With Newcastle fans crying out for investment in players, Rio Ferdinand has come out in an astonishing defence of Newcastle owner Mike Ashley.
In the build-up of BT Sports' coverage of Newcastle United v Chelsea, presented Jake Humphries put it to Ferdinand that he only defends Ashley's lack of investment in the club because he stocks Ferdinand's merchandise in his stores:
Humphries: I don't think you have a lot of sympathy with Newcastle fans, and actually what a lot of them tell me is that you have an opinion of the club because you sell a lot of your merchandise through Mike Ashley's stores.
Ferdinand: I don't even know him! I don't even know him really well! I will get to know him... My issue is, it's got nothing to do with the business dealings he's got with my company.
I just think, when they went down he's spent 50 odd million to get them back up, of his own money. Thank you, that should be.
They should say thank you to Ashley. You look at Sunderland, they had £1.2million to go up from the Championship. And they owe a thank you to Mike Ashley for getting Rafa Benitez.
And please (Newcastle fans) say thank you for getting Rafa Benitez in. Because really by rights, they're lucky to have him.
"I don't even know him [Mike Ashley] very well!"
"When they went down, he spent £50m of his own money to get them up. Thank you, that should be."
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) January 12, 2019
Ferdinand's point that Ashley is spending his own money is ludicrous, that Ashley is somehow only dipping into his own pocket when funding the club.
When Newcastle were relegated at the end of the 2015/16, they sold Gini Wijnaldum, Moussa Sissoko and Andros Townsend to the tune of £69 million, so for Ferdinand to say that fans should be grateful to Ashley is ignorant at best and disingenuous at worst.
The whole argument ultimately boils down to Ashley not selling the club, despite having it up for sale. This is what surely rankles with Newcastle fans the most; that the club has been in limbo and stagnating due to lack of investment in the first team, and it's a situation that Benitez will not put up with forever.