Mike Ashley to run for leader of the Conservative party

June 8, 2016


It is rumoured that self-made billionaire Mike Ashley is to run as leader of the Conservative party. The plan was put in place after secret meetings with Donald Trump, Lord Alan Sugar and Simon Cowell earlier this year

Mr Ashley’s chances of becoming leader of the Conservative party was rated as “a good bet at 1000-1” a figure now famous for the odds available at the start of the season for Leicester City Football Club winning the league. Now, after his effortless intellectual bettering of the Commons Select Committee this week [7th June, 2016] the odds are likely to drop even further.

Getting a safe seat

He is, at present, ineligible to stand, but  a safe seat in Parliament has been identified from a short-list of current MPs who are in danger of being deselected, declared insane, or imprisoned for various criminal offences.

The Press Magnet

Sociologist Tony Scrivener of Urmston University says that Mr Ashley has the characteristics needed to get to the top in politics.

“He has a track record of success in business. He is seen as not a member of the ruling elite. He is a ‘press magnet’, a larger than life charismatic personality, not afraid to take on the establishment. He will build on what he will call his triumph over parliamentary attempts to lock him in Big Ben for contempt.

His physical bulk, and his macho image also work for him, often appearing in the style of President Putin, stripped to the waist surrounded by adoring fans at Newcastle, the club he owns.”

Abolitionist firebrand

He intends to bring in advisors to help in his plans, which include the abolition of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies, as ‘wastes of time and space’, the creation of five million zero-hours jobs, and winning the World Cup with the English football team.

The Ashley team

We have not been able to confirm the names of the advisors, but they are believed to include a top BBC football pundit who once worked for Mr Ashley, and possibly the Portuguese media specialist Hose Nourinho, to strengthen his PR department.

The Queen is safe

He intends to preserve the monarchy until after the demise of the Queen, but after her departure he is believed to  favour of an elected head of state who knows a bit about business.

My Pal Donald

He believes he will turn the criticisms about his own business affairs to his advantage. In this, he is being advised by someone he refers to as “my boony pal Donald”.

Other parts on his brilliant vision include the purchase of The Sun from another of his close friends, Rupert Murdoch, and holding mass rallies at Newcastle United Football Club. During each of these,  he will descend in a massive balloon bedecked in the club’s famous Black and White colours. [The balloon that is, not Mr Ashley], who will emerge, shirtless, displaying his Putinsque Six Pack, to the thunderous chords of Local Hero.

Stop Press

I have been unable to confirm [8th June, 2016] that Mr Ashley is about to join the Remain campaign to add his formidable communication skills in a last desperate attempt to win over supporters swayed by the brilliant rhetoric of  Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, and particularly Michael Gove.


Joey Barton in New Job Search

October 23, 2008
Joey Barton (Wikipedia)

Joey Barton (Wikipedia)

Joey Barton says he intends to become a role model for kids who can’t relate to the squeaky cleanliness of David Beckham. Leaderswederserve reveals an overheard conversation
Leaderswedeserve recently happened to overhear a mobile-phone conversation on a train heading for Newcastle.

Hello, yes this is Max. Is that you Joe? Listen. I’m on my way now. You’re a lucky boy. But if you want me to manage this for you, no press interviews until I say so.

O.K. So here’s the story. You’ve done your time. You’ve been lucky. Given more chances than Man U against Celtic. So now you want to give something back to society.

No, you can’t say that you can do a Heineken reaching those kids David Beckham can’t get to. Why? because you don’t want to draw any attention to Becks. That’s why. And even if you do you don’t call him squeaky bum clean. I don’t care if that’s what bleeding Sir Alex said. From now on, you’ve got to have a pure mouth.

Never mind what Joe Kinnear said. He doesn’t want to be a frigging role model. And he definitely doesn’t want to be your role model.

No, I wouldn’t say that either. Stubbing out that cigar isn’t just the same as what Eric did. And don’t start going off about Eric, either. You’re a smart kid. Work it out for yourself. No Beckham, No Cantona. That’s why you mustn’t do interviews until I say so. Shtum.

Yes, as it happens I do have a plan. First you would have to …

[at that point a train announcement drowned out the conversation. The next thing I heard was]

…got that? Say you won’t be speaking to the press for a long time. Grateful for Kevin’s understanding. Lessons to be learned. Repaying the debt …

[Max listened for quite a while, becoming more agitated]

…be a shining beacon? No. Giving up alcohol? No! Role model? Role model! No, Joey. Just wait until I get there. Joey? Can you hear me? If you say those sorts of things I can’t be responsible.

