No. That would be the initial answer, for certain. It just struck me as one of those comments ex-footballer pundits throw out there from time to time, despite not knowing the ins and outs of what they’re talking about, purely intent on stirring up some reaction and a spot in the headlines the next day.
Well, if that was his intention, then Rio Ferdinand certainly succeeded. He got a clear rise of out Newcastle supporters – understandably wound-up by a frankly ridiculous and misinformed statement – and he firmly planted his face in the sports headlines of the following day.
But, now some of the initial dust and fury has settled, let’s have a look at whether there was any tiny glimmer of logic to be found in what he said.
No matter if there was, there is no debate that what Ferdinand said – or more aptly, how he phrased it – was absolutely ridiculous.
Nobody on Tyneside should be thanking Mike Ashley for how he’s ran our club to date. The ‘positive moments’ he hinted towards, frankly those are just the base expectation you should have of how a professional football club is ran in the modern day.
But, in regards to his comments about how Ashley would be unwilling to spend money given his desire to sell the club, I do – and it pains me to say it, believe me – understand where the ex-England defender is coming from. I understand what he means by this comment.
As an owner looking to cash in significantly on selling the club, Ashley is going to be hesitant to invest money in transfers. Every penny he spends in the months before a sale simply reduce the profits he gets from it.
That would be fair enough, and most fans would accept that practice, had he demonstrated throughout the rest of his ownership period a consistent willingness to support and back the team. But Ashley hasn’t. He’s been about as far from that concept as physically possible.
Ferdinand, as many critics of Newcastle fans’ displeasure with their owner do, pointed to the Championship season as evidence Ashley spent big money.
And yes, that season he did spend millions of pounds on players – a stat that pundits can very easily find with little effort. However, in a clear display of how little extra digging they do before making the point, it should also be remembered that despite the significant outlay that summer before the Championship season, Newcastle still actually made a significant net profit.
Yes, Mike Ashley spent £50-odd million, but let’s not forget we also made over £90 million in sales. Through selling the likes of Georginio Wijnaldum and Moussa Sissoko we earned almost twice as much as we spent.
Therefore Ashley didn’t actually spend any money that summer, he in fact earned nearly double. We also aren’t debt-free as suggested, since we owe nearly £100m in loans to the Sports Direct magnate.
But, let us remember that we should thank Ashley for his running of this club, according to Ferdinand.
I get Ferdinand’s comments about why an owner looking to sell wouldn’t want to spend, but at the end of the day Ashley hasn’t wanted to spend from the very first minute of his reign in charge of Newcastle.
And we’re not even touching on the Rafa Benitez comment, because that was purely provocational. There was absolutely no basis for that suggestion, and I sincerely hope Ferdinand made that comment purely to get a reaction from the fans and doesn’t honestly believe it.
If he was truly to thank for getting Benitez through the door, then he would understand the importance of keeping him and wouldn’t treat him the way he does. No, in that case, Ashley did little more than sign off on the deal once Benitez was already lined up ready.
In general, I think we can all safely agree that Ferdinand’s comments were both ill-advised and misinformed. They were a pundit taking the cheap, easy shot at Newcastle fans knowing he’d get some attention and reaction from it.
There may be some comments that, if our owner acted differently when he wasn’t looking to sell the club, then I could maybe understand, but the sad truth is that Ashley’s current attitude is no different to how it has always been.
No, instead, Ferdinand I think falls under the umbrella of an ex-footballer who needs to do a lot more research before he makes inflammatory comments like he did. As far as those on Tyneside are concerned, he can take his place among the likes of Richard Keys as pundits who have lost the respect of those who support black and white.