With Martin Samuel in the Daily Fail. MIKE ASHLEY EXCLUSIVE: 'I think I could own this club forever' - In a rare and explosive interview, the Newcastle United owner talks to Sportsmail's Chief Sports Writer Martin Samuel By Martin Samuel for the Daily Mail22:00, 26 Jul 2019, updated 22:11, 26 Jul 2019 please log in to view this image +11 26shares 1 comment Latest From MailOnline Mike Ashley has revealed about his ownership of Newcastle over the last 12 years Ashley is under immense scrutiny, with fans protesting against his ownership He came under-fire after Rafa Benitez walked away from the club in the summer Steve Bruce's appointment was met by huge frustration from Newcastle fans Ashley admitted he is a 'negative to that football club' in the exclusive interview READ: Ashley insists it was 'impossible' to keep hold of Benitez at Newcastle READ: Ashley insists he has learned from Ayoze Perez's move to Leicester Mike Ashley is reflecting on his 12 years at Newcastle. 'I'm a negative to that football club,' he says, without a hint of self-pity. ADVERTISEMENT '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. please log in to view this image +11 Mike Ashley (pictured) has revealed all about his ownership of Newcastle over the last 12 years please log in to view this image +11 Ashley has come under intense scrutiny, with Newcastle fans protesting against his ownership 26shares RELATED ARTICLES Joelinton arrives at St James' Park as a relative unknown but has the potential to lift the doom and gloom at Newcastle... with £40m star compared to Roberto Firmino in the past Newcastle poised to sign Chelsea academy midfielder Kyle Scott as new boss Steve Bruce makes second signing of his Tyneside tenure 'I hope to make them happy this season': Newcastle's record signing Joelinton vows to lift the gloom around St James' Park with his performances Newcastle up for the cups as Steve Bruce claims Mike Ashley does have lofty ambitions after signing Joelinton for £40m: 'This is a statement... it's not the case he only wants to finish 17th' 'What I don't want is for it to be negative. Why would I go if it causes the fans an issue? If I'm not there, maybe they can get behind Steve Bruce and get on with it. That's probably better. I don't want people to think I'm making it worse. I don't want people to be asking how our players can perform in these conditions. I don't want them booing every two minutes.' The low point for Ashley was a game at St James' Park when the fans chanted his name. The Sunderland fans, in the away end, raucously celebrating a win by singing "There's only one Mike Ashley". He winces. 'That was a really tough day,' he adds. 'I could hear it and I'm thinking, "Mike, this is bad. This is really, really bad". I've got to admit, I was struggling with that.' Despite this - despite the best part of a decade of it - Ashley still describes himself as an optimist, a dreamer, excitable when it comes to football. And many will scoff, not least those who would run him out of Tyneside on a rail, for mismanagement, for lack of investment, for a perceived charge sheet that could cross to Gateshead and back again. Yet when he talks about football, the moment he moves away from the dry, pragmatic, financial responsibility of running Newcastle, a different man can be seen. The travelling England fan who floated his company and bought a Premier League football club for the fun, and the hell, of it. Who appointed Kevin Keegan because why on earth wouldn't he? Ashley talks more like the average punter standing behind the goal than 90 per cent of the folk who populate boardrooms. ADVERTISEMENT He is still capable of unimagined enthusiasms and leaps of faith - writing in a £20million bonus for the players if Newcastle won the FA Cup several seasons ago, giving Alan Pardew an eight-year contract - of being utterly enchanted by the passionate emotions of his new manager, or the potential in some bright young thing. please log in to view this image +11 Newcastle just broke their club-record transfer deal on Joelinton, signing him for £40million MIKE ASHLEY ON RAFA BENITEZ EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW - MARTIN SAMUEL Mike Ashley insisted on Friday night that it was 'impossible' for Newcastle to have kept Rafa Benitez – and that the former manager was determined to take a lucrative deal to China from the start. Ashley revealed he even floated the idea of an eight-year contract with Benitez at a meeting on May 16, and that the manager's refusal to commit could have cost the club record signing Joelinton. Newcastle's owner spoke out following criticism of the breakdown in talks with Benitez – who he admits did an 'excellent' job – and criticism from the former boss following his appointment at Dalian Yifang in a deal worth £12m-a-year. And he said: 'If you come out and say the things he did you would think it was football club first, Rafa second, money third. I'd say it was money first, Rafa, then the club last. He took the totally soft option, took the money and went to China. That disappoints me. If he'd gone back to Real Madrid, or a top six club in the Premier League, I get it. But it was about money and all he had to do was say that from the beginning. 'My view always was we had to keep Rafa. For my own personal safety we had to keep Rafa. I thought he had us offside, he had us cornered, it wasn't fair, it wasn't right, I've been totally out-manoeuvred, I probably shouldn't own a football club, it's ridiculous, but I'm a big boy. 'Yet every time with Rafa it was impossible – there was always another thing, and the next thing, and the next thing. He asked for a 50 per cent pay increase and I think he did that because he knew it couldn't work. And if we had agreed to that, I think it would have been something else. And everyone thinks we lost him because we wouldn't pay a couple of quid more. He had the microphone and we didn't. 'I'm not disappointed in him as a manager – he did an excellent job. It puzzles me why any fan thinks I wouldn't want him. I'm not the thickest person on the planet. Why wouldn't I want excellence? Why wouldn't I want this manager? Accuse me or many things, but not that. We couldn't have done any more. 'At one stage they were talking about a one-year extension and I said my preference would be for an eight-year contract. That's what I have to do in business when I invest. I have to take a medium to long-term view. I don't worry about my takings on a Saturday. And we are now talking planning and strategy. So if you really want me involved, I need time from you, too. And that was the idea. I did it before with Alan Pardew. 'Looking back, though, it doesn't really matter what Rafa asked for because I think the Chinese thing was done. He had talked about what he could earn in China previously. We were not even slightly surprised by that move.' READ THE FULL COPY RIGHT HERE ADVERTISEMENT He made a two-hour stop-off at the training ground this week and came back talking of breaking some of his stricter rules of engagement to see if he can light a spark in the club this season. Ashley broke the club's transfer record for Joelinton in July, having already done so for Miguel Almiron in January. 'I go to the training ground, hot day, all lovely - you can't help getting carried away,' he says. 'I'm like, 'What can I do to help? Can we get another one in? What's he like, is he fast?' It's one of the amazing things about owning a football club, the way you get caught up. It's like someone has put something in your coffee. You look around, you want to lift the place, hit the ground running. I hope we're not finished at Joelinton.' With Ashley's circumstances at Newcastle, however, there is always a deeper reasoning to consider. 'What I fear, from the club's point of view, is to make a promise and then something goes wrong,' he adds. 'It's a big issue of reputation for the club because of my ownership. If that happens, people think we were never serious, that it's a stunt. If we get something wrong, or it doesn't happen for whatever reason, it becomes worse than not doing anything at all.' Plainly, Ashley is torn. He hasn't got the fortune required to make Newcastle competitive at the top of the table, but he does dream of delivering more than a decent balance sheet. On the day of our conversation, Tottenham had signed a shirt deal worth £45m each season, across eight years. 'Er, OK,' says Ashley. 'That is many, many times what Newcastle can get. We're not anywhere near that – nobody is, outside the top six. And I'm being told Liverpool could get £100m for the same deal.