Writer: Ross Molyneux
Date:Sunday January 25 2009
In a massive interview with the Sunday Sun, former chairman Freddie Shepherd has come out and given Mike Ashley a total slating over his appointments and running of the club so far. Whilst certainly not the most popular figure on Tyneside, I don`t think I can ever remember feeling this bad under the 'Streetfighter`. He said:
"It`s clear that many fans are fearful over what they see as the lack of leadership at the club. The owner has to restore confidence by showing himself in public at St. James`s Park and taking a hands-on role. He`s had a lot of flak from disgruntled fans, but they have a right to call it as they see it.
I got plenty of stick during my time in charge, but not even my sternest critics can accuse me of hiding. I was always there in the firing line. You`ve got to be brave enough to step up to the plate. Mike Ashley must show leadership in the tricky months that lie ahead.
The single most important thing he (Ashley) must do is to immediately recruit someone to run the club who has a background in top football administration. The club is crying out for a chairman or a chief executive who has experience of running a big football club. That`s not a job application because I`ve had my time. But Ashley must find someone who knows how to run a football club.
No one should feel sorry for Mike Ashley. He got the club on the cheap. He got a fantastic deal when Sir John Hall sold out and set the price at £134 million. The value of the property and the playing assets that he got was at least three times what he paid for the club.
He got a state-of-the-art 52,000-seater stadium — which you couldn`t build today for less than £400 million — as well as a brand new training complex, an Academy and a squad of players that was bursting with internationals.
There is no use him (Ashley) bleating about the debt he inherited. Had he bothered to check he would have known that there was a £57 million securitisation settlement required when Sir John Hall sold. And when he sells the club, there is an agreement that the money he has loaned the club will all be paid back to him. I have never to this day understood why he didn`t undertake due diligence. The simple truth is that Mr Ashley didn`t do his homework before buying.
They (Newcastle) have been unlucky in some respects — it isn`t all down to bad management — but mistakes have clearly been made. Some of the losses on the latest accounts are the result of decisions taken by the owner. He decided to sack Sam Allardyce as manager after just 24 games, and that cost £4.6 million. And the events that led to Kevin Keegan`s departure could also have serious financial consequences for the next accounts.
I thought it was extremely unfair to blame the two previous managers for the lack of depth in the present squad. I know those two guys well and they, like all my other managers, would have always been fighting to squeeze as much money for signings as they could. Kinnear has blamed Keegan, blamed Allardyce, moaned that the squad isn`t good enough and complained that the fans don`t understand.
It seems that Joe Kinnear blames everyone but himself. I know I made mistakes during my time, but I am still proud of my legacy. During my time, we went from a struggling team in the Championship playing in a ramshackle ground to a club that almost won the Premier League and ended up in one of the best stadia in the country.
We signed world-class stars, attracted top managers, played 120 matches in Europe, got to two FA Cup Finals and had four Wembley appearances. The proof that we were doing something very right was in the house-full signs that we had up for nearly 15 years. If Mike Ashley could achieve that sort of transformation he would have done remarkably well.
It saddens me like any supporter to see the plight the club is in. Like every Newcastle fan I am praying that they can survive this season because the repercussions of relegation are unthinkable."
Date:Sunday January 25 2009
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