Toon eyeing European challenge

The sportswear magnate presided over the club’s slide into the

Championship at the end of the 2008-09 season, but bankrolled its

swift return and is determined to push ahead with his blueprint for

stability on and off the pitch. Managing director Derek Llambias

confirmed Ashley’s intentions after the Magpies today reported a

loss after player trading of £17.1million for the year ended

June 30, 2010. Llambias said: “Mike knows where we want to be and

where we should be in four or five years’ time. “Our vision for the

club is to finish 10th or above every year, year after year. “That

is our target – we want to be challenging for Europe every season.”

The figures revealed that Ashley had ploughed a further

£42million into the club in interest-free loans during the

reporting period to take the total to £139.8million. Indeed,

Llambias claimed that the club would have gone under without his

continued investment in the wake of his failed efforts to sell the

business. He said: “Mike Ashley’s money has kept this club buoyant.

Quite honestly, Newcastle United would not be here without him, it

is as simple as that. “He has never taken a penny out of the

football club, but he knows what he has to put in every year and he

is keen to grow it.” Nevertheless, Ashley is yet to win over his

most staunch critics and many more are waiting to see what

proportion of the £35million the club raked in from the

controversial sale of England striker Andy Carroll in January is

handed to manager Alan Pardew to strengthen his squad this summer.

But first, Pardew and his current players have to finish the job of

securing the club’s Barclays Premier League status, starting with

the visit of struggling Wolves to St James’ Park on Saturday.

Llambias said: “We are starting to get the stability we need into

the football club both financially and within the squad. “That

stability is one of our most important goals. That would give us

the security that the club and the playing side needs.”