Belfast Telegraph

Redknapp praises Ashley reign

QPR boss Harry Redknapp believes Mike Ashley has been a "fantastic" chairman for Newcastle and claims Alan Pardew would have been sacked by now under a foreign owner.

Ashley has endured a turbulent relationship with Newcastle supporters, who have criticised the billionaire's off-field appointments, the renaming of St James' Park and a lack of investment in new players since he bought the club in 2007.

The Sports Direct owner also remained loyal to Pardew during a difficult start to the season and the manager has repaid his chairman's faith, leading the Magpies to five consecutive victories.

"The chairman has been fantastic," said Redknapp, whose QPR side play Newcastle on Saturday.

"He gets a lot of stick, Mike Ashley, but he's always at the games in the crowd.

"He follows the team, loves it, and has stuck by Alan because he knows he's got a good manager.

"It's easy to make a knee-jerk reaction and bomb him out.

"They finished fifth the other year and were very unlucky not to finish in the Champions League places - he's done a good job."

Many Newcastle supporters called for Pardew to be sacked after a miserable start to the campaign but wins over Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool have transformed the mood in the north-east.

Pardew was handed an eight-year contract in December 2012 but Redknapp insists the long-term deal will not be the reason behind Ashley's loyalty.

"It doesn't really matter if you've got a contract - there will be a clause in it and 99 times out of 100, if they sack you that will probably pay you a year's money," Redknapp said.

"The difference is probably because he's a British owner.

"Lots of the foreign owners would look at bringing a foreign manager in because maybe he's been a better player than Alan Pardew was and they played in Italy or Spain.

"But Ashley has stuck by him and no matter what abuse he gets he doesn't care, does he?

"That's why he's such a clever man - you don't become that wealthy if you're not a clever man."

Redknapp turned down the chance to become Newcastle manager in 2008, opting instead to remain at Portsmouth, where he won the FA Cup later that year.

"I was offered the job but I just couldn't get my Geordie accent right," Redknapp joked.

"No I don't regret anything, I don't look back, I look forward and move on.

"I went to Spurs and had four fantastic years and I don't regret staying at Pompey where I had a great time.

"And I don't regret being here, I have loved it here. I'm very lucky to keep going."

QPR made a disappointing start to the season but have enjoyed an upturn in form, taking four points from their last four matches.

Rangers remain in the bottom three but can climb the table with some kinder fixtures coming up.

"We have upped the work rate and that's what we have to keep doing over the next few games because they will have a big bearing on how our season goes," Redknapp said.

"We have games against Leicester, Burnley, Palace coming up - teams that are going to be down there with us.

"They will be massive games for us that we will have to get some good points out of.

"You determine your season when you play the teams that are going to be around there with you."

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