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Colin Murray: Ashley’s departure from Newcastle means nappy days are here again

Baby boom or bust: Newcastle fans protest against Ashley, but in nine months’ time they may need some baby grows (below) PICTURE: GETTY

NINE months after the day Mike Ashley finally sells Newcastle United, the National Guard and the British Red Cross will have to be deployed on Tyneside to handle the explosion of child births.

What a party that will be. The clouds will part, the sun will shine, rivers of brown ale will flow.

Grown men will weep, children of the Toon under the age of ten will smile for the very first time. I, for one, will be sad to see Mike Ashley leave Newcastle United… is a sentence muttered only by Sunderland fans.

This week, the ‘tracksuit billionaire’ not only reiterated the club is for sale but set out a clear path to the exit door. Potential suitors have been named, and the frontrunner appears to be PCP Capital Partners, a Middle East company spearheaded by Amanda Staveley, prompting one fan on Twitter to immediately pen the classic, ‘Oh Mandy, you came and you ***ked off Mike Ashley!’ I believe this needs developing by the Gallowgate End should she succeed.

There’s an inevitable gap between seller and buyer valuations, plus don’t forget the outstanding HMRC investigation into the tax affairs of the club, but fans are excited because Mike Ashley actively wants out, and by Christmas if he can.

Most recent reports claim PCP – and four other more mysterious parties – have signed a non-disclosure agreement, which means they can look at private things as long as they keep schtum. It’s a bit like the form I’d make you sign if I was to let you look behind the huge pile of old jumpers in my bedroom cupboard. For the Toon Army, desperate for new leadership, the signs are good.

But when a relationship edges closer to the rocks, one can’t help but look back, and it’s fair to say there was a brief honeymoon period. When I say brief, I mean Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries brief.

In the early days, saviour Ashley (below) even travelled on the odd supporters’ bus, fans happily accepting his offer of a pint or six on away days, but that hit the skids after his public break-up with club icon Kevin Keegan.

If you were being kind, you would say he under-achieved. If you were being brutal, you would say he cheapened the club with low-rent sponsors and distasteful stadium name changes, punctuated by all-too-regular farce at managerial and boardroom level.

Personally, I feel Newcastle United under Ashley have remained a sleeping giant, and when there have been signs of stirring, it always felt like it was Ashley and his closest allies who, inadvertently or not, slipped this great club a couple of Xanax.

Take this summer for example. Back in the Premier League, an influx of TV money, a world-class manager in charge, and their net spend in the transfer window was less than Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Huddersfield. This was not a one-off. When they finished fifth in the top flight in 2012, this was backed up by just one ‘major’ summer signing, namely Vurnon Anita.

In his ten years at the helm of Newcastle United, Ashley has baffled as much as he has angered.

With new proprietors comes risk but, while Mike remains, it is hard to see how Rafa can ‘make Newcastle great again’, so please don’t fall for the ‘better the devil you know’ baloney.

There have been worse owners in the modern football era but you only need to observe the outpouring on social media – from Newcastle fans and ex-players in particular – to see that the end can’t come quick enough.

Me? I’m off to invest in black-and-white baby grows.

‘In his years at the helm Ashley has baffled as much as he has angered’