What We Think Went On At The Ashley Meeting

We have reviewed all the press reports about the meeting yesterday in London between Kevin Keegan, Mike Ashley and others, and we think we have a reasonable idea of what happened.


Mike Ashley – chief honcho at Newcastle – and biggest fan

This is just our best shot at what we think happened and it’s really aimed at dedicated Newcastle fans who wonder what went on.

We think this list will probably be close to what really happened – since it’s obvious the club, and rightly so, will not issue a detailed communication regarding the meeting.

It was a long meeting which lasted a full 4 hours and we have pieced together various reports, and this is our best shot at what we think happened at the meeting:

  • Keegan was told not to criticize Mike Ashley in public again. But Kevin will continue to give his opinions and inform Newcastle’s fans about the state of the club, but no more questionable remarks about Mike, the owner
  • There was probably a short financial review and it would be pointed that Mike had already put around £250M into the Newcastle club, having paid off debts totaling around £100M since buying the club for £133M last summer
  • Mike Ashley will have the club run as a viable business, with Chris Mort obviously as the man in total control as Chairman
  • The wage bill is currently too high at around £70M, which is about 80% of Newcastle’s total costs, and will need to be trimmed in the summer
  • We think the roles of each executive present would have been reviewed for clarity for everybody present
  • We believe the players who Kevin wants to retain at the club like Michael Owen, Steven Taylor and Steve Harper were discussed and agreement reached and negotiations will start forthwith
  • Then some time would have been spent discussing the transfer targets and we think a short list of players to pursue right now, was put together and agreed to
  • At the end of the meeting, after 4 hours, everybody present was told not to comment on the meeting to the press, and Chris would issue a short statement saying it was a good and positive meeting
  • Then everyone shook hands and kept saying 5th place, 5th place, 5th place, as they left the conference room – since that’s our target for next season 😀

We’re not saying this is exactly what happened but we think we’re fairly close.

Comments welcome.

55 comments so far

  • AlexW

    May 10, 2008 at 11:40 AM

    Comment #1

    i think your just about spot on


    May 10, 2008 at 11:42 AM

    Comment #2

    Trim the wage bill ?!

    How will that help us, We need better players and to get them we need to give them bigger wages so the wage bill would have to be bigger than what we have currently.

  • Smiler

    May 10, 2008 at 11:44 AM

    Comment #3

    well if we only have 20 mil to spend kiss 5th place good bye next season

  • Ross G

    May 10, 2008 at 12:04 PM

    Comment #4

    Thats rubbish 20million plus anything else we get on sales as well as trimming the wage bill. Dont believe that for one second, Mort has already come out and said he is looking to sort contracts out for Owen, Taylor, etc and how are they gonna be on less. More obviously however is that we offered more in wages and bid for Modric which means we offered at least £16m, and a high wage now how in hell would we spend all our transfer kitty on one player that has never played in the Premiership. Its just the press trying to disillusion us again. We will spend at least £40m this summer, and Wages may be more controlled but not cut

  • Joe Aussie

    May 10, 2008 at 12:05 PM

    Comment #5

    I can’t agree Smiler,Kevin Keegan is a Master motivator and I wouldn’t underestimate his ability to get the best out of the team he will have. Just look at Arsenal,Wenger has only spent a fraction of what Man Utd and Chelski have and look what he has achieved!

  • Ashton

    May 10, 2008 at 12:07 PM

    Comment #6

    Off topic lads but Aquilani is available for 12 m !! he would be great sign for us and he is better n cheaper than Veloso

  • belfast toon

    May 10, 2008 at 12:13 PM

    Comment #7

    i have to agree with you ross I would imagine at least 40mil keegan has said he wants 4 or 5 top players and i can’t see us making 19mil from selling unless we let oba go

  • wrighty

    May 10, 2008 at 12:16 PM

    Comment #8

    The whole ‘meeting’ was basically an end of season review/board meeting/opportunity to review the transfer targets…THATS ALL!

    It would have been assessment of the past 3 months and the way the key players (in the management team & board etc) progress over the close season as everyone will be going on holiday on Monday.

