Kevin Nolan says Newcastle fans can't blame Mike Ashley for Rafael Benitez's departure
Last Updated: 05/07/19 7:26pm
Former Newcastle midfielder Kevin Nolan has defended club owner Mike Ashley and says Rafael Benitez knew "what he was going into" when he first joined the club.
Benitez left Newcastle last month at the end of his contract, after the two parties were unable to reach an agreement over extending his three-year spell at St James' Park.
The Spaniard wrote an open letter to Newcastle fans, saying he would have stayed at the club if he felt they shared his "vision" for the future.
Benitez's departure prompted fresh protests from Newcastle fans over Ashley's ownership and a perceived lack of investment in the squad.
However, Nolan believes the businessman has done all he can to move the club forward while searching for a buyer.
"You can't fault Mike," Nolan told talkSPORT. "I feel for the fans, and I feel for Mike as well.
"It's crazy because being a player and knowing Mike and also being close to the fans, I feel torn because I know exactly how hard he is trying to give the Newcastle fans what they want.
"When he first went he had great intentions of putting Newcastle back on the map and obviously he's lost that now and he wants to sell it, he wants to get out.
"But he's still able to finance the club and make sure everything is running smoothly. You go up there and it's a fantastic club and what he's done within the ground is fantastic.
"The fans want a sale, Mike wants a sale and when that happens everyone will be happy - Mike as well."
Benitez says his decision to walk away from Newcastle came after he lost trust in the club's hierarchy but Nolan believes the Spaniard was fully aware of what funds would be available at St James' Park.
"The whole Rafa Benitez thing, I think he knew what he was going into when he first walked into that club," said Nolan.
"Mike is not one to move the goalposts. I think Rafa has done quite well in working the media in terms of the way he feels and what he wants.
"But Mike is a businessman; he's stubborn and he wanted to do it his way. I'm sure Mike will give money to the manager who is coming in.
"It's one thing he did with Rafa - if he was able to sell I think he was given the money.
"And although he is not going to be investing heavily, I think they've got a squad good enough to be in the Premier League.
"That's the most important thing for Mike, to keep them there so he can get this sale across and they can move on and Mike can move on as well."