Mike Ashley is running Newcastle “from another planet” and should sell the club as soon as possible, according to former manager Kevin Keegan.
With Newcastle facing a relegation showdown against West Ham today – they begin the final match two points above Hull who host Manchester United – Keegan delivered a passionate attack on Ashley’s regime, which was in place when Keegan resigned from his second spell as manager in 2008.
Keegan said he was hoping Newcastle could find a way to survive and then be sold to “someone who cares” who could then map out a way to return excitement and optimism to St James’ Park.
“It’s not a difficult thing to work out unless you’re from another planet,” Keegan told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek programme.
“I think Mike Ashley runs that club from another planet.”
Keegan accused Sports Direct billionaire Ashley of ’disrespecting’ Newcastle fans with his decisions since buying the club in 2007. Keegan resigned the following September after a dispute over transfers.
“It is almost as if Mike Ashley has said, ’What is the worst thing I can do? Change St James’ Park and call it ’Sports Direct’, and so he tried to do it. Incredible.” Keegan said.
Fan protests have accelerated since March, when the club announced a record profit, with those protests coinciding with an alarming slide down the table which has culminated in their final-day relegation worries.
Keegan said he sympathised with the frustrations of fans but said he was hoping for a solution to be found in the form of a new owner.
“I don’t think boycotts are the answer. You get through this season, hopefully stay up, and then hopefully someone with a lot of money and who cares about Newcastle United Football Club, who wants a very special club, comes along and says ’that’s for me’,” Keegan added.
Ashley said in September he would not sell the club until at least 2016, but Keegan is hoping he can be persuaded otherwise.
“It’s not just me who would urge him to go,” he said. “It’s everyone connected with the football club and even some of the people employed there... It’s time for a change.”