Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Ashley Staying Silent on United

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Ashley Staying Silent on United

Article excerpt

Byline: LUKE EDWARDS

NEWCASTLE United owner Mike Ashley has steadfastly refused to discuss the future of the football club despite the acrimonious departure of manager Kevin Keegan last week, writes LUKE EDWARDS.

With the club apparently in turmoil following Keegan's claim he had been forced to quit as a result of boardroom interference in transfers, it was hoped Ashley would attempt to explain his actions at the annual general meeting of his company Sports Direct International yesterday.

Ashley had flown back from America especially to attend the meeting, but with journalists outnumbering shareholders, the billionaire decided not to try to clarify recent events as he ignored any questions about Newcastle or Keegan.

A lack of communication from the Newcastle hierarchy has been a feature of their tenure since former chairman Chris Mort returned to London in June to continue his career as a corporate lawyer and the atmosphere of suspicion it generates has helped fuel the anti-Ashley feeling which engulfs Tyneside.

That negative atmosphere was ignited in dramatic fashion last week when Keegan, following a row with managing director Derek Llambias over the club's failure to sign the players he had asked for during the transfer window, decided to quit.

Keegan later revealed that promises made to him regarding his overall control of buying and selling players had been broken by executive director (football) Dennis Wise and head of recruitment Tony Jimenez.

Although there were a number of so-called insider briefings in the national Press over the weekend, none of the London-based Newcastle board have been willing to answer their critics publicly and a wall of silence has been erected which threatens to create an even bigger divide between those who run the club and those who support it. Indeed, Ashley's stubborn desire to avoid discussing the crisis which is tearing the club apart could further enflame the situation ahead of Newcastle's first Premier League game since the furore over Keegan exploded last week.

Fanzine editors at The Mag and True Faith, as well as other supporter groups, have already indicated they will use Saturday's game as a means to protest against the board, with demonstrations planned for before, during and after the match against Hull City. …

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