The day Mike Ashley left the club, was one of the brightest days in recent history as a Newcastle fan. We were finally free from his penny-pinching approach to, do the minimal amount possible approach to ownership. Not only that, it felt like he was away from football, a man who we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy (well may make an exception for the Mackems) would never darken the beautiful game again.

But as we know the self-appointed ‘Saviour of the High Street’ is always out for a bargain. He has a tried and tested way of adding chains of stores to his retail empire. He waits for them to go into administration, and picks them up at a lower price than he would normally pay. It seems this approach is not just limited to the high street. He has decided he wants to return to football, and in this case with Derby County.

We have all seen the financial trouble that Derby have got themselves into, and manager Wayne Rooney is trying his best to make up that points deduction. But they need someone to come in and get them out of trouble, if only to keep the club running more than anything else. Ashley has seen himself as that man. A white knight that rides in in their hour of need to add that financial stability that the club sorely need.

Many thought that when he sold up at Newcastle that would be him done with football ownership, after the ‘torrid’ time he was given by the fanbase. And just for the benefit of doubt every part of that criticism from the fans and the local media was fully deserved. However, and it pains me to write this, the ONE good thing Ashley did during his time at Newcastle was to keep the books right. We were never in any real debt, only money owed to him through an interest free loan. This is the approach a club like Derby need in their current situation.

It is exactly this approach that Derby need at the moment. A tightening of the purse strings, a way to financial security that takes them away from any chance of liquidation. This will be at the forefront of every Derby fans mind, and not how Ashley treated our club! They will just want their club to survive, and the Sports Direct owner could be seen as the man to secure that for them.

Ashley has already started the charm offensive with Derby fans, by sending his trusted lieutenant and PR mogul Keith Bishop onto Sky Sports News, to in his words ‘break ranks’. There were reports that Ashley had stepped away from the chance to purchase Derby on the cheap. But this was quickly refuted by Bishop. This was an exercise in something Ashley does best, gets people on side. When he owned our club he would try to get the media and the wider football community onside with a ‘woe is me act’, this time by putting Bishop on camera, he was very much getting the Derby fans onside, as the administrators take their time in choosing who should be given the keys to Derby County.

Bishop’s charm offensive wouldn’t stop there, he would go onto mention that Ashley was ‘upset’ about reports he had pulled out, liked Derby a lot, even mentioning the ‘Clough years’, his kept promise to Newcastle fans about selling the club to the right people, and how he was angry at how long it was taking for the administrators to make a decision. It was another attempt for Ashley to step away from the ‘pantomimevillain’ moniker he picked up during his 14 years on Tyneside. But this has put him firmly in the ‘approved bidder’ category of the Derby fans, and may work in pushing the hand of the administrators.

The question remains, why would Mike Ashley want to step back into football? Well if you listen to his PR stooge Bishop, it is firmly because he “loves football” and because his business and football are linked it “makes sense!” Now 30 plus years of supporting Newcastle, 14 of those under Ashley have made me cynical, I get the feeling the reason he wants to step back into football ownership isn’t 100% linked to football ownership.

The day the what seemed like 1000’s of Sports Direct signs came down around St James’ was celebrated as much as the takeover itself. It felt like a cleansing, a rebirth, it just felt clean. But that is millions of pounds worth of free advertising he is missing out on. Judging by some of the Sports Direct adverts that seem to pop up on my TV from time to time, I’m guessing given the amount of names in them they aren’t cheap to produce. He needs a free billboard to advertise his various brands including his flagship stores.

While Ashley may invest some money into the club to start with, no doubt he will want his personal advertising hoard to reach a larger audience with Premier league football. The one thing that Ashley will bring is financial stability to a club that seemed weeks away from disappearing. The Derby fans seem to be largely in favour of him, and good luck to them! But Ashley’s return to football will see the spotlight put firmly back on his Sports shop, and at the end of the day, that’s all he ever really wants!

CARL RICHARDSON – @Carl_TFaith