Former England and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has become embroiled in a war of words with Newcastle fans after voicing his support for the north-east club’s controversial owner Mike Ashley.
The 2-1 defeat at Chelsea left Newcastle third from bottom of the Premier League and there has been a perceived lack of investment in the first-team squad while protacted takeover talks go on between Ashley and a consortium fronted by Peter Kenyon, the former chief executive at Manchester United and Chelsea.
Before the match at Stamford Bridge kicked off, Ferdinand, working as a pundit on BT Sport, said of Ashley: “He spent £50million of his own money to get them back up [from the Championship].
“You can’t hammer him and say that he should be spending when he wants to sell the club.
“You look down the road, last season or whatever, Sunderland spent £1.2 million to get in the Championship.
“He’s done that to get them back up, and by the way, please say thank you for getting [manager] Rafa Benitez in because by rights, they’re lucky to have him.
“All these fans, they do dream, and they dream big and I understand that.
“What are Newcastle’s aims? They can’t be aiming at being a Manchester United or a Manchester City. They’ve got to aim to be a Bournemouth.”
But angry Newcastle fans claimed that the £50 million came from the club’s own funds and accused Ferdinand of a conflict of interest because the billionaire sells Ferdinand’s own clothing brand FIVE exclusively at his retail branch Sports Direct.
But Ferdinand hit back on Sunday on Twitter, saying: “NUFC fans good morning to you all!!! Ya clubs turning a profit, no debt, oh & playing in the PL! Terrible!”