Ashley puts entire Newcastle squad up for sale

The entire playing staff at Newcastle United was put up for sale yesterday, owner Mike Ashley having appointed agents to arrange as many transfers as quickly as possible. The development will be seen as another sign that Ashley is withdrawing from the idea of appointing Alan Shearer as full-time manager at St James' Park.

In his blueprint for promotion from the Championship next season, Shearer had said he wished to keep players such as Steven Taylor and Habib Beye and apparently received some encouragement from Ashley that this was a sound business plan.

But as of early last night Shearer had still not heard back from Ashley about the crucial bank negotiations that are the key to his appointment and Ashley's instruction on the squad, while unsurprising, is hardly Shearer's ideal position.

The 38-year-old remains keen to take the job on a permanent basis and returned from a short break in Portugal yesterday afternoon still hoping that there can be some breakthrough this week.

But if other clubs start offering fees for Taylor or Beye, or others Shearer wanted to keep, and Newcastle accept, then Shearer may be forced to walk away reluctantly.

There is, of course, the possibility that a buyer would appoint Shearer but that could be six weeks away or more and Newcastle's attempt at promotion would be massively hindered by their present paralysis.

Newcastle fans are either increasingly anxious, or perhaps apathetic, at a time when season tickets are normally sold, and their collective confidence in the club's hierarchy will not have been upped by the decision to announce the formal sale of the club on Newcastle's website yesterday morning.

Not only that, Newcastle supplied an email address for applicants of the sort that would normally be used for minor administrative posts.

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