    The press have just blown this out of the water AS USUAL – doubt there’d be any bollocking for KK, Ashley has thick skin and it wasn’t direct criticism of Ashley himself, just an honest assessment – bare in mind KK had just watched Grant put on Lampard, Shevva & Alex…leaving Joe Cole on the bench !!!!
    What he said was fair enough.
    Ashley knows that and it probably was a meeting to say right….I WANT TO GET THERE – whats the best way of getting there and moving this forward – basics and common sense!

    They just hate it as we’re no longer the laughing stock of the previous regime and we give them nothing to report on. Other managers have come out and agreed with KK – you dont see them up for the sack !

  • Marguerite

    May 10, 2008 at 12:19 PM

    Comment #9


    You may well be right in your summary, but lets face it, we can only guess based on what the media are printing and we have seen just how badly some of these reports are. So how much credence do we give them?

    A few of my fellow bloggers (me included) have tried to hit back at the media for what they are printing. However, I think we are wasting our time.

    I am genuinely concerned as to the direction our club is going at the moment. So perhaps it would be more fruitful for us to start bombarding the club with requests for information from them.

    As a season ticket holder of long standing and still a small shareholder (Ashley has not bought mine) I have done exactly that.

    I have requested that we the fans should get some positive feedback from the club as to how they are going to progress rather than just being told they do not want to do a ‘Leeds’ or that the meeting on Friday was ‘productive and constructive’ rather than having to rely on the media. If we are having to run a tight ship with limited funds this season – then tell us.

    Also regarding press reporting, I have asked for clarification as to the club’s stance to the articles regularly being published in the sun and the mail; are they printing a pack of lies in which case will they consider banning these rags from SJP? Or, are they in fact printing the truth and someone within the club is leaking this information to them?

    I am not at all sure if I will even get a response however, I have also informed them that regretfully for the first time in many many years, I am not going to be automatically renewing my season ticket as I have always done in the past until I receive some reassurances.

  • Ed Harrison

    May 10, 2008 at 12:27 PM

    Comment #10

    Marguerite – you’re right – it’s only a best guess.
    Sorry you are not renewing your season ticket though – wonder why Ashley or Mort doesn’t issue a communication regarding where they think the club is going – and include Kevin as having bought into that.
    We’ll also get better idea once we know who we sign – but I guess 5th place is the target – so we need to have some vast improvement next season.
    You can never really have too much communication from the club – only too little.

  • belfast toon

    May 10, 2008 at 12:39 PM

    Comment #11

    I would of thought i was obvious if Mr mort comes out and says we are going to spend 50 ,60 or even 70mil then our targeted players clubs would just inflate their valuation as they do with chelsea i think that the club is being smart on this.

    To be honest its quite reassuring

  • Paul

    May 10, 2008 at 12:40 PM

    Comment #12

    modric modric modric, thats blows your a big hole into your statement ed, we offered big money and wages for him, was he the only player we were going to sign this summer????????

  • Marguerite

    May 10, 2008 at 12:44 PM

    Comment #13


    I have not said I will NOT renew my season ticket at all, but that I will not blindly do it automatically as in years gone by, without knowing first just where the club’s ambitions lie. If I were totally honest though, I probably will renew just as always, because they are in my very bones.

    As you so rightly point out, the signings will be a huge indication as to where the club intends going. Also realistically 5th place would be a huge step in the right direction.

    I could not agree with you more, you can never get too much communication from the club, hence my suggestion that perhaps we badger them which will let them know just how concerned we fans are.

    Keep up the good work Ed and many thanks for all your endeavours.

  • Toon_Ksk

    May 10, 2008 at 12:44 PM

    Comment #14

    Whatever that has been said our transfer funds, wage structure and KK getting out of line are all speculation to me unless there is official news about that.

    But if those news are true, it is going to be difficult getting into 5th spot.

    Our current squad is not good enough, and if we have to cut our wage bill, we might not be able to attract big names and keep our best players at the same time. I can’t take any positives out of the possibilities from the meeting that you have listed out Ed.

  • michael

    May 10, 2008 at 12:51 PM

    Comment #15

    I don’t think you’re very close at all there Ed.
    Trimming the wage bill? Can’t see it. Losing the dead weight I’d hope. (i.e. Stephen Carr, James Troisi… oh wait a minute)

    As far as a 20million pound budget. Maybe. The Modric deal was to be £6.5million this summer and the rest over 3 years according to Kev’s words. But still that seems unlikely given that Fat Sam was given 25 million last summer (Even though he sold a few I know, blah blah blah, but nobody he sold was actually very good were they? Apart from Nobby and that was his choice not Sams.) And we know KK is held in much higher esteen than BSA, so I would expect KK to get more money surely as Ashley has appointed “his man”.

