Thursday 25 September ~
Apparently, Terry Venables will decide today whether to become Newcastle's short-term manager. But then anyone who reads the tabloids' football pages on a regular basis will know that Venables is always in the process of weighing up job offers. The situation has to be exactly right for him, though. He's a busy man and can't afford to dally with timewasters when he could be sat in a hotel lobby somewhere shooting the breeze with his many friends from the world of big business. If Venables takes the job – and the list of out-of-work managers who have turned down Newcastle down has now reached double figures – his stint in charge will be spun as a success by his many acolytes whatever happens. Newcastle supporters won't care overly much if organisational assistance for the seemingly hapless Chris Hughton leads to them escaping from the bottom three. In the meantime, a new collective noun might be devised for all the prospective purchasers waiting in the wings – a delusion of Toon-owners, perhaps.
By now everyone will have sent or received an email suggesting that the Nigerian consortium said to be in talks with Mike Ashley are running a scam that involves him giving them access to his bank account – and that he is now the only person left in the industrialised world who would fall for it. This is of course an entirely unfair slur on the mystery bidders about whom spokesman Chris Emmanuel says "they are very serious business people and passionate football fans", an extremely rare combination that will bode well should their takeover succeed, although they are reported to be around £100 million short of Mike Ashley's valuation at present. One of their stated aims is to sign their compatriot Yakubu, which might add some extra tension to Newcastle's trip to Goodison Park in just over a week's time.
Meanwhile, a group of Newcastle fans are following set by the Share Liverpool group in attempting to raise sufficient funds to take over the club. The originator of the plan, businessman Peter Lee, points out that new corporate investors might not stick around for long due to the current economic downturn. Instead he hopes to see 300,000 supporters invest £1,000 each, after which an unnamed individual will add a further £85 million. The Liverpool scheme, which by recent accounts is not going particularly well, is at least based on the reasonable assumption that there are hundreds of thousands of Liverpool fans worldwide. Even allowing for the huge interest in the club in Tyneside, Newcastle don't have a remotely comparable fanbase. Supporter ownership is a great idea– but it should have been successfully applied at the top level a generation ago before the game was swallowed up by global capital.