Club Focus – Newcastle – Pre-season woe

Newcastle United still remains in limbo, much to the frustration of everyone associated with the club. Although the club is still up for sale, it looks increasingly likely that Mike Ashley will remain in the St James’ Park directors’ box at the start of the season. Progress with the sale of the club appears to have hit another brick wall. There has been no news out of St James’ Park in the past few weeks regarding a sale, just adding to the fans’ frustration and contempt towards the Ashley regime. With no permanent manager in place and many of the high earners still on the books it has been a dark summer so far on Tyneside.

The biggest story this week has been the Singapore-based Profitable Group withdrawing their offer for the club. The Profitable Group has been the most vocal of the potential buyers of the club, and among their promises was the appointment of Alan Shearer as manager and a greater say for supporters in how the club should be run. However, it appears that the group were merely using their bid as a vehicle to drum up publicity for the company and were never serious contenders in purchasing the club. With parties in talks with Newcastle having to sign a confidentiality agreement it appeared strange that they were going public in their aims and ambitions for Newcastle.

Former Liverpool player Steve McMahon, who fronted the Profitable Group bid, told the local Press that they received no communication or response from Newcastle officials. He told the Evening Chronicle: “We have pulled out. How long can you keep hanging on? It is really poor form from Newcastle, but if that’s the way they want to run their business, good luck to them.”

While it is difficult to know what is happening at Newcastle at the moment it is believed that several parties are still in talks with the club. Things looked more hopeful for the Toon Army at the beginning of July when managing director Derek Llambias confirmed that they had accepted at least two offers for the club. Whether these parties still remain interested or have been scared off after viewing the clubs’ books is yet to be revealed. If Ashley fails to find a buyer for Newcastle then both parties will be in grave danger. Ashley can ill-afford to remain in charge of the club and keep it afloat out of his own pocket. With his sportswear company Sports Direct suffering a 91% drop in profits and having already invested a reputed £250m+ into the club, Ashley can surely afford no more. There is already a fear among some Newcastle fans that if the club cannot be sold Ashley will be forced to put them into administration. At the moment this is a long way off and Ashley would surely sell for less than the £100m asking price then go into administration.

On the playing side things remain very much the same since the end of last season. Out of contract striker Michael Owen has made a surprise move to Manchester United. Out of the other out-of-contract players defender David Edgar has joined Burnley, while Mark Viduka and Claudio Cacapa are still looking for clubs. Although Newcastle have not confirmed this, it appears that a transfer embargo has been put in place until the club is taken over. The off-the-pitch situation has already seen some Shearer’s reported transfer targets sign for other clubs, much to the fans’ frustrations.

It will surprise few people if caretaker manager Chris Hughton is in charge when Newcastle face West Brom on the first day of the season. Yet again Ashley has asked Hughton to step into the breach and lead Newcastle’s pre-season campaign. Results had been positive until last Saturday’s game when the Magpies were hammered 6-1 away at Leyton Orient. Featuring a near full-strength side Newcastle were well beaten by the League One outfit.

Newcastle opened their pre-season campaign with a comfortable 3-0 win over a weakened Shamrock Rovers. They then produced a polished performance to beat League Two Darlington 7-2. In their next game Newcastle beat Huddersfield Town 1-0, the match overshadowed by a brawl between both sets of players. Joey Barton and Shola Ameobi have been Newcastle’s most impressive performers in pre-season, while youngster Kazenga Lua Lua has also made an impression. Newcastle face Leeds United in their next game, with an on-the-pitch reminder of what could come for Newcastle if things are not sorted out soon off the pitch.

Newcastle United Club Focus

Pre-season woe – July 29

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