At that point Max muttered something which he may have heard in the interview with Joe Kinnear last week. Then he snapped his mobile shut, and charged off in the direction of the buffet, shaking his head in despair. I thought I caught a glimpse of him leaving the train at the next stop.

The next day

The next day I heard another conversation. This time it was recorded by the BBC, and the man interviewed was Joey Barton. I wonder if Joey had listened to Max’s plan?

Ashley, Kevin and Hostages to Fortune

September 15, 2008
Mike Ashley in Newcastle Shirt

Mike Ashley in Newcastle Shirt

Mike Ashley, owner of Newcastle United Football Club has become a high-profile leader for all the wrong reasons. His strategy and style have combined to leave him vulnerable to rejection by the fans he joined on the terraces during games

It was a popularist move which always risked creating a hostage to fortune for Mike Ashley. On match days he regularly appeared on the terraces, wearing the black and white striped shirt among (allegedly) Newcastle fans. A man of the people. TV pictures would show him downing a pint of brown stuff at competitive speed.

The phony image

But even the drink was dismissed by fans as not the real stuff. And the media hinted at hubris to come. This was a man from the people, of the people. A leader with the common touch. A veritable Napoleon, in there with the front-line troops. Or maybe not. A rich man playing the game of ordinary bloke made good.

The hostage to fortune

The hostage to fortune was the cultivated image of someone who shared the vision and dream of the fans. Mr Ashley was applauded for his actions in bringing back Kevin Keegan, the man the fans described as The Messiah.

But at the same time, Mr Ashley seemed to be putting other plans in place which were deeply offensive to the proud Keegan. A uber-managerial appointment of Dennis Wise. Transfer actions without adequate consultation with Keegan. It was not difficult to predict that Kevin, for all his love of Newcastle United, could bale out.

The fans could not square this with the image the owner was cultivating.

The outcome

A remarkably swift resolution. Within a week of Kevin Keegan leaving, ferocious protests against Ashley as Newcastle slump to a home defeat against Premier League newcomers Hull. The protests were pre-planned, and the loss is largely irrelevant to the momentum of events.

Mr Ashley issues a lengthy and personal statement indicating that he no longer sees any merit in his retaining control of the club.

I bought Newcastle United in May 2007. Newcastle attracted me because everyone in England knows that it has the best fans in football. When the fans are behind the club at St James’ Park it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It is magic. Newcastle’s best asset has been, is and always will be the fans.
But like any business with assets the club has debts. I paid £134 million out of my own pocket for the club. I then poured another £110 million into the club not to pay off the debt but just to reduce it.

The club is still in debt. Even worse than that, the club still owes millions of pounds in transfer fees. I shall be paying out many more millions over the coming year to pay for players bought by the club before I arrived.

But, he continued, events over the last weeks led him to the decision to put the club up for sale. Fan power indeed, which he concluded had put his family and himself in the path of physical danger

I am not stupid and have listened to the fans. I have really loved taking my kids to the games, being next to them and all the fans. But I am now a dad who can’t take his kids to a football game on a Saturday because I am advised that we would be assaulted. Therefore, I am no longer prepared to subsidise Newcastle United.
I am putting the club up for sale. I hope that the fans get what they want and that the next owner is someone who can lavish the amount of money on the club that the fans want.
This will not be a fire sale. Newcastle is now in a much stronger position than it was in 2007. It is planning for the future and it is sustainable.

The Entrepreneur as survivor

The message is unusually personal. It is consistent with the image that Mike Ashley projected from the terraces. But for all the emotion, there remains a healthy survival instinct within the actions of a permanently successful entrepreneur. Mr Ashley may have lost the club, but he is likely to do so in a way which may keep him off the terraces, but is unlikely to force him and his family on to the streets.

Who Owns the Manager in Football Today?

September 6, 2008
I'm in change

I'm in change

Three football stories from the Premier League this week raise the question of football governance. Super-wealthy new owners are inclined to establish a henchman, leaving the manager figure with an ambiguous role, perhaps approximating to that of a head coach

This arrangement creates tensions, but is arguably a decision that owners are entitled to make, for better or worse. A case of paying for the leaders they deserve.

Dominic the Blue had hardly taken up duties as Leaders we deserve insider on the Man City front when the club was thrown into the turmoil of a takeover.

Many fans were enthralled at the prospects of a conversion of the club into Middle East Land (horrible pun on their shiny new Eastlands stadium). Dominic still has the wary caution of the Blues season-ticket holder. A seasoned campaigner (end of horrible puns for the moment).

‘Who is in charge of buying players these days?’ he asked. ‘Who is the leader/manager in this respect? This is a big issue now, what with the situation at West Ham, Newcastle, as well as City. You can’t say leadership is the preserve of the Manager any more, with all the implications this has’

He has a good point

The turbulence of a week in English football was summed up by the BBC.

Keegan’s departure from Newcastle comes in a tumultuous week for English football.

On Monday, Manchester City – backed by prospective new owners the Abu Dhabi United Group – broke the British transfer record to complete the £32.5m signing of Robinho from Real Madrid from under Chelsea’s noses.

On Wednesday, Alan Curbishley beat Keegan to become the season’s first Premier League managerial casualty when he resigned from West Ham only three games in. A lack of control over transfer policy was also behind Curbishley’s decision.

Anyone but Curbishley

At West Ham it seems to as easy as ABC – [Anyone but Curbishley] as a possible replacement.

Leaders we deserve tracked the roller-coaster ride for West Ham Fans a while ago.

Remember those flirtations with relegation? The bizarre Tevez transfer arrangements? The sacking of one manager, and the arrival of the popular Curbishley? Whose popularity, it must be said, had not been matched since by on-field success. But he did snatch survival from near-certain relegation, and three weeks into a new season is a strange time for a board to decide that enough is enough.

Is there a pattern in the football dramas unfolding?

A popular view increasingly expressed, goes something like this. Football is big business. English Premiership clubs have been increasingly acquired by Foreign businessmen insensitive the cultural heartbeat of English football.

Somewhat askew to this starting point is the view that the new mega-wealthy owners are emotional and ego-driven, too inclined to interfere with operational aspects of the club’s management in search of glory and self-esteem.

The owners, in short, are falling short in terms of governance responsibilities. The result is an erosion of the role of manager to that of a coach. Leadership duties are more distributed, often with the owner’s henchmen (Dennis Wise at Newcastle, ‘undermining’ Keegan. Ironically (in view of later events at Chelsea) Avram Grant at Southampton has a similar role, to the fury of Harry Rednapp at Southampton.

I’m not so sure the story is as simple as all that. At Newcastle, the now highly unpopular owner seems to want to be loved by the fans and seen as a working man on the terraces, shirt and all. At West Ham, the egregious Eggert of Iceland fame is as emotional as Abramovitch at Chelsea is restrained. At City …well we have to wait and see. Will they seek out a celebrity coach with risk of a bust-up and clash of egos? If they can afford the world’s most expensive players, who will coach them?

Distributed leadership

In principle, the idea of splitting the roles of manager and coach can be defended according the theory of distributed leadership.

An intelligent debate can be found on the BBC webpages, which concluded

There’s an ownership and a belonging to their clubs and communities that goes way beyond the role of mere manager. This is the very essence in fact of the intense passion felt by thousands of supporters about their club, week in, week out. And certainly why there is so much fury in Tyneside at Keegan’s demise.

Well said. There will be much for Dominic and Eric to worry about, as they provide background to the City saga this year for Leaderswedeserve.

“You’re not Fit to Wear the Shirt. Take it off!”

January 5, 2008

shirtless-newcastle-fan.jpgNewcastle fans are known for taking the famous Magpies’ shirt to bed, and only removing it during the chilliest of mid-winter games. Is the terrace chant to new owner Mike Ashley an invitation for him to go topless for the toon? And what should Alan Shearer be wearing for his Match Of The Day appearances?

Mr Ashley as new owner of Newcastle United Football Club hit on a highly symbolic way of letting the fans know he was not in it just for the money.

He announced his matchday arrivals by appearing not in the directors’ box, but on the terraces. He didn’t just turn up, he arrived wearing the black and white shirt, that ultimate symbol of fandom. Then he began fraternizing on the supporters’ coaches.

But these actions were not enough to secure a leadership honeymoon for the new owner. Results continued to go south. Those ultras, fans who strip off faster than the cast of the Full Monty, could be heard crying “You’re not fit to wear the shirt”.

Were they inviting their new Chairman to follow their bare-buff example in support of the club? Somehow, I don’t think so…

Knowing me, knowing you

A new leader from outside a company or a football club has to address the matter of distinctiveness, whether arriving as an outsider or an insider. The is sometimes called the sociological dilemma of the other, a term only rarely incorporated into terrace chants.

The outsider has to work hard to avoid being dissed for not being one of us. The internally promoted leader has another kind of credibility problem through local knowledge and gossip about behaviours in earlier non-leadership roles.

In either case, actions speak louder than words. The leader has to convince by his actions, and words (speech acts) sooner rather than later.

Who is this Brian Ashley anyway?

Newcastle United has figured in several earlier posts. The culture under the long-standing chairman Freddy Shepherd was examined in an account of the possible struggles of the new coach Sam Allardyce. But any such problems for Sam were compounded when Freddy rather reluctantly handed over control to another outsider, Brian Ashley.

Mike Ashley is the entrepreneur behind Sports World, who became a paper billionaire early in 2007 with the public floatation of his business empire and renaming as Sports Direct International. Until then he had largely avoided courting publicity. This was an area in which he was to become increasingly less successful. Publicity over a costly divorce settlement became news, and then as he really hit the headlines after his successful bid for Newcastle.

Writing for the North East, local journalist Mick Lowes examined the end-of-year situation.

As [Newcastle] United enter their 116th year, the question has to be asked: has there ever been a 12 months of such radical change in the long and illustrious history of the North East institution?

Clubs under repeatedly new ownership – nothing new.

Clubs hiring and firing managers left, right and centre – old hat.

Clubs buying, and dispensing with, players at a rate of knots – as old as the hills.

A club, though, that in a few weeks finds itself with a new owner, new chairman, new manager… backroom staff and nine new PLAYERS – unheard of!!

Lowes goes on to examine events since Mr Ashley’s arrival:

[At first] Suspicion was fuelled by a lack of information, a case of simply not knowing who, or what, was Mike Ashley …[Although] Like Sir John Hall and Freddie Shepherd, Ashley is a self-made man ..[however] he might not have, as yet, the same “feel” for Tyneside but it’s clear he has the right kind of working-class grounding to appreciate what the football club means to the rank and file supporters.

The change of chairman is also indicative of the current climate in football. I’m sure, even by his own admission, that Chris Mort [The new Chairman] would consider his feelings for Newcastle United Football Club to be somewhat less impassioned than those of his predecessor. With a background in sport, he is clearly geared up to the demands of the “football business”… Whether talking to fanzine editors, or those of us in the local media, it’s also plain to see that, like his boss, he’s well and truly “bought into” Newcastle United…

Appointed by one regime, and inherited by another, the one thing you have to say is that life can’t have been easy for Sam Allardyce over the opening half of the season.

[However] Nobody has a divine right to success, but the fans in the business definitely deserve better. If not, sadly, 2008 will see more change.

That intense piece of journalism seems to me to capture one aspect of the culture surrounding the club. Initial suspicion of the new owner and chairman has been somewhat overcome as they demonstrate that their loyalty goes beyond the bottom line.

Sam on the other hand is judged by expectations of what goes on every Saturday. Poor results, rather than his ‘otherness’ , is the immediate cause of discontent among the fans.

Which brings us to Alan Shearer…

Alan Shearer: The Leader we Deserve?

Alan Shearer was being touted as the next manager, the hero-rescuer for the club, before he had retired as a player, before he had completed a coaching professional course, before Sam’s appointment.

I don’t know the degree to which this was media initiated manipulation, or whether there really was and still is a ground swell of support for the idea.

To outsiders it seems increasingly inevitable that Allardyce will have trouble surviving long enough to overcome the difficulties of an outsider at Newcastle. It is unlikely that Shearer will transform the club’s fortunes.

The problem is partly that club seems likely be reducing its options far too severely, if an insider is to be preferred over all other candidates.

THis would be a problematic approach even if the insider had an outstanding track record of success.

In times of crisis, an organization may well turn to an insider who has achieved great things elsewhere. Jurgen Klinsmann is the latest such example in his appointment to the German national team during a period of poor performances. Klinsmann had not many more direct credentials for the German top job than Shearer does for the one at Newcastle.

Rightly or wrongly, there appear to be pressure to get rid of Sam, perhaps seeing that it might increase the chances of a Shearer succession.

I have the impression that Shearer will be tempted eventually, but will be cute enough to resist what might prove to be an impossible job in the near future.

Far trickier than commentating on the problems of other managers for BBC’s Match Of The Day.