Keep Your Shirt On: One Club Owner Is Playing Football a Little Bit Differently

New Statesman (1996), September 8, 2008 | Go to article overview

Keep Your Shirt On: One Club Owner Is Playing Football a Little Bit Differently


I'm a bit worried about Mike Ashley. And also worried about me worrying about him. The owner of Newcastle United was caught by TV cameras at Arsenal last Saturday, with sweaty Newcastle top, shaven head and beer belly, sitting among the Newcastle fans (not the directors) sinking a pint of beer from a plastic glass. All in one gulp, so it appeared, but you never know with these television johnnies--they can change the sequence of events and fiddle anything.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

What a wally, I thought, then, What a poser, followed by, Ugh, imagine downing a pint in one go. But why should that bother me? Just because I don't drink beer, and certainly not out of a plastic glass (how gross), I shouldn't be against people who do. Am I becoming a snob? Or is it from still being up here in lovely Loweswater, cut off from nasty urban life?

I still associate football tops with kids, or at least youths, not grown men of 44--despite all grown men of 44 today believing they're still kids. At every football ground, you see blokes and biddies of 70 in their horrible tops, thinking they are 44.

When Ashley eventually got up, clearly disgusted with Newcastle's performance, we could see that the back of his shirt read "King Kev".

A hint perhaps that the king was about to be dead. Last time I noticed, it read 17--Alan Smith's number, a player he said he had admired, but now can't get a game.

This ostentatious shirt-wearing is presumably to show he is one of the lads, but it also happens to be a clever advertising ploy. It was through selling repro shirts from his chain of sports shops that he made his fortune, enabling him to buy Newcastle for [pounds sterling]135m.

He's a southerner, born in Bucks, with no known connections to Newcastle. So, what's his game? Still not clear. …

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