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Why This Season Is Mike Ashley's Last Chance to Redeem Himself to Newcastle Fans

01/08/2014 16:58 BST | Updated 01/10/2014 10:59 BST

Newcastle United fans make no secret of their resentment of club owner Mike Ashley and the billionaire businessman, for his part, doesn't seem to really care.

Toon fans see him as somebody who is only involved with their beloved team to make money from them and most would forgive them for thinking this way.

It is clear for all to see that the Buckinghamshire born businessman has not exactly helped endear himself to Magpies supporters. Changing the name of the hallowed St James' Park to 'The Sports Direct Arena' did not exactly go down well with the club's faithful and there was even talk of changing the stadium name to 'The Wonga Arena' before fan protests put an end to the proposal.

Newcastle's recent spending record also hardly inspires confidence. A table of the net spend of the last five Premier League seasons puts Newcastle 17th out of 20, behind the likes of Hull City, Crystal Palace and more worryingly, fierce rivals Sunderland.

Arguably, the only thing that has appeased fans until now is the 2011/12 season where Newcastle finished 5th in the League and qualified for Europe - a position that many fans believe is where the club truly belongs. Even so, however, this campaign was seen as something of a blip, a year where a number of relatively cheap signings - Yohan Cabaye, Cheick Tiote and Hatem Ben Arfa - turned out to be incredibly shrewd acquisitions and all performed brilliantly for the club.

Since then, however, things have gone downhill once again and the Magpies were lucky to remain in the division the next season, finishing 16th. A year later they ended firmly in mid-table obscurity after falling from a good start to the year. The side's woeful form during the second half of last term was largely attributed to the sale of star-man Yohan Cabaye to PSG.

It would be easy to blame Ashley for this sale, though a case of a good player's head being turned by a bigger and richer club (who play in Paris, to boot) is nothing out of the ordinary. Perhaps January is not the best time to sell your midfield lynchpin, but this situation was in the hands of the player, not the owner.

Last season left Newcastle with a team who could once again manage a mid-table finish, but a side that could also achieve so much more with a couple of key signings. Seemingly, Ashley has shocked many fans by opting to show some ambition and delve into the transfer market.

The club has already made six signings so far this summer: Remy Cabella, Siem de Jong, Emanuel Riviere, Daryl Janmaat, Ayoze Perez and Jack Colback. Four of these are clear upgrades on what the side already has and Cabella and de Jong are huge coups for the club.

Cabella was one of Ligue 1's top players last season and was linked with Arsenal, whereas de Jong was captain of Dutch giants Ajax. Even though the Eredivisie has lost something of its former glamour, for Newcastle to snap up Ajax's captain is still something of a huge accomplishment.

There is also talk of the Toon being in the market for another striker and a deeper-lying central midfielder to replace Cabaye. If Ashley does deliver on this front, then fans can hardly have any cause to complain about their much-maligned owner's business this summer.

As a result, Mike Ashley has something of a genuine opportunity to win some respect from Newcastle fans during this transfer window. If he completes the squad this summer and builds on it rather than selling his new acquisitions on for a profit at the first opportunity, then the Magpies may just have a chance to break into European football once more.

The only question that remains is whether Ashley cares enough about the footballing side of the club to take a possible hit on the profits - you can be sure that Newcastle fans will find out soon enough. This may just be Ashley's last chance to prove to them that he is not in football simply for to turn a profit from a venerable and beloved North East institution.

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