Ashley And That Interview!

Last updated : 13 August 2008 By Footy Mad - Editor
Ashley says wearing his black and white shirt and sitting with the Toon Army is not a gimmick, saying he feels the same frustrations they do.

He denies ever having showdown talks with Kevin Keegan, and he claims the manager's relationship with Dennis Wise is not as frosty as some claim.

He claims he didn't buy Newcastle because of any specific link to the club, or that he supported the club, but because it was a big club.

Ashley: "It was the quickest I've ever done a deal of that size - we're talking only a few days. I was told there was an opportunity to acquire Sir John Hall's stake in Newcastle United, that he may be a seller but only if somebody acted without any delay because he didn't want to cause any form of disruption for the club.

"The last thing Sir John wanted was a long drawn-out affair because he feared that wouldn't be good for Newcastle United.

"The deal was put to me on a Saturday. By the Monday, in advance of speaking to Sir John, I'd deposited the equivalent of money we hoped he would accept for his shares at the lawyers and on the Tuesday the deal was effectively done.

"By Wednesday (May 23, 2007) the announcement was public and that was the first anyone, including the media, knew about it. Once I was told about it, it was done very quickly. Sir John was ready to act if I was and it was a very straightforward process.

"Maybe I could have bought a smaller club, but it just wouldn't have been the same challenge. It's like settling for the high jump when really you want to do the pole vault - you want more excitement so you go higher.

"I was being offered the chance to own one of the jewels, one of the diamonds of the Premier League. There was no hesitation, why would there be?

"Financially, the club was in a difficult position because I really do think that it had over-extended itself.

"We first heard about the potential sale on a Saturday and had done the deal by the Wednesday, so if you are asking if we did due diligence before buying then the answer has to be no.

"But would I change anything about that process? No. Do I regret anything? Absolutely not. What I will add is that one of the most unfortunate things about Newcastle United finances at the time was the amount of money still owed on players signed in comparison to the amount of income that was due off players who had gone.

"There is still £27m net to pay on transfers that were done before I came. So probably in the latter years before we came in could you argue that the club was beginning to lose its way. It has also already taken upfront payments from commercial deals and sponsorships which didn't help us at all.

"It seemed as though the club was in a very downward spiral, one it would have found very hard to come out of.

"Apart from the purchase of the club and the associated costs that come with that, I've put in a further £100m to reduce debts and expect no interest is paid on that. Yet still we have the outstanding debt of the monies still owed on player transfers.

"I wear my strip and I go in with the fans because that's how I've always gone to football and I enjoy it.

"Nothing beats the atmosphere of being in with the fans.

"The fans who make the away trips are so fanatical every game feels like a cup game and it's tremendous to be part of it.

"Honest answer? There were times last season when the fans were singing certain things at certain games and I wanted to join in, I really did.

"I feel like they do. I'm in with the fans, and if we are not playing well I take this side because I'm thinking to myself: 'How can this be? We are Newcastle United and we should be doing better than this'.

"Again, it all happens so quickly. And it was another no-brainer. I took a call from someone who said 'do you realise Kevin Keegan may be interested in the Newcastle United job again?'

"At first I thought it couldn't be true. I was out of the country but my reply was 'if he is interested then tell him I'll meet him anywhere as soon as I get back'.

"It couldn't have been an easier choice.

"Kevin is a great manager and he is happiest working with the players.

"But there's so much involved in running a club that you must make sure people aren't spread too thinly. How could Kevin devote all his time to the first team if he also had to look after the Academy? That's where Dennis Wise comes in."