Newcastle ownership announcement set for Monday
NEWCASTLE, England (AFP) - Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley will make an announcement next Monday on whether he intends to sell the Championship club or hold onto it for another season, media reports said Friday. Sports retailer Ashley bought the club for 134.4 million pounds (155 million euros) in 2007 but following the club's relegation from the Premier League he has been seeking a deal to sell on for 100 million pounds as local businessman Barry Moat and two other consortia jockey for position. With Newcastle having offloaded ten players in a bid to trim a squad on bloated Premier League wages while signing just one new face it appears increasingly likely Ashley will remain at the helm with the end of the month being transfer deadline day. Most of the club's fans are keen to see the back of Ashley, who initially won support by bringing in popular former player and coach Kevin Keegan. But the latter's resignation early last season - citing a lack of a say on transfer policy - presaged a disastrous campaign culminating in the drop and second tier football for the first time since 1993. Many fans want to see new locally-based owners and former striker Alan Shearer installed as manager. Shearer was in charge for the final eight games of the season but could not prevent the club sliding out of the Premier League at the end of an abysmal campaign. On the plus side for potential new owners the fan base remains one of the country's highest at around 45,000 per home game and Newcastle have garnered two wins and a draw from their opening three matches ahead of a Saturday trip to Crystal Palace. Despite professing his admiration for Shearer, Ashley is believed to favour a more experienced figurehead. However, temporary stand-in caretaker Chris Hughton is winning the backing of the playing staff increasingly after he oversaw their bright start to the league campaign. Hughton said after the 1-0 midweek win over Sheffield Wednesday: "Nothing has changed, if the club is sold at any stage, then possibly I might get a knock on the door and be told that things will change. "I have very much enjoyed the challenge so far and I am very happy to continue until told otherwise." Regarding potential further transfers in or out Hughton said: "I am very hopeful that what we have here at the moment will remain at the club. "I am also very hopeful that come the end of the transfer window, we have got a squad that is able to compete in this division and a squad that is able to compete at the right end of the table." Danny Simpson, who joined on loan from Manchester United last week, is the only arrival to date, although there is speculation that former England defender Sol Campbell may also soon arrive on Tyneside.
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