Ashley jets in for takeover talks

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The Independent Football

Owner Mike Ashley paid a flying visit to Newcastle today as the club confirmed talks with potential buyer Barry Moat are under way.

Ashley arrived at the Magpies' Darsley Park training headquarters along with managing director Derek Llambias at around midday and spent an hour there before heading off once again.

Llambias had earlier confirmed discussions over Tyneside businessman Moat's proposed takeover had begun in earnest.

However, it is understood those talks will only amount to anything if Moat meets Ashley's £100million asking price and can produce the cash he needs to assume control.

He, or indeed either of the two consortia who remain in the running, may have to do that by the end of this week if they are to persuade the sportswear magnate not to take the club off the market once again and have another stab at attempting to drag it from the mire into which it slid under his stewardship.

Caretaker manager Chris Hughton, who has spent the last few months back at the helm on the football side amid speculation any of a series of managers could be appointed either by new owners or the current regime, spoke briefly to Ashley as he prepared his side for tomorrow night's Coca-Cola Championship clash with Sheffield Wednesday.

He revealed the owner will not be at St James' Park for tomorrow night's game, as he was conspicuously alongside Moat for Saturday's 3-0 win over Reading, although he admitted he had been given no indication a decisive move was imminent.

Hughton said: "He came up and spoke very well, actually. He came and wished us luck for tomorrow - because he won't be here - and spoke about the game for a while, and that's all it was.

"Any talk about a takeover will be very much between him and Derek."

Hughton, currently in temporary charge of team affairs for the third time, has operated from the off on the basis that every day could be his last as manager.

The Ashley regime is understood to have sounded out a series of candidates for the job, while Moat would appoint Alan Shearer to the post if his takeover bid was successful.

In the meantime, Hughton faces the task of preparing a rapidly diminishing squad of players - Damien Duff joined the exodus today when he completed his move to Fulham for an undisclosed fee - unsure as to how deep that cull will go.

Argentinian duo Fabricio Coloccini and Jonas Gutierrez continue to be linked with transfers away from St James', while Steven Taylor is reportedly a target for Liverpool, Everton and Aston Villa.

Hughton said: "With Steven, it is just very much speculation. He has been involved in the first two games and played very well, and he will be involved tomorrow as well."

However, he did admit contingency plans are being drawn up for a belated recruitment drive, although he was coy over claims that Sol Campbell and Peter Lovenkrands could be heading for Tyneside.

Hughton said: "It would be fair to say that we have spoken very much about the possibility of what could happen over this couple of weeks, but as to doing anything positive in the way of bringing players in, nothing has happened yet.

"But I am quite sure that whenever the right time is to make a judgement call, that will be done.

"You certainly have to make plans that, if you are to lose one or two players, there have to be replacements.

"Yes, there have been talks, but any names will be kept very much in-house."