Ashley - 'I'm Staying!'

Last updated : 22 March 2016 By Footy Mad - Editor

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In a rare interview, Newcastle owner Mike Ashley shares his thoughts on the Tyne-Weir derby and backs Rafael Benitez to beat the drop.

The Sports Direct chief faces the prospect of seeing the Magpies slip out of the Barclays Premier League for the second time in his near nine-year stint as owner if they cannot turn their season around over the final eight games.

But Ashley, who this month sanctioned the appointment of former Real Madrid boss Rafael Benitez in place of the sacked Steve McClaren, insists he is going nowhere should the worst happen.

Asked if he would stick with the club in the event of relegation, Ashley said: "Yes, I think I've got no choice.

"I'm wedded to Newcastle, like Sports Direct. They have got me and I have got them, that's just the way it is."

Newcastle, who battled back to snatch a 1-1 derby draw with Sunderland on Sunday, find themselves in desperate trouble at the foot of the table despite Ashley following through on his promise to invest in the squad with a total spend of more than £82million during the last two transfer windows.

They currently sit in 19th place and three points adrift of safety, and their trip to fellow strugglers Norwich after the international break could go a long way towards deciding their fate.

Benitez was drafted in with the club in an alarming tailspin under McClaren and although there has been a slight improvement in his first two games at the helm, they have yielded just a single point.

Ashley, who was speaking to reporters at a Sports Direct warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, said: "I think we have the right man in the job.

"If there's any chance of us staying up, let's hope Rafa can do the business and keep us up there."

Sunday's draw with the Black Cats at least ended Newcastle's dismal six-game losing run against their neighbours, although it secured two points fewer than they needed in the circumstances.

However, while Ashley was disappointed they had not won, he was not too downhearted.

He said: "It's disappointing because I personally want to win every game for Newcastle United and it really doesn't matter who they are playing.

"It doesn't matter if it's a friendly, doesn't matter what it is, but yesterday I wanted us to win, so I'm a little disappointed. But it's not a disaster."