    I would think it very unlikely that were we to look to progress that we would sell our better players like Oba and Owen. Given all the comments of “we only need 3 players” this summer I would be very suprised if we were looking to raise 19 million pounds by selling players.

    As far as the KK comments go, judging by Chris Morts reaction on Wednesday they would be treated as a bit of a non-event.

    What is more likely –
    1. Mike Ashley is quite a busy man what with running billion pound businesses and that. This was probably a case of accomodating an end of season review, which he could physically attend, prior to the transfer window opening.

    2. They would have finalised their transfer targets and maximum offers allowed for the players they will attempt to buy. (Makes sense to run it past the money man?)

    3. Because the meeting happened in London, and because Newcastle United don’t have board meetings anymore, the press went mental. Although slightly less so than most bloggers.

    4. I don’t imagine you would waste 4 hours of a billionaire’s time what with “clarifying roles”. Mike Ashley wouldn’t employ muppets who couldn’t decide amongst themselves what they should be doing.
    It would be more likely if he sent Jimenez, Vetere and Wise off to Elphingstone fish market to sell £600 of fish with he person who made the least money brought in to the boardroom and told “you’re fired”.

    To my mind Ed the only thing you got right (Going on actions and actual quotes as opposed to speculation and conjecture of Alan Oliver) was that they all thought 5th would be rather good next year.

  • Michael12

    May 10, 2008 at 12:51 PM

    Comment #16

    Looking at that wage Bill, Ashley is not the man to take this club into the Champs league. Let us be Honest, Freddy was more conducive for attracting big players. If this speculation is close to true then we can imagine selling Michael Owen and Perhaps Martins in the Summer. The last thing Newcastle need to be is a club that discovers a player then sells him off at the end of the season when demand forces our hand. Clearly, playing in the champs league, playing attractive football, challenging for the title is not enough to keep a player these days (Flamini).

    Wages are what they look at and do not expect loyalty in this modern age. It costs money to make money, perhaps this is why Keegan said Newcastle cannot attract top players because they simply command top wages. Any top professional in a field commands a top wage it is the reality of the game. So better we sell, now than negotiate all season and have a player walk away for free end of next season.

    As I said before, do not expect Mike ashley to back Keegan. I think 20M is not the amount Ashley is going to release for Keegan but rather about £15 M.

    All this talk from the time Keegan took over of flamboyant figures as a war chest but look as the time comes all the talk is not coming to fruition.

    Perhaps we see now Why Sam was Sacked, because they did not want to spend money in January and blame it on the fact that Keegan did not have time to scout.

  • Hadrian

    May 10, 2008 at 12:51 PM

    Comment #17

    arggh , i dont want to start slagging ashley off as we dont know whats went on .

    if he’s attempted to spank keegan for his outburst id be annoyed , kev’s no child , and what he said was done on purpose .

    run us like s business fine , bit im not accepting that 100 mill debt as a reason for no major investment , hel anyone could have bought us and just let us run , that wasnt the point in billionare owners .

    our squads tiny !! , unreasonable to expect our manager to thin it down more to bring in transfer money .

    20mill is peanuts , where is the investment ? thats the tv money , is he taking income out of the club himself this year already ?

    wage budget is high , but we cant expect world class players like owen to knock back 40kpw , owens face has been plastered all over that console game that sells the world over with a nufc shirt on , this is why he gets a large wage aswell as for what he does out on the pitch .

    again i dont want to call ashley untill this summers over and we know who we have as an owner .
    regardless , we all must be scratching our heads wondering why we have the only billionare owenr who isnt putting a major investment into the club to get it rolling , the 100mill debt has bugger all todo with us , we should not suffer for ashlesy lack of due dilligence .

  • Jim

    May 10, 2008 at 12:52 PM

    Comment #18

    …and so the silly season of speculation at St. James’ starts again. As reasuringly familiar as the swallows arriving to herald in the Summer.

    Still, I would like a hell of a more detailed statement from the club. Pinning up the transfer budget would be ludicrous, but a statement of intent would be ‘nice’.

