Collymore - Now it’s time for the Toon Army to mobilise

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Collymore - Now it’s time for the Toon Army to mobilise
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Collymore - Now it’s time for the Toon Army to mobilise

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Mike Ashley has declared war on the Geordie Nation.

Now it’s time for the Toon Army battalions to mobilise and get shot of Newcastle United’s owner before his thirst for revenge takes the famous old club tumbling into the abyss.

Ashley’s decision to dispense with the services of Rafa Benitez , after a season in which the Spaniard has worked another miracle to keep the Magpies in the Premier League, has seen tempers boil again on the banks of the Tyne.

But if Newcastle’s supporters really want to kick Ashley out of St James’ Park then they have got to get organised – and they must get militant.

I’m not talking about physical threats. The Geordies have to hit Ashley hard in the only place he feels pain – in the pocket.

That means costing him money and forcing him to lose so much face in the world of business that he is left with no option but to sell up. They must boycott the club they love.

I understand the magnitude of what I am asking. It’s anathema for fans of any club to turn their backs on their team – and Newcastle’s supporters have proved themselves to be as loyal as they come in the 50 years since Bobby Moncur became the last Mags captain to lift a trophy.

But sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.

Could you imagine a game against Liverpool or Manchester United being played in front of an empty St James’ Park? Or fans walking out en-masse after 65 minutes of a game against Arsenal?

It would be on the front and back pages of every newspaper in the country. TV news channels would be all over it like a coat of paint.

And it wouldn’t just have an ­impact in the UK. It would put the spotlight on Mike Ashley all the way around the world because our Premier League is global.

Right now, Ashley is quite literally ­banking on the loyalty of Newcastle’s fans. He knows that 52,000 ­supporters will turn up every week to worship at the cathedral on the hill.

He has spoken about selling up – but the price he is asking has so far ­deterred all potential buyers. And that makes me believe that Ashley doesn’t just want £300million to walk away. He also wants his pound of flesh.

I remember him writing to Jeremy Wright, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, last year to defend himself after Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah launched a ­parliamentary petition questioning his reign at St James’ Park.

Ashley spoke about ­“unacceptable abuse”, “harassment” and an ­attempt to turn him into “a pantomime villain”.

It’s my belief that this is payback time. It is like Ashley is ­trolling Newcastle’s fans, showing them that he can do whatever he wants with their club because it is his name above the door. They now have to fight fire with fire.

My call to arms does, however, come with a caveat.

The desperation of Newcastle’s fans to force Ashley must not tempt them to lay down the ­welcome mat to just ­anyone.

Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the latest “saviour” in the frame.

He is the billionaire cousin of Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour and no doubt many Geordies will now be trying to convince ­themselves that what happened in east Manchester over the last 11 years is a good thing.

But do the Geordie people want their club to become nothing more than an advertising hoarding for the Middle East? Do they want to be despised by the rest of the football fraternity because they have been given money they haven’t earned?

Ashley represents the ugly face of unfettered capitalism in the way he goes about his business.

Some people might find the way that he makes his money unacceptable. But there are even worse entities out there buying into top-level football.

And, by that, I mean sovereign states, who view the game as a means of ­peddling their soft power.
30th June 2019 10:49 AM
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