MIKE Ashley needs to treat Newcastle United’s fans with the respect they deserve.
That’s the message from Freddy Shepherd, the man Ashley replaced in charge of the club.
Shepherd was no stranger to controversy at Newcastle himself – being trapped alongside Douglas Hall in a News of the World exposé, when they were caught mocking the club’s supporters for spending extortionate amounts of money on merchandise, calling local women “dogs”, and calling Alan Shearer the “Mary Poppins of football”.
He was chairman of Newcastle for more than 10 years before Ashley’s takeover in the summer of 2007 forced him out of the club.
Since then, the Sports Direct magnate has made a number of controversial decisions which have angered supporters, including the treatment of Kevin Keegan and Chris Hughton, the rebranding of St James’s Park, and a sponsorship with money-lending firm Wonga.
The latest storm has blown up after Joe Kinnear announced his return to the club as director of football in a series of jaw-dropping interviews, days before Newcastle confirmed his appointment.
Within 24 hours, Ashley’s right-hand man, Derek Llambias, had resigned as managing director, throwing the club into a state of confusion.
Shepherd believes the supporters now have a right to know what’s going on at their club, and that Ashley would be ‘silly’ not to try and get them onside.
“It wasn’t handled the best,” he said. “I’ve never seen a manager or director of football announce he’s taken the job before the club does.
“Ashley has got a big business there with Newcastle and it’s silly not to include everyone in it as the supporters are the most important thing.
“In most football clubs, certainly big football clubs like Newcastle, nobody really owns it, you are just passing through.
“Someone else is going to get it eventually and it’s important you treat it with respect.
“I think what the supporters really need is some certainty there.
“The club should come out and make it quite clear what’s happened as the last few days, it seems very murky the whole thing.
“Why don’t they just come out and say this or that, rather than staying behind a wall?
“Come out and say this is what we’re doing, and who knows, it might work and it might be the best thing that’s happened, I don’t know.
“But to have uncertainty is the last thing that supporters want.”