What can you say about Reading FC?

Just short of two decades ago, the club were enjoying life in the Premier League and up against the big boys in Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and more.

Albeit their stay in the top flight lasted only two years, they returned 11 years ago for a solitary season.

Since then, an FA Cup semi-final appearance and a play-off final defeat are probably the only two things that have gone well in Berkshire, as the club faces their toughest period yet in their 152-year history.

Points deductions, a winding-up petition, terrible form on the pitch, and now at the foot of the League One table.

It’s fair to say that the Royals’ owner, Dai Yongee, has not treated the club with any respect or any care, so who will be the billionaire that helps save Reading from oblivion?

Well, ex-Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has been touted to purchase the one-time Premier League outfit, after his chopper was spotted by the club’s stadium during their recent 3-2 home loss against top-of-the-table Portsmouth.

So, who is Mike Ashley and what will he bring?

The 59-year-old was born in Walsall but made his name in Maidenhead after he opened his first sports store in the town.

This was in 1982 when an 18-year-old Ashley used £10,000 (equivalent to just over £43,000 in today’s money), and it was an instant success.

He began to open more branches across Berkshire and eventually in London, before he settled in the Thames Valley, a place which is very much his home, as he now lives in Burnham.

As time went on, Ashley’s success in the business world grew at a rapid pace, as by 2006, Sports World had a market value of more than £2b.

It overtook the long-lasting JJB Sports as the country’s leading sports store before he became the owner of Karrimor, Kangol and Lonsdale.

His ever-growing pot of money eventually led Ashley to look elsewhere for an investment opportunity and in 2007, he became the owner and Newcastle United.

He would spend nearly 15 years as the club’s sole owner, but it didn’t come without issues as two relegations from the PL, a revolving door of managers, and midtable mediocrity (excluding one year when the club finished sixth in the league) came along.

During that time, he only gave two interviews to the press, with his first coming in 2015 – eight years after purchasing the Tyneside outfit.

He eventually parted ways in October 2021 after a £300m buyout from a Saudi Arabian consortium, where he has since purchased Coventry City’s Stadium.

It’s well-documented that a club under Mike Ashley’s stewardship will not be a ride without any bumps and there could be a lack of ambition.

But anything is better than what Reading has got now – could he be the man to save them from financial ruin?