By Sean O’Brien
13th September 2019,
Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has hit back at criticism surrounding his controversial tenure at St James’ Park.
The Sports Direct tycoon described himself as a ‘pantomime villain’ among Magpies fans after the sportswear company’s AGM was hit with protests.
Magpies fans held a banner which read ‘Sports Neglect – This is not blowing over’ outside Academy House, while some members of the London Magpie Group bought shares in the company so they could attend the annual meeting.
And Ashley, clearly unimpressed with the protests, told broadcasters after the meeting: “Just so we’re clear, I don’t pick the Newcastle team and I never have because that gets thrown at me as well.
“If you’re me, that’s where you get this, ‘Okay guys, panto villain’.
“Let’s just take that down a notch, if that’s okay?”
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Ashley was the subject of fierce criticism earlier this summer following the departure of Rafael Benitez at Newcastle.
The Spaniard left to join Chinese Super League club Dalian Yifang, where he reportedly earns a whopping £12million-a-year – double his salary at St James’ Park.
Benitez has since been critical of Ashley, explaining that he left because of the lack of ‘vision’ from the club’s hierarchy, and fans were left dismayed by the appointment of Steve Bruce as his successor.
But Ashley, whose popularity on Tyneside is at an all-time low, gave a different version of events.
He told the Daily Mail: “If you come out and say the things he did you would think it was football club first, Rafa second, money third. I’d say it was money first, Rafa, then the club last. He took the totally soft option, took the money and went to China.”
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