as reported in,

Newcastle fans have slaughtered BT Sport pundit Rio Ferdinand after he claimed they should be thanking owner Mike Ashley – not hammering him.

Ashley – who is also a bogeyman for Rangers supporters after his controversial spell as a shareholder at Ibrox – is looking to sell the Premier League club.

His decision not to spend on the team while attempting to sell his holding in the Geordies has infuriated the Toon Army.

But Ferdinand has defended Ashley in an angry rant prior to Newcastle‘s game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this evening.

(Image: BT Sport)

The former Manchester United defender sells his merchandise, FIVE, through Sports Direct, but denied that being the reason why he has a high opinion of Ashley.

“I don’t even know him [Mike Ashley] very well! I will get to know him,” he told BT Sport.

“My issue is, and it’s got nothing to do with business dealings I got with his company, when they went down he spent £50m of his own money to get them up.

“Thank you, that should be.”

He added: “Also, you look down the road, Sunderland, they had £1.2million to spend in the Championship.

“He’s done that to get back up. And, by the way, please say thank you for getting Rafa Benítez in! Because they’re lucky to have him!”

Mike Ashley (Image: PA)

Host Jake Humphrey then pointed out that since Newcastle secured promotion, Brighton have spent £100million, Huddersfield £72million while Newcastle

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