SO LONG BIG MIKE – THANKS FOR ALL THE MEMORIES

Culture: October 17, 2021

In May 2007 Mike Ashley bought Newcastle United for £133 million. It’s fair to say it was briefly a time of optimism on Tyneside.

Ashley, despite having done next to no research into the club and therefore unknowingly purchasing a club £100 million in debt, was happy to be swept away on the tide of enthusiasm on Tyneside and embraced the saviour role with open arms. Needless to say, it would not last. 

As one of the most well publicised, drawn out and downright bleak sagas in English football nears its end we’re taking a look back at the 14 years that have passed since that fateful day and at some of the events that have transpired to turn an entire city so firmly against one man.

 

The appointment of Joe Kinnear

 

 

JK: Which one is Simon Bird? 

SB: Me.

JK: You're a cunt. 

SB: Thank you.

 

So started Mike Ashley’s appointee Joe Kinnear’s opening press conference at St James Park in 2008.

It didn't get much better from there. The controversial appointment of a manager who had not led a top flight side for almost a decade yielded a return of 18 games and 4 wins and Newcastle plummeted towards the foot of the table.

It’s very much worth checking out the whole transcript.

 

Kevin Keegan sued Newcastle

 

 

So why was there a vacant job for the woefully ill equipped Joe Kinnear to walk into? Well that would be because club legend Kevin Keegan had walked away from the club citing lack of backing and board overreach. He would go on to sue the club for lost earnings and win £2 million.

 

Wonga 

 

 

A player refusing to wear the shirt on religious grounds and printing the wrong logo on all replicas after a last minute rebrand were bad enough. So when Newcastle tried to pull a smooth ‘you're not dumping me I'm dumping you’ as it became increasingly clear that payday lender Wonga were soon to cease to exist, it’s fair to say few saw them as the good guys.

 

Jonas Gutierrez

 

 

Having arrived in 2008, Argentine full back Jonas Gurierrez’ heart on his sleeve performances and consistency quickly made him a cult hero with the club's fans. Five years into his stint on Tyneside he received the devastating news that he had tested positive for cancer. A two year battle followed with Gutierrez ultimately making a remarkable return to Premier League football two years later. His fairytale return was capped with a goal and an assist against West Ham to ensure the clubs Premier League survival on the final day of the 2014/15 season. He learned he had been released by the club shortly after following a phone call between the manager and club captain. Classy stuff.

 

Stadium rename

 

 

 

In 2011 Ashley renamed the stadium the Sports Direct Arena, with the club stating that it was a temporary measure designed to "showcase the sponsorship opportunity to interested parties". It would remain this way until Wonga came in in 2011 and took up the option of naming rights but elected to leave the stadium unbranded. When Wonga ends up looking like the good guys you’ve definitely fucked up.

 

Worst players

 

 

A 300 year old Sol Campbell, Nacho Gonzalez and an electrician called Michael RIchardson all came through the doors at St James Park during the Ashley era as fans desperately hoped that billionaire Ashley would finally loosen his purse strings and break the transfer record set by Michael Owen in August 2005. He finally surpassed it in July 2019 when he signed Joelinton for £40 million. Joelinton who has since scored SIX GOALS IN SEVENTY SIX GAMES.

 

Dennis Wise 

 

 

 

Wise was Newcastle's director of football for just 10 months, but he’s still remembered for all the wrong reasons today. Like Kinnear his appointment was attributed more to a personal relationship with Ashley than any actual aptitude for the job. He promptly demonstrated said lack of aptitude by making so many bad transfers that Kevin Keegan resigned and was later awarded a couple mill for his troubles. 

 

Shearer’s stab at management 

 

 

In a last desperate attempt to salvage Newcastle's 2008/09 season, and apparently completely oblivious to the unfolding Keegan situation, Ashley appointed club legend Alan Shearer to the role of manager. He faced a near impossible task and promptly failed to deliver in what is to date his first and only stab at management. Worth a punt I suppose. Could have maybe picked someone actually qualified for the job though. Just a thought.

 

Terrible kits

 

 

It's hard to get it truly wrong with a black and wiped striped kit. That is unless you stick a morally bankrupt company's logo in a jarring shade of blue across the front of it. Luckily for Newcastle, Wonga kicked the bucket around 2017. So they elected to replace their sponsorship with Fun88, a morally bankrupt company whose name appeared in a jarring shade of blue across the front of the classic black and white stripes. There’s no winning with these people.

 

Pardew’s 8 year contract 

 

 

On June 30th 2020, Alan Pardew’s Newcastle contract ran out. He signed the legendary extension in 2012 and left two years later, since moving between four different clubs and all but ending his time in management. Was eight years short sighted? Yes it very much was. But what do you expect at this point?

 

Sacking Rafa

 

 

While enduring all the above Newcastle fans had a commendable ability to turn up week in week out as they yo-yo’d between the Premier League and Championship. And on the last day of the 2016/17 season they showed their love for manager Rafa Benitez, serenading him despite the club facing relegation once again. Ashley then sat by as the best manager Newcastle had in a decade’s contract ran down and he left for China a couple of years later. 

 

Words by Andy Gallagher

 

 

 

 

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