Newcastle United fans drink to the health of owner Mike Ashley

 

Mike Ashley, the Newcastle United owner, has taken his biggest step yet towards redemption with the club's supporters by returning to the city's watering holes.

Ashley became persona non grata on Tyneside three and a half years ago, when he clashed with then manager Kevin Keegan over transfer policy. Keegan resigned and vociferous demonstrations against the Sports Direct owner followed. He later tried and failed twice to sell the club, and there have been further controversial episodes, such as the selling of Andy Carroll to Liverpool for £35m and two attempts at selling naming rights for St James' Park.

However, the team's recent revival and surprise charge for a Champions League place, led by manager Alan Pardew, has seen a thawing of the fractious relationship between Ashley and the club's support. Indeed there is a growing belief that the owner's desire to run Newcastle as a self-sufficient business is winning over initially sceptical supporters.

 

After Ashley bought the club from the Hall and Shepherd families in 2007, he was regularly seen in Tyneside public houses, where he was known to buy drinks for all. He also stood among fans at away games, where he received a good reception.

Such behaviour ceased during the most difficult period of his tenure. However, after overseeing Newcastle's re-emergence as a club with little debt and an astute transfer policy, Ashley could now be sensing an end to the fans' hostility.

The billionaire, who started his business from nothing in the 1980s, was spotted by fans in the Tup Tup Palace nightclub in the city centre after Newcastle's victory against Liverpool at the start of the month. Ashley's appearance was warmly received and he was also seen with Newcastle fans in a casino in Swansea before a 2-0 victory there.

He remains as reluctant as he has been since buying the club – and laying out substantial finance to clear debts estimated at around £280m – to court publicity, but it is a huge step for him to venture among supporters. Anti-Ashley chants had lessened significantly at St James' Park by November and the signing of Papiss Cissé, the most expensive individual transfer of the January window, has further diluted any animosity.

If Newcastle are to continue their charge for a Champions League place, Ashley's standing among fans will turn full circle.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'