  • ToonStoat

    May 10, 2008 at 12:55 PM

    Comment #19

    Anyone who thinks we can trim the wage bill of a small squad while increasing the numbers in that squad and bringing in better quality better take a long hard look at their grip on reality!

    If our chairman/owner think the above can be achieved and we can still aim for a 5th place finish, they’re seriously in the wrong business!

    I don’t believe Ashley/Mort are daft enough to think it’s possible. They’re seriously succesful businessmen. They’ll look a what they need to do and either plan the costs or plan the target (5th) accordingly.

  • Ed Harrison

    May 10, 2008 at 12:57 PM

    Comment #20

    Michael – you could well be right – it was just my best shot.

  • michael

    May 10, 2008 at 1:00 PM

    Comment #21

    Ed this is you’re worst article since i signed on a year ago. It’s effectively just scare mongering. Have you been taking tips from Alan Oliver?

    Not actally the article just the fact you included the bit from the Daily Mail. You’re supposed to be the optimist Ed.

  • Leo

    May 10, 2008 at 1:22 PM

    Comment #22

    hears a good way of lowering our wage costs, get rid of alan smith at all costs thats 65k a week salvaged, i bet cacapa rozehnal viduka etc are on high wages, if they are not going to play then we should maybe try and get rid of them too.

    who knows what was aid in the meeting but i hope 20mil is not the amount we get to spend.

    either way i will still be there next season because thats what geordies do, show support though good and bad times because we love our club

  • Gooderz

    May 10, 2008 at 1:22 PM

    Comment #23

    We can cut the wage bill by not having useless muppets or squad players on stupid wages like 60k a week, so it doesn’t have to mean the end of big name players.

  • Leo Smith

    May 10, 2008 at 1:30 PM

    Comment #24

    Woah woah woah. Stop. Ed, I can’t actually believe you’ve done this. You’ve taken wild speculation from the media and let them convince you that it’s fact. From this I take it you actually believe that the meeting was for “crisis talk”? I’m sorry but that’s b****cks and we all know that. There will have been no talk about KK’s “comments” as they’re irrelevant. He didn’t insult Ashley or critisise him as the press have been saying, he just said no matter how much money we want to spend this summer it wont be enought to catch *Chelsea* (NOT the top 4 as everyone seems to think), and he’s right; not because of the money but because the best players don’t come to teams which finish 12th.

    This meeting will have been to say well done for avoiding relegation and to finalise transfer targets. Has Ashley EVER said anything critical about KK? No. Has KK ever said anything critical about DW? No. So STOP believing the press RUBBISH which says they have. They’re attempting to destabalise the club which is unacceptable.

    The major hole in your argument is Modric. KK said we offered £20m for him (you can’t say it’s split over 3 years – where would our budget for next year and the year after come from then???). If £20m is our budget then that just stupid. Even FFS wouldn’t have done that.

    STOP buying into the media hype and try to instill some positivity into your readers and fight back against the media scaremongers. They’re not fooling me.

  • Hadrian

    May 10, 2008 at 1:31 PM

    Comment #25

    wage bill doesnt worry me , kev will see who gets what and get rid of them acordingly .
    we do pay some useless players some crazy wages , smith rozy cacapa emre duff all on 40-70k pw.

    and ed .
    ive been a bit to full on with my critic of the blog at time’s (still here after what feels like years now tho !) , but yeah , your our voice . any old newspaper could start a blog up and print some of the storys you have , not many of them could do it from our point of view tho .

    i know everysingle one of us would be disgusted if we even thought keegan was getting a heavy hand used against him and being told to appologise .

  • Toon1978

    May 10, 2008 at 1:32 PM

    Comment #26

    He wants to trim the wage bill but finish 5th haha get real ASHLEY that WILL NOT HAPPEN big players demand big wages if big wages are not paid then big players do not come to your club.

  • IanG

    May 10, 2008 at 1:37 PM

    Comment #27

    Well only time will tell starting with any post match comments from KK.

  • michael

    May 10, 2008 at 1:58 PM

    Comment #28

    There is still a lot of dead weight in the squad that we could stand to lose.
    Rozehal, Cacapa, Emre, Ameobi
    Not sure what sort of dent that would make in a £70million bill but surely they’re not worth the £5million+ pounds a year it costs to employ these individuals.

