The Newcastle soap opera goes on and on

By Online Editorial

With the club preparing for a season in The Championship, an astronomical wage bill, no manager and an owner desperate to sell, Newcastle are in a right old mess, says Ralph Ellis.

For two years Newcastle has been a textbook case in how not to run a football club. Mike Ashley has lurched from one disaster to another and it wasn’t surprising that it all ended up in relegation.

Okay, start again, because really the history of mismanagement from the boardroom goes back for a decade. If Ashley has mucked things up, then that was partly because he didn’t know what to do with the mess he found once he’d taken it over. It is well known that the Sports Direct millionaire didn’t bother to do due diligence when he paid £134million to buy the club, and then found another £100million of debts waiting to be cleared.

Now he’s trying to sell up and get out – and guess who this morning appears to be the front runner to take over again at St James Park? Freddy Shepherd, the man who ran up those debts as chairman in the first place.

This morning’s papers are full of talk that 66-year-old Shepherd, after failing to buy Real Mallorca, is fronting a consortium to take control again. He’s presenting himself, through carefully placed anonymous sources, as the white knight to deliver the club back into Geordie hands and return it to prosperity.

But before you get tempted to be sucked in by his talk and back favourites Newcastle to win the Championship at the current price of 6.0, step back and look at the reality.

Shepherd’s consortium want to pay only £60million for the club, which given its current status is generous but it is still £40million below what Ashley is ready to accept. And even then as new owners they would have to wrestle with a wage bill of £72million a year that’s totally unsustainable in the Championship.

Add to that a squad that needs completely rebuilding, and the lack of a manager with the authority to do it, and you have another chapter in the ongoing “how not to run a football club” saga.

Newcastle’s players return to pre-season training tomorrow and it will be coach Chris Hughton who, again, will be in charge. Talks on appointing Alan Shearer have broken down because Ashley can’t confirm a manager until he knows whether or not he’s selling, and who to. That means new players can’t be signed – and the ones who are there are very definitely not the sort you’d fancy to grasp the muck and nettles of a division that demands 46 League games.

As well as being favourites to win the division, Newcastle are 3.45 favourites for promotion and both have to be clear opportunities to lay. I’d rather back somewhere between the current spread of 14.0 and 23.0 for them to get relegated again. Do you think it can’t happen? Have a look at where Charlton, Southampton and Norwich are now.

Five things you might not know about Freddy Shepherd:

1. He turned his family’s firm Shepherd Offshore from a small marine company to a major player by helping redevelop failed factories along the River Tyne

2. It was his brother Bruce who first befriended the Hall family, leading to their joint involvement with Newcastle

3. Shepherd was the major player in bringing Alan Shearer to the club in 1996

4. In ten years before selling the club to Mike Ashley, Shepherd and his family made more than £8.35million from the club in share dividends and salaries

5. He ranked 1,331 in The Sunday Times rich list last year with a net worth of £58 million

Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. © The Sporting Exchange Limited

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