Why Mike Ashley could snub Newcastle’s first home game as St James’ Park boycott expected

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MIKE ASHLEY has revealed he might stay away from St James’ Park for Newcastle’s opening game of the Premier League season as fans plot to boycott their 2019-20 curtain-raiser against Arsenal on August 11.

Supporters are desperate for the Toon owner to sell the club and are unhappy with Ashley for not renewing former manager Rafa Benitez’ contract.

Ashley has since put ex-Sunderland boss Steve Bruce in charge and fans have formed a group called ‘Support our Toon’ in a bid to force their owner out of the club.

And in a candid interview, Ashley admitted he is feeling the heat and says he does not want to put more pressure on the team with his presence for the Arsenal game.

“I’m a negative to that football club,” he told the Daily Mail.

“It’s not a secret. I don’t feel sorry for myself. It is down to me, not Newcastle.

“I give myself one out of five in some aspects because I made proper mistakes, and football isn’t a very forgiving place.

“I didn’t just shoot myself in the foot; I blew my own leg off.

“People would look at me and think I’d gone temporarily insane. They didn’t know what I was doing.

“Will I be there, first game of the season? Maybe.”

Despite the unease surrounding the club, Ashley recently splashed out a club-record £40million to sign Brazilian striker Joelinton

Supporters are still plotting a boycott when they kick off their campaign against the Gunners, but a statement from the ‘Support our Toon’ initiative explained they were worried it might have a negative effect on local businesses.

“Many fans are of the view that the only way to put pressure on him to sell is through the active participation of boycotts and other forms of protest,” it read.

“With many choosing not to renew season tickets and not attend games, it has come to light that local establishments could be affected by such actions of protest.

“Subsequently NUFC fan groups have joined together to link with the city’s bars, pub and restaurants.

“This campaign will consist of local establishments providing their support by either advertising the boycotts and/or providing matchday “happy hour” deals to entice fans away from St James’ Park.”

Record signing Joelinton insists he is not concerned by matters off the pitch and says he is concentrating on repaying his sizeable fee after being handed the famous No 9 shirt.

“I’m really happy to be here,” he said. “I know it is a huge responsibility, the great Alan Shearer, the team’s biggest idol [wore No 9].

“I know it is a big responsibility, but I am prepared.

“I know it is a large investment that the club has made in me, and that comes with a huge responsibility.

“I know that everybody at the club has faith in me having brought me here. I hope to contribute on the pitch. I am happy and prepared.

“Rest assured there will be no shortage of desire and dedication to score lots of goals and honour the number nine shirt.”

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