EXCLUSIVE: Newcastle plummet to new depths as O'Leary rejects them
Just when Newcastle fans thought they had suffered enough, the good ship St James' hit rock bottom on Wednesday night. After a day of fresh farce, it was revealed that David O'Leary rejected the chance to become manager on a two-year contract, despite spending the past three years out of the game. Hours earlier Joe Kinnear, who stepped down last February needing a heart bypass operation, confirmed he too had been offered a return to the same post with the same length of deal a fortnight ago but was unable to take it up immediately. O'Leary, the former Leeds and Aston Villa boss, is understood to have passed on what many would consider a poisoned chalice because it was stressed to him that Newcastle might soon be sold. There has been little sign of that recently but as confusion reigns at St James' Park, Tyneside businessman Barry Moat has emerged as the preferred bidder of brokers Seymour Pierce. Moat is close to Alan Shearer and was chairman of the Newcastle legend's testimonial committee, meaning moves for Kinnear and O'Leary are unlikely to have come at his behest. Moat's involvement with what is said to be an American consortium would surely see Shearer re-instated as boss, and with Ashley having set an informal deadline of Friday, the promise of better news to appease fans persists. With their season kicking off at fellow relegated side West Brom on Saturday, Ashley and his managing director, Derek Llambias, are still insisting the club is for sale. However, billionaire Ashley has not ruled out staying if his £100million asking price is not met. Shearer waits for the call to return as manager, three months after his last meeting with Ashley, but he looks destined to return to the Match of the Day studio for the BBC's first televised Football League game this Saturday. Newcastle fans, who vented their frustration in a fans' forum with the BBC last night, will be hoping Ashley can secure a sale sooner rather than later, especially if the new owners offer Shearer the manager's job. Ashley is hoping to sell several players before the weekend, with Tottenham believed to be prepared to make an improved offer for French defender Sebastien Bassong after a £10m bid was turned down this week. Aston Villa want Senegal defender Habib Beye, and Wolves are chasing midfielder Nicky Butt.
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