Newcastle United supporters unite in sending open letter to Mike Ashley pleading for transfer fundsMike Ashley, the Newcastle United owner, has been urged to allow manager Rafa Benitez to strengthen the squad this month, regardless of whether he is able to sell the club, in an open letter signed by all the major supporter groups on Tyneside.
Mike Ashley, the Newcastle United owner, has been urged to allow manager Rafa Benitez to strengthen the squad this month, regardless of whether he is able to sell the club, in an open letter signed by all the major supporter groups on Tyneside.
Ashley is still hoping to find a buyer for a club he has owned since the summer of 2007, but the initial confidence that a deal was close is fading and there now appears to be little hope of a takeover taking place before the end of this month.
Although there are believed to be four interested parties who have approached Ashley’s representatives, none have managed to push through a deal and at least two of them are understood to be struggling to match the asking price.
In turn, there is a suspicion that Ashley could use talk of a takeover as an excuse not to invest in the team and to distract attention from the fact Benitez is desperate for new signings to be made.
Ashley has already taken around £10m out of the club this season in order to repay a short-term loan he gave the business during Newcastle’s season in the Championship and it is thought he is due to receive another larger repayment this month.
That has prompted supporters to pull together to urge the billionaire not to risk relegation by refusing to spend any money in this transfer window.
As with many fanbases, Newcastle supporters have sometimes argued amongst themselves this season regarding how to express their frustration at the way the club is being run.
But the New Year has started with a united front in an attempt to persuade Ashley to do everything needed to keep Benitez as manager. The Spaniard’s contract expires in June and he has repeatedly insisted that he would not sign an extension until he has seen proof the club are willing to spend in the transfer market when he believes it is needed.
In a letter, signed by all of the major fanzines, the Supporters Trust as well as the Magpie Group, an umbrella organisation that has coordinated protests this season, the supporters have politely asked Ashley to “listen to them for a change.”
“This is a critical month for the football club, both in terms of your stated desire to sell and the need to strengthen the squad, as repeatedly requested by the manager Rafa Benitez,” the letter begins.
“We are hoping you see the sense in striving to do both, but if you cannot find a suitable buyer, then it is imperative that you still release the funds needed to improve the squad.
“To fail to do so, would seem both reckless and foolish given the damage you know relegation will do. It would also make it far harder for you to find a buyer, willing to match your asking price, if there is a real risk of relegation…
“The ongoing takeover cannot be used an excuse not to spend money in the January transfer window.
“If you refuse to spend money this month, the risk of relegation not only increases, it will also mean the manager will not sign the new contract you have offered to him. You have repeatedly said that you want Benitez to stay, so do the things needed to make sure that happens. In short, back him and give him what he needs in this window.
“We firmly believe that keeping Benitez is the best chance this football club has of improving and growing over the next few years. He was given complete control of the football side the business when he signed his three-year contract in 2016, so please listen to him and please allow him to sign the players he has requested to improve the team. It is in your own interest to do so….
“We hope it [the takeover] happens, but if it does not, you have to protect your own long-term interests and we can only ask you to do what is right for the supporters too. The fans want Benitez to stay and we want to stay in the Premier League. You have the power to make that happen.
“Finding a buyer for the club will be far harder in the Championship, it will be more difficult if Benitez is not the manager, so we can only hope you see the logic in what we have said here.
“I know we have had a difficult relationship in the past, but at this point, we want to look forward, not backwards. Please do what is right this month.”