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Off-field turmoil casts a shadow over Newcastle

SoccerNews in English Premier League 6 Aug 2008

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Newcastle go into the new Premier League season under a cloud of uncertainty after billionaire owner Mike Ashley's revelation that he is seeking fresh investment in the club.

Several would-be investors have been linked with a takeover, although Ashley and his fellow-directors still insist that he does not want to sell the club he bought only last year.

While the owner is unhappy about the off-the-field turbulence, the rumours have grabbed the headlines and only added to the troubles encountered by manager Kevin Keegan ahead of the new English Premier League season.

If the St James' Park boardroom has been shrouded in uncertainty since the end of last season, that is nothing compared to the turmoil which threatens to undermine on the pitch matters.

At this stage, even the most optimistic Newcastle supporter is resigned to another season of, at best, mid-table obscurity.

Although Ashley has reiterated his long-term commitment the sportswear magnate readily admits the need for further financial support after being taken aback at the perilous financial state of the club he paid 130 million pounds for 15 months ago.

All of which would apparently make it easy for Keegan to be side-tracked and lose sleep over the identity of any potential new employers.

But the Newcastle manager has had enough on his plate, with matters not helped by the prospect of a lengthy Football Association suspension hanging over Joey Barton, the troubled midfield player who was released early from a six month prison sentence for assault.

Some pallid pre-season form and the lack of virtually his entire strike-force has been another cause for major concern.

Keegan has been forced to do without the services of Michael Owen, Mark Viduka, Obafemi Martins, Shola Ameobi and Andy Carroll for large parts of the build up to the new season.

While Australian international Viduka is likely to miss at least the first month of the season, Martins and record signing Owen, who is still some distance from agreeing to a new contract, are expected to be fit for the start of the new campaign.

Newcastle, who open their campaign against Premier League Champions Manchester United at Old Trafford on August 17, and Keegan, ever the optimist, has done his best to remain upbeat.

On the plus side, the imminent signing of defender Fabricio Coloccini from the Spanish club Deportivo La Coruna, in addition to the earlier arrivals of Jonas Gutierrez, the Argentinian midfielder, Danny Guthrie from Liverpool and former Metz defender Sebastien Bassong will take Keegan's spending past 20 million pounds.

“If you look at quite a few other clubs, they've not been able to bring in as many players as we have at this point,” insisted Keegan.

“At this time of year everyone has expectations and people will look at the situation and make their own minds up,” Keegan said of the club's progress.

“Our job is to try and fulfil all the promise we've got in the squad because with everyone fit we've got a strong group of players.

“There's still some work to do but I'm really looking forward to the start of the season. We might not do as well as we think we can, but that's the fascination of a season.

“It's a very tough league but we're optimistic and at this stage the fans should be as well. There's no reason why we can't have our dreams.”

Whether those dreams soon turn into a nightmare, only time will tell, but given all that has gone on this close-season any improvement on last season's 12th place finish will be a significant achievement.

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SoccerNews

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