It started with a murmur. It ended with chants telling him to sell up. Mike Ashley was at Selhurst Park, an owner finally watching his team play.
Saturday was the first time he had attended a Newcastle game since May 2017, when they lifted the Championship trophy. That was a day of celebration. This was a day when a drab goalless draw laid bare the lack of quality that manager Rafa Benitez has been left to work with.
Ashley has been an unpopular figure for most of his 11-year reign. His recent battles with Benitez have not helped.
Mike Ashley turned up to Selhurst Park to finally watch Newcastle play against Crystal Palace
Mike Ashley, owner of Sports Direct, is an unpopular figure among the fans at St. James Park
If this was a sign that the 54-year-old is taking more of an interest in his football club, then there is a lot he needs to repair. Sportsmail has taken a look at what Ashley has to do…
Show ambition in the transfer market
Newcastle banked £123million from the Premier League last season yet they ended up making over £20m profit in the transfer market this summer.
Where every other side in the Premier League splashes out, Newcastle plead poverty. Michael Owen, signed in 2005 for £16.5m, remains their record buy. They have been too limited in the transfer market. The blame for that falls at Ashley’s door.
Benitez hopes Ashley learned from watching on Saturday, saying: ‘If he comes to see the team, he can see his players. Hopefully he can be more sensible and then we’ll be ready to do something we need to do.’
Their business means Newcastle are in a relegation battle again. Ashley must change the philosophy.
It’s early in the season, but Newcastle already find themselves in a relegation battle again
Repair his relationship with Benitez and the club…
Benitez and Newcastle’s fans have a brilliant relationship. They can see his overachievement. With little entertainment on the pitch, the fans took to singing his name over and over on Saturday. They know they will not get a better manager.
‘I know how hard it is to coach teams, because I’m a coach too,’ said Palace boss Roy Hodgson after the game. ‘He gets a lot of credit for that, because he deserves it.’
Ashley is not going to win a battle with Benitez. ‘I like to see the owner supporting the team,’ the manager admitted.
‘It is not me, it is the club. It is the team, it is his team. We have to be sure everybody is supporting the team, starting with the owner and everyone and if it is like that, we will be stronger.’
The oddest thing about Ashley’s presence at Selhurst Park was how abnormal it seemed. Why let it be such an oddity?
Mike Ashley needs to repair the relationship with Rafa Benitez, and agree a new contract too
…and agree a new contract with the manager
Benitez’s deal runs out at the end of the season and he has never hidden his willingness to stay at St James’ Park, but he refused to sign a five-year deal in the summer, asking the club to match his ambition.
A movement among fans has called for them to go if Benitez does the same. Fail to keep him and this might be the straw that breaks the supporters’ ironclad back.
Fix broken links to the past
There are few people more beloved at St James’ Park than Kevin Keegan. A shame, then, that he does not feel comfortable there.
‘I will always be persona non grata as long as the Mike Ashley regime remains,’ Keegan wrote in his autobiography.
Alan Shearer is also a fierce critic. How can Ashley expect fans to back him when those they adore will not?
Kevin Keegan is hugely popular with the fans, but not the owner, and feels he’s unwelcome
Change club culture and make fans dream again
Under 11 years of Ashley’s stewardship, Newcastle have never got past the fourth round of the FA Cup. Managers at Newcastle always know they are going to have a relegation battle on their hands. That means silverware is forgone in favour of the more lucrative prize of Premier League safety.
This is a giant club, one that looms large over this vast northern city, but one that has not won major honours since 1969 with the Fairs Cup.
They have already been knocked out of the EFL Cup by Championship side Nottingham Forest this season.
Benitez said, when discussing his squad: ‘At the moment we have to wait until January.’ The FA Cup rolls around in that month. Ashley needs to give Benitez the signings that will allow him compete in that competition and give the fans something to dream about once more.
The Newcastle United fans at Selhurst Park were calling out for Mike Ashley to sell the club
Original Article: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-6199249/As-Ashley-finally-watches-Newcastle-next.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ito=1490&ns_campaign=1490