Former Newcastle chairman and part owner Freddy Shepherd last night called for owner Mike Ashley to take responsibility for the club’s dire predicament, and Freddy has talked to the Sunday Sun in a long interview.
Freddy Shepherd – blasts Ashley for club’s predicament
In this wide-ranging and often very negative evaluation of Mike Ashley’s stewardship of Newcastle United Shepherd has:
- Urged Ashley to replace managing director Derek Llambias with someone experienced in running a Premier League club.
- Insisted Ashley deserves no sympathy amid United’s deepening crisis, maintaining he got the club cheaply
- Described the possible repercussions of relegation as just unthinkable.
- Defended his own overall legacy at St James’ Park – of course – everything was fine when he left.
Shepherd believes that the first thing Ashley should do is to bring someone into the club who has run a football club before – well that seems very sensible, as we know Derek Llambias just doesn’t have a clue, and the annoying thing is that he keeps proving it.
Shepherd told the Sunday Sun today:
“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’ 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.”
We think Freddy is right about that, but we also think a return of Chris Mort as Chairman, who at least showed he was bright, intelligent and professional, and could learn very quickly about football administration, would be a good move by the owner.
The latest published financial accounts of the club have also brought a little sympathy for Ashley, who has loaned the club £100M to keep it running.
But Freddy Shepherd sees all this very differently:
“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 £134M.”
“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 £400M.:
“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 £4.6M.”
“And the events that led to Kevin Keegan’s departure could also have serious financial consequences for the next accounts.”
And Joe Kinnear‘s suggestion that Allardyce and Keegan should shoulder the blame for Newcastle’s on-field problems also got blasted by Shepherd, although most fans think the previous managers’ hands were tied in what they could do under Ashley.
“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 stadiums 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.”
Shepherd is of course very right that we signed world class stars we couldn’t afford, and put them on wages that were so high, that when they flopped in England they refused to leave the club, as a certain Spaniard called Marcelino so wonderfully demonstrated in his time on Tyneside.
Shepherd wanted Newcastle to be successful and he didn’t let not having the money get in his way, but a certain Leeds Chairman did that too, and look where Leeds United are now.
This blame game swings both ways.
And Shepherd finished by saying:
“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.”
We’re just a little surprised that Freddy didn’t add – when I left everything was in a great condition at the club. Oh the wonders of self delusion.
Freddy got the club into a poor financial state, and he’s right to say that Ashley was stupid not to do a full due diligence before buying the club.
If you don’t do that, debts that you didn’t know about will almost always show up – especially when it’s Newcastle United.
But hey, when is this back-biting around the club going to end?
It looks like Ashley is here for a while, and after the transfer window closes, when we hope we have another 4 new players through the door, we’d like to see Ashley do a few things to calm the waters:
- Start communicating with the fans – please!
- Tell us what his plans are for the club and what the restrictions, if they are financial or whatever, the Newcastle club has to maneuver through in the short term
- Appoint someone to replace Derek Llambias at the club, and Chris Mort seems to be a good choice with most fans, if he is willing to move to Newcastle
- Get the fans to back Joe and the players through the end of the season – so at least we are still a Premier League side next season
Then depending what happens from now until the end of the season will decide what Ashley’s fate should be.
But it seems to us that in the middle of a season, when relegation seriously threatens, is hardly the best time to stage demonstrations against the club or Ashley.
That’s because that will almost certainly guarantee us relegation, because of its unsettling impact on the players. And we know this is not supported by Newcastle fans in all quarters, becasue we’ve been getting lots of emails on this.
Let’s leave any demonstrations until the summer, if they become necessary, for the good of our still great club.