New beginnings for Newcastle: Looking back on 14 years of Mike Ashley

It's official.

Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund is in. Mike Ashley is out.

The celebrations lasted long into the night. Chants of "we've got our club back" reverberated around St James' Park.

In a survey published just three days prior to the takeover, 94.4% of 5,000 Newcastle fans said they lacked confidence in the club's ownership.

Now, on the deal's completion, club legend Alan Shearer says fans can "dare to hope again".

But how did we get to this point? Why have the Mike Ashley years left such a sour taste for so many Toon fans?

Let's look back on the past 14 years.

The Mike Ashley Years: A timeline

May 2007 - The Ashley Years begin

  • Mike Ashley buys Sir John Hall's 41.6% stake for a reported £55 million.

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June 2007 - Ashley takes control

  • Ashley buys chairman Freddy Shepherd's 28% share - becoming the club's majority shareholder.

  • By July, Ashley had owned 100% of the club, paying a reported total of £134 million.

  • Ashley enjoyed a popular first year - spotted on more than one occasion drinking with fans in a Newcastle shirt.

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January 2008 - A legend returns

  • On 16 January 2008, Ashley reappoints club legend Kevin Keegan as Sam Allardyce's replacement.

  • Was this the peak of Ashley's popularity?

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September 2008 - Keegan out

  • Early in the month, Keegan walks out of the club amid transfer disputes.

  • Ashley puts the club up for sale.

  • In October 2009, a tribunal rules that Keegan had been "constructively dismissed" and the club has to pay him £2 million to satisfy his severance clauses.

  • For some, Ashley's treatment of Keegan represented a "point of no return".

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May 2009 - First relegation

  • After poor performances and Alan Shearer's appointment in January, the club is relegated for the first time.

  • Ashley takes the club off the market in September.

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November 2011 - The Sports Direct Arena

  • Ashley renames the stadium the Sports Direct Arena, inciting widespread rage among supporters.

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June 2012 - Silver lining

  • Led by prolific Senegalese frontline of Papiss Cissé and Demba Ba, the club finished fifth in the Premier League under Alan Pardew's management.

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October 2012 -

  • Payday loan company became Newcastle United's main commercial sponsor.

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March 2016 - Champions League winning manager appointed

  • Ashley makes the welcome appointment of Rafa Benitez, giving fans a glimmer of hope.

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May 2016 - Relegation

  • Club relegated despite Benitez appointment, with rivals Sunderland pushing them into the relegation zone towards the tail end of the season.

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June 2019 - Bruce for Benitez

  • Rafa Benitez steps down and criticises Ashley in the press.

  • Steve Bruce appointed.

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October 2021 - End of an era

  • After an 18-month struggle, Ashley sells the club with Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund taking an 80% share.

  • Fans flock to St James' Park to celebrate.

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  • Manager disputes

Ashley's has been a story of managerial peaks and troughs.

While he made some popular signings - think Keegan, Shearer and Benitez - these invariably ended in tears.

Kevin Keegan was paid a reported £2 million after a tribunal ruled that he had "constructively dismissed" in 2008.

Fellow club legend Alan Shearer stepped in during 2009's difficult campaign but was never offered a permanent position.

Alan Shearer with his statue at St James's Park Credit: PA

Rafa Benitez enjoyed a popular spell and earned the club promotion by winning the Championship in 2017, the year directly after they were relegated. He left in 2019 amid deteriorating relations with Ashley.

  • Sponsorship

Speaking to ITV News Tyne Tees yesterday, John Gibson, a sportswriter at The Chronicle described Ashley as "a man who only looked after himself and not the football club".

For fans who share this outlook, Ashley's decision to briefly rename St James' Park the Sports Direct Arena in 2011 is the best example of the sportswear mogul's business-oriented mindset.

Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire/PA Images

Then, in 2012, payday loan company became the club's main sponsor. This caused a moral dilemma for the club's Muslim players and widespread outrage among fans.

  • Lack of investment

Throughout Ashley's tenure, Newcastle has spent far less on signings than their top-of-table rivals.

In the summer window of 2021, only Joe Willock was signed - marking a particular low point.

For many fans and commenters, this lack of expenditure has resulted in underwhelming performances.

Under Ashley's ownership, the club has only finished better than 10th in the Premier League once - when Alan Pardew led them to a surprise fifth-place finish.

Steve Wraith of the fan group 'Newcastle Legends' says this era of poor performances has damaged the club's fanbase long term.

Ashley is yet to release a formal statement since the takeover.

But speaking to the Sun Newspaper, he said: "I've known for some time now that Newcastle fans were frustrated by the situation and were in favour of a change.