If you’re looking for a surefire way to antagonise Newcastle United fans while making yourself public enemy number one on Tyneside in the process, there are few methods as quick or effective as sticking up for Mike Ashley.
The controversial owner is probably, by some distance, the least popular person in the Toon at the moment, and those who back his cause are generally viewed with a similar level of disapproval.
Which is why Danny Mills will be buying his own drinks next time he visits the north east.
Speaking to Football Insider, argued that while Ashley wasn’t ideal, the Toon Army could end up with somebody worse were he to leave.
He said: “He has invested money, not a great deal compared to a lot, but he has got them back into the Premier League, kept them in the Premier League, brought in the likes of Rafa Benitez. You do need to be careful what you wish for in football.
“I understand the fans’ misgivings but there are a lot of clubs who are run worse and have worse owners. Look at what happened at Leeds, look at what happened to Birmingham, Villa for a time. There were a lot of clubs that struggled with poor ownership.
“He’s not perfect by any means, if it was somebody in that situation who had a bit more of a rapport with the fans, I don’t think the vitriol would be anywhere as bad. Mike Ashley can’t help himself, that’s half the problem. That antagonises the fans more than anything else.”
The thing is here, Mills actually supports the issue that he’s arguing against.
Ashley may have spent relatively big in the past two transfer windows, but that doesn’t excuse the sheer disregard with which he views the Toon Army’s fanbase.
Sure, part of their issue with the controversial businessman is that he doesn’t spend enough, but a much bigger part is that he doesn’t understand the aspirations and hopes of the people he continues to lord it over.
The simple fact that he “can’t help himself”, as Mills puts it, is enough of a reason for him to be ousted on its own, and while there would be no guarantee that another owner would be some messianic saviour for the club, at the very least, they would have to go a long, long way to treat supporters with the same contempt that Ashley has.