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Newcastle chiefs under fire as shares slump by pounds 7m

THE STOCK MARKET value of Newcastle United slumped more than pounds 7m yesterday as the City reacted negatively to newspaper allegations that two directors launched an attack on the club's supporters, players and managers.

The shares fell 5 per cent to 85.5p as outraged fans called for the resignation of the chairman Freddy Shepherd and Douglas Hall, son of former chairman Sir John. The club is now valued at pounds 122m compared to pounds 193m when it was floated at 135p last year.

Newcastle has been beset by a serious of problems since it came to the market which has caused its share price to collapse. Mark Corbidge, the group's former joint chief executive, quit the board last year after just seven months with the club. Soon afterwards, Alan Shearer, the club's star pounds 15m striker suffered a long-term injury and plans for a new pounds 90m stadium had to be shelved because of planning problems.

The group's new management team, led by chief executive Freddie Fletcher, had promised to turn around the disappointing performance including plans for a redeveloped 55,000-seater stadium at St James' Park.

Newcastle are now way off the Premiership title chase, have fallen to a disappointing position in the league and the latest revelations come as a crushing blow to the group's credibility in the City.

Newspaper reports suggested that Newcastle sold the striker Andy Cole to Manchester United for pounds 7m despite the fact that he faced the prospect of a career-threatening knee injury. Manchester United's assistant secretary Ken Ramsden rubbished the claims. "The story is nonsense. When we signed Andy Cole we took all the precautions you would be expected to take in a transfer," he said.