  • faustino

    May 10, 2008 at 2:12 PM

    Comment #29

    I cannot believe on May 10th, with one game of the season left to play that I am reading some of the conceted rubbish that I am. What are you ‘genuinely worried’ about! You cant on one hand understand the ‘utter b*ll*cks’ nature of the press AND be ‘genuinely concerned’!

    People demanding to know transfer targets and club info otherwise they won’t renew season tickets. Who do you think you are, you deluded fool! Sickening. How about this, do-one and let someone else have your seat!

    The very crux of our transfer business and all business for that matter, is keeping it on the down low/secret/out of the press; anyone with half a brain can see that and just because some fans have the patience of 5 year old on Xmas eve and beleive they have the right to know the ‘general direction of the club’ isnt going to change that. You want info stump up the 250mil.

    However, for that matter, are the words ‘we believe 5th place is reaslistic’ ‘Everton are who we should be chasing next season’ ‘ We will invest… but we dont want to become the new Leeds’ ‘ I think we’ll fetch in 3/4/5 quality players…”The meeting was positive and productive…’ not enough? These were all acutal quotes, not the mis-appropriated tabloid balls that some folk are choosing to over react to.

    It will serve us well, as far as budgets/economics go, to allow this press conjecture. It seems fairly obvious that we are being used by agents to hike wage negotiations and transfer fees for players that aren’t even considering signing for us! [This has happend for nearly a decade now.] Certain agents thinking that NUFC doesn’t have a blank cheque for players would be the best thing that could happen!

    How about this everyone – let’s wait and see what happens over the next month or so and then start with the negativity ey? Do you have any real reason to be dis-content other than the usual end of season press bleet? Is everything going to plan? I think you’ll find outside of losing Modric to Spurs it is! We finished ahead of the makcems and th smogs AND out of trouble when we looked like going down – happy days.

    Another point – in this thread we have idiots claiming Freddy Shepherd knew what he was doing and would be doing a better job for the club [this alone should have you stripped of whatever black and white you may own] – that man destroyed our club you muppets and took the piss and made a fortune as he did it. We’re any of you actually there as he pissed millions up the wall and gradually turned a decent club into relegation candidates? I am enraged that anyone would dare mention his name in a positive light. He sacked Bobby Robson.

    Finally – Ashley won’t invest money!!! [100 million on debt alone! yeah that’s the action of a man with no plan to increase turnover] and that the transfer fund won’t be big enough!!!! We bid 18.5 million on one player recently do you honestly belive the Mail’s 20mill figure?!?!?!?! Calm down dears.

    This kind of over-reaction is exactly the reason we are picked on by the national press. Impatience and , in all fairness, talking utter b*ll*cks about subjects you know nothing about. Speculation is interesting, debate is essential and questioning the national press is a given. But throwing insults, threats, veiled demands for resignation at a club that your supposed to love over a few blown up tabloid stories is just a disgrace.

    Having said that not every post above is as mentioned, but some of you need to have serious word.

  • faustino

    May 10, 2008 at 2:20 PM

    Comment #30

    We are supposed to beleive that in a meeting where there was tension over KKs possible sacking due to the comments made about the top 4 and the clubs ambition etc. that Ashley offered a 20mill transfer kitty. Hmmm.

  • Toon1978

    May 10, 2008 at 2:30 PM

    Comment #31

    FAUSTINO i am no muppet i have been supporting NUFC for 25 years and i have spent hundreds of pounds on season tickets and strips for many a year so i am entitled to my opinion. I DID NOT SAY FS DID A BETTER JOB i said AT LEAST HE BACKED HIS MANAGERS. I do think that is what KK has been offered 20 million because i believe ASHLEY is not a NUFC fan at all. He bought NUFC to make a quick buck and got his hands burnt for beeing greedy. He has made his million by buying companies and selling them on at a profit and i believe that WAS his intention when he bought NUFC. He is a rich man from down south WHY WOULD HE BE A NEWCASTLE UNITED FAN?????

  • Vitorbarbosa

    May 10, 2008 at 2:37 PM

    Comment #32

    A very good debate. FOr me, it isn’t necessary to have everything from the board communicate to everybody around the world. Why do they want to do this? This is the reason why they de-listed nufc.

    As KK mentioned, we have the edge over others for being private. Remember? He mentioned how we can take short cut to fifth.

    I will just wait and see rather than coming to a conclusion now. We want to know what is happening right now. And I believe the team also want to let us know. But we just can’t let everyone knows our plan.

  • ronaldeano

    May 10, 2008 at 2:44 PM

    Comment #33

    The truth is……

    Nobody knows what went on at that meeting.

    For all we know, MA could have said “Kev, heare is 80 million pounds to spend on players this summer!”. I hope so.

    MA has paid off all of the clubs debts. If he had baught this club to make money…. he would use his billions that he has made elcewhere to make money from NUFC. All this crap in the press today means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING,why, because NOBODY from the press was present at the meeting, that means that…..EVERY WORD PRINTED THIS MORNING IS TOTAL LIES!

    Except the chairman saying “the meeting was constructive blah blah”…….

  • Taiwantoon

    May 10, 2008 at 2:49 PM

    Comment #34

    Is this the short cut we’ve been talking about?
    An extra place in next year’s UEFA cup.



    May 10, 2008 at 3:04 PM

    Comment #35

    The thing that i find weird about Jabba is this reclusive nature the papers made such a meal of when he first bought the club, What kind of recluse sits in a stand at stadiums containing thousands of people, or dances when he knows he is on camera, or buys loads of people drinks

    I dont beleive a word that this guy says and i hate the fact that they are treating the King like a dummy

  • Alex

    May 10, 2008 at 3:08 PM

    Comment #36

    Well said faustino i could not agree more.Any one spending so much money to buy a club then having to spend another 100 mill to clear its debts is not in it to make a quick buck.obviously he does not want to see the club heading back into debt by buying highly overpriced ,overpayed players that are just not up to taking the club back into the champions league so as shepherd did , just to keep the fans happy with so called top signings.Ashely is the best thing that has happend at this club since sir john hall stepped down .He will take this club to a higher level ,we already have a chairman that seems to know what running a big club is all about and we already seem to be investing in the futre of the club or has every one forgot about the younger players that were signed in january.If Keegan did not belive there was going to be enough transfer money to move this club forward then he would have walked .Its going to take another couple of seasons but i belive with the setup of the club as it is, we will make it into the top 4.

  • Danny

    May 10, 2008 at 3:14 PM

    Comment #37

    Well said faustino…Day in day out I see pointless moaning on here.

    The very fact that the word constructive was used by Mort implies that everybody left the meeting in agreement and you would imagine and idea of exactly what action out club will be taking over the next few months…

    We did bid 18.5 million on Modric so that tells me the club are at least looking at players of the right age and quality.

    No matter who we bring in whether I agree with the buy or not, I am sure will make us a better team!

    And please when we are linked with players can I please read about the story without one of you saying:

    “Hes French so he will be a flop like Boumsong”

    “Hes Spanish so he will be a flop like Luque”

    “Hes Portuguese so he will be a flop like Viana”

    Any player will be bought by Keegan or Wise who have played with or bought top quality players in the past….

    Keegans buys in the past – Shearer, Ginola, Ferdinand, Rob Lee, Anelka (Man City)

    He knows a good player….so please stop banging on about players who past managers have bought!

    Drogba – Didnt have premiership experience!

    Fabregas – Didnt have premiership experience!

    Ronaldo – Didnt have premiership experience!

    Torres – Didnt have premiership experience!

    Elano – Didnt have premiership experience!

    All of these players are maybe the best players at there teams….make sense?

  • Jack

    May 10, 2008 at 3:16 PM

    Comment #38

    What I don’t get is how a successful businessman didn’t realise that there was a hidden debt of £100million.

  • Viper

    May 10, 2008 at 3:19 PM

    Comment #39

    Good debate indeed. Lots of ‘relevant’ posts followed. Everyone had own right to their own opinions.
    Largely (apart from a couple of filthy spurs types) we are all Toon fans by heart.

    Lets see what the summer brings with a bit of optimism!


    May 10, 2008 at 3:24 PM

    Comment #40

    Danny you are right about those comments, would those people not want Ronaldo because Viana was from Portugal Or Mexes because Boumsong was from France

    I find them silly look at the individual player not where they are from


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