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Ashley completes journey from hero to zero as Newcastle fans declare war

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It is not known whether Mike Ashley is a Chrissie Hynde fan but Newcastle United's owner might just identify with the Pretenders' assertion that it is a thin line between love and hate. As Toon Army foot soldiers distraught at Kevin Keegan's departure spoke darkly of declaring "war" on the billionaire sports retailer yesterday and suggested it might not be overly safe for him to take a stroll through Newcastle's Bigg Market, Hynde's voice could well have echoed in Ashley's ear.


A little bit like Ruud Gullit, Ashley now knows what it is like to feel the heat of Geordie adoration - remember all those dreadlock wigs Newcastle fans once wore in their former Dutch manager's honour - turn to revulsion. While Gullit's crime, which instantly turned a thousand wigs into household mop heads, was to upset Alan Shearer, Ashley has wronged Tyneside's other great sacred cow. Moreover, Newcastle fans regard his perceived crimes against Keegan as far greater than Gullit's dropping of Shearer.


Yet if it is no exaggeration to say that the rotund 45-year-old now safely eclipses former Toon villains, including Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness and even the widely reviled Freddy Shepherd, in the hate stakes, it was not always like this.


There was a time, not so long ago, when the club's current owner was placed on a pedestal by Newcastle fans and seen as the white knight who not only came charging in to bring Shepherd's chairmanship to a merciful end but bought fans abundant pints. If Shepherd was caricatured as the pantomime baddie, Ashley found himself feted as "the people's owner". Soon fans were queueing up to offer reporters gems such as "He's a reet canny lad" and "Mike's so down to earth, he's one of us" after Ashley waved his wad in night spots such as Blu Bamboo and Buffalo Joes.


Geordies cannot be bought quite that cheaply, of course, but Ashley had also dazzled them with an ultimate party trick - he had brought back Kevin Keegan to St James' Park and celebrated it by wearing a "King Kev No1" replica shirt up and down the country.


Frequently shunning the corporate suits, he apparently relished attending away games with supporters and was even spotted sharing a white transit van with fellow Toon travellers. Any nagging doubts concerning Dennis Wise's puzzling appointment as director of football were pushed to back of the minds of the fans.


Granted he was a loaded southerner but no one would have dreamt of likening Ashley to Cockney Wanker of Viz fame. The Tyneside-produced Viz's heyday coincided with Keegan's first managerial incarnation at St James', an era when Sir John Hall's Geordie Nation split its collective sides laughing at the antics of the loud, brazen, fantasist cockney with his wads of cash and unbelievable promises.


Unable to keep his pledges about making "wow" signings, Ashley has left some Newcastle fans suspecting he has played them for fools. Frank Gilmour of the Independent Newcastle United Supporters Club summed up the mood. "There is no way Ashley will be able to sit with the fans anymore, I am not even sure he will be able to go into St James' Park again," he said. "There is going to be a huge reaction and many fans are already talking about not going." Similarly Steve Wraith, editor of the fanzine Players Inc, reflected: "I think Ashley has underestimated people's feelings about Keegan."


The True Faith website yesterday featured an item titled War - The Call Up? alongside an image of a gun-toting soldier. In an editorial-type address it advocated a non-violent, economic boycott of all things Ashley-related: "There's a mood for action. Action where Ashley will feel it most. We might have to hurt the thing we love to get at him and his people. That is the dilemma but many of us are up for being part of an organised struggle."


The influential nufc.com summed up the mood as veering away from boycotting next Saturday's home game against Hull City while resolving not to buy club merchandise or patronise St James' Park's food and beverage outlets including Shearer's bar. Its postings also reflected a widespread desire among fans to shun Ashley's retail outlets, including Sports Direct and Lillywhites.


So far so militant but, as Hynde sang, it really can be a thin line. Generous, extrovert and rarely understated, Geordies have long harboured a weakness for blingy, big-name glamour and Ashley's sole, albeit minuscule, hope of pacifying them appears to be somehow serving up a charismatic new coach whom it would seem churlish to boo. Gianfranco Zola anyone?

How the fans can hurt owner and sidekick


All newsagents in the vicinity of St James' Park to place confectionery on the adult entertainment shelf to prevent Dennis Wise getting his daily chocolate fix


All children under the age of five to be equipped with platform shoes so even they tower over the diminutive executive director (football)


Take Mike Ashley at his word and ensure all future pints of lager served to him in the Bigg Market and Quayside are of the non-alcoholic variety to give him time to consider his actions in the harsh light of perpetual sobriety


Entice Ashley, Wise, Tony Jimenez and Jeff Vetere into the St James' Park trophy room and lock the key. Not only will there be ample space for them in there, no one will have any reason to go in and find them for the next few decades


Having listened to the fans he drank with and entertained their most extreme fantasy by appointing Kevin Keegan back in January, lure Ashley down the pub and tell him the only way he can make amends is by hiring Ossie Ardiles for a second spell. Within months kamikaze defending will secure relegation and one thoroughly devalued investment


Hit Ashley in the pocket by boycotting games and eschewing all branded sportswear from his outlets. They can show their allegiance instead by carrying other black and white objects: cuddly penguins, humbugs, the album Parallel Lines by Blondie, zebras, those sickly mint-flavoured Liquorice Allsorts, Breton smocks and sticks of Whitley Bay rock



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She really is a terrible journalist - she can't even get her target audience right for crying out loud - how many football fans can honestly say they listen to the pretenders?


Oh and 4 League Titles and 6 FA cups probably take up a lot of room in a trophy cabinet...

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Yes I love her and I have been e mailing her for 5 days.


PM me her Email adress Parky :D






Use this one. :icon_lol:

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She's fighting the good fight and turns out has been right from the start. :D


In her case it's like the Allies teaming up with the USSR, plus there must be a lot of inherent semi-goodwill glee in now having nothing to think about for the next 10 years of sports "journalism".

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