Hall was in charge of the north east giants prior to the Sports Direct tycoon’s ownership, and Gibson has revealed that Hall thought Ashley would be a good thing for the club.
“Sir John Hall ought to be accepted for financially backing the building of the Entertainers under Kevin Keegan and Stan Seymour Snr unquestionably secured his place in history as a player, manager, and chairman of a great club,” he wrote in his column for The Chronicle.
“That Ashley forms part of their direct line of succession beggars belief as far as fans are concerned. Yet when he first came among us in May of 2007 hope abounded. Even Hall reassured me that he believed he has sold into safe hands! Here was an English billionaire rather than an unemotional foreign consortium and that should be reassuring.”
It seems strange now to think of the Newcastle fans being excited about Ashley buying the club, but that was very much the state of things on Tyneside in 2007. Hall clearly wanted out, having felt that he had taken the Magpies as far as he could. That’s understandable given all that the team achieved under his ownership. However, he was ready to get out and Ashley saw the opportunity to come in and put his own particular stamp on the footballing landscape. You can see why Hall felt that he would be a good owner for his hometown club. As Gibson says, this was a British businessman done good, not some Sheikh or an eastern European oil oligarch. This was somebody who he felt would appreciate what it means to be an owner of a football club, somebody who would realise that it’s not a pure business venture, but more of a family affair. We have to say, though, that Ashley successfully pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes, particularly Hall’s.