Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: How Ashley's Men Let Him Down; Billionaire Saw His Dream Destroyed Because Those He Appointed Made a Mess of the Job Mike Ashley Appears to Have Admitted Defeat at Newcastle United but Chief Sports Writer Luke Edwards Argues the Club's Owner Might Not Be Going Anywhere Quickly

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: How Ashley's Men Let Him Down; Billionaire Saw His Dream Destroyed Because Those He Appointed Made a Mess of the Job Mike Ashley Appears to Have Admitted Defeat at Newcastle United but Chief Sports Writer Luke Edwards Argues the Club's Owner Might Not Be Going Anywhere Quickly

Article excerpt

Byline: Luke Edwards

EVEN now, as he begrudgingly bows to unrelenting public pressure and puts Newcastle United up for sale, Mike Ashley has failed to grasp the real reason for his fall from grace at St James's Park.

Even now, as he prepares to suffer the first humiliation of his business career and the club teeters on the brink of a disaster which could take a generation to recover from, Ashley cannot see why things have gone so wrong, so quickly.

Ashley cannot be blamed for wanting to buy a football club so that he can enjoy it. He cannot be blamed for wanting to implement a long-term plan based on gradual and sustainable growth and he cannot be blamed for not wanting to bring himself to the brink of bankruptcy in a vain effort to buy instant success and gratification.

But what Ashley can be blamed for, and what he must realise if he is to salvage something from the car crash that Newcastle United has become, is that his single, biggest and ultimately fatal mistake was in who he appointed to run the club for him.

Loyalty can be blinding and Ashley has been blind to the mistakes made by his friends. By sticking by them following manager Kevin Keegan's row with managing director Derek Llambias and executive director (football) Dennis Wise over their interference in transfer policy, he has ostracised the one appointment he has made since he became Newcastle's owner which gave his regime real credence and widespread support - Keegan. He has not seen that Llambias has been a disastrous replacement for former chairman Chris Mort because of his refusal to open any lines of communication.

He did not realise that Llambias' aggressive approach to dealing with the day-to-day running of the club has upset and angered many of his employees, not least Keegan, whose decision to quit owed more to the arrogance and bullish behaviour of the former casino manager than any other individual.

He has not seen that Tony Jimenez's persistent leaks to a London-based media has undermined his regime by emphasising the fact the club was being run from 300 miles away.

And he did not see that the presence of Wise as what has become an omnipotent director of football would not only incense those supporters who loved to hate him when he was a player, it would lead to the complete dissatisfaction and eventual departure of the football manager who united the club with its followers in an unbreakable bond.

For an astute and ambitious businessman, Ashley has been remarkably naive in how he has run the club. He has tried to operate a football club like one of his sport shops and has failed miserably.

Football is big business, but it is still not like any other big business. It is part of the entertainment industry and those at the top cannot simply stay quiet and hope the problems go away. …

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