Ashley destroying bond between club and Newcastle fans, says Harper

Former Newcastle United goalkeeper Steve Harper has said the club’s owner, Mike Ashley, has ruined the bond between the team and supporters, the Daily Telegraph has reported, ahead of the Hull goalkeeper’s Magpies testimonial on Wednesday.

Harper spent 20 years with Newcastle prior to a summer move to Hull and with a Milan XI due to take on a Newcastle XI in Harper’s testimonial game, at Newcastle’s St. James’ Park, the veteran has spoken out on the current state of affairs on Tyneside. And Harper is concerned that the fervent support of the club by the people of Newcastle is not valued by the current owner, Ashley.

If the club was a body, the fans are the heart,” Harper said. “They are its heartbeat, but the link between the brain and the heart is no longer there. Newcastle are bleeding. If that isn’t addressed, if the wound is not allowed to heal, whatever is special about the club is in danger of dying.

The fans make the club tick, but they feel detached from it. Whenever the club has done well over, the fans have been on board. They have been fully behind their team, their club,” the 38-year-old continued.

I think their loyalty has been tested far too often in recent years… If I had a message to Mike Ashley it would be to engage with the fans, to repair that relationship. It’s not totally broken, but it doesn’t just need a plaster on it, it needs to be fixed.

Ashley took over the club in May 2007 and gained popularity among supporters by re-appointing former Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan. However, he raised the ire of the fans by sacking Keegan a year later, and, when the dissension had appeared to have healed somewhat, this summer appointing unpopular former manager Joe Kinnear as director of football.

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