there,” added Waddle, who made 170 league appearances for Newcastle between 1980 and 1985.

“Because of the size of the club, they think that is where they should be. But it is all about money in modern-day football.

“Mike Ashley learned very early in the job that he can’t compete with Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City – he knows he will never have enough money.

“He probably thought he could keep them in the Premier League and then sell it. For Newcastle now it is all about someone coming in and providing really heavy investment.”

‘Fans will believe it when they see it’

Ashley first put the club up for sale in September 2008 following a series of protests by supporters angered by Kevin Keegan’s departure as manager.

The Londoner took the club off the market in December that year, but announced he wanted to sell again after relegation in May 2009, before again ending his attempts to sell the club five months later.

On Monday, a statement said the club was up for sale again, with Ashley hoping to conclude a deal by Christmas.

The news will be greeted with scepticism by many fans, according to Newcastle United Supporters’ Trust chairman Norman Watson.

“My reaction is the same as many others: I will believe it when I see it,” he said.

“We have been down this road a few times before where we have been up for sale and then he’s decided that the club is not up for sale.

“Business deals are usually kept under wraps until a deal is done so I find this move very curious.

“As the statement says, we certainly need investment and it is clear he is not going to give us that.”

The AshleyOut.com campaign – which has long been calling for his departure – said it would “eagerly await positive developments”.

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