Friday 12 September ~
Newcastle fans are going to turn out in force tomorrow. But many of them won't be at the match with Hull City. There may be as many as five demonstrations against owner Mike Ashley, with one protest march timed to start as the game kicks off. The target of their ire won't be there – police have now said they won't grant him special protection if changes his mind about turning up – and he may never attend another match having decided to sell up as soon as possible. Indian telecom billionaire Anil Ambani, is known to have been interested in taking over but baulked at Ashley's asking price of £250 million. This figure is nearly twice what Ashley paid for the club although he is said to have discovered further debts totalling £80m after completing what seems to have been a rather rushed takeover in June 2007. Ambani is said to want to bring back Kevin Keegan, who may be fated to keep returning to the club for the rest of his life, like some tortuous punishment handed down by the gods in a Greek myth.
If Ashley is to press on with a sale it would seem sensible to not appoint a new manager in the meantime as compensation payments to another club would only add to the new owner's burden. However, while some press reports today suggest that caretaker Chris Hughton will be asked to stay on for at least several more weeks, others say that a decision will be made soon, maybe within the next week, on Keegan's successor. Spurs assistant manager Gus Poyet is still favourite but Paul Ince is also strong contender according to the local press in the north east. As well as being an England team-mate of Newcastle's executive director Denis Wise, Ince was also given his first coaching role at Swindon when Wise was manager there. Having lost Mark Hughes in the summer it is fair to assume that Blackburn would strongly resist any approach for their current manager.
Another of Wise's former colleagues, Didier Deschamps, remains available without any messy payoff complications. Indeed, Deschamps' chances of landing the job he is said to prefer, that of French national coach, have receded in the wake of the team's midweek victory over Serbia, even though the game was marked by home crowd chants of "Domenech, demissioné!". While Newcastle fans will be making similarly stark demands throughout tomorrow's match both inside and outside the stadium, the fact is that they can exert almost no influence over who controls their club other than to ensure that an unpopular owner doesn't dare show up in person. The best they can hope for is that Mike Ashley's successor doesn't patronise them by pretending to be a fan.