Ashley puts £100m price tag on Newcastle

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley today confirmed he has put the club up for sale for £100m.

More than a week after it emerged that Ashley was looking to get out for the second time since he took control, the Magpies issued an official statement setting a price as Keith Harris, chairman of investment bankers Seymour Pierce, continued his search for buyers.

The statement read: "The board of Newcastle United can today confirm that the club is for sale at the price of £100million.

"Interested parties should contact Newcastle United at (or Keith Harris at Seymour Pierce) for further details.

"The club will not be making any further comment at the present time."

The announcement came as no surprise, with Ashley's desperation to offload the club he bought for £134.4m in May 2007 growing by the day.

However, the continuing uncertainty is proving hugely disruptive to the club's preparation for the new season and the challenge of returning to the Barclays Premier League at the first attempt.

Alan Shearer, who has indicated a willingness to take on the role of manager on a permanent basis, is due to return from a short break later today and will be looking for an early answer over whether or not he is wanted after several rounds of talks.

However, there is little prospect of Ashley and managing director Derek Llambias making hard and fast decisions while the ownership issue remains unresolved.

There are understood to be several interested parties, with Harris having travelled to the Middle East last week to once again court offers from potential purchasers in Dubai and Oman.

However, there is interest closer to home and former chairman Freddy Shepherd, who has been linked with a bid to regain control, has steadfastly refused to rule himself in or out.

But as each day passes, the time any manager would have to reshape the squad for a very different challenge decreases.

Most of the club's high earners are sure to be offloaded, with Michael Owen out of contract and Mark Viduka's stay unlikely to be extended, while the likes of Joey Barton, Alan Smith and Obafemi Martins seem certain to go with the club needing to drastically reduce an annual wage bill of around £74m.

But that process, and the recruitment of replacements, cannot begin in earnest until there is a new manager in place, and that appointment cannot be made until the new owners pick up the reins and start to make the big decisions.