Sir John Hall's final departure from St James' Park left both the board of the football club and the board of its parent company, Newcastle United plc, without a leader.
It had been assumed, after Sir Terrence Harrison's resignation as chairman of the plc last week, that Sir John would continue as chairman of the football club beyond the 31 May deadline agreed in March, following the resignations of his son, Douglas, and Freddie Shepherd. But in a statement to the Stock Market yesterday afternoon Newcastle United plc said the multi-millionaire property director was "steeping down, as intended, after returning to help steer the club through a difficult period."
Sir John made his ultimately unexpected departure without passing comment. He was out of the country yesterday, on holiday yesterday with his wife, Lady Mae. Only two weeks ago, he said he had arranged a mid-summer "think tank" involving all heads of department at St James' Park, including the team manager, Kenny Dalglish. But Alastair Wilson, Newcastle's public relations director, said last night: "When Sir John came back in March, he said he would stay until the end of May and that's exactly what has happened."
The resignations last week of Sir Terrence and John Mayo, another non- excutive director of Newcastle United plc, were understood to be in protest at plans for Douglas Hall and Shepherd to return to the club board. As Sir John's son happens to own 57 per cent of the shares, that would still seem likely - though probably with Denis Cassidy, the one remaining plc director, as overall chairman, and perhaps with chief executive Freddie Fletcher as nominal head of the football club board.
In the meantime, Dalglish continues his squad-building mission. His latest targets are the midfielder Olivier Dacourt and the striker Gerald Baticle, both of Strasbourg.
Stan Ternent, who resigned as Bury's manager yesterday, is expected to be named as Burnley's